A Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants

Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos (A Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants) is currently being sold for a slim buck. Lovers of liberty who also happen to have a Kindle reading device could hardly do better than to pick up this long-neglected treasure.

VCT1VCT (as I’ll call it throughout this short article) has been reprinted from the 1689 translation, and has long been unavailable outside the best scholarly libraries.

It lists its author as “Junius Brutus,” although this is an obvious pen-name, and there is no strong consensus about the real name of the author. Originally published in Amsterdam in 1660, VCT was condemned to be burned by the University of Oxford in 1683. The offending phrase that earned such a harsh sentence was this one:

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That if lawful governors become tyrants, or govern otherwise than by the laws of God and man [as] they ought to do, they forfeit the right they had unto their government.

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You can see why VCT was initially received with the same joyous warmth that most people today receive a certified letter from the IRS. Monarchies, especially those asserting the Divine Right of Kings, tend to look on such ideas with some amount of concern. VCT was considered by them to be radical, and even un-Christian.

But with sentiments like the one quoted above, the book was really only building on solid philosophical foundations that had been laid by Christian thinkers for centuries. For instance, Thomas Aquinas spoke in the same vein when he wrote:

A tyrannical rule cannot in any reasonable construction be accounted lawful, and therefore the disturbance of such a government cannot be esteemed seditious, much less traitorous.

The downside to VCT is that it was written before the days in which children like me had their attention spans artificially shortened by our matronly electronic baby-sitter, the television. The result is that modern readers may find some sections to be a little dense. This is meat, but it must be chewed.

However, if you are up for it, VCT is a gold mine for patriots, and Christians especially, who have been taught that every morsel of disobedience to even an antichrist government is disobedience to God. VCT isn’t a Bible study, but it does take pains to show how its conclusions arise from the pages of Scripture.

VCT’s chapter headings include the following, and more:

Whether Subjects are bound and ought to obey Princes, if they command that which is against the Law of God

Whether it be lawful to resist a Prince which doth infringe the Law of God, or ruin the church. By whom, how, and how far it is lawful…

Whether it be lawful to resist a Prince which doth oppress or ruin a public State, and how far such resistance may be extended. By whom, how, and by what right or law it is permitted…

Whether neighbor Princes or States may be, or are, bound by Law to give succour to the subjects of other Princes, afflicted for the cause of true religion, or oppressed by manifest Tyranny…

You can see why a ruling political class, especially one that has become accustomed to a life of luxury on the peoples’ dime, and answering to no one, might find such discussions unnerving. And so they should.

By the way, as Dr. Sheldon Cooper might say, here’s an interesting fact about the word tyrant. If you trace the etymology of “tyrant,” you’ll find that it had reference to a king who ruled in rebellion toward God. Which is interesting in our very secular day: without God, there can be no tyrants. There can only be rulers we like and rulers we don’t, with no real reason for thinking one is objectively more evil than the other. But I digress.

My own little book on the Biblical correctness of resisting tyrants stands on the broad shoulders of earlier works like this one. I can’t recommend VCT strongly enough. For a dollar, you can’t get much of anything today, but you can become the proud owner of powerful despot repellent in the form of Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos (A Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants.) An educated populace is one which will not easily put up with enslavement.

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