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Paired Quotes and Images of the Week

Paired Quotes and Images of Liberty & Power

W.D. Cooper, "America Trampling on Oppression" (1789)
Source: Library of Congress
[More about this image]

Frontispiece to Thomas Hobbes, The Leviathan (1651)
by Abraham Bosse (1602-1676)
[More about this image]

Beginning in 2011 we have made an effort to pair our quotation of the week on Liberty and Power with a suitable image. Below are some examples:

  1. October 17, 2011: Classical Liberalism and the Gold Standard
  2. September 19, 2011: Censorship and Freedom of the Press in Restoration France, 1814-1822
  3. September 13, 2011: Mises, Rationing and Price Controls in America during WW2
  4. August 5, 2011: Bastiat, Free Trade, and Nazism
  5. July 26, 2011: John Locke on “perfect freedom” in the state of nature (1689)
  6. June 6, 2011: Adam Smith on the greater productivity brought about by the division of labor and technological innovation (1760s)
  7. May 25, 2011: Jacques Callot, Hugo Grotius, and the Miseries of War in the 17th Century
  8. May 10, 2011: Sumner on the Conquest of the U.S. by Spain & Teddy Roosevelt, Water Torture, and the Anti-Imperialism League (1902)
  9. May 2, 2011: Luke, Taxes, and the Birth of Jesus (85) & Pieter Brueghel the Elder, "The Numeration (Census) of the People of Bethlehem" (1566)
  10. April 25, 2011: Thomas Paine on the absurdity of an hereditary monarchy (1791) & New Playing Cards for the French Republic (1793-94): The Spirit of Peace (Motto: "Prosperity")
  11. April 17, 2011: John Stuart Mill on "the sacred right of insurrection" (1862) & Abraham Lincoln as the "Federal Phoenix" rising from the fire of the American Constitution (1864)
  12. April 10, 2011: Mises on the public sector as "tax eaters" who "feast" on the assets of the ordinary tax payer (1953) & The King as a "Tax Eater" by Honoré Daumier (1831)
  13. April, 2011: Illuminated page for the month of April from Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1416) & Lord Kames on enlightened aesthetics of gardening vs. the corrupted taste shown by the absolute monarchs in the gardens of Versailles (1762)
  14. March 1, 2011: Algernon Sidney on the need for the law to be "deaf, inexorable, inflexible" and not subject to the arbitrary will of the ruler (1698) & Algernon Sidney (1622-1683) and the Thomas Hollis Library of Liberty
  15. March, 2011: Illuminated page for the month of March from Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1416) & Adam Smith on the greater productivity brought about by the the division of labour and its social consequences (1762)
  16. February 20, 2011: Paine on the idea that the law is king (1776) & Presidents Day and the Apotheosis of Washington by John James Barralet (1802)
  17. February, 2011: Illuminated page for the month of February from Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1416) & John Millar, on the "Causes of the freedom acquired by the labouring people in the modern nations of Europe" (1771)
  18. January 31, 2011: Sir Edward Coke explains one of the key sections of Magna Carta on English liberties (1642) & John Lilburne reading from Coke's Institutes at his Treason Trial (1649)
  19. January 24, 2011: Spooner on the difference between a government and a highwayman (1870) & James Gillray on Debt and Taxes during the Napoleonic Wars (1806)
  20. January, 2011: Illuminated page for the month of January from Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1416) & Henry Home, Lord Kames, on the "Progress and Effects of Luxury" among the aristocracy (1778)
  21. November 29, 2010: Shaftesbury on the need for liberty to promote the liberal arts (1712) & The Earl of Shaftesbury on Liberty and Harmony: Volume 2, Title Page (1713)

For more information about the Quotations about Liberty and Power see the following:

For more information about the Images of Liberty and Power see the following:

October 17, 2011: Classical Liberalism and the Gold Standard

Quotations about Liberty and Power

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Mises on classical liberalism and the gold standard (1928)

In an essay written in 1928 the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) argued that the major reason why classical liberals in the 19th century favored money based on a gold standard was because it meant that the value of money/gold was “independent of any direct manipulation by governments, political policies, public opinion or parliaments”:

Liberalism and the Gold Standard

Monetary policy of the preliberal era was either crude coin debasement, for the benefit of financial administration (only rarely intended as Seisachtheia, i.e., to nullify outstanding debts), or still more crude paper money inflation. However, in addition to, sometimes even instead of, its fiscal goal, the driving motive behind paper money inflation very soon became the desire to favor the debtor at the expense of the creditor.

In opposing the depreciated paper standard, liberalism frequently took the position that after an inflation the value of paper money should be raised, through contraction, to its former parity with metallic money. It was only when men had learned that such a policy could not undo or reverse the “unfair” changes in wealth and income brought about by the previous inflationary period and that an increase in the purchasing power per unit [by contraction or deflation] also brings other unwanted shifts of wealth and income, that the demand for return to a metallic standard at the debased monetary unit’s current parity gradually replaced the demand for restoration at the old parity.

In opposing a single precious metal standard, monetary policy exhausted itself in the fruitless attempt to make bimetallism an actuality. The results which must follow the establishment of a legal exchange ratio between the two precious metals, gold and silver, have long been known, even before Classical economics developed an understanding of the regularity of market phenomena. Again and again Gresham’s Law, which applied the general theory of price controls to the special case of money, demonstrated its validity. Eventually, efforts were abandoned to reach the ideal of a bimetallic standard. The next goal then became to free international trade, which was growing more and more important, from the effects of fluctuations in the ratio between the prices of the gold standard and the suppression of the alternating [bimetallic] and silver standards. Gold then became the world’s money.

With the attainment of gold monometallism, liberals believed the goal of monetary policy had been reached. (The fact that they considered it necessary to supplement monetary policy through banking policy will be examined later in considerable detail.) The value of gold was then independent of any direct manipulation by governments, political policies, public opinion or parliaments. So long as the gold standard was maintained, there was no need to fear severe price disturbances from the side of money. The adherents of the gold standard wanted no more than this, even though it was not clear to them at first that this was all that could be attained.


Read the full quote in context here.

[More works by Ludwig von Mises (1881 – 1973) and on The Austrian School of Economics]

Images of Liberty and Power

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Top: a 20 Mark Gold Coin - Deutsches Reich, Wilhelm II German Emperor and King of Prussia (1900)
Bottom: a 10 Billion Mark German banknote (October 1923)

As the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) noted, during the 19th century all the major European powers developed currencies based upon the gold standard (such as this German Imperial 20 Mark coin issued in 1900). This policy was strongly supported by classical liberals as it provided a powerful means by which the power of government to debase or otherwise manipulate their currencies was severly restricted. During and immediately after the First World War (1914-1918) the connection between a nation's currency and gold became much looser, or even non-existent as in the case of the hyper-inflation which gripped Germany during the Weimar Republic (1922-23). The bottom image is of a 10 billion mark Mark banknote dated 26 october 1923 at the peak (or depth) of the hyperinflation when paper money had become all but worthless. Mises wrote a number of important essays on monetary and banking policy in the mid and late 1920s in which he denounced this move away from the gold standard and predicted that it would lead to severe economic dislocation, the political manipulation of currrencies, and even the colapse of the monetary system. [More]

[See Mises, On the Manipulation of Money and Credit (2011).]

[Archive of Images]
[Detailed Study Guides on Images of Liberty and Power]

 


 

September 19, 2011: Censorship and Freedom of the Press in Restoration France, 1814-1822

Quotations about Liberty and Power

Benjamin Constant and the Freedom of the Press (1815)

In France one of the leading theorists of the principle of free speech was Benjamin Constant (1767-1830) who had been called upon by Napoleon during his brief return to power between March-July 1815 (The Hundred Days) to draw up a new constitution with more constitutional limits on government power. Constant’s ideas were elaborated in a book he wrote at the time Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments (1815) which included chapters on freedom of thought and religion. A typical passage reads:

If you once grant the need to repress the expression of opinion, either the State will have to act judicially or the government will have to arrogate to itself police powers which free it from recourse to judicial means. In the first case the laws will be eluded. Nothing is easier than presenting an opinion in such variegated guises that a precisely defined law cannot touch it. In the second case, by authorizing the government to deal ruthlessly with whatever opinions there may be, you are giving it the right to interpret thought, to make inductions, in a nutshell to reason and to put its reasoning in the place of the facts which ought to be the sole basis for government counteraction. This is to establish despotism with a free hand. Which opinion cannot draw down a punishment on its author? You give the government a free hand for evildoing, provided that it is careful to engage in evil thinking. You will never escape from this circle. The men to whom you entrust the right to judge opinions are quite as susceptible as others to being misled or corrupted, and the arbitrary power which you will have invested in them can be used against the most necessary truths as well as the most fatal errors.

When one considers only one side of moral and political questions, it is easy to draw a terrible picture of the abuse of our rights. But when one looks at these questions from an overall point of view, the picture of the ills which government power occasions by limiting these rights seems to me no less frightening.

