- Introduction *
- The Restoration of King, Church, and Parliament
- Sovereignty In the Crown
- Parliament and the Succession to the Throne
- James Ii and the Ancient Constitution
- The Struggle For Sovereignty, Volume Ii
- Of Parliament
- Henry Vane, the Tryal of Sir Henry Vane
- Earl of Shaftesbury, Two Speeches
- Henry Scobell, Power of the Lords and Commons In Parliament
- Earl of Shaftesbury, Two Seasonable Discourses
- Earl of Shaftesbury, a Letter From a Person of Quality
- Anon, Vox Populi
- Parliament and the Succession
- Elkanah Settle, the Character of a Popish Successour
- William Cavendish, Reasons For His Majesties Passing the Bill of Exclusion
- Benjamin Thorogood, His Opinion of the Point of Succession
- Algernon Sidney, the Very Copy of a Paper Delivered to the Sheriffs
- The King’s Inalienable Prerogative
- John Brydall, the Absurdity of That New Devised State-principle
- Anon, the Arraignment of Co-ordinate-power
- Anon, the King’s Dispensing Power
- Anon, the Clergy’s Late Carriage to the King
- Revolution and Allegiance
- Gilbert Burnet, Measures of Submission to the Supream Authority
- John Wildman, Some Remarks Upon Government
- Samuel Masters, the Case of Allegiance In Our Present Circumstances
- Anon, a Friendly Conference Concerning the New Oath of Allegiance
- In the Wake of Revolution
- Zachary Taylor, Obedience and Submission to the Present Government
- William Sherlock, Their Present Majesties Government Proved to Be Throughly Settled
- Bartholomew Shower, Reasons For a New Bill of Rights
John Wildman, Some Remarks upon Government
A. B. and N. T.
[John Wildman, 1624-1693]
Some REMARKS upon
And particularly upon the ESTABLISHMENT
Of the English MONARCHY
Relating to this present Juncture.
In Two LETTERS,
Written by, and to a Member of the Great
CONVENTION, holden at Westminster the 22d. of January, 1688/9.
This important Whig tract has only recently been attributed to John Wildman, a republican pamphleteer, a successful land speculator, and, until 1688, an unsuccessful plotter.
Wildman practiced law and at some point served in Parliament’s army although possibly not until 1649. He came to prominence in 1647 along with the Levellers as a spokesman for a democratic republic during the New Model Army’s debates at Putney. He was especially intrigued by constitutions, and his biographer claims that his “The Case of the Army” in 1647, which was broadened into the second “Agreement of the People,” was the first democratic constitution known to the modern world. Wildman abandoned the Levellers in 1649.
As a republican he was hostile to the Protectorate. Wildman was imprisoned by Cromwell in 1655 for plotting his overthrow and released in 1656, perhaps on condition he become an informer. Wildman was more interested in constitutional than religious issues and during the Interregnum married a Roman Catholic. He was also something of an opportunist and made a small fortune as a land manager and property speculator during the 1650s. His seizure of Windsor Castle in 1659 from supporters of General John Lambert stood him in good stead at the Restoration. Nevertheless, in 1661 he was rounded up with other republicans and put in prison where he languished until 1667. In 1683 his involvement with the Whigs led to another arrest, thistime in the wake of the Rye House Plot. He was released in 1684 when no evidence was found against him. He then went from the proverbial frying pan into the fire, serving as James, Duke of Monmouth’s, chief agent in England and falling under suspicion of complicity in Monmouth’s ill-fated rebellion of 1685. Wildman fled abroad and by 1688 had found his way to The Hague where he became one of William’s chief propagandists. He accompanied the prince to Torbay. Wildman was subsequently elected to the Convention Parliament where he was one of the most active members and was named to the committee that drafted the Declaration of Rights and to 63 other committees.
