The Concept of Liberty in the Age of the American Revolution / Edition 2

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Overview


"Liberty was the most cherished right possessed by English-speaking people in the eighteenth century. It was both an ideal for the guidance of governors and a standard with which to measure the constitutionality of government; both a cause of the American Revolution and a purpose for drafting the United States Constitution; both an inheritance from Great Britain and a reason republican common lawyers continued to study the law of England."

As John Philip Reid goes on to make clear, "liberty" did not mean to the eighteenth-century mind what it means today. In the twentieth century, we take for granted certain rights—such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press—with which the state is forbidden to interfere. To the revolutionary generation, liberty was preserved by curbing its excesses. The concept of liberty taught not what the individual was free to do but what the rule of law permitted. Ultimately, liberty was law—the rule of law and the legalism of custom. The British constitution was the charter of liberty because it provided for the rule of law.

Drawing on an impressive command of the original materials, Reid traces the eighteenth-century notion of liberty to its source in the English common law. He goes on to show how previously problematic arguments involving the related concepts of licentiousness, slavery, arbitrary power, and property can also be fit into the common-law tradition. Throughout, he focuses on what liberty meant to the people who commented on and attempted to influence public affairs on both sides of the Atlantic. He shows the depth of pride in liberty—English liberty—that pervaded the age, and he also shows the extent—unmatched in any other era or among any other people—to which liberty both guided and motivated political and constitutional action.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226708966
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1987
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 8.84 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author


John Phillip Reid is professor of law at New York University. He is the author of twelve books on political and legal thought.
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Table of Contents


Introduction
1. A Word We Know
A Word to Love
The Britishness of Liberty
2. The Importance of Liberty
The Motivation of Liberty
3. Sources of Liberty
Ownership of Liberty
Naturalism of Liberty
The Extremes of Liberty
Unnaturalness of Liberty
4. The Bane of Liberty
The Darker Side of Liberty
The Bondage of Licentiousness
Licentiousness and Revolution
5. The Opposite of Liberty
English Backgrounds
British Contemporaries
Analogy of Chattel Slavery
6. The Concept of Slavery
The Meaning of Slavery
The Blessings of Liberty
The Motivation of Slavery
7. The Antithesis of Liberty
Liberty and Arbitrary Power
Arbitrary Power and Revolution
8. The Lawfulness of Liberty
The Particularies of Law
The Governance of Law
9. The Security of Liberty
The Property of Security
The Liberty of Property
10. The Constitutionality of Liberty
The Constitutional Frames of Liberty
The Balance of Liberty
The Liberty of Consent
The Constitution of Liberty
11. Liberty and the Revolution
Security and the Revolution
Taxation and the Revolution
Consent and Revolution
12. Slavery and the Revolution
Slavery and Parliamentary Supremacy
13. The Rhetoric of Liberty
The Ministerial View of Liberty
Liberty and Empire
The Empire of Liberty
14. The Definition of Liberty
The Equality of Liberty
The Limits of Liberty
Conclusion
Acknowledgments
Notes
Short Titles
Index
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