What, indeed, is the outcome of all attacks made on freedom of the pen? They embitter against the government all those writers possessed of that spirit of independence inseparable from talent, who are forced to have recourse to indirect and perfidious allusions. They necessitate the circulation of clandestine and therefore all the more dangerous texts. They feed the public greed for anecdotes, personal remarks, and seditious principles. They give calumny the appearance, always an interesting one, of courage. In sum, they attach far too much importance to the works about to be proscribed.

In the absence of government intervention, published sedition, immorality, and calumny would scarcely make more impact at the end of a given period of complete freedom than spoken or handwritten calumny, immorality, or sedition.

Read the full quote in context here.

[More works by Benjamin Constant (1767 – 1830) and on Freedom of Speech]

Images of Liberty and Power

Eugène Delacroix on Press Censorship during the Restoration (1814-1822)

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Eugène Delacroix, "Le Déménagement de la censure", Le Miroir, (11 February , 1822)
(The Censors Moving House, or the Censors sent packing)

[See larger image 750 px]

This drawing by Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) was published when the liberalization of the press laws looked more promising, before the Parliament passed new laws permitting the government to sue publishers for criticism they did not like. It looks forward to the complete abolition of censorship when the censors will be kicked out of their offices and forced to move to some other location to do some other job. A group of jubilant men are waving good bye to the censors as they leave their building on the rue des Saints-Pères which is now up for rent ("maison à louer"). The historian Athanassoglou-Kallmyer believes that the men are asking where the censors are headed and the man standing at the top of the cart is pointing to the devil as if to say "We are going to Hell". Scissors representing the power of the censors to "cut" offending passages out of newspapers have now taken wing and are flying away like a flock of freed birds. The out of work censors are being driven away in a cart which is being pulled by a weary and weak looking donkey the reins of which are held by a devil. The cart is filled with figures who are numbered with a key below the drawing to help identify them. [More]

[Archive of Images]
[Detailed Study Guides on Images of Liberty and Power]
[See our collection of paired Quotations and Images about Liberty & Power]

 


September 13, 2011: Mises, Rationing and Price Controls in America during WW2

Quotations about Liberty and Power

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Mises on how price controls lead to socialism (1944)

The Austrian-American free market economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) left Switzerland for the United States in August 1940. During the war years he wrote a number of books which criticised government intervention and control of the economy, especially price controls and rationing. He had witnessed first hand how the Nazis used price controls in Europe and saw something very similar happening in the United States during World War 2. He thought the logical consequence of strict price controls would be a system of socialism:

The prices set on the unhampered market correspond to an equilibrium of demand and supply. Everybody who is ready to pay the market price can buy as much as he wants to buy. Everybody who is ready to sell at the market price can sell as much as he wants to sell. If the government, without a corresponding increase in the quantity of goods available for sale, decrees that buying and selling must be done at a lower price, and thus makes it illegal either to ask or to pay the potential market price, then this equilibrium can no longer prevail. With unchanged supply there are now more potential buyers on the market, namely, those who could not afford the higher market price but are prepared to buy at the lower official rate. There are now potential buyers who cannot buy, although they are ready to pay the price fixed by the government or even a higher price. The price is no longer the means of segregating those potential buyers who may buy from those who may not. A different principle of selection has come into operation. Those who come first can buy; others are too late in the field. The visible outcome of this state of things is the sight of housewives and children standing in long lines before the groceries, a spectacle familiar to everybody who has visited Europe in this age of price control. If the government does not want only those to buy who come first (or who are personal friends of the salesman), while others go home empty-handed, it must regulate the distribution of the stocks available. It has to introduce some kind of rationing. …

The isolated measures of price fixing fail to attain the ends sought. In fact, they produce effects contrary to those aimed at by the government. If the government, in order to eliminate these inexorable and unwelcome consequences, pursues its course further and further, it finally transforms the system of capitalism and free enterprise into socialism.

Many American and British supporters of price control are fascinated by the alleged success of Nazi price control. They believe that the German experience has proved the practicability of price control within the framework of a system of market economy. You have only to be as energetic, impetuous, and brutal as the Nazis are, they think, and you will succeed. These men who want to fight Nazism by adopting its methods do not see that what the Nazis have achieved has been the building up of a system of socialism, not a reform of conditions within a system of market economy.

There is no third system between a market economy and socialism. Mankind has to choose between those two systems—unless chaos is considered an alternative.

Read the full quote in context here.

[More works by Ludwig von Mises (1881 – 1973) and on The Austrian School of Economics]

Images of Liberty and Power

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"War Ration Book No. 3" (U.S.A., 1943)
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Herbert Roese, "Rationing means a fair share for all of us" (American Office of Price Administration, 1943)
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The Austrian-American free market economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) left Switzerland for the United States in August 1940. During the war years he wrote a number of books which criticised government intervention and control of the economy, especially price controls, rationing, policies of economic autarchy, the diversion of labor and other resources to war production, and the financing of the war through loans, confiscation, and inflation. Among these are Interventionism: An Economic Analysiss (1940), Omnipotent Government:The Rise of the Total State and Total War (1944), and Bureaucracy (1944). While Mises was living and working in the U.S. he would have seen the propaganda produced by the American government encouraging U.S. citizens to make sacrifices for the war effort, such as the use of "ration books" and price controls in order to allocate resources away from consumers and towards war industries, to seek work in "essential" war industries and the transport of munitions, and to forgo the use of certain products essential to the war effort such as fats and rubber. We reproduce some of these images here. Above is the front cover of an American ration book from 1943; below that is a poster from the American Office of Price Administration which argues that without rationing housewives would find the grocer's shelves empty, but with government price controls and strict rationing these shelves would be bursting with food and other consumer products. But note the fine print in the "Warning": This book is the property of the United States Government. It is unlawful to sell it to any other person, or to use it or permit anyone else to use it, except to obtain rationed goods in accordance with regulations of the Office of Price Administration. Any person who finds a lost War Ration Book must return it to the War Price and Rationing Board which issued it. Persons who violate rationing regulations are subject to $10,000 fine imprisonment , or both." This 1943 fine would be about $130,000 in 2011 dollars which suggests that the fine was high in order to discourage the rampant blackmarkets and cheating which always emerge when the government restricts supply and controls prices of goods which are in high demand. [More]

[See other works by Ludwig von Mises]

 


 

August 5, 2011: Bastiat, Free Trade, and Nazism

Quotations about Liberty and Power

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Bastiat on the spirit of free trade as a reform of the mind itself (1847)

In a letter to the English politician and free trader Richard Cobden written in 1847, Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) expresses his frustration at the slow progress of the free trade movement in France. He grudgingly admits that legislation cannot run ahead of popular opinion which means that there will not be free trade in France until there has been a “reform of the mind itself”. Once support for individual liberty was widespread there would then be a “spirit of free trade” in the popular mind and this would inevitably lead to policy reforms:

What immense good our journal might do if it contrasted the inanity and danger of current policy with the grandeur and security of free-trade policies! Before the journal was founded, I had a plan to publish a small book each month in the same mold as the Sophisms, in which I would have free rein. I really think it would have been more useful than the journal itself.

Our campaigning is not very active. We still need a man of action. When will he appear? I do not know. I should be that man, I am propelled forward by the unanimous confidence of my colleagues, but I cannot. My character is not suited to this and all the advice in the world cannot turn a reed into an oak. In the end, when the question will preoccupy people’s minds, I very much hope a Wilson will appear

I am sending you the five or six latest issues of Le Libre échange. It is not very widely distributed, but I have been assured that it was not without some influence on a few of our leading men.

It appears that this year our government will not dare to put forward a customs law that introduces significant changes into the current legislation. This is discouraging a few of our friends. As for me, I do not even want the current amendments. Down with the laws that precede the advance of public opinion! And I want not so much free trade itself as the spirit of free trade for my country. Free trade means a little more wealth; the spirit of free trade is a reform of the mind itself, that is to say, the source of all reform.

See previous quotations about liberty.

Read the full quote in context here.