“Some Remarks upon Government” appeared in a single edition in January 1689 amid a flurry of pamphlets offering advice to the Convention. Of these, Mark Goldie found it the most substantial of four anonymous pamphlets that constituted a commonwealth Whig manifesto. These did not dwell upon the usual concerns of popery, allegiance, or the succession. Instead “Some Remarks upon Government,” for example, discusses the origins of government, the flaws in the English constitution, and the importance of change in such areas as the electoral system, revenue, and the appointment of judges. The impact of the recommendations would have been to strengthen the powers of Parliament. This essay has been called the only Harringtonian contribution to the Revolution debate.
YOU have been highly Obliging in the frequent Accounts you sent me of Affairs, in this Great and Extraordinary Revolution. I was once very diffident, and could scarcely conceive that the States of Holland, or Prince of Orange, could have attempted so Expensive, and so Hazardous an Undertaking out of pure Generosity, meerly for our Sakes, and for the Re-establishment of our Laws and Religion, which did both equally Labour under the Pressures of an Ill Administration, and seemed to draw towards their last Periods. I knew the States had the Character of preferring their own, before any other Interest whatsoever, and the Prince had the Reputation of setting a due Value upon That which creates and proportions the Value of all things else. The Enterprize I lookt upon, as very Expensive in its Methods, and Uncertain in its Accomplishment, which made me prone to believe that something more lay coucht in this Vast Undertaking, than was exprest in the Prince’s Declaration; But since His arrival and coming to London, I perceive He has, upon all Occasions, carried Himself with that wonderful Modesty, with such an unparalelled Care and Tenderness of our Laws, Liberties, and Religion, and adheres so Resolutely to every Particular in His Declaration, that I cannot but esteem these to be His Noblest Trophies: And that which crowns those Successes which have crowned His Generous and Pious Undertakings. His persisting to referr all to the Impartial Decisions of a Free Parliament, to Do and Establish such Matters, either in His, their Own, or the King’s behalf, as they shall think fit, even then, when Honor and Power spread their Perswasives before Him to do otherwise, is so great a Thing that it exceeds all His other Glories, and strikes the Beholders with nothing less than Amazement. I do more rejoice than wonder at the Unanimous Concurrence which has hitherto been maintained between the Lords and Commons Assembled in Councel, and indeed in the Wishes & Desires of all the People in General. It is what this Juncture does highly require, and what the Prince’s Conduct does Oblige. We arevery busie here in the Countrey in Electing Members for the Great Convention which is to sit in January, and I think the Lot will fall on me to serve for my Neighbouring Borough. You know I was never fond of Business or Trouble, and truly Age seems now to have signed my Writ of Ease. I also always cherisht some Cynical Notions, which made me very much slight and disregard the Honours and Flatulencies of a giddy World: But the thoughts of being one of the Great Planters of a Government which shall last for Ages, and perhaps till Time has run out its last Minutes, is no Ordinary thing. This thought alone has envigorated my Age and baffled my Philosophy, so that you may expect to see me in London about the 22d. of January next; and in the mean time, if you will favour me with your Thoughts and Opinion of Affairs, and what Understanding Men do think will, or ought to be the Issue and Consequence of this great Revolution, you will very considerably add to the many Kindnesses conferred upon
Your assured Friend and humble Servant
Yours (though it bore an early Date, yet) came not to my hands till last Friday. I am very glad that my slender Services have proved upon any account acceptable to you. I never thought myself qualified to pry into the Recesses of Government, or the privacies of a King. What I acquainted you with, was little more than what was publickly discoursed of in Coffee-Houses: But indeed such was the Management of Affairs during our late King’s Supremacy, That his most private Councels proved generally the next day’s Table-talk, for as they were shallow, so was the bottom of them discoverable to every common Eye. The Prince has perhaps with more Courage than Caution, and a greater Zeal for the Protestant Interest, than Care of His own particular Concerns, undertaken mighty Things for us, and run such Risques in the Accomplishing of them, which Story can scarcely paralell. But what the sequel of this will be, I must leave to Astrology. ’Tis true, the people seem to be Unanimous to a wonder, and yet there are a Sett of Men in this Nation whom nothing will satisfie but to Lord it over their Brethren. These