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The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks is one of the major products of the Scottish Enlightenment and a masterpiece of jurisprudence and social theory. Building on David Hume, Adam Smith, and their respective natural histories of man, John Millar developed a progressive account of the nature of authority in society by analyzing changes in subsistence, agriculture, arts, and manufacture. The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks is perhaps the most precise and compact development of the abiding themes of the liberal wing of the Scottish Enlightenment.
Drawing on Smith’s four-stages theory of history and the natural law’s traditional division of domestic duties into those toward servants, children, and women, Millar provides a rich historical analysis of the ways in which progressive economic change transforms the nature of authority. In particular, he argues that, with the progress of arts and manufacture, authority tends to become less violent and concentrated, and ranks tend to diversify. Millar’s analysis of this historical progress is nuanced and sophisticated; for example, his discussion of servants is perhaps the best developed of the “economic” arguments against slavery.
John Millar (1735–1801) explored, through his works, the nature of English governance through a prism of the natural law tradition and Scottish philosophical history. Millar was a student of Adam Smith’s at Glasgow University and his most important immediate intellectual heir. His works provide an essential linkage to Smith.
Aaron Garrett is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Boston University.
Knud Haakonssen is Professor of Intellectual History and Director of the Centre for Intellectual History at the University of Sussex, England.
Drawing deeply from Aristotle and biblical teaching, Politic presents a unique vision of the commonwealth as a harmonious ordering of natural associations. According to Althusius, the purpose of the state is to protect and encourage social life. The family is the most natural of human associations, and all other unions derive from it. Power and authority properly grow from more local to more general associations.
Of particular interest to the modern reader is Althusius's theory of federalism. It does not refer merely to a division of powers between central and state governments, but to an ascending scale of authority in which higher institutions rely on the consent of local and voluntary associations.
Johannes Althusius (1557–1638) was a German political and legal philosopher.
Frederick S. Carn was Professor Emeritus of Ethics at the Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.
Daniel J. Elazar is Director of the Center for the Study of Federalism at Temple University and Professor of Political Science at Temple and at Bar Ilan University in Israel.
In Two Volumes
The early political culture of the American republic was deeply influenced by the religious consciousness of the New England preachers. Indeed, it was often through the political sermon—the "pulpit of the American Revolution"—that the political rhetoric of the period was formed, refined, and transmitted. And yet the centrality of religious concerns in the lives of eighteenth-century Americans is largely neglected. This has created a blind spot regarding the fundamental acts of the American founding.
Political sermons such as the fifty-five collected in this volume are unique to America, both in kind and in significance. This volume thus fills an important need if the American founding period is to be adequately understood.
Ellis Sandoz is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Eric Voegelin Institute at Louisiana State University.
William Penn played a crucial role in the articulation of religious liberty as a philosophical and political value during the second half of the seventeenth century and as a core element of the classical liberal tradition in general. Penn was not only one of the most vocal spokesmen for liberty of conscience in Restoration England, but he also oversaw a great colonizing endeavor that attempted to instantiate his tolerationist commitments in practice. His thought has relevance not only for scholars of English political and religious history, but also for those who are interested in the foundations of American religious liberty, political development, and colonial history. This volume illuminates the origins and development of Penn’s thought by presenting, for the first time, complete and annotated texts of all his important political works.
Penn’s early political writings illuminate the Whig understanding of English politics as guided by the ancient constitution (epitomized by Magna Charta and its elaboration of English native rights). The ancient constitution symbolized, for Penn and other Whigs, a balanced governing relationship between King and Parliament, established from antiquity and offering a standard against which to judge the actions of particular Parliaments. The values of liberty, property, and consent (as represented by Parliament) provide the basis for Penn’s advocacy of liberty of conscience in Restoration England. During the 1660s and 1670s, Penn used his social prominence as well as the time afforded him by several imprisonments to compose a number of works advocating religious toleration and defending the ancient constitution as a guarantor of popular liberties. In the 1680s, Penn’s political thought emphasized the substantive importance of toleration as a fundamental right and the civil magistrate’s duty to grant such freedom regardless of those interests in society (e.g., the Church of England, Tories in Parliament) who might oppose it. His social status, indefatigable energy for publication, and command of biblical and historical sources give Penn’s political writings a twofold significance: as a window on toleration and liberty of conscience, perhaps the most vexing issue of Restoration politics; and as part of a broader current of thought that would influence political thought and practice in the colonies as well as in the mother country.
William Penn (1644–1718) lived during the two great political and religious upheavals in seventeenth-century England: the Civil Wars of the 1640s and the 1688 Revolution. He was expelled from Christ Church College, Cambridge, for religious nonconformity, and in 1667 he converted to Quakerism. After his conversion, he worked as a preacher, writer, and spokesman for the Quakers, promoting religious liberty and attempting to advance the interests of the Quakers in the American colonies.
Sir Henry Sumner Maine was one of the great intellects of the Victorian era. In Popular Government he examines the political institutions of men. He saw that popular governments, unless they are founded upon and consonant with the evolutionary development of a people, will crumble from their own excesses.
George W. Carey is Professor of Government at Georgetown University and editor of the Political Science Reviewer.
Progress and Anarchy in Modern America
Although The Present State of Germany was first made available in English over three centuries ago, it has been virtually unavailable in English since the period of the American Founding.
By 1696, Pufendorf was well known in England as a staunch defender of the Protestant cause and as one of the renovators of natural law. His writings were familiar to such luminaries as Locke and figured prominently in James Tyrell’s Patriarcha non Monarcha (1681).
The editor of this volume, Michael J. Seidler, describes this work of Pufendorf as “an account of German constitutional law detailing the historical relations between the Emperor and the Estates as well as an examination of the legitimating foundations of Imperial authority, a general analysis of the nature and requirements of political sovereignty, and a reconceptualization of the different forms of political order. . . . Its central distinction between so-called regular and irregular states, resting on the question of the locus of sovereignty, demotes the traditional political categories into mere administrative possibilities and thereby creates a more general problematic of freedom and authority with which we are still wrestling today. That is, it raises, at a very early stage in the contractarian tradition which we have inherited, the basic question of how effective political unity is compatible with competing values of diversity and individual liberty.”
Samuel Pufendorf (1632–1694) was one of the most important figures in early-modern political thought. An exact contemporary of Locke and Spinoza, he transformed the natural law theories of Grotius and Hobbes, developed striking ideas of toleration and of the relationship between church and state, and wrote extensive political histories and analyses of the constitution of the German empire.
Edmund Bohun (1645–1699) was an English press license official and political writer who ended up as chief justice of South Carolina.
Michael J. Seidler is Professor of Philosophy at Western Kentucky University.
Knud Haakonssen is Professor of Intellectual History at the University of Sussex, England.