[More works by Frédéric Bastiat (1801 – 1850) and on 19th Century French Liberalism]

Images of Liberty and Power

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A monument erected in memory of Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) in Mugron (1878); partly destroyed by the Nazis in 1942
[Gabriel-Vital Dubray, "Frédéric Bastiat" (1878)]

This engraving from the magazine Le Monde illustré appeared shortly after the inauguration of the monument in Mugron on 23 April 1878 and accompanied a report of the event. The well-known sculptor Gabriel-Vital Dubray (1813-1892) had been commissioned to design and create the monument. As the engraving above indicates, Dubray created an elaborate monument with the classical figure of "Fame" leaning against the pedestal and writing with her pen the titles of the three books for which Bastiat was best remembered and for which he deserved to be famous: the work in which he first introduced the French to the ideas on free trade of Richard Cobden and the Anti-Corn Law League Cobden and the League (1845), his best selling collection of witty and clever articles debunking the economic myths of the protectionists Economic Sophisms (1845, 1848), and his incomplete magnum opus on economic theory Economic Harmonies (1850). In 1942 during the occupation of France by the Nazis any statues containing bronze were seized and broken up for their metal content. This was the unfortunate fate of the Bastiat monument - the bust of Bastiat and the figure of Fame were taken for scrap for war matériel. The bust could be reconstituted after the war because the original mold had survived, but the figure of Fame was lost forever. It is both sad and ironic that this would be the fate of Bastiat's monument as Bastiat had dedicated himself to the cause of peace and opposition to war as his writings and his participation in the Peace Congresses of the late 1840s attest. [More]
[See other works by Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850)]

 


 

June 6, 2011: Adam Smith on the greater productivity brought about by the division of labor and technological innovation (1760s)

Quotations about Liberty and Power

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Adam Smith on the greater productivity brought about by the division of labor and technological innovation (1760s)

In an early draft of the Wealth of Nations (1776) which Adam Smith wrote in the 1760s he discusses the very great increases in productivity brought about by incremental improvements in technology such as the plough and the corn mill, often brought about by the users of the machines who stood to benefit from them:

Every body must be sensible how much labour is abridged and facilitated by the application of proper machinery. By means of the plough two men, with the assistance of three horses, will cultivate more ground than twenty could do with the spade. A miller and his servant, with a wind or water mill, will at their ease grind more corn than eight men could do, with the severest labour, by hand mills. To grind corn in a hand mill was the severest work to which the antients commonly applied their slaves, and to which they seldome condemned them unlessl when they had been guilty of some very great fault. A hand mill, however, is a very ingenuous machine which greatly facilitates labour, and by which a great deal of more work can be performed than when the corn is either to be beat in a mortar, or with the bare hand, unassisted by any machinery, to be rubbed into pouder between two hard stones, as is the practice not only of all barbarous nations but of some remote provinces in this country. It was the division of labour which probably gave occasion to the invention of the greater part of those machines, by which labour is so much facilitated and abridged. When the whole force of the mind is directed to one particular object, as in consequence of the division of labour it must be, the mind is more likely to discover the easiest methods of attaining that object than when its attention is dissipated among a great variety of things. He was probably a farmer who first invented the original, rude form of the plough. The improvements which were afterwards made upon it might be owing sometimes to the ingenuity of the plow wright when that business had become a particular occupation, and sometimes to that of the farmer.

Images of Liberty and Power

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March (ploughing the fields)
From the Très riches heures du Duc de Barry (1416)

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The snow has melted and the peasants go about preparing the soil for the spring planting. In the background we can see the Château de Lusignan (in the Department of Vienne) on a hill top dominating the farmland about. The Chateau was a formidable defensive structure with multiple defensive walls and was probably at its height when owned by the Duc de Berry in the early 15th century. To the left we can see the barbican tower (the gatehouse), in the center the clocktower with its external privy, and to the right a tower with a protective golden dragon on its roof. On the slopes below the castle we can see various peasant activities: at the top left we can see a shepherd and his dog looking after a flock of sheep; below this are three peasants pruning the vines; to their right is a vineyard which has already been prepared for the spring growing season; at the far right is a peasant sifting a bag of seed corn; and in the foreground we see a peasant ploughing a field with 2 oxen. Given its prominent place in the picture and the extraordinary detail with which it is painted, the Limburg brothers were keen to show how important agriculture was to the peasant economy and how dependent upon it for their upkeep were the castles and chateaux of the aristocracy. We have selected an appropriate quotation from the works of members of the Scottish Enlightenment to go with the illustrations from the Très Riches Heures. We have done this because the Très Riches Heures is a marvellous depiction of many aspects of social and economic life in Europe in the early 15th century and it was a feature of the Scottish Enlightenment to explore how European societies made the transition from a system of peasant agriculture dominated by an aristocratic class to a modern market society in which mass production and the division of labor satisfied the needs of consumers in a voluntary fashion. [More]
[See other works from The Scottish Enlightenment]

 

 


 

May 25, 2011: Jacques Callot, Hugo Grotius, and the Miseries of War in the 17th Century

Quotations about Liberty and Power

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Grotius on Moderation in Despoiling the Country of one's Enemies (1625)
[See the source of the quote here.]

While the 30 Years War was ravaging Europe the Dutch legal scholar Hugo Grotius ( 1583 to 1645) wrote The Rights of War and Peace (1625) which has become a foundation stone of modern thinking concerning the laws of war. In a chapter on " moderation in despoiling the country of one's enemies" he reflects on the folly of destroying that which one had striven so hard to acquire by means of violence:

Thus Alexander the Great, as Justin relates it, hindered his Soldiers from wasting Asia, declaring to them, that they should spare their own, and not destroy those Things, which they came to possess. They who do otherwise, may apply to themselves the Words of Jocasta to Polynices in Seneca’s Thebais: "You ruin your Country whilst you seek it; to make it yours / Its Being you destroy; it defeats your Claim / To level, thus in Arms, the ripen’d Harvest; / Is Fire and Sword, the Vengeance of an Enemy, / Applied to Spoil and Ravage what’s ones own? / No, our deadliest Foes we thus afflict". Philip dared not engage in a fair Field-fight, nor come to a pitch’d Battle, but flying away burned and plundered Cities; so that the Conquered rendered useless to the Conquerors what should have been the Recompence of Victory. But the old Kings of Macedon did not use to do so, they used to come to a fair Engagement, to spare Cities as much as possible, that they might have the more wealthy Dominion. For it is not a strange Conduct, to make War in such a Manner, that at the same Time, we dispute the Possession of a Thing, we leave nothing for ourselves but War.

Images of Liberty and Power

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Jacques Callot, "The Miseries and Misfortunes of War" (1633)
7. Plundering and Burning a Village
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In this series we want to explore the problem of war in 17th century Europe by juxtaposing an image from the series of 18 etchings made by Jacques Callot showing the ravages of war in his native Lorraine during the Thirty Years War (1618-48), with passages from Hugo Grotius,The Rights of War and Peace (1625) which is a foundation stone of the modern understanding of the laws of war. In this, the 7th picture in the series, we see armed soldiers pillaging and burning a village which includes a small chapel in the upper centre (there is a cross to its left). The inhabitants and livestock are rounded up to be taken off as prisoners or booty. Livestock can be seen being herded at the lower right. A man can be seen being killed at the lower left under a tree.There is a grieviing wife who sits next to her dead husband in the centre foreground. Grotius noted that conquest of territory traditionally gave the conquerors "possession" of what they seized but he thought it strange to then go about destroying what had taken so much effort to acquire: "it is not a strange Conduct, to make War in such a Manner, that at the same Time, we dispute the Possession of a Thing, we leave nothing for ourselves but War". He discusses this and other matters in a chapter called Concerning Moderation in regard to the spoiling the Country of our Enemies, and such other Things. [More]
[See other works by Hugo Grotius]

 


 

May 10, 2011: Sumner on the Conquest of the U.S. by Spain & Teddy Roosevelt, Water Torture, and the Anti-Imperialism League (1902)

Quotations about Liberty and Power

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Sumner and the Conquest of the United States by Spain (1898)
[See the source of the quote here.]

In a lecture given in 1898 the American sociologist William Graham Sumner (1840-1910) noted that the U.S. was in danger of losing what made it different from the European imperial powers because of its actions in seizing Spain's colonies in the war of 1898. The U.S. might have defeated Spain in battle but, he argued, Spanish ideas of conquest and empire had conquered America in return:

During the last year the public has been familiarized with descriptions of Spain and of Spanish methods of doing things until the name of Spain has become a symbol for a certain well-defined set of notions and policies. On the other hand, the name of the United States has always been, for all of us, a symbol for a state of things, a set of ideas and traditions, a group of views about social and political affairs. Spain was the first, for a long time the greatest, of the modern imperialistic states. The United States, by its historical origin, its traditions, and its principles, is the chief representative of the revolt and reaction against that kind of a state. I intend to show that, by the line of action now proposed to us, which we call expansion and imperialism, we are throwing away some of the most important elements of the American symbol and are adopting some of the most important elements of the Spanish symbol. We have beaten Spain in a military conflict, but we are submitting to be conquered by her on the field of ideas and policies. Expansionism and imperialism are nothing but the old philosophies of national prosperity which have brought Spain to where she now is. Those philosophies appeal to national vanity and national cupidity. They are seductive, especially upon the first view and the most superficial judgment, and therefore it cannot be denied that they are very strong for popular effect. They are delusions, and they will lead us to ruin unless we are hard-headed enough to resist them.

