John Locke and Algernon Sidney on Liberty and Free Government


Algernon Sidney and John Locke, who was apparently Sidney’s co-conspirator in a Whig attempt to overthrow the king, both argued for natural liberty and reasonable government based on popular consent. Their arguments, however, differ in the means advocated to reach the same end. Hence, this conference’s careful scrutiny of the similarities and differences between the authors’ arguments on such topics as property, reason, tyranny, and rebellion was helpful for understanding the main texts behind modern (not only American) “self-evident truths” about natural rights and good government.


From Liberty Fund

Discourses Concerning Government

by By Algernon Sidney
Edited by Thomas G. West

Written in response to Sir Robert Filmer’s Patriarcha (1680), the Discourses Concerning Government by Algernon Sidney (1623–1683) has been treasured for more than three centuries as a classic defense of republicanism and popular government.

Thomas G. West is Paul and Dawn Potter Professor of Politics, Hillsdale College.

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Additional Readings

Locke, John. Two Treatises of Government. Edited by Peter Laslett. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Locke, John. Some Thoughts Concerning Education and of the Conduct of Understanding. Edited by Ruth W. Grant and Nathan Tarcov. New York: Hackett Publishing Co., Inc., 1996.