do still labour under some Discomposures, and although, in no respect disobliged, yet fearing they may receive a Crush in this great Turn, do by their Sourness and Discontent rather assist and further their fate, than anticipate and prevent it. The Protestant Dissenters are not esteemed, by Computations which have been formerly made, to amount to more than a 25th part of the Nation, the Church of England receiving all the rest. This I do believe to be true, if the Church of England be taken in the most large and comprehensive Sense, by including all such as frequent the publick Service: But if we might suppose them in the same Circumstances that Dissenters were in, at the time of this Computation made, under the Frowns of the Court, and the power of the Laws, which like so many Billows, beat in against them; if thus we might be admitted to view them in Reverse, I do believe their Numbers would not exceed, or Scarcely equal those of the Dissenting party. There are but very few in the Nation would undergo Fines and Imprisonment for the sake of the Surplice or Common-Prayer. The prevailing Opinion now in England is, Latitudinarian: Most Men are so far improved in their Judgements, as to believe, that Heaven is not entailed upon any particular Opinion, and that either an Episcopal, or Presbyterial way of Worship, together with a due observation of the Rules of Morality, may serve well enough to carry them to Heaven, the only Biass which enclines them to the one side or the other, being the Laws. Be Subject to the Higher Powers, not for Wrath,but Conscience, sways the Scale and gives the casting Vote in such Things as are thought indifferent. This is it which crowds the Church, otherwise the Sarsnet Hood and Lawn Sleeves might be as destitute of Votaries, as the Long Cloak and Collar Band.
Which way the succeeding Government will lean, I dare not determine, but it is more than probable, That Episcopacy, in that strictness in which it has of late Years been exercised, owed its Continuance, as well as Originally its Being, to the King: His power and His purse, has been liberally imployed in favour of the Church, and they as plentifully requited His Kindness, by their Doctrines of Jure Divino-ship, and Passive Obedience. So long as the King continued thus their Servant, He was in all Causes Civil and Ecclesiastical, their Supreme Head and Governour: But when the King became of another Interest, and they themselves were likely to be squeezed by the pressures of their own Weighty Doctrines, then the Case was immediately altered and Plowden’s Hogs could be no longer Trespassers. They instantly changed their Note, and rang their Bells backward, for they were all on fire, and likely to be reduced to their original Dust in a moment. Fears of Popery was first the pretence of their dissatisfactions. This was very plausible, and seemed once to give them an interest in the people. But surely now these Dangers are Removed; the Protestant Interest is likely to settle upon firm Foundations, and the Prince seems well affected to their way of Worship, and signalizes His Approbations by Communicating with them according to the Rights and Ceremonies of the Church, and yet they seem dissatisfied, and are still apprehensive of Danger.
What then can be the reason that this bright Hemisphere should thus be wrapt up in Clouds and Darkness? It must needs be this, That they have lost, or are likely to lose the King and Court’s good Service employed in all or most of the former Parliaments so freely in their behalf. This in truth was the chief Pillar of their Church: That which first built, and afterwards supported it. Though the Prince does sufficiently approve of this Establishment in His Own Judgment, yet He is resolved to call a Free Parliament, being the purport of His Declaration, backt with many subsequent Promises and Assurances in which the People shall have freedom to Elect such Persons as are for the True Interest of the Nation, and not for the upholding a particular Interest or Faction. There shall be no Elections either forced by Power, or bribed by Treats; No false Returns, no Committee of Affections to determine according to the Court or Church of England Interest; No Parliamentary Pensions, nor Treats with Guineas laid under their Plates to seduce them from their honest Principles and the Interest of their Country. The Prince abhors such irregularities. He desires such an Assembly may meet, as may truly represent the People, to Enact and Establish such Laws and such a Government as may secure their Religion, Liberties and Properties, with the best advantage and security to the Nation that can be proposed. And although the Church of England is hereby left destitute of that unfair and irregular advantage it firmly had from the King’s power and assistance, yet I doubt not but this and succeeding Parliaments will Enact such an Establishment in the Church, as may very well agree with the honest desires of the more moderate and pious Church-men.