Images of Liberty and Power

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"Expansion" The Public (January 31, 1902)
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This cartoon appeared in the January 31, 1902 edition of the Chicago magazine The Public which was edited by Louis Freeland Post (1849-1928). In the Spanish-American War of 1898 the U.S. defeated Spain and acquired its colonies in the Pilippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam.This policy was opposed by members of the Anti-Imperialist League and by liberals such as Post on the grounds that it violated the principles of Jefferson (The Declaration of Independence), Washington (his Farewell Address), and Lincoln. The cartoon shows the figure of Uncle Sam who has been pinned to the ground by members of Theodore Roosevelt's administration who are dressed like little devils (some are named: Taft, Spooner, Lodge) who have around their necks a medallion which says "IMP". They are using the Philippino "water torture" to force Uncle Sam (the House & the Senate) to confess that an Empire is better than a Republic. Uncle Sam can be seen clutching a copy of the Declaration of Independence and one of the devils is kicking his hat which spills out papers which have the names of Adams, Washington, Hancock, (William Graham) Sumner, Franklin, Lincoln, Madison, ect. The water barrel is called "Roosevelt's Platform" and has written on it "Imperial Measure administered by the Administration: Repeal of the Declaration of Independence. Perversion of Monroe Doctrine. Military Despotism. Violation of Rules of War. Government by Injunction. AUTOCRACY, ARISTOCRACY, PLUTOCRACY, FEUDALISM." In the foreground at the foot of one of the devils is a document which says "Act of Congress giving President despotic control of Puerto Rico & Philippines" and another which says "Army Bill giving President despotic control of troops." The title of the cartoon is "Expansion" which refers to both the territorial expansion of the U.S. after 1898 and the expansion of Uncle Sam's belly as large quantities of water are forced into his stomach as part of the "water cure" he is forced to endure. [More]

 


 

May 2, 2011: Luke, Taxes, and the Birth of Jesus (85) & Pieter Brueghel the Elder, "The Numeration (Census) of the People of Bethlehem" (1566)

Quotations about Liberty and Power

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Luke, Taxes, and the Birth of Jesus (85)
[See the source of the quote here.]

In the Gospel of Luke (2: 1-7) it is stated that the reason Jesus was born in Bethlehem was because his parents were ordered by Emperor Augustus to return to their ancestral village at a time when Mary was pregnant, thus linking the founding story of the Christian religion with Roman imperial economic policy:

1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

Images of Liberty and Power

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Pieter Brueghel the Elder, "The Numeration (Census) of the People of Bethlehem" (1566)
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Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1525-1569) was a Flemish painter famous for his landscapes and depictions of peasant life. In this painting he takes Luke's account of the birth of Jesus in the town of Bethlehem and transposes it to mid-16th century Netherlands. The Reformation had taken root in the Netherlands which at that time was ruled by Catholic Spain under the Bourbon monarch Philip II. In addition to religious turmoil and persecution, the Flemish people suffered under heavy taxation imposed by Philip II in order to fight wars against the Ottoman Turks for control of the Mediterranean. In this context it is not surprising that Brueghel would find the biblical story of Joseph and Mary, forced by the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus to return to their ancestral city in order to be taxed, rather compelling. In the left foreground we see a cluster of ordinary people lined up to have their names checked off a ledger and then forced to hand over their taxes to an imperial official. The rest of the painting is taken up with scenes of ordinary people at work and play in the middle of winter. The Dutch Revolt against Spanish imperial control broke out in 1568 shortly after the work was painted. [More]

 


April 25, 2011: Thomas Paine on the absurdity of an hereditary monarchy (1791) & New Playing Cards for the French Republic (1793-94): The Spirit of Peace (Motto: "Prosperity")

Quotations about Liberty and Power

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Thomas Paine on the absurdity of an hereditary monarchy (1791)
[See the source of the quote here.]

After having helped the American colonists shake off their reluctance to secede from the British Empire, Thomas Paine (1737-1809) turned his attention to the French Revolution which he vigorously defended against attacks by Edmund Burke. In the Rights of Man (1791) he distinguished between two types of government - the "representative" which was flourishing in North America, and the "hereditary" which still prevailed in Britain and France. He had the following harsh things to say about having an hereditary monarch:

We have heard the Rights of Man called a levelling system; but the only system to which the word levelling is truly applicable, is the hereditary monarchical system. It is a system of mental levelling. It indiscriminately admits every species of character to the same authority. Vice and virtue, ignorance and wisdom, in short, every quality, good or bad, is put on the same level. Kings succeed each other, not as rationals, but as animals. It signifies not what their mental or moral characters are. Can we then be surprised at the abject state of the human mind in monarchical countries, when the government itself is formed on such an abject levelling system?—It has no fixed character. To-day it is one thing; to-morrow it is something else. It changes with the temper of every succeeding individual, and is subject to all the varieties of each. It is government through the medium of passions and accidents. It appears under all the various characters of childhood, decrepitude, dotage, a thing at nurse, in leading-strings, or in crutches. It reverses the wholesome order of nature. It occasionally puts children over men, and the conceits of non-age over wisdom and experience. In short, we cannot conceive a more ridiculous figure of government, than hereditary succession, in all its cases, presents.

[Read more]

Images of Liberty and Power

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New Playing Cards for the French Republic (1793-94):
The Spirit of Peace (Motto: "Prosperity")
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This is a playing card from a charming collection of new designs for a deck which were issued during the French Revolution (1793-94). They were designed by moderate liberal republican supporters of the revolution (which included people such as the Marquis de Condorcet) who believed in the rule of law, free markets, the equality of women under the law, and the emancipation of slaves. As they said in their pamphlet they wanted to reinforce the principles of the revolution in such everyday items as playing cards, since the traditional designs had face or "court" cards depicting Kings, Queens, and Jacks who were the beneficiaries of the old privileged political order which had just been overthrown. It seemed obvious to them that a new design even for such mundaine things as playing cards was required under the Republic to reflect the new principles of government and which "the love of liberty demands". Here we show "The Spirit of Peace" (equivalent to the Queen of Clubs) which the designers explain as follows: ""Peace" is seated on an ancient seat and is holding in one hand the roll of the laws, in his other hand is the fasces signifying concord and on which is written the word "Union". Lying near him are a cornucopia and a plowshare; an olive branch which he is holding in his right hand shows its influence and justifies the word "Prosperity" which is placed next to him." An intriguing aspect of the designs was the important role which they gave to economic liberty: the Spirit of Peace" has as his motto "prosperity"; the "Spirit of Commerce" has for his "wealth"; and the "Liberty of the Professions" has "industry". Thus fully one quarter of the face cards deals with one or another aspect of economic freedom. [More]

 


 

April 17, 2011: John Stuart Mill on "the sacred right of insurrection" (1862) & Abraham Lincoln as the "Federal Phoenix" rising from the fire of the American Constitution (1864)

Quotations about Liberty and Power

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John Stuart Mill on "the sacred right of insurrection" (1862)
[See the source of the quote here.]

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) was convinced that the American "Civil War" was fought over who should exercise control over the Federal Government concerning tariffs, internal improvements, but most especially, over the expansion of slavery into new territories. He was convinced that if the Confederate States had their way way they would expand the institution of slavery into Mexico and the Caribbean and therefore they needed to be stopped. Likening the South to highway robbers such as Dick Turpin, Mill thought they had no right to insurrection to defend an unjust cause:

But we are told, by a strange misapplication of a true principle, that the South had a right to separate; that their separation ought to have been consented to, the moment they showed themselves ready to fight for it; and that the North, in resisting it, are committing the same error and wrong which England committed in opposing the original separation of the thirteen colonies. This is carrying the doctrine of the sacred right of insurrection rather far. It is wonderful how easy, and liberal, and complying, people can be in other people’s concerns. Because they are willing to surrender their own past, and have no objection to join in reprobation of their great-grandfathers, they never put to themselves the question what they themselves would do in circumstances far less trying, under far less pressure of real national calamity. Would those who profess these ardent revolutionary principles consent to their being applied to Ireland, or India, or the Ionian Islands? How have they treated those who did attempt so to apply them? But the case can dispense with any mere argumentum ad hominem. I am not frightened at the word rebellion. I do not scruple to say that I have sympathized more or less ardently with most of the rebellions, successful and unsuccessful, which have taken place in my time. But I certainly never conceived that there was a sufficient title to my sympathy in the mere fact of being a rebel; that the act of taking arms against one’s fellow citizens was so meritorious in itself, was so completely its own justification, that no question need be asked concerning the motive. It seems to me a strange doctrine that the most serious and responsible of all human acts imposes no obligation on those who do it, of showing that they have a real grievance; that those who rebel for the power of oppressing others, exercise as sacred a right as those who do the same thing to resist oppression practised upon themselves. Neither rebellion, nor any other act which affects the interests of others, is sufficiently legitimated by the mere will to do it. Secession may be laudable, and so may any other kind of insurrection; but it may also be an enormous crime. It is the one or the other, according to the object and the provocation. And if there ever was an object which, by its bare announcement, stamped rebels against a particular community as enemies of mankind, it is the one professed by the South. Their right to separate is the right which Cartouche or Turpin would have had to secede from their respective countries, because the laws of those countries would not suffer them to rob and murder on the highway. The only real difference is, that the present rebels are more powerful than Cartouche or Turpin, and may possibly be able to effect their iniquitous purpose.

