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The Excellencie of a Free State

Or, The Right Constitution of a Commonwealth

Marchamont Nedham

Publication Year: 2012

First published in 1656, and compiled from previously written editorials in the parliamentarian newsbook Mercurius Politicus, The Excellencie of a Free-State addressed a dilemma in English politics, namely, what kind of government should the Commonwealth adopt? One possibility was to revert to the ancient constitution and create a Cromwellian monarchy. The alternative was the creation of parliamentary sovereignty, in which there would be a "due and orderly succession of supreme authority in the hands of the people's representatives." Nedham was convinced that only the latter would "best secure the liberties and freedoms of the people from the encroachments and usurpations of tyranny."Marchamont Nedham (1620-1678) was a polemicist, pamphleteer, and editor of Mercurius Politicus.Blair Worden is Research Professor of History, Royal Holloway College, University of London.

Published by: Liberty Fund

Series: The Thomas Hollis Library


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi

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The Thomas Hollis Library

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pp. vii-viii

Thomas Hollis (1720–74) was an eighteenth-century Englishman who devoted his energies, his fortune, and his life to the cause of liberty. Hollis was trained for a business career, but a series of inheritances allowed him to pursue instead a career of public service. He believed that citizenship demanded activity and that it was incumbent on citizens to ...

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pp. ix-x

The republican writings of Marchamont Nedham are a landmark in Western political thought. Writing in the years following the execution of King Charles I and the abolition of the monarchy in 1649, Nedham proposed an alternative to the improvised and short-lived constitu-tional expedients that followed the overthrow of the monarchy. Instead ...

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pp. xi-xi

Editors need the aid of experts and colleagues and are gladdened when, as in my case, it comes with kindness and generosity. I warmly thank Laura Goetz and David Womersley, my guides at Liberty Fund; Susan Halpert of the Houghton Library at Harvard and Colin Higgins of the Library of Christ’s College, Cambridge; and scholars Rodney Allan, ...


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pp. xiii-xiii

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pp. xv-cii

Marchamont Nedham (1620–1678) was the pioneer of English republicanism. His arguments for kingless rule were first published in brief essays written in 1650–52, during the rule of the Commonwealth that followed the execution of King Charles I in 1649. In 1656, when Oliver Cromwell had become lord protector, Nedham brought the essays ...

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Nedham and His Classical Sources

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pp. ciii-cv

Nedham’s argument proceeds by the invocation and accumulation of historical examples. He does not deploy or cite them in a fastidious spirit. His historical illustrations, sometimes evidently taken from memory, are frequently characterized by liberal paraphrase or loose quotation or misleading abbreviation. The writers to whose authority ...

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The Text and the Notes

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pp. cvii-cviii

The text reproduced in this volume is that of 1656.306 The spelling of the original is retained (whereas in my introduction I have modernized the spelling of quotations, though not of titles of books). Except in reproducing proper names I have corrected obvious misprints, which are listed in Appendix A. I have not reproduced the ...

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To the Reader

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pp. 5-7

Taking notice of late with what impudence, and (the more is the pity) confi dence, the Enemies of this Commonwealth in their publick Writings and Discourses labour to undermine the dear-bought Liberties and Freedoms of the People, in their declared Interest of a Free-State; I thought it high time, by counter-working them, to crush the Cockatrice in the Egg, that so it might ...

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An Introduction to the Following Discourse.

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pp. 8-18

1 When the Senators of Rome, in their publike Decrees and Orations, began to comply with and court the People, calling them Lords of the world; how easie a matter was it then for Gracchus to perswade them to un-Lord the Senate? In like manner, when Athens was quitted of Kings, the Power was no sooner declared to be in the People, but immediately ...

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The Right Constitution of a Commonwealth.

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pp. 19-46

The Romans having justly and nobly freed themselves from the Tyranny of Kings, and being in time brought to understand that the interest of Freedom consists in a due and orderly Succession of the Supreme Assemblies; they then made it their care, by all good ways and means, to fortifi e the Commonwealth, and establish it in a free ...

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All Objections Against the Government of the People ,Answered

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pp. 47-69

Considering, That in times past, the People of this Nation were bred up and instructed in the brutish Principles of Monarchy, by which means they have been the more averse from entertaining Notions of a more noble Form: and remembring, that not long since we were put into a better course, upon the declared Interest of a Free-State, or Commonwealth ...

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The Original of All Just Power Is in the People.

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pp. 70-74

336 Those Men that deny this Position, are fain to run up as high as Noah and Adam, to gain a pretence for their Opinion: alledging, That the primitive or fi rst Governments of the World were not instituted by the consent and election of those that were governed, but by an absolute Authority invested in the persons governing. * Thus they say our first ...

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Errours of Government; And Rules of Policie.

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pp. 75-126

Having proved342 that the Originall of all just Power and Government is in the People; and that the Government of the People, in a due and orderly succession of their supream Assemblies, is much more excellent than any other Form, I suppose it falls in of course, in the next place, to note, and observe those common Errors in Policie, wherein ...

Appendix A The Edition of 1656

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pp. 127-128

Appendix B. The Edition of 1767

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pp. 129-131

Appendix C. Corresponding Passages of Mercurius Politicus

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pp. 133-188


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pp. 189-211

E-ISBN-13: 9781614878964
E-ISBN-10: 161487896X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780865978096

Page Count: 319
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: The Thomas Hollis Library
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 849937026
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Excellencie of a Free State

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Subject Headings

  • Political science -- Early works to 1800.
  • Republicanism -- Great Britain -- History -- 17th century.
  • Great Britain -- Politics and government -- 1642-1660.
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