What the Civil Government will be, is more difficult to guess at, but I can tell you what it has been, and wherein it seems defective and requires some touches of your Legislative Skill to help it out. This I am confident of, That if the Consultations of this great Councel does but produce what the Necessities of the People, and the Conveniencies which a well-setled State does require, the Alterations will be very considerable. ’Tis true, there is a Notion generally received by the Nobility and Gentry of England that a Mixt Monarchy (just such a one as ours is, and no other) must needs be the best of Governments, and that amongst all others, none could boast of those advantages as that of England. This fancy is so rivetted in the minds of the People (spread abroad and preacht up, only to keep the people in peace, and from endeavouring an Alteration, which could not be effected without the Inconveniencies of the Sword) that I do believe All things will again settle upon its old Basis, and the Government be rebuilt with all its irregularities. However, because I understand you are in election to be one of Those, from whom succeeding Ages must derive their Happiness or Misery, I will make use of the Liberty you have given me, to express my Sentiments in this mighty Affair, in order to which I will in the first place acquaint you with my Notions of Government in general, and afterwards will descend to Particulars; And to our present Case as it now lies:
Government is a Power whereby a Community of Men are kept in Order, and disposed to act comformably to their Natures, and to the common advantage of the whole Body Politick. This Power is sometimes placed in one single Person, and then it is Monarchy: Sometimes in a select number of the Chiefs, when it assumes the name of Aristocracy; And sometimes in the whole Body of the People, which is called Democracy. But of these three Primatives, there are several Derivatives, Compounds, and Variations.
The first, Magestracy, I do allow to be grounded in Nature, and the first Magistrate to be a Genarcha, or Patriarch, who ruled over Families of his own Extraction, and Citties of his natural Generation. It was in this sense that the Fifth Commandment was given; and it was from hence that Men grew up into Citties, Kingdoms, and Empires, and therefore the Laws to regulate them ought to be such as are apt and fit to govern Families, for the preservation of their Peace, Liberties and Properties, not to bind them to perpetual Slavery and Vassalage. So also, the Submissions due from the People to the Supream Power, are in their nature filial, not servile, as proceeding rather from Love and Gratitude, for protection given, than for fear of the Rod hanging over their Backs, which ought to be exercised only to prevent a common Inconveniency. But this Patriarchal Government, continues no longer than the Patriarch holds a power over his Family, to punish such offences in particular persons, as might otherwise (if allowed of) obstruct the common Interest; and to protect the whole Body and every individual in their natural and acquired Rights, both from Domestick and Forreign Invaders. For when the natural power of one or more in Conjunction shall exceed that of the Patriarch, or Father of the Family, this sort of Government is so far dissolved, that if they please and find it convenient, they may reassume their natural Freedom, or again engage in the same Family, by Pact or promise, or else leave it, and by compact with others, submit to what Laws or Measures of Living together in a Community they think fit. He that will make the natural Magistrate more Sacred than this, may at last commit Idolatry, and fall down to worship.
But this is not the State of any Nation or People now under Heaven: We are all shufled and blended together, so that we stand not Originally associated to any Magistrate out of natural Duty, but out of mutual fear of each other, which to avoid, produced, these civil Compacts, by which the World is now Governed. Thus being seperated from our Families, each Man has a right by nature to defend himself, which supposes his primary Allegeance now due to himself. He has farther an equal right with all others to all things necessary for sustentation, & an absolute right in his own person; & having thus a mutuum jus in both, he is fitted for mutual Compact with others. ’Tis certain that Nature, though She did provide for Mankind in its tender helpless and unexperienced years, a natural Governour and Protector, yet being withdrawn from that Power and Subjection, it falls into a state of War, which was the Condition of the World in those Times, which Historians call Heroical: When Nimrod obtained the Character of the stoutest Hunter, and Hercules travelled to tame Monsters and Usurpers.
