Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

Synopsis

Students of political theory will welcome the return to print of this brilliant defence of ordered liberty. Impugning John Stuart Mill's famous treatise, On Liberty, Stephen criticised Mill for turning abstract doctrines of the French Revolution into "the creed of a religion". Only the constraints of morality and law make liberty possible, warned Stephen, and attempts to impose unlimited freedom, material equality, and an indiscriminate love of humanity will lead inevitably to coercion and tyranny. Liberty must be restrained by custom and tradition if it is to endure; equality must be limited to equality before the law if it is to be just; and fraternity must include actual men, not the amorphous mass of mankind, if it is to be real and genuine.

Excerpt

The object of this work is to examine the doctrines which are rather hinted at than expressed by the phrase 'Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.' This phrase has been the motto of more than one Republic. It is indeed something more than a motto. It is the creed of a religion, less definite than any one of the forms of Christianity, which are in part its rivals, in part its antagonists, and in part its associates, but not on that account the less powerful. It is, on the contrary, one of the most penetrating influences of the day. It shows itself now and then in definite forms, of which Positivism is the one best known to our generation, but its special manifestations give no adequate measure of its depth or width. It penetrates other creeds. It has often transformed Christianity into a system of optimism, which has in some cases retained and in others . . .

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