Letters and Occasional Writings
Letters and Occasional Writings

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  • ISBN-13: 9780865975590
  • ISBN: 0865975590
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Publisher: Liberty Fund, Incorporated


Cairns, John, Garrett, Aaron


In his two major works, 'An Historical View of the English Government' and 'The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks', John Millar had developed a liberal Whig constitutionalism and a historical and sociological analysis of power relations in society. In the two remarkable anonymous pamphlets 'Letters of Crito' and 'Letters of Sidney', which compose the main part of this volume, he applies, with great sharpness, these ideas to the circumstances that arose with the French Revolution. The common theme is an attack on entrenched, especially hereditary, privileges that are presented as moral, political, and economic menaces. Neither 'Letters of Crito' nor 'Letters of Sidney' has received proper English editions since the eighteenth century. In 'Letters of Crito', Millar analyses the Anglo-French war as an important element in British domestic politics, namely, as a weapon in the attempt to stave off parliamentary reform. In 'Letters of Sidney', we find one of the most trenchant applications of the Smithian idea that legally protected inequality of property is both morally and economically destructive and that law reform and the establishment of a strict system of justice can avoid it. Although Millar severely criticizes this inequality, he argues that 'leveling' is unjust. The basis for Millar's theory of justice is the idea of rights, including property rights, that he derived from Adam Smith. The second half of this volume is devoted to Millar's surviving letters, most of which have never before been published. The correspondence is of biographical significance and provides insight into Millar's work and his social and political activities.Cairns, John is the author of 'Letters and Occasional Writings', published 2008 under ISBN 9780865975590 and ISBN 0865975590.

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