Images of Liberty and Power

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Abraham Lincoln as the "Federal Phoenix" rising from the fire of the American Constitution (1864)
[John Tenniel, "The Federal Phoenix", Punch, Volume 47, December 3, 1864.]
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This week is the 150th anniversary of the start of the American "Civil War" or "War for Southern Independence" depending on one's political point of view. The image above is by the British cartoonist and illustrator John Tenniel (1820-1914) which appeared in the December 1864 issue of the satirical magazine Punch. Lincoln had recently won a hotly contested presidential election against his Democratic opponent George McClellan. To Tenniel and his English readers it seemed that Lincoln and the Republican Party had "risen from the ashes" of defeat like the proverbial phoenix. A rather stern and arrogant looking Lincoln is unfurling his political wings ready for another 4 years in office. At the end of its lifespan the phoenix is consumed by fire and emerges anew (or resurrected) for another long cycle of life. In this picture the fire which consumes the old phoenix and readies it for another life are logs with the names "Commerce," "United States Constitution," "Free Press," "Credit," "Habeus Corpus," and "States Rights." Tenniel (along with many contemporary American critics of Lincoln) thought that the American Republic itself had been consumed by the fire of civil war which had brought about press censorship, the imprisonment of critics, the suspension of habeas corpus rights, the imposition of the income tax, and other measures. [More]

 


 

April 10, 2011: Mises on the public sector as "tax eaters" who "feast" on the assets of the ordinary tax payer (1953) & The King as a "Tax Eater" by Honoré Daumier (1831)

Quotations about Liberty and Power

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Mises on the public sector as "tax eaters" who "feast" on the assets of the ordinary tax payer (1953)
[See the source of the quote here.]

In a similar fashion to John C. Calhoun's division of the world into net "tax-consumers" and net "tax-payers", the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) distinguished between the ordinary citizens who paid taxes and the public sector entities like the New York subway which "consumed" the taxes paid by the former. This is a classic example of what Mises in 1945 termed "the clash of group interests":

The financial embarrassment of the main European countries is predominantly caused by the bankruptcy of the nationalized public utilities. The deficit of these enterprises is incurable. A further rise in their rates would bring about a drop in total net proceeds. The traffic could not bear it. Daily experience proves clearly to everybody but the most bigoted fanatics of socialism that governmental management is inefficient and wasteful. But it is impossible to sell these enterprises back to private capital because the threat of a new expropriation by a later government would deter potential buyers.

In a capitalist country the railroads and the telegraph and telephone companies pay considerable taxes. In the countries of the mixed economy, the yearly losses of these public enterprises are a heavy drain upon the nation’s purse. They are not taxpayers, but tax-eaters.

Under the conditions of today, the nationalized public utilities of Europe are not merely feasting on taxes paid by the citizens of their own country; they are also living at the expense of the American taxpayer. A considerable part of the foreign-aid billions is swallowed by the deficits of Europe’s nationalization experiments...

Images of Liberty and Power

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The King as a "Tax Eater" by Honoré Daumier (1831)
[Honoré Daumier, “Gargantua” (1831)]
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This caricature from 1831 shows how Daumier thought ordinary people were exploited by the ruling elites through taxation and regulation. It was created at a time when agitation for democratic reforms were strong in both England and France and was drawn by the French republican artist Honoré Daumier for a satirical magazine in 1831. It depicts a fat and pear-shaped King Louis Philippe as a "tax eater" (the "Gargantua" from Rabelais' novel) who takes from the prdinary people and gives privileges to the ruling elite. The taxpayers (to the right) are loading baskets full of their tax money which are carried up a ramp into the king’s open mouth. Some well dressed citizens gather around his feet to collect the coins which fall to the ground. From the king’s commode fall official documents which grant various privileges and honours to those waiting below, before they rush off to the National Assembl in the backgrundy. For making this drawing Daumier spent 6 months in prison for offending the king. [More]

 


April, 2011: Illuminated page for the month of April from Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1416) & Lord Kames on enlightened aesthetics of gardening vs. the corrupted taste shown by the absolute monarchs in the gardens of Versailles (1762)

Quotations about Liberty and Power

Lord Kames on enlightened aesthetics of gardening vs. the corrupted taste shown by the absolute monarchs in the gardens of Versailles (1762)
[See the source of the quote here.]

Henry Home, Lord Kames, Elements of Criticism:

As gardening is not an inventive art, but an imitation of nature, or rather nature itself ornamented; it follows necessarily, that every thing unnatural ought to be rejected with disdain. Statues of wild beasts vomiting water, a common ornament in gardens, prevail in those of Versailles. Is that ornament in a good taste? A jet d’eau, being purely artificial, may, without disgust, be tortured into a thousand shapes: but a representation of what really exists in nature, admits not any unnatural circumstance. In the statues of Versailles the artist has displayed his vicious taste without the least colour or disguise. A lifeless statue of an animal pouring out water, may be endured without much disgust: but here the lions and wolves are put in violent action, each has seized its prey, a deer or a lamb, in act to devour; and yet, as by hocus-pocus, the whole is converted into a different scene: the lion, forgetting his prey, pours out water plentifully; and the deer, forgetting its danger, performs the same work: a representation no less absurd than that in the opera, where Alexander the Great after mounting the wall of a town besieged, turns his back to the enemy, and entertains his army with a song.

In gardening, every lively exhibition of what is beautiful in nature has a fine effect: on the other hand, distant and faint imitations are displeasing to every one of taste. The cutting evergreens in the shape of animals, is very ancient; as appears from the epistles of Pliny, who seems to be a great admirer of the conceit. The propensity to imitation gave birth to that practice; and has supported it wonderfully long, considering how faint and insipid the imitation is. But the vulgar, great and small, are entertained with the oddness and singularity of a resemblance, however distant, between a tree and an animal. An attempt in the gardens of Versailles to imitate a grove of trees by a group of jets d’eau, appears, for the same reason, no less childish.

In designing a garden, every thing trivial or whimsical ought to be avoided. Is a labyrinth then to be justified? It is a mere conceit, like that of composing verses in the shape of an axe or an egg: the walks and hedges may be agreeable; but in the form of a labyrinth, they serve to no end but to puzzle: a riddle is a conceit not so mean; because the solution is proof of sagacity, which affords no aid in tracing a labyrinth.

The gardens of Versailles, executed with boundless expence by the best artists of that age, are a lasting monument of a taste the most depraved: the faults above mentioned, instead of being avoided, are chosen as beauties, and multiplied without end. Nature, it would seem, was deemed too vulgar to be imitated in the works of a magnificent monarch; and for that reason preference was given to things unnatural, which probably were mistaken for supernatural. I have often amused myself with a fanciful resemblance between these gardens and the Arabian tales: each of them is a performance intended for the amusement of a great king: in the sixteen gardens of Versailles there is no unity of design, more than in the thousand and one Arabian tales: and, lastly, they are equally unatural; groves of jets d’eau, statues of animals conversing in the manner of Aesop, water issuing out of the mouths of wild beasts, give an impression of fairy-land and witchcraft, no less than diamond-palaces, invisible rings, spells and incantations.

Images of Liberty and Power

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April: the fields and vineyards are green and aristocratic lovers get ready for their wedding
Illuminated page for the month of April from Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1416)
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It is early spring and green is the dominant color of the landscape (with blue, black,and red the dominant colors of the aristocrats' clothing). The land is laid out before the castle like a garden. A small village is nestled against the walls of the castle to the right; two men in boats are fishing peacefully in the moat; to the right we can see a garden beginning to bloom with what might be fruit trees with white flowers and several bushes tied up against the wall in a horizontal espalier; in the centre foreground two aristocratic ladies are kneeling picking flowers which are growing wild in the grass; another group of aristocrats dressed in very festive clothes are to the left - a bride and bride groom are choosing a wedding ring laid out on a cushion as the lord and lady preside over the little ceremony. The political meaning of the picture might be as follows: we are witnessing the betrothal in 1410 of Charles d'Orleans and Bonne d'Armagnac, the daughter of Bernard d'Armagnac and the grand-daughter of the Duc de Berry. This is a political alliance between two powerful families who were on opposite sides of the 100 Years War. Thus we see here the illustration of the themes of peace and tranquility in both the natural and political worlds. [More]

 


 

March 1, 2011: Algernon Sidney on the need for the law to be "deaf, inexorable, inflexible" and not subject to the arbitrary will of the ruler (1698) & Algernon Sidney (1622-1683) and the Thomas Hollis Library of Liberty

Quotations about Liberty and Power

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Algernon Sidney on the need for the law to be "deaf, inexorable, inflexible" and not subject to the arbitrary will of the ruler (1698)
[See the source of the quote here.]