The Patriarchal Government being at an end, and the People being now left in a state of War, occasioned by the Universal Right that every man had to every thing, the Government that succeeded was accordingly Martial and Warlike, and their Governours were rather Generals than Kings, and like them, Arbitrary and Unlimited. In this state the Chief Magistrate was properly and Originally called Tyrannus; but Lust, Ambition, and Avarice being the usual attendants of absolute power, did too far prevail, to the prejudice of those in Subjection, that both the Person and Title of such Governours in time became odious and contemptible. It was for this reason that Plutarch in his life of Timoleon, affirms that over a Tyrant, every man is a Judge, and may be an Executioner; and Plato in his Commonwealth, delineates a Tyrant amongst his Subjects by a Woolf amongst the Flock, placed there rather to devour than preserve them.
But the World soon grew weary of this Course of Life, and by experience found that Compact was more apt for the Coalition of Societies than mere Power; which is the cause, That in the more civilized and cultivated parts of the Earth, this sort of Government is very rare and unusual, unless sent by the Supreme Power of Heaven and Earth for the punishment of a People for some Sins committed, that thereby they may be compelled like the mute Fish in the Gospel, to bring their Penny unto Caesar, and after pay their Lives for Contribution. And it is observable that it prevails principally, and is no where else willingly allowed of, but where Idolatry and Invincible Ignorance are the National Sins.
This Tyranical Government, or State of War, being found uneasie in many places, and more intollerable than the Patriarchal Government in which they were first engaged, and also finding that there is now no Father of the Country, in a natural Sense. The People as becoming Orphans, choose One or More to be their Guardian, which in several Countries goes under several Denominations. Thus the People are in a state of Pupillage, and as a Miner cannot make a Contract to his prejudice, so we may conclude, that the People may meliorate their Condition by Compact, but cannot make it worse; and therefore it may with much more reason be allowed, that such Concessions which are made by them, and which infringe or derogate from their natural Rights should be void, than that what a Prince grants to his People out of his Prerogative (though for their better Government and well Being, for which alone Prerogative was first given and intended) should be null and of no validity, which some Precedents in our present Establishment seem to countenance and abet. Thus all Governments in the same degrees that they differ from Patriarchal and Tyrannical must derive their Originals from Compact, and the Governour must necessarily derive his Power from and by, the mutual Consent of the People he governs; unless God does himself immediately appoint a Magistrate, and even then the People have usually confirmed, as in the case of Saul. I. Sam. 10. So of David, I Sam. 16. 2 Sam. 2.
I cannot but with Grotius believe, that Salus populi est Suprema Lex. Nor did Junius Brutus err in affirming that, Imperii finis unicus est populi Utilitas. But on the contrary to imagine the People to be made for their King, and that a Million of Souls should be Born Slaves and Vassals to the Lust and Tyranny of one Man, who by nature is no more than their fellow Creature, made of the same mold, and standing upon the same level with themselves, is nonsense and directly contradictory to the true notion of Government itself. In all States and Kingdoms whose Government is by Compact, the King cannot be supposed to be anything more than an Officer, elected and appointed by the People to preserve the Government, and therefore the People must necessarily be supposed to have still a Reserve of Power in extraordinary Exigences above the King. Quicquid efficit Tale est magis tale. Their Concessions cannot extend farther than for their own preservation, and when that ceases, the Grant determines Our General and Original Rights cannot totally be swallowed up by any Compact that can be made to settle Liberty and Property, neither is all that was Natural now made Civil; wherefore that old Law was but old Reason. Quod populus postremum jubet id ratum esto. Upon this Account the People in notorious cases, do themselves become the Accuser, Judge, and Executioner; it being but reason that in such Cases they should be allowed this priviledge; for as every man is the best Judge of his own health, and how such and such Meats and Medicines assists and helps the health and vigor of his Body; so in the Body Politick, the People must be Judge how this or that Governour or Law agrees with their Constitution, and Contributes to their Health, Peace, and Welfare. In the 17th. of Deut. And the 14th. v. God leaves the Election of a King absolutely to the People, and puts it into their choice whether they will have a King or not, and whosoever they pleased to set over them (provided he were chosen from among their Brethren) should be their King. Thus before David’s Inauguration, The People made a league with him, 2 Sam. 5. 3. v. And by this they restrained and bound him up as they thought fit. And he who in any settled legal Government, arrogates to himself any other Supremacy over all or any part of this Brethren, other than what is immediately appointed by God, or claimed from the People, breaks those Bonds and Limits which they have set; and is as Civilians distinguish, Tyrannus exercitio, though not Titulo.
