John Bright denounces the power of the war party in England (1878)

The Quaker and antiwar MP John Bright opposed the war against Russia in the Crimea in 1854 and opposed similar agitation for war again 25 years later in 1878. He blamed the constant agitation for war on the traditions of the Foreign Office and the control of the British press by a powerful “war party”:

William Leggett argues that Thanksgiving Day is no business of the government (1836)

The radical Jacksonian journalist William Leggett (1801-1839) argued that the formal declaration by the Federal government of a national “Thanksgiving Day” was not properly the duty of the head of state but the individual heads of religion, if they so desired:

Lord Kames argued that neither the King nor Parliament had the right to grant monopolies because they harmed the interests of the people (1778)

The Scottish judge Lord Kames (1696-1782) thought that the Courts should step in to ban grants of monopoly issued by the King as well as by Parliament because they benefited a few and caused harm to the people:

James Mackintosh on how constitutions grow and are not made (1799)

The Scottish Whig politician and moral philosopher Sir James Mackintosh (1765-1832), writing during the French Revolution, believed that a free constitution was one that evolved gradually over time and was not created in one piece by men in an act of violence:

Richard Price on how the “domestic enemies” of liberty have been more powerful and more successful than foreign enemies (1789)

The Welsh Presbyterian minister Richard Price (1723-1791) in his Discourse celebrating the Revolution of 1688 in Britain warns about the dangers to liberty posed by ambitious “executive officers of government”:

Herbert Spencer on the superiority of private enterprise over State activity (1853)

The English individualist political theorist Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) wonders why, given the never ending stream of news about government incompetence and failure, people still call for it do do more:

Herbert Spencer on the idea that society is a spontaneous growth and not artificially put together (1860)

The English radical individualist social theorist Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) based much of his theory of society on the idea of spontaneous orders a century before Hayek did. Here is an early statement of this from 1860:

Anthony de Jasay on the free rider problem (2008)

Anthony de Jasay (1925-2019) believes that the presence of large benefits to free riders at the expense of others (the suckers) is the basic reason why society has so many examples of “non-contractual social co-ordination” or coercion:

John Stuart Mill on the “religion of humanity” (c. 1858)

The English utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) thought that many of the functions of religion could be better served by directing one’s emotions and desires towards the ideal of the unity of mankind and a respect for the general good which he termed the “religion of humanity”:

William Graham Sumner on how “society” helps the drunkard in the gutter (1883)

The American sociologist William Graham Sumner (1840-1910) observed that when the state uses tax money to help someone who is down and out on their luck it is ultimately paid for by “the forgotten man”:

Guizot on man’s unquenchable desire for liberty and free political institutions (1820-22)

The French politician and liberal historian François Guizot (1787-1874) argued in 1822 that no matter what the outward form a government might be “there is an instinctive sense of justice and reason dwelling in every human spirit” which always bubbles to the surface to express the desire for liberty and free institutions such as representative government:

Henry George on how trade sanctions hurt domestic consumers (1886)

The American free trader Henry George (1839-1897) argued that trade sanctions against “our enemies” hurt domestic consumers just like any other “protectionist” trade restriction:

John Locke on the rights to life, liberty, and property of ourselves and others (1689)

John Locke (1632-1704) argued that the law of nature obliged all human beings not to harm “the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another”:

James Mill on Who are to watch the watchmen? (1835)

The Philosophic Radical James Mill (1773-1836) believed that the answer to the age old problem of “who is to guard us from the guardians” lay in regular elections and a free press:

Frédéric Bastiat asks what came first, property or law? (1850)

The French political economist Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) argues that it is in order to defend one’s already existing person, liberty, and property that laws are made:

Herbert Spencer on customs which are the result of human action but not of deliberate design (1876)

The English sociologist Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) notes that human “conventions” or customs are not the result of any deliberate design by human beings but usually evolve gradually and spontaneously over very long periods of time:

Destutt de Tracy on society as “nothing but a succession of exchanges” (1817)

The French revolutionary politician and republican Destutt de Tracy (1754-1836) believed that society was a complex web of mutually beneficial transactions which brought people together both across space and time:

James Wilson asks if man exists for the sake of government, or is government instituted for the sake of man? (1791)

James Wilson (1742-1798), one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and one of the original justices appointed by George Washington to the United States Supreme Court, delivered some Lectures on Law in 1790-91 in which he argued that the function of government was to protect and enlarge an individual’s existing natural rights, not to subvert or restrain them:

Sir Edward Coke declares that your house is your “Castle and Fortress” (1604)

The English judge and jurist Sir Edward Coke (pronounced cook) (1552-1634) declared in a ruling known as Semayne’s Case that there were strict limits on how Sheriffs may enter a person’s house in order to issue writs:

Gouverneur Morris on the proper balance between commerce, private property, and political liberty (1776)

In his Political Enquiries (1776) Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816) was ruminating on key political questions on the eve of American independence. In this section “Of Commerce” he worries about the tension between private property rights and commerce on the one hand, and the exercise of political liberty which might be used to violate property rights:

Liberty in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789)

The French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was promulgated in August 1789 and Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette drew heavily upon the American precedents of the Virginia Declaration (May 1776) and the Declaration of Independence (4 July 1776). We quote here the first few articles:

John Lilburne rails against his unjust imprisonment (1646)

The English Leveller John Lilburne (1615-1657) denounces the government for his false imprisonment, his jailers for their corrupt practices, and demands his rights as an Englishmen under Common Law to face a jury of his peers, otherwise … :

John Locke on the separation of Church and Magistrate (1689)

John Locke (1632-1704) was also known in his lifetime as a staunch defender of religious toleration. In this passage he calls for the complete separation of church and magistrate:

Arthur Seldon on the problem of “who guards us from the guardians”? (1990)

The founder of the Institute of Economic Affairs, Arthur Seldon (1916-2005), argues that advocates of limited government have still yet to solve this most important political problem:

Spinoza on the dangers of using superstition to hoodwink the people (1670)

The 17th century rationalist philosopher Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677) warns how religion can be misused by tyrants to hoodwink the people into fighting just as bravely for their own slavery as for liberty: