An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Political Justice and Its Influence on General Virtue, First Edition

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(1756 - 1836) ~ Respected Anarchist Philosopher and Sociologist of the Enlightenment Era : His most famous work, An Inquiry concerning Political Justice, appeared in 1793, inspired to some extent by the political turbulence and fundamental restructuring of governmental institutions underway in France. Godwin's belief is that governments are fundamentally inimical to the integrity of the human beings living under their strictures... (From : University of Pennsylvania Bio.)
• "Courts are so encumbered and hedged in with ceremony, that the members of them are always prone to imagine that the form is more essential and indispensable, than the substance." (From : "Instructions to a Statesman," by William Godwin.)
• "Anarchy and darkness will be the original appearance. But light shall spring out of the noon of night; harmony and order shall succeed the chaos." (From : "Instructions to a Statesman," by William Godwin.)
• "Fickleness and instability, your lordship will please to observe, are of the very essence of a real statesman." (From : "Instructions to a Statesman," by William Godwin.)


This document contains 8 sections, with 235,838 words or 1,495,796 characters.

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Inquiry Concerning Political Justice by William Godwin 1793 ENQUIRY CONCERNING POLITICAL JUSTICE AND ITS INFLUENCE ON MODERN MORALS AND HAPPINESS BOOK I: OF THE POWERS OF MAN CONSIDERED IN HIS SOCIAL CAPACITY CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION The object proposed in the following work is an investigation concerning that form of public or political society, that system of intercourse and reciprocal action, extending beyond the bounds of a single family, which shall be found most to conduce to the general benefit. How may the peculiar and independent operation of each individual in the social state most effectually be preserved? How may the security each man ought to possess, as to his life,... (From :

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BOOK II PRINCIPALS OF SOCIETY CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION In the preceding book we have cleared the foundations for the remaining branches of inquiry, and shown what are the prospects it is reasonable to entertain as to future political improvement. The effects which are produced by positive institutions have there been delineated, as well as the extent of the powers of man, considered in his social capacity. It is time that we proceed to those disquisitions which are more immediately the object of the present work. Political inquiry may be distributed under two heads: first, what are the regulations which will conduce to the well being of man in society; and, secondly, what is the auth... (From :

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BOOK III PRINCIPLES OF GOVERNMENT CHAPTER I SYSTEMS OF POLITICAL WRITERS Having in the preceding book attempted a general delineation of the principles of rational society, it is proper that we, in the next place, proceed to the topic of government. It has hitherto been the persuasion of communities of men in all ages and countries that there are occasions, in which it becomes necessary, to supersede private judgment for the sake of public good, and to control the acts of the individual, by an act to be performed in the name of the whole. Previously to our deciding upon this question, it will be of advantage to inquire into the nature of government, and the manner in which this co... (From :

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BOOK IV OF THE OPERATION OF OPINION IN SOCIETIES AND INDIVIDUALS CHAPTER I OF RESISTANCE Having now made some progress in the inquiry originally instituted, it may be proper to look back, and consider the point at which we are arrived. We have examined, in the first place, the powers of man as they relate to the subject of which we treat; secondly, we have delineated the principles of society, as founded in justice and general interest, independently of, and antecedent to, every species of political government; and, lastly, have endeavored to ascertain the fundamental conditions which must belong to the most rational system of government. We might now proceed to investigate the different ... (From :

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BOOK V OF LEGISLATIVE AND EXECUTIVE POWER CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION In the preceding divisions of this work the ground has been sufficiently cleared to enable us to proceed, with considerable explicitness and satisfaction, to the practical detail: in other words, to attempt the tracing out that application of the laws of general justice which may best conduce to the gradual improvement of mankind. It has appeared that an inquiry concerning the principles and conduct of social intercourse is the most important topic upon which the mind of man can be exercised;(1*) that, upon these principles, well or ill conceived, and the manner in which they are administered, the vises and virtues of in... (From :

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BOOK VI OF OPINION CONSIDERED AS A SUBJECT OF POLITICAL INSTITUTION CHAPTER I GENERAL EFFECTS OF THE POLITICAL SUPERINTENDENCE OF OPINION A principle which has entered deeply into the systems of the writers on political law is that of the duty of governments to watch over the manners of the people. 'Government' say they, 'plays the part of an unnatural step mother, not of an affectionate parent, when she is contented by rigorous punishments to avenge the commission of a crime, while she is wholly inattentive beforehand to imbue the mind with those virtuous principles which might have rendered punishment unnecessary. It is the business of a sage and patriotic magistracy to have its attention ... (From :

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BOOK VII OF CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS CHAPTER I LIMITATIONS OF THE DOCTRINE OF PUNISHMENT WHICH RESULT FROM THE PRINCIPLES OF MORALITY The subject of punishment is perhaps the most fundamental in the science of politics. Men associated for the sake of mutual protection and benefit. It has already appeared that the internal affairs of such associations are of an inexpressibly higher importance than their external.(1*) It has appeared that the action of society, in conferring rewards, and superintending opinion, is of pernicious effect.(2*) Hence it follows that government, or the action of society in its corporate capacity, can scarcely be of any utility except so far as it is requisite for the s... (From :

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BOOK VIII OF PROPERTY CHAPTER I PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS The subject of property is the key-stone that completes the fabric of political justice. According as our ideas respecting it are crude or correct, they will enlighten us as to the consequences of a simple form of society without government, and remove the prejudices that attach us to complexity. There is nothing that more powerfully tends to distort our judgment and opinions than erroneous notions concerning the goods of fortune. Finally, the period that must put an end to the system of coercion and punishment is intimately connected with the circumstance of property's being placed upon an equitable basis. Various abuses... (From :


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