A Supream, Absolute, and Arbitrary Power, is essentially necessary in all Governments whatsoever, whether Monarchial, Aristocratical, or Democratical, in respect of which, these three distinct Species differ no otherwise than as a Guinea from twenty Shillings, or forty Sixpences, which put together are equivalent one to the other. Thus the Supream Acts of all Governments are the same, for no State can go higher (nor ought to descend lower) than 1st to be able to redress a grievance, by making or repealing a Law. 2ly to have the power of War and Peace, 3ly. to judge of Life and Death, and 4ly to fix all Appeals in itself. So also if a mixture be made of these three Governments, yet it makes no change as to the product of a Supream Act; for they who limit one another, are yet Copartners and do the same thing together which one alone doth Legislatively. And as the prudence and foresight of the first Founders of these various Constitutions, saw any advantage or inconveniency peculiar to the people, place, or time they lived in, so they accordingly made various and suitable provisions and Laws, to assist the Good and to divert the Evil. Upon this account there are few Governments but have some things woven into their Constitution peculiar to themselves. In Poland where the Monarchy is Elective, and the Prince bound to observe the Laws, any Gentleman may safely and freely accuse his Prince. In Arragon the Chief Justice has a Tribunition power. In Venice the Duke stirs not out of the City without leave, and is made so much greater than any of the rest, only to allay the growth of Ambition in any one besides. In the form of Transactions, Most do follow the Plurality of Sufferage, but in several ways: In the Senate of Venice in many Cases there must be a Concurrence of three parts of four. In the Conclave of Rome at the Election of the Pope, two parts of three must concur: In the Consistory the Pope alone carries it against all the Council or Cardinals. In the Convention in Poland, Potior est Conditio Negantis, One Negative hinders all proceedings in the most important Affairs. In Holland the States General of the Provinces have but seven Votes in all, and these obliging according to the Plurality of Sufferage, but the number of States sent to manage the Interest of their single and Provincial Votes are unlimitted; and as the respective Provinces please to Delegate; wherefore their Votes may be more properly termed local than personal; but with us in England Votes are merely personal; for as we represent not Provinces or Places distinctly Supream, but mixed together; so the odd Vote carries all; by which it may happen that one man may make or destroy the best Law that ever was. From these particulars you may collect the varieties that are in Government, instituted according to the different Notions of the first Founders, and the Circumstances and Temper of the People Governed.
Monarchy vested with the most absolute powers that either Concession or Conquest can create I esteem the best of Governments, but that only happens when it represents God more in his Justice than Singularity; and when Mercy is the Ornament as well as Power the supporters of his Throne. In such a Government under a Prince whose Goodness and Wisdom runs in equal paralells with his power and greatness, the people are happy and secure, whilst their Neighbours live in fear and subjection, His Councils are private, and the Execution of them sudden, without which no great enterprise can be successful. To such a King is applicable the Answer which was made to this Question upon Pasquill in Rome, Quid est Prerogativa Regis: The Reply being in optimo Rege nihil nimis, in Malo Omne Nimium. But to take a view of this Government in its dark side, under a Child, Fool, or vitious Prince, nothing carries such an aspect of Horror and Misery to the poor Wretches who live under it: Wherefore if we consider that the generality of Men, when let loose to their natural, or rather corrupted Inclinations, are much more apt to lean towards Tyranny and Oppression, than to such Methods as may promote their People’s Happiness, I think this sort of Government by no means desirable. It does at the best but keep the State which is directed by it, in a fluctuating and unsetled condition. It sometimes in the Reign of a Warlike and Ambitious Prince, like the Sea in a Storm, rowls in with rage, and Fury upon a Neighbouring Shoar, and again under the Tuition of another who is of a weak and pusillanimous spirit, it moulders and gives way to the loss of all its former Acquisitions, so that the Ballance of the Kingdom is never at a stand, the Scale moving sometimes upwards, and anon down again, and the People consequently kept in a rowling, unsetled condition, poor, miserable, and uneasie.
