David Hume

Selected Essays

David Hume

David Hume (1711-1776) was a Scottish philosopher noted for his skepticism. But he also wrote a number of essays which had a significant influence on the evolution of constitutional government. The following are from a collection, Essays, Moral and Political, first published in 1748, and republished in 1777.

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  •   On the Liberty of the Press— It performs an essential role in keeping government in check.
  •   That politics may be reduced to a Science — The form of government makes a difference. Good government is not just about the goodness of rulers.
  •   Of the First Principles of Government — What it takes to have good government.
  •   Of the Origin of Government — How governments come into being and remain in power.
  •   Of the Independency of Parliament — The separation of powers preserves liberty.
  •   Whether the British Government Inclines More to Absolute Monarchy, or to a Republic — A balance of power preserves liberty.
  •   Of Parties in General — How factions arise and contend.
  •   Of the Parties of Great Britain — The factions and their causes.
  •   Of Superstition and Enthusiasm— The causes that give rise to factions.
  •   Of the Dignity or Meanness of Human Nature — The virtues and vices that affect law and government.
  •   Of Civil Liberty — A certain amount is needed for civic virtue and the well-being of the state.
  •   Of the Original Contract — There must be a balance between coercion and consent in actual societies and their governments.
  •   Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth — A prototype constitution for a federal republic. It inspired the U.S. Constitution.

Treatises

  • Treatise of Human Nature (Books I and II 1739, Book III 1740)
  • An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748, 1758)
  • An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1751)
  • Political Discourses (1752)
  • The History of England, From the Invasion of Julius Caesar to The Revolution in 1688 (Six volumes 1754-1762)
  • Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (written 1750, published 1779)
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Original date: 1997/9/3 —