Étienne de la Boétie: Discourse of Voluntary Servitude

In a 1963 anthology, The Quiet Battle: Writings on the Theory and Practice of Non-violent Resistance (paperback by Beacon, 1968), edited and introduced by Mulford Quickert Sibley, Étienne de la Boétie receives attention as the first modern voice of nonviolence. An English translation of Boétie’s Discourse of Voluntary Servitude (1548) is offered by two internet archives: The Memory Hole and Constitution.Org.

“For the present I should like merely to understand how it happens that so many men, so many villages, so many cities, so many nations, sometimes suffer under a single tyrant who has no other power than the power they give him; who is able to harm them only to the extent to which they have the willingness to bear with him; who could do them absolutely no injury unless they preferred to put up with him rather than contradict him. Surely a striking situation!”

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