Aristocracy is composed by a select number of the Chiefs of the People to Govern the Rest, and stands like a Moderatour between the Excesses of Kingly and Popular Power: But this Mixture often produces Monsters, and as the greatest Storms are formed in the Middle Religion, so the Bloodiest Commotions are raised in this State, though most Temperate.
Democracy does properly and naturally reduce all to equality, and most carefully consults the People’s Liberty and Property, but with-all, it obliges every Man to hold his Neighbour’s hand, and when it falls, it does with great difficulty recover its feet again. ’Tis true, that Monarchies are more Quick and Expeditious in their Attempts, but Common-Wealths, as they are more slow, so they are more sure, and in regard that their Councils are more publick, so are they generally more Honest and justifiable. Common-wealths are not like Monarchies, subject to the inconveniencies of Evil Council or Corruption where the Prince’s personal folly or ambition, the Commands of an Imperious Wife, or the Flatteries of a Fawning Courtezan, may in a minute overthrow a People and Kingdom. We have found it by sad Experience, practised at home, where a Chambermaid has prevailed with her Mistress, and she again by a Kiss or Smile with the Monarch; and we also owe all our present Discomposures to the Directions of a Zealous Priest, managed by the Mediation of a Commanding Queen. We are also sufficiently sensible of the great Unhappiness that befalls a people living under a Monarchy, in having their Prince of a Religion different from themselves. But this Inconvenience can never befall a Common-wealth, it being impossible to change, alter, or introduce any new Religion by such a Government, but such as the greater part of the people embrace and are willing to receive. But in Monarchies the King being but one person, may in that respect be more easily and probably seduced, both to his own and his people’s irreparable Injury.
The Eastern Countries which lie under the Course of the Sun, as Persia, Turky, Africa, Peru, and Mexico, are most disposed to Monarchies, in which latter Quarter of the World the people are better Governed by the Spaniard, who are by fits in the Excesses of Kindness and Cruelty, than by the Dutch, whose Government is of a more even Temper. But in Europe and nearer the Pole, the people are disposed more to Republicks, tempered by fundamental Laws. Nec totam servitutem pati possunt nec, totam Libertatem. Sir William Temple, whose insight in the Constitutions of States and Kingdoms, may deservedly give him a decisive Vote, tells us, That Monarchies do indeed seem most Natural, but Common-Wealths the more Artificial sorts of Government, which was but a modest way of giving his suffrage for the last, for Art always corrects the defects of Nature, and pollishes it up to a greater Lustre: But when all is done, we find it experimentally true, that all Governments like all sublunary things besides, have their Defects. Nature in every part is sick, and therefore can find rest in no posture. Human Laws grow out of Vices, which gives to every Government a tincture of Corruption.
That the Government of England was originally and always under the same constitution that now, or of late it did appear to be, I cannot conceive, though Sir Edward Coke, and some others, do seem with much earnestness to contend for it. I am of opinion, that like Epicurus his World, it is grown by Chance and Time to what it now is or lately was, by various Concussions and Confluence of People, Interest, Factions, and Laws, like so many Attoms of different shapes and disposures, springing from meer Accident in several Ages; for where there are Men, there will be also Interests, which creates Factions and Parties, and these, as they prevail, or are supprest, produce Laws for or against them, which so far alters the former Government, as new Laws are introduced in the room and place of Government, as new Laws are introduced in the room and place of old ones which were thought fit to be Repealed and Abrogated.
Although some Governments seem to be built upon firmer and more unalterable Foundations than others, yet there is none but ought to adapt itself to the Circumstances and Disposition of the People Governed, and as these do daily change, so ought the Government to shift and tack with them, that it may the better fit with the Necessities and changing Circumstance of those for whom it was first instituted.
