Sidney argues that a People’s liberty is a gift of nature and exists prior to any government (1683)
Found in: Discourses Concerning Government
The English republican Algernon Sidney (1622-1683) distinguished between the “right of dominion” and the “right of liberty” and argued that the people’s liberty is prior to and takes precedence over the dominion of a king or prince:
Origin of Government
… till the right of dominion be proved and justified, liberty subsists as arising from the nature and being of a man. Tertullian speaking of the emperors says, ab eo imperium a quo spiritus [Dominion comes from the same source as one’s spirit]; and we taking man in his first condition may justly say, ab eo libertas a quo spiritus [Liberty comes from the same source as one’s spirit]; for no man can owe more than he has received. The creature having nothing, and being nothing but what the creator makes him, must owe all to him, and nothing to anyone from whom he has received nothing. Man therefore must be naturally free, unless he be created by another power than we have yet heard of.