This passage from Algernon Sidney (1622-1683) encapsulates an important part of the idea of the rule of law (or "written reason"), namely that it must be applied equally and impartially to all individuals and must not be subject to "mitigation or interpretation" by the ruler. It appeared in Sidney's unpublished book Discourses Concerning Government which was used to charge, try, and execute him for treason in 1683:

’Tis not therefore upon the uncertain will or understanding of a prince, that the safety of a nation ought to depend. He is sometimes a child, and sometimes overburden’d with years. Some are weak, negligent, slothful, foolish or vicious: others, who may have something of rectitude in their intentions, and naturally are not incapable of doing well, are drawn out of the right way by the subtlety of ill men who gain credit with them. That rule must always be uncertain, and subject to be distorted, which depends upon the fancy of such a man. He always fluctuates, and every passion that arises in his mind, or is infused by others, disorders him. The good of a people ought to be established upon a more solid foundation. For this reason the law is established, which no passion can disturb. ’Tis void of desire and fear, lust and anger. ’Tis mens sine affectu [mind without passion], written reason, retaining some measure of the divine perfection. It does not enjoin that which pleases a weak, frail man, but without any regard to persons commands that which is good, and punishes evil in all, whether rich or poor, high or low. ’Tis deaf, inexorable, inflexible.

[Read more]

Images of Liberty and Power

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Algernon Sidney (1622-1683) and the Thomas Hollis Library of Liberty
[Hollis/Cipriani, Frontispiece to Sidney's Discourses concerning Government (1762)]
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This image was designed by Thomas Hollis and appeared as the frontispiece of his 1762 edition of Algernon Sidney's Discourses concerning Government (1698) which was one of the most important works on republicanism to appear in the 17th century and which had a profound effect on the thinking of the American colonists during the American Revolution. It shows a long-haired, rather aristocratic Sidney dressed in the army uniform he wore during the 1640s. Over his shoulder he carries a banner with the Latin motto "Sanctus amor patriae dat animum" (the sacred love of the fatherland inspires). He turned against the revolution after Oliver Cromwell was appointed Lord Protector and went into self-imposed exile when the Stuart monarchy was restored in 1660. While he was Ambassador to Denmark in 1659 he wrote a provocative Latin motto in the King's visitors book which is included in the text above: "manus haec inimica tyrannis, ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem" which can be translated as "this hand, hostile to tyrants, seeks with the sword a quiet peace under liberty". This motto was adopted by the State of Massachusetts in 1775 as its official motto in recognition of the important role Sidney's ideas played in the formation of the American republic. [more]

 


March, 2011: Illuminated page for the month of March from Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1416) & Adam Smith on the greater productivity brought about by the the division of labour and its social consequences (1762)

Quotations about Liberty and Power

Adam Smith on the greater productivity brought about by the the division of labour and its social consequences (1762)

Adam Smith, Lectures On Jurisprudence:

Every body must be sensible how much labour is abridged and facilitated by the application of proper machinery. By means of the plough two men, with the assistance of three horses, will cultivate more ground than twenty could do with the spade. A miller and his servant, with a wind or water mill, will at their ease grind more corn than eight men could do, with the severest labour, by hand mills. To grind corn in a hand mill was the severest work to which the antients commonly applied their slaves, and to which they seldome condemned them unlessl when they had been guilty of some very great fault. A hand mill, however, is a very ingenuous machine which greatly facilitates labour, and by which a great deal of more work can be performed than when the corn is either to be beat in a mortar, or with the bare hand, unassisted by any machinery, to be rubbed into pouder between two hard stones, as is the practice not only of all barbarous nations but of some remote provinces in this country. It was the division of labour which probably gave occasion to the invention of the greater part of those machines, by which labour is so much facilitated and abridged. When the whole force of the mind is directed to one particular object, as in consequence of the division of labour it must be, the mind is more likely to discover the easiest methods of attaining that object than when its attention is dissipated among a great variety of things. He was probably a farmer who first invented the original, rude form of the plough. The improvements which were afterwards made upon it might be owing sometimes to the ingenuity of the plow wright when that business had become a particular occupation, and sometimes to that of the farmer. Scarce any of them are so complex as to exceed what might be expected from the capacity of the latter. The drill plow, the most ingenious of any, was the invention of a farmer.

Images of Liberty and Power

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March: preparing the fields and vineyards for the spring growing season
Illuminated page for the month of March from Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1416)
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The snow has melted and the peasants go about preparing the soil for the spring planting. In the background we can see the Château de Lusignan (in the Department of Vienne) on a hill top dominating the farmland about. The Chateau was a formidable defensive structure with multiple defensive walls and was probably at its height when owned by the Duc de Berry in the early 15th century. To the left we can see the barbican tower (the gatehouse), in the center the clocktower with its external privy, and to the right a tower with a protective golden dragon on its roof. On the slopes below the castle we can see various peasant activities: at the top left we can see a shepherd and his dog looking after a flock of sheep; below this are three peasants pruning the vines; to their right is a vineyard which has already been prepared for the spring growing season; at the far right is a peasant sifting a bag of seed corn; and in the foreground we see a peasant ploughing a field with 2 oxen. Given its prominent place in the picture and the extraordinary detail with which it is painted, the Limburg brothers were keen to show how important agriculture was to the peasant economy and how dependent upon it for their upkeep were the castles and chateaux of the aristocracy. [More]

 


 

February 20, 2011: Paine on the idea that the law is king (1776) & Presidents Day and the Apotheosis of Washington by John James Barralet (1802)

Quotations about Liberty and Power

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Paine on the idea that the law is king (1776)
[See the source of the quote here.]

In Common Sense (January 1776) Thomas Paine reminded the American colonists that in a free republic " the law is king" and that if a day were to be set aside to celebrate the republic's achievements then it should not be focused on a single man but on the law itself:

But where, say some, is the King of America? I’ll tell you, friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Great Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honours, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the Charter; let it be brought forth placed on the Divine Law, the Word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the Crown at the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is.

A government of our own is our natural right: and when a man seriously reflects on the precariousness of human affairs, he will become convinced, that it is infinitely wiser and safer, to form a constitution of our own in a cool deliberate manner, while we have it in our power, than to trust such an interesting event to time and chance. If we omit it now, some Massanello may hereafter arise [Note: Thomas Anello, otherwise Massanello, a fisherman of Naples, who after spiriting up his countrymen in the public market place, against the oppression of the Spaniards, to whom the place was then subject, prompted them to revolt, and in the space of a day became King], who, laying hold of popular disquietudes, may collect together the desperate and the discontented, and by assuming to themselves the powers of government, finally sweep away the liberties of the Continent like a deluge.

Images of Liberty and Power

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Presidents Day and the Apotheosis of Washington
John James Barralet, "The Apotheosis of Washington" (1802)

In the United States the third Monday of February is designated "Washington's Birthday", better known by the name "Presidents Day". There appear to be two main periods for the creation of images of the apotheoisis of Washington. The first comes immediately after his death in 1799 and the second comes after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln (April 1865). The image above was drawn by John James Barralet and it appeared in various forms between 1802 and 1816. It shows George Washington ascending into heaven assisted by Father Time and an angel (or "Immortality"). Shafts of light shine down from heaven through a break in the clouds as the angel and Father Time lift Washington, wrapped in a red piece of cloth or perhaps his burial shroud, from what appears to be his coffin or crypt. To the left three women (Faith, Hope, and Charity) can be seen: one holds her hand out towards him grieving; another holds two children in her arms; and a third is slumped forward on her arms weeping. Beneath Washington can be seen an American eagle, the American shield on which is written "e pluribus unum" and Liberty, whose head is bowed in sorrow. Her staff with the red phrygian cap is resting among Washington's discarded armour and sword which lie beside a facses. In the far right bottom corner we can see a American Indian with his hatchet and arrows sitting with his head resting on his knees. This is one of many images of Washington which appeared in the 19th century. He appeared on stamps, paper money, postcards and prints, as well as a monumental fresco by Brumidi on the ceiling of the Capitol Building painted in 1865. [more]

 


February, 2011: Illuminated page for the month of February from Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1416) & John Millar, on the "Causes of the freedom acquired by the labouring people in the modern nations of Europe" (1771)

Quotations about Liberty and Power

John Millar, on the "Causes of the freedom acquired by the labouring people in the modern nations of Europe."
[See the source of the quote here.]

