Algernon Sidney (1622-1683)

Frontispiece to the 2nd editon of 1704. The Frontispiece designed by Thomas Hollis for his edtion of 1763.
[Created: 25 Dec. 2020]
[Updated: February 23, 2023 ]

See the bibliography of Sidney from the Dictionary of National Biography.

See the entry on this author in the Cato Institute's Encyclopedia of Libertarianism (2008) - “Sidney, Algernon (1623-1683)” <>.

In his "A Copy of a Paper delivered to the Sheriffs immediately before his Death" Sidney gave a useful summary of what he beieved were the principles of the "Old Cause" of republicanism for which he had fought and died (in the second edition of 1704, p. 422):

(I) believe, That God had left Nations to the Liberty of setting up such Governments as best pleas'd themselves.
That Magistrates were set up for the good of Nations, not Nations for the honour or glory of Magistrates.
That the Right and Power of Magistrates in every Country, was that which the Laws of that Country made it to be.
That those Laws were to be observ'd, and the Oaths taken by them, having the force of a Contract between Magistrate and People, could not be violated without danger of dissolving the whole Fabrick.
That Usurpation could give no Right, and the most dangerous of all Enemys to Kings were they, who raising their Power to an exorbitant height, allow'd to Usurpers all the Rights belonging unto it.


Works in the Collection


Discourses concerning Government, by Algernon Sidney, Son to Robert Earl of Leicester, and Ambassador from the Commonwealth of England to Charles Gustavus King of Sweden. Published from an Original Manuscript of the Author (London, Printed, and are to be sold by the Booksellers of London and Westminster, 1698).

This book is available in various formats:


Discourses Concerning Government, by Algernon Sidney, Son to Robert Earl of Leicester, and Ambassador from the Commonwealth of England to Charles Gustavus King of Sweden. Published from an Original Manuscript. The Second Edition carefully corrected. To which is Added. The Paper He deliver's to the Sheriffs immediately before his Death. And an Alphabetical Table. Dulce et decorum est pro Patria mori. Hor. (London, Printed by J. Darby in Batholomew Close, 1704). Facs. PDF.

  • the "Copy of a Paper Deliver'd to the Sheriffs, Upon the Scaffold on Tower-hill, On Friday Decemb. 7. 1683. BY Algernon Sidney Esq Immediately before his Death" is available as HTML and facs. PDF. It is very interesting because it has a nice summary of what the "Old Cause" of republicanism stood for.

This 1704 edition contains the first publciation of a frontispiece with Sidney's motto and an image with a laureal wreath around his head.

Manus Haec Inimica Tyrannis
Ense petit placidement sub Libertate Quietam

Translated by John Quincy Adams (Jan. 1842) as:

This hand to tyrants ever sworn the foe,
For freedom only deals the deadly blow,
Then sheathes in calm repose the vengeful blade,
For gentle peace in freedom's hallowed shade.


Discourses Concerning Government, by Algernon Sidney, Esq; To which are added, Memoirs of his Life, and An Apology for Himself, Both Now published, And the latter from his Original Manuscript. The Third Edition. With an Alphabetical Index of the principal Matters. (London: Printed for A. Millar, opposite Catharine's-street in the Strand. 1751). Facs. PDF.


Discourses Concerning Government by Algernon Sidney with his Letters Trial Apology and Some Memoirs of his Life. (London: Printed for A Millar, 1763). Or to the Unjust Tribunals under Change of Times.

This edition includes the elaborate frontispieces and icons Thomas Hollis developed for his series in the "Library of Liberty". This included the image of Sidney carrying a battle flag and surrounded by a wreath (see above), and the Liberty or Phrygian Cap which is dotted throughout the book.


Betrachtungen über die Regierungsformen. Nach der neuesten von Robertson besorgten Ausgabe aus dem Englischen übersetzt und mit erläuternden und berichtigenden Anmerkungen herausgegeben von D. Christian Daniel Erhard. In zwei Bänden. (Leipzig: In der Weygandschen Buchhandlung, 1793).

  • it is not surprising to see Sidney's book translated into German and French during the French Revolution.
  • This is a two volume German edition from 1793 in facs. PDF - vol1 and vol2.


Discours sur le Gouvernement, par Algernon Sidney. Traduits de l’Anglais, par P. A. Samson. Nouvelle Edition conforme à celle de 1702. (Paris: Josse, Langlois. An 2 de la République française une et indivisible).

  • the quotation on the title page states: "La liberté est la mère des vertus, de l’ordre, et de la durée d’un état; l’esclavage au contraire, ne produit que des vices, de la l’âcheté, et de la misère." [Sidney, tome I. Section XI. Par. 296.] [Original: “Liberty produceth Vertue, Order and Stability: Slavery is accompanied with Vice, Weakness and Misery” (Chap. II, Section XI).
  • facs. PDF of vol.1 and vol2 and vol3.
  • it also comes with this illustration which states that he was executed on 7 Dec. 1683.