"It Is Hardly Necessary To Light A Candle To The Sun"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: English Republican leader, grand-nephew of Sir Philip Sidney and son of Robert Sidney, Second Earl of Leicester, Algernon Sidney was wounded at Marston Moor in 1644 while fighting for the Parliamentary side in the Civil War. After the Restoration he was pardoned by Charles II, but upon his return to England he supported the Duke of Monmouth in the affair in which Charles' illegitimate son challenged the right of his uncle, the Duke of York, to be first in the line of succession to the throne. This conspiracy was discovered by the exposure of another one, the Rye House Plot. After an unfair trial under Jeffreys of Wem in which he was condemned without sufficient evidence, Sidney was sentenced to death for treason and executed on Tower Hill. His name was cleared in 1689. His most significant work is Discourses Concerning Government, in which he sets forth the philosophy of political self-determination: "God leaves to man the choice of forms in government." Political power is established for the good of the governed, not for the good of the governor. He maintains that the political structure inevitably decays when absolute power falls into the hands of an individual man. Consequently, no king has the right to confer upon his descendents an automatic guarantee of political authority. It is impossible for a monarch to govern effectively unless his powers are regulated by law. "The contracts made between magistrates and the nations that created them, were real, solemn, and obligatory." Among the imperative duties of government is the encouragement of valiant citizens through the proper recognition of their deeds and accomplishments:

The same policy that made men valiant and industrious in the service of their country during the first ages, would have the same effect, if it were now in being; and men would have the same love to the public as the Spartans and the Romans had, if there was the same reason for it. We need no other proof of this than what we have seen in our own country, where in a few years good discipline, and a just encouragement given to those who did well, produced more examples of pure, incorruptible, and invincible virtue than Rome or Greece could ever boast. And if more be wanting, they may easily be found among the Swiss, Hollanders, and others: but it is hardly necessary to light a candle to the sun.