Title page from Discourses Concerning Government

Discourses Concerning Government

Written in response to Sir Robert Filmer’s Patriarcha (1680), the Discourses Concerning Government is a classic defense of republicanism and popular government. Sidney rejected Filmer’s theories of royal absolutism and divine right of kings, insisting that title to rule should be based on merit rather than birth; and republics, he thought, were more likely to honor merit than were monarchies.

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Key Quotes

Presidents, Kings, Tyrants, & Despots

Manus haec inimica tyrannis Einse petit placidam cum libertate quietem. (This hand, enemy to tyrants, By the sword seeks calm peacefulness with liberty.)


SECTION 11: That which is not just, is not Law; and that which is not Law, ought not to be obeyed. … the directive power of the law, which is certain, and grounded upon the inherent good and rectitude that is in it, is that alone which has a power over the conscience, whereas the coercive is merely…


They (Princes) consider nations, as grazers do their herds and flocks, according to the profit that can be made of them: and if this be so, a people has no more security under a prince, than a herd or flock under their master. Tho he desire to be a good husband, yet they must be delivered up to the…