Liberalism

Voltaire: Philosophical Letters on the English

D'après_Maurice_Quentin_de_La_Tour _Portrait_de_Voltaire_(c._1737 _musée_Antoine_Lécuyer)The Philosophical Letters or Letters on the English (French: Lettres philosophiques) is a 1733 work by Voltaire, revised  in 1778, composed as a series of letters reflecting on his sojourn in England from 1726 to 1728.

Voltaire's thoughts on English literature include a number of leading writers of the day who he met while in London, such as Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift. His account of English political and religious institutions, Newtonian science, and the empiricism of Bacon and Locke, quickly became a formative influence on continental liberalism.

Letters on England at online book stores
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English translations
Gutenberg: Letters on England. EPUB, HTML, MOBI and TXT formats.
Internet Archive: French and English Philosophers, Descartes, Voltaire, Rousseau, Hobbes (includes Letters on England). Harvard Classics Vol. 34. EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.
Internet History Sourcebooks: Letters on the English or Lettres Philosophiques. HTML format.
Liberty Fund: The Works of Voltaire, Vol. XIX (Philosophical Letters). EPUB, HTML, MOBI and PDF formats.
Wikisource: Letters Concerning the English Nation. English translation. HTML and other formats.
French texts
Wikisource: Lettres Philosophiques. HTML and other formats.

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Montesquieu: The Spirit of the Laws

Charles_MontesquieuThe Spirit of the Laws (French: De l'esprit des lois) is a 1748 political treatise by Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu. Setting out to explain the principles underlying the laws of different nations, Montesquieu was innovative in the breadth of his comparative approach, and in considering natural factors such as climate. This nevertheless sometimes led him to pernicious conclusions, such as his belief that slavery, though wrong, was more tolerable in tropical regions.

Montesquieu's political recommendations were strongly influenced by his experiences in England, although it has often been insisted that he misunderstood English arrangements - generations of British schoolchildren have been taught that he missed the role of the Lord Chancellor as a member of the executive, legislature and judiciary. Nevertheless, his doctrine of the separation of powers was a decisive influence on the constitution of the United States.

The Spirit of the Laws at online book stores
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English texts
Internet Archive: Montesquieu - The Spirit of the Laws, Rousseau - On the Origin of Inequality, On Political Economy, The Social Contract. Britannica Great Books of the Western World edition. EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.
Liberty Fund: The Spirit of the Laws. EPUB, HTML, MOBI and PDF formats.
Wikisource: The Spirit of the Laws, translated by Thomas Nugent (1758). HTML and other formats.
French texts
Gutenberg: Esprit des Lois. EPUB, HTML, MOBI and TXT formats.
Wikisource: De L'Esprit des Lois. Multiple editions. HTML and other formats.

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Wollstonecraft: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

MaryWollstonecraftA Vindication of the Rights of Woman, a 1792 work by Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the earliest modern statements of the case for political and social equality for women.

Wollstonecraft strongly defended the French Revolution against the criticisms of Edmund Burke in her previous work, A Vindication of the Rights of Men. Her dismay at the new French regime's conservative proposals for female education provided the immediate occasion for a second Vindication addressed to the statesman responsible, Talleyrand. Though novel, her argument that women should exercise full political citizenship, and be educated accordingly, drew heavily on prevalent enlightenment concepts of natural rights.

After her early death, Wollstonecraft's work was overshadowed by the hostile reception to William Godwin's biography of her. However, her reputation recovered with the growth of the women's movement by the early twentieth century, and the Vindication has come to be seen as a central precursor to modern feminism.

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman at online book stores
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Free online texts
Early Modern Texts: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.
Gutenberg: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. EPUB, HTML, MOBI and TXT formats. 
Internet Archive: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. 1891 Unwin edition. EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.
University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. EPUB, MOBI and HTML formats.
Wikisource: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. HTML and other formats.

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Adam Smith: The Wealth of Nations

Adam_smithAn Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, published by Scottish philosopher Adam Smith in 1776, is the foundational work in the tradition of classical political economy, the precursor of the modern discipline of economics.

Smith's defence of the free market was a powerful influence on 19th century liberalism. He was, however, also critical of institutions such as corporations, which have become increasingly characteristic of modern capitalism.

The Wealth of Nations at online book stores

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Early Modern Texts: An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Adapted for modern readers by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Gutenberg: An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. EPUB, HTML, MOBI and TXT formats.

Internet Archive: The Wealth of Nations. 1909 Harvard Classics edition. EPUB, MOBI, TXT and PDF formats.

Internet Archive: The Wealth of Nations. 1937 Modern Library edition. EPUB, MOBI, TXT and PDF formats.

University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. EPUB, HTML and MOBI formats.

Wikisource: The Wealth of Nations. HTML and other formats.