John Millar, The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks (1771):

The situation, however, of these bond-men, and the nature of the employment in which they were usually engaged, had a tendency to procure them a variety of privileges from their master, by which, in a course of ages, their condition was rendered more comfortable, and they were advanced to higher degrees of consideration and rank. As the peasants belonging to a single person could not be conveniently maintained in his house, so in order to cultivate his lands to advantage, it was necessary that they should be sent to a distance, and have a fixed residence in different parts of his estate. Separate habitations were therefore assigned them; and particular farms were committed to the care of individuals, who from their residing in the neighbourhood of one another, and forming small villages or hamlets, received the appellation of “villains.” It may easily be imagined that, in those circumstances, the proprietor of a large estate could not oversee the behaviour of his servants, living in separate families, and scattered over the wide extent of his demesnes; and it was in vain to think of compelling them to labour by endeavouring to chastise them upon account of their idleness. A very little experience would show that no efforts of that kind could be effectual; and that the only means of exciting the industry of the peasants would be to offer them a reward for the work which they performed. Thus, beside the ordinary maintenance allotted to the slaves, they frequently obtained a small gratuity, which, by custom, was gradually converted into a regular hire; and, being allowed the enjoyment and disposal of that subject, they were at length understood to be capable of having separate property. After the master came to reside at a distance from the bulk of his servants, and had embraced the salutary policy of bribing them, instead of using compulsion, in order to render them active in their employment, he was less apt to be provoked by their negligence; and as he had seldom occasion to treat them with severity, the ancient dominion which he exercised over their lives was at length entirely lost by disuse. When a slave had been for a long time engaged in a particular farm, and had become acquainted with that particular culture which it required, he was so much the better qualified to continue in the management of it for the future; and it was contrary to the interest of the master that he should be removed to another place, or employed in labour of a different kind. By degrees, therefore, the peasants were regarded as belonging to the stock upon the ground, and came to be uniformly disposed of as a part of the estate which they had been accustomed to cultivate. As these changes were gradual, it is difficult to ascertain the precise period at which they were completed. The continual disorders which prevailed in the western part of Europe, for ages after it was first over-run by the German nations, prevented for a long time the progress of arts among the new inhabitants. It was about the twelfth century that a spirit of improvement, in several European countries, became somewhat conspicuous; and it may be considered as a mark of that improvement, with respect to agriculture, that about this time, the villains had obtained considerable privileges; that the master’s power over their life was then understood to be extinguished; that the chastisement to which they had been formerly subjected was become more moderate; and that they were generally permitted to acquire separate property.

Images of Liberty and Power

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February: peasants at work and keeping warm in winter
Illuminated page for the month of February from Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1416)
[See a larger image of this image]

In striking contrast to January where we see a gathering of aristocrats for gift giving and feasting, in the image for February we see a group of peasants going about their winter chores and warming themselves by a fire. The taxes they pay to the aristocratic landowners make possible the feasting they are enjoying so much above. In the background we can see a grey sky and a snow-covered village. Two men are at work: one walks behind a donkey which is laboring up the hill, and another is chopping firewood. In the middle ground we can see a number of objects which contribute to the peasant economy: a snow covered haystack, 4 beehives, and a dovecote. In the foreground we can see a sheep pen with sheep hunddling together for warmth, and a group of birds (doves or magpies) pecking some seeds which have been strewn on the ground. Seeking warmth is also the theme of the 4 people in the foreground. A cut away picture of a peasant's home shows a couple sitting by the fire with their pants and skirt hitched up in order to warm their legs. As in the image for January we see them with their hands raised towards the fire in a gesture of hand warming. A better dressed woman in a blue dress is shyly looking away as she too discreetly lifts her dress (only half way up) to warm herself. To the right a fourth person wrapped in a shawl is hurrying towards the house and its warm fire. [More]

 


 

January 31, 2011: Sir Edward Coke explains one of the key sections of Magna Carta on English liberties (1642) & John Lilburne reading from Coke's Institutes at his Treason Trial (1649)

Quotations about Liberty and Power

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Sir Edward Coke explains one of the key sections of Magna Carta on English liberties (1642)
[See the source of the quote here.]

The English judge and Member of Parliament Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634) spelled out the full meaning of what it meant to have "English liberties." Because he believed that "the liberty of a mans person is more precious to him, then all the rest that follow" he listed the nine "branches" which made up the "tree of liberty" as understood in the mid-17th century:

Upon this Chapter [29], as out of a roote, many fruitfull branches of the Law of England have sprung...

This Chapter containeth nine severall branches.

1. That no man be taken or imprisoned, but per legem terrae, that is, by the Common Law, Statute Law, or Custome of England; for these words, Per legem terrae, being towards the end of this Chapter, doe referre to all the precedent matters in this Chapter, and this hath the first place, because the liberty of a mans person is more precious to him, then all the rest that follow, and therefore it is great reason, that he should by Law be relieved therein, if he be wronged, as hereafter shall be shewed.

2. No man shall be disseised, that is, put out of seison, or dispossessed of his free-hold (that is) lands, or livelihood, or of his liberties, or free customes, that is, of such franchises, and freedomes, and free customes, as belong to him by his free birth-right, unlesse it be by the lawfull judgement, that is, verdict of his equals (that is, of men of his own condition) or by the Law of the Land (that is, to speak it once for all) by the due course, and processe of Law.

3. No man shall be out-lawed, made an exlex, put out of the Law, that is, deprived of the benefit of the Law, unlesse he be out-lawed according to the Law of the Land.

4. No man shall be exiled, or banished out of his Country, that is, Nemo perdet patriam, no man shall lose his Country, unlesse he be exiled according to the Law of the Land.

5. No man shall be in any sort destroyed (Destruere. i. quod prius structum, & factum fuit, penitus evertere & diruere) unlesse it be by the verdict of his equals, or according to the Law of the Land.

6. No man shall be condemned at the Kings suite, either before the King in his Bench, where the Pleas are Coram Rege, (and so are the words, Nec super eum ibimus, to be understood) nor before any other Commissioner, or Judge whatsoever, and so are the words, Nec super eum mittemus, to be understood, but by the judgement of his Peers, that is, equalls, or according to the Law of the Land.

7. We shall sell to no man Justice or Right.

8. We shall deny to no man Justice or Right.

9. We shall defer to no man Justice or Right.

Images of Liberty and Power

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John Lilburne reading from Coke's Institutes at his Treason Trial (1649)
[See a larger version of this image 250 KB JPG]

 

John Lilburne (1615-1657) was a leader in the Leveller movement of the 1640s and was a prolific pamphleteer who defended religious and individual liberty. He was imprisoned several times for his views and was active in the army of the New Parliament rising to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. In October 1649 he was arrested and tried for High Treason for printing and circulating books and pamphlets critical of the government but was acquitted of all charges by a jury of his peers. He defended himself vigorously in court, quoting from the works of the great jurist Sir Edward Coke. In this rather triumphant drawing we see Lilburne (or "Free-borne John" as he was called in reference to his constant quoting of the rights of all free born Englishmen) lieterally standing before the bench and reading from a copy of Coke's Institutes (or commentaries on the laws of England). Coke's Second Part of the Institutes had appeared in 1642 and were a detailed gloss on the Great Charter of Liberties (or Magna Carta) of 1215. This is the volume Lilburne is probably reading from and a passage on the nature of English Liberties which might have caught his eye can be found here. Above his head we can see on the right a plaque which lists the names of the jurymen who freed him. In a pamphlet he published soon after his acquittal he listed the date of publication as "Printed in the fall of Tyranny. 1649."
[more]

 


January 24, 2011: Spooner on the difference between a government and a highwayman (1870) & James Gillray on Debt and Taxes during the Napoleonic Wars (1806)

Quotations about Liberty and Power

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Spooner on the difference between a government and a highwayman (1870)
[See the source of the quote here.]

The legal theorist, abolitionist, and radical individualist Lysander Spooner (1808-1887) applied the same moral principles to the actions of an organization as he did to a single individual. This lead him to make some harsh criticisms of the government as this quotation reveals:

But this theory of our government is wholly different from the practical fact. The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: Your money, or your life. And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat.

The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the road side, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful.

The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a “protector,” and that he takes men’s money against their will, merely to enable him to “protect” those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful “sovereign,” on account of the “protection” he affords you. He does not keep “protecting” you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villanies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.

Images of Liberty and Power

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James Gillray on Debt and Taxes during the Napoleonic Wars

Image Title: James Gillray, "A Great Stream from a Petty-Fountain; or John Bull swamped in the Flood of new-Taxes; Cormorants Fishing the Stream" (1806). [See a larger version of this image 2.5 MB JPG].

James Gillray (1756-1815) trained as engraver but became best known for making hundreds of caricatures of British social and political life in the 1790s and 1800s. He satirized in particular King George III, William Pitt, the French Jacobins, Napoleon, and many others in the British political and military establishment. A recurring theme in his work was the dramatic increase in taxation and the national debt which was imposed in order to fight the wars against Napoleon and which placed a growing burden on the English people (represented as "John Bull"). Gillray also satirized the large numbers of well-connected people in the government and the military who profited from increased government expenditure by depicting them as greedy cormorants, sucking pigs, highway men, and wasps and hornets.

