Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: David Davis vs Cicero

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: David Davis vs Cicero

Article excerpt

The MP David Davis has lamented that the British seem to prefer laws that protect their security rather than guard their liberty. But the first duty of the state is to protect its citizens. If it could not do that, argued Thomas Hobbes, citizens had the right to disobey.

The Latin for state is res publica , 'the people's property/business/affairs', and the Roman statesman Cicero took the view that the res publica was best served by laws whose sole aim was the republic's 'security and common interests' (salus atque utilitas rei publicae ). The 17th-century thinkers Hobbes, Locke and Spinoza and 18th-century Americans such as the key republican 'founding father' John Adams eagerly took up Cicero's formulation.

But what does salus actually mean? Hobbes used it to justify state control, Adams independence from British rule. But in the famous Roman formulation salus populi suprema lex esto ('the security of the people will be the highest law'), the context makes it clear that salus refers to the soldiers' absolute priority -- the protection of citizens and state that only soldiers could provide in times of military crisis. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.