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Rousseau: The Social Contract

'Portrait_of_Jean-Jacques_Rousseau'_by_François_GuérinThe Social Contract (French: Du Contrat Social) is a 1762 treatise by Jean Jacques Rousseau, outlining a theory of political rights based on unlimited popular sovereignty.

In contrast to Hobbes, Rousseau argues that is only in political society that human beings can be truly free. His suggestion that under circumstances people must be forced to be free has led some to see him as an authoritarian, although this has been challenged by those who stress his egalitarian republicanism. His undoubted role as a key intellectual influence on the French Revolution has given point to the controversy.

The Social Contract at online book stores

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Free online texts

Early Modern Texts: The Social Contract, adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Gutenberg: The Social Contract and Discourses, translated by G.D.H. Cole. EPUB, HTML, MOBI and TXT formats.

Internet Archive: A Treatise on the Social Compact. English translation. Multiple formats. Digitisation of a copy owned by John Adams.

Internet Archive: Montesquieu - The Spirit of the Laws, Rousseau - On the Origin of Inequality, On Political Economy, The Social Contract. Britannica Great Books of the Western World edition. EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.

Online Library of Liberty: Ideal Empires and Republics. Rousseau’s Social Contract, More’s Utopia, Bacon’s New Atlantis, Campanella’s City of the Sun, with an Introduction by Charles M. Andrews (1901). Multiple formats.

University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): The Social Contract. EPUB, HTML and MOBI formats.

Wikisource: French texts and English translation by George Douglas Howard Cole. HTML and other formats.

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Milton: Areopagitica

Areopagitica_1644bw_gobeirneAreopagitica is a 1644 polemical essay by the poet John Milton arguing for freedom of the press. Written early in the English Civil War, at a moment when Parliament had broken the authority of Charles I's controls on publishing, it was unsuccessful in dissuading the dominant Presbyterian faction from instituting its own censorship. It nevertheless became a formative influence on later arguments for freedom of speech in the  liberal tradition.

Areopagitica at Amazon: United States | Canada | United Kingdom | France | Germany | Spain | Italy

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Dartmouth College: Areopagitica. HTML format.

Gutenberg: Areopagitica. HTML, EPUB, Kindle and TXT formats.

Internet Archive. English Minor Poems, Paradise Lost, Samson Agonistes, Areopagitica. Britannica Great Books edition. EPUB, TXT, MOBI and PDF formats.

Internet Archive. Areopagitica. Clarendon (1894) with notes by John W. Hales. EPUB, TXT, MOBI and PDF formats.

Internet Archive: Essays Civil and Moral and The New Atlantis by Francis Bacon, Areopagitica and Tractate on Education by John Milton and Religio Medici by Thomas Brown. Harvard Classics, Vol 3. EPUB, TXT, MOBI and PDF formats.

University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): Areopagitica. PDF, EPUB, TXT and Kindle formats.

Wikisource: Areopagitica. HTML and other formats. See also Harvard Classics edition.

Other Resources

Librivox: Areopagitica | Areopagitica (version 2) - public domain audiobooks.

Wikipedia: John Milton - Areopagitica

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Euripides: The Suppliants - quoted at the start of the text.

Isocrates: Areopagitikos - the inspiration for the title of Milton's work.

John Aubrey: Brief Lives - includes a life of Milton.

Harold Bloom's Western Canon: includes the Areopagitica.


John Locke: Two Treatises of Government

Embarquement_de_Guillaume_d'Orange_pour_l'Angleterre_en_1688The Two Treatises of Government by John Locke are seminal works in the history of the liberal tradition, originally published in the aftermath of England's Whig revolution of 1688, with which Locke was intimately involved, though written some years earlier.

The First Treatise attacks the doctrine of the divine right of kings, defended by Anglican theologians such as Sir Robert Filmer, an important bulwark of the legitimacy of the Stuart monarchs.

The Second Treatise offers Locke's positive political theory, putting forward a social contract argument, which unlike that of Hobbes, provides a basis for limited representative government. If this Locke's key significance for his admirers, his critics point to his theory of property, which allows for slavery, and has been interpreted as allowing greater to rights to those who exploit natural resources more fully, potentially favouring European settlers in the Americas over natives.

Two Treatises of Government at Amazon: United States | Canada | United Kingdom | France | Germany | Spain | Italy

Free online texts

Constitution.org: Second Treatise of Civil Government. HTML and TXT formats.

Early Modern Texts: Second Treatise on Government (1689), adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Gutenberg: Second Treatise of Government. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Two Treatises of Government, with Patriarcha by Robert Filmer, edited by Thomas I. Cook. Hafner Library of Classics. Multiple formats.

Liberty Fund: Two Treatises of Government, edited by Thomas Hollis. Multiple formats. See also enhanced edition.

Marxists.org: The Second Treatise of Government. HTML format.

University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): The Second Treatise of Civil Government. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: Two Treatises of Government. HTML and other formats.

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