In this caricature, on the left we see John Bull (the personification of Britain) in a sinking boat which has been swamped by a mass of new taxes to fund the war against Napoleon. He has lost hold of an oar with the name of "William Pitt" written on it. [William Pitt the Younger was Prime Minister from 1804-1806 as well as Chancellor of the Exchequer (or minister of finance)]. On the right we see a man's head (Lord Henry Petty the new Chancellor of the Exchequer) from whose mouth pours a fountain of water labelled "new taxes" which are named in the cascades of the fountain (taxes on salt, tea, hops, malt, sugar, alcohol, candles, horses, servants, soap, houses, land, stamps, windows, property, etc.). In the foreground we see 10 hungry cormorants with human heads devouring the fish, crabs, and eels which thrive in the waters of the tax fountain. In the middle ground there are 2 other human-headed birds; in the distance we can see dozens more hungry cormorants heading towards the tax feast. The heads of the cormorants probably depict prominent politicians and other figures of the day. [more]

 


 

January, 2011: Illuminated page for the month of January from Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1416) & Henry Home, Lord Kames, on the "Progress and Effects of Luxury" among the aristocracy (1778)

Quotations about Liberty and Power

Henry Home, Lord Kames, on the "Progress and Effects of Luxury" among the aristocracy
[See the source of the quote here.]

Henry Home, Lord Kames, Sketches of the History of Man (1778).

Feasts in former times were carried beyond all bounds. William of Malmsbury, who wrote in the days of Henry II. says, “That the English were universally addicted to Drunkenness, continuing over their cups day and night, keeping open house, and spending the income of their estates in riotous feasts, where eating and drinking were carried to excess, without any elegance.” People who live in a corner imagine that every thing is peculiar to themselves: what Malmsbury says of the English is common to all nations, in advancing from the selfishness of savages to a relish for society, but who have not yet learned to bridle their appetites. Giraldus Cambrensis, speaking of the Monks of Saint Swithin, says, that they threw themselves prostrate at the feet of King Henry II. and with many tears complained, that the Bishop, who was their abbot, had withdrawn from them three of their usual number of dishes. Henry, having made them acknowledge that there still remained ten dishes, said, that he himself was contented with three, and recommended to the Bishop to reduce them to that number. Leland (a) mentions a feast given by the Archbishop of York, at his installation, in the reign of Edward IV. The following is a specimen: 300 quarters of wheat, 300 tons of ale, 100 tons of wine, 1000 sheep, 104 oxen, 304 calves, 304 swine, 2000 geese, 1000 capons, 2000 pigs, 400 swans, 104 peacocks, 1500 hot venison pasties, 4000 cold, 5000 custards, hot and cold. Such entertainments are a picture of manners. At that early period, there was not discovered in society any pleasure but that of crowding together in hunting and feasting. The delicate pleasures of conversation, in communicating opinions, sentiments, and desires, were to them unknown. There appeared, however, even at that early period, a faint dawn of the fine arts. In such feasts as are mentioned above, a curious desert was sometimes exhibited, term-ed sutteltie, viz. paste moulded into the shape of animals. On a saint’s day, angels, prophets, and patriarchs, were set upon the table in plenty. A feast given by Trivultius to Lewis XII. of France, in the city of Milan, makes a figure in Italian history. No fewer than 1200 ladies were invited; and the Cardinals of Narbon and St. Severin, with many other prelates, were among the dancers. After dancing, followed the feast, to regulate which there were no fewer employed than 160 master-households. Twelve hundred officers, in an uniform of velvet, or satin, carried the victuals, and served at the side-board. Every table, without distinction, was served with silver-plate, engraved with the arms of the landlord; and beside a prodigious number of Italian lords, the whole court, and all the household of the King, were feasted. The bill of fare of an entertainment given by Sir Watkin Williams Wynn to a company of 1500 persons, on his coming of age, is a sample of ancient English hospitality, which appears to have nothing in view but crowding and cramming merely. The following passage is from Hollinshed: “That the length and sumptuousness of feasts formerly in use, are not totally left off in England, notwithstanding that it proveth very beneficial to the physicians, who most abound where most excess and misgovernment of our bodies do appear.” He adds, that claret, and other French wines, were despised, and strong wines only in request. The best, he says, were to be found in monasteries: for “that the merchant would have thought his soul would go straightway to the devil, if he should serve monks with other than the best.” Our forefathers relished strong wine, for the same reason that their forefathers relished brandy. In Scotland, sumptuous entertainments were common at marriages, baptisms, and burials. In the reign of Charles II. a statute was thought necessary to confine them within moderate bounds.

Images of Liberty and Power

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January: the month of aristocratic gift giving and feasting
Illuminated page for the month of January from Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1416)

January was a month of gift giving and we can see some of the wealthy friends of the Duke de Berry bringing new year's gifts to their lord (who can be seen seated on the right at a banquet table in a striking blue robe decorated with gold fleurs de lys - indicating his support for the French monarchy). He sits before a large fire which warms the group from the January cold. Behind him and to the right are two young men wearing black head gear who may be the Limbourg brothers who painted these scenes under the patronage of the Duke de Berry. On the wall behind the revellers is a large tapestry which shows a scene from the Trojan War (although the soldiers are dressed in 15th century uniforms). It might also be a reference to the war which was currently being fought against King Henry V of England who defeated the French at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. [More]

 


 

 

November 29, 2010: Shaftesbury on the need for liberty to promote the liberal arts (1712) & The Earl of Shaftesbury on Liberty and Harmony: Volume 2, Title Page (1713)

Quotations about Liberty and Power

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Shaftesbury on the need for liberty to promote the liberal arts (1712)
[See the source of the quote here.]

Anthony Ashley Cooper, the Third Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) believed that liberty played the key role in fostering the development of the liberal arts and sciences and that the government should leave things alone and not disturb the "Genius of Liberty":

[W]ithout a Publick Voice, knowingly guided and directed, there is nothing which can raise a true Ambition in the Artist; nothing which can exalt the Genius of the Workman, or make him emulous of after-Fame, and of the approbation of his Country, and of Posterity. For with these he naturally, as a Freeman, must take part: in these he has a passionate Concern, and Interest, rais’d in him by the same Genius of Liberty, the same Laws and Government, by which his Property, and the Rewards of his Pains and Industry are secur’d to him, and to his Generation after him.

Every thing co-operates, in such a State, towards the Improvement of Art and Science. And for the designing Arts in particular, such as Architecture, Painting, and Statuary, they are in a manner link’d together. The Taste of one kind brings necessarily that of the others along with it. When the free Spirit of a Nation turns it-self this way, Judgments are form’d; Criticks arise; the publick Eye and Ear improve; a right Taste prevails, and in a manner forces its way. Nothing is so improving, nothing so natural, so con-genial to the liberal Arts, as that reigning Liberty and high Spirit of a People, which from the Habit of judging in the highest Matters for themselves, makes ’em freely judg of other Subjects, and enter thorowly into the Characters as well of Men and Manners, as of the Products or Works of Men, in Art and Science...

What Encouragement our higher Powers may think fit to give these growing Arts, I will not pretend to guess. This I know, that ’tis so much for their advantage and Interest to make themselves the chief Partys in the Cause, that I wish no Court or Ministry, besides a truly virtuous and wise one, may ever concern themselves in the Affair. For shou’d they do so, they wou’d in reality do more harm than good; since ’tis not the Nature of a Court (such as Courts generally are) to improve, but rather corrupt a Taste.

Images of Liberty and Power

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The Earl of Shaftesbury on Liberty and Harmony: Volume 2, Title Page (1713).
[See a larger version of this image JPG 2.5 MB]

Shaftesbury designed the illustrations which accompanied the publication of his treatise in 1713. They are quite allegorical in nature and the meaning of many of the symbols is not entirely clear. This illustration appeared on the title page of volume 2 and is quite typical. It shows three panels. The top panel shows the free, productive, and harmonious cooperation of large groups of creatures (the bee hive on the left; a herd of deer, a flock of birds, a human settlement, and commercial shipping in the middle; and an anthill on the right). The bottom panel shows similar harmonious cooperation and useful activity but this time on an individual or familial level (a single spider in its web and a mother and father bird feeding their chicks in the nest). In the bottom center is a globe of the world surrounded by a circular chain, suggesting that the entire world is interlinked and interconnected by similar examples of cooperation and harmony. The middle panel shows Liberty or Britannia in her chariot being pulled by lions, with Pallas Athena (the goddess of wisdom and justice) standing next to her holding a staff and a Phrygian cap of liberty. To the left are three Passions or Vices (Flattery, Hypocrisy, and Intemperance); to the right are three Virtues (Fortitude, Justice, Abundance). One might conclude from this that, when men are free to choose, they choose virtue over vice with the result being cooperation, harmony, and prosperity. [More]

 

Last modified April 13, 2016