As we have already suggested in the opening paragraphs of this chapter, the roots of political liberalism antedated the nineteenth century. The philosophic principles of this creed were based on earlier ideas such as natural rights and utilitarianism. Political liberals held that human actions to be moral must be voluntary, and that a society seeking to follow the laws of nature must cherish individual liberty. Since they believed human reason was capable of discerning these laws, liberals believed that enlightened self-interest was an accurate guide for political action. In the next chapter we will take note of the kinship which existed between political liberals and economic liberals. Here we need only to say that both envisaged the chief functions of the state as primarily protective of life, liberty, and property, and active mainly to check abuses and prevent license. [excerpt]
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Bloom, Robert L. et al. "2. Victories of Political Liberalism. Pt. XIII: Political Liberalism and Nationalism, 1815-1871." Ideas and Institutions of Western Man (Gettysburg College, 1958), 15-37.