A right of resistance is basic to the idea of revolution. The idea is perhaps most famously linked to Locke and to Jefferson’s use of Locke’s philosophy in the Declaration of Independence. Aquinas rejects any such right and in the tradition of Aquinas, Aurel Kolnai is quite correct to speak of the American War of Independence as the “original sin” of the United States: his sense that rebellion is a grave sin is a thoroughly Catholic intuition (PM, 204). Only public authority has the privilege of intentional homicide and rebellion is the usurpation by private individuals of a lethal authority that is not theirs. Aquinas acknowledged the licitness of tyrannicide but, as Cajetan forcefully points out in his commentary on Thomas’ third article, tyrannicide must be understood as the continuation of a war publicly declared and now continued by partisans upon the collapse of their nation’s public authority (In Comm., q. 64, a. 3; cf. H, 161). Implicit in Locke’s political philosophy is a theory of homicide and, as Albert Camus has convincingly shown, few great modern thinkers have ignored the problem of homicide entirely. However, it is Camus’ 1960 The Rebel that is the fi rst book explicitly devoted to the topic in
modern times. The book, which is remarkable and worthy of far more scholarly attention than it has so far received,3 is really only known as the fi nal provocation that enraged Sartre to publicly denounce Camus and thoroughly sever the friendship the two men had enjoyed. The Rebel is far more than some frisson in the history of French letters, however, for its theory of rebellion is an outright rejection of Aquinas’ restriction of homicide to public authority. As such, it is a major theoretical statement of the moral necessity to privatize homicide.