That Property is founded in Dominion, I look upon to be a most undeniable Truth, for Naturally in the same degree that a Man has a Right and possession in a thing, he must necessarily have the Power and Dominion over it; To argue or defend the contrary, is as great an absurdity in Nature, as to say the Fire must be hot, and yet not burn such Combustibles as are cast into it. It is upon this account that the Grand Seignior is so Despotick in his Government, for by the Constitutions of that State all Lands are in the Crown, none hold longer than during pleasure, or for Life, and then their Lands revert to him that gave them. For the same reason, in the days of England’s Ignorance and Poverty, when Arts and Learning were strangers to the Land, and the people were scarcely removed from their primitive estate of Nature and War, when every man had a universal Right to all things, and no man could by a peculiar property pretend to a Possession longer than his Sword and Bow could maintain it; Then I say were our Governours like Generals, absolute and unlimitted. ’Tis true indeed, we have some dark shadows of Laws and Councils, then in use, which our Governours thought fit, as they saw occasion to make use of; and we also find the People sometimes dissatisfied, treating their Magistrate with much Roughness and ill Usage upon his Male Administration; yet this does not all argue that their Governours were limitted and bound up by Laws, as now they are. These things are all practiced in France, Turky, and the most Arbitrary Monarchies in the World. Without Laws and Methods, such as these, one Man is not able to govern Millions, and therefore Moses, who under God, was Absolute and Arbitrary, was necessitated to appoint certain Rules and Methods, and to admit of others into the Government with him, as Assistants, by their Councel and Advice, the Work being too great for one Man to discharge. It was from the King’s absolute Property in the Lands of England (which in those Times none could pretend to but by and through him who held the Sword) as well as from his power over the Laws that our old Tenures sprung of Knight-service, Sergeantry, Escuage, Socage, Villenage, &c. Then were all Tenures, servile, and all Persons held mediately or immediately from the King, which our Law-Books tell us, we still do; but there was a vast difference between our then, and present Holdings, the first being by actual Services paid; these now being only Nominal and Titular. To hold in Socage, is by the service of the Plow, (as almost all persons are said to do). The Tenant was in old times actually bound to Plow the Lord’s Lands, in consideration of which Service, he granted to his Plow-man, instead of Wages, to hold another piece of Land to his own proper use; but now, though the Tenure does nominally remain, yet the Service is absolute; every Man being now become, by the circular motions of Chance or Providence, his own Lord, and his own Plow-man. His Property and Possession makes him the Lord over those Glebes which his Necessity (derived from his Ancestor Adam’s Transgression) makes him Till.
Those Governments which succeeded the Patriarchal, were all Military; all people being then left by Nature in a state of War; but some Countries ripening into Prudence and Knowledge sooner than others, they also sooner betook themselves to Compact, and to such Methods of living, as might be for their Common Advantage. Amongst these, England was none of the earliest Reformers, but continued long after Greece and Rome, in that Natural state that the first Fathers of Families left it: and there was reason for it in respect it was an Island, and (in those Times, when Navigation was in a great degree a stranger to the World) not so apt for Commerce or Correspondence with other Countries which were more civilized; they had then no Government but what conduced to War, and no other King but a General. Caesar in his Commentaries, tells us, that he found the Brittains, poor, ignorant, and destitute of Laws; but he also gives them the Character of a People disposed to War, Brittannos in Bellopromptos & in Armis expertes. All things (as in the state of Nature) were in Common, even to their Wives and Children: But the Romans having given them a taste of the sweetness and advantage of Government, they soon after began (as Tacitus in his Annals acquaints us) to make Application to their General, to protect and defend them, by his Power and Strength, in the peaceable enjoyment of certain proportions and allotments of Land, against all Invaders; In lieu of which Protection to them and their Heirs, they promise and swear to him and his Heirs, certain Services, together with Homage and Fealty. With this Notion of Tacitus, Bede seems to concur in the 4th. Book of his History, where he says, That Generals and Kings were amongst the Brittains as Terms Univocal, for Kings were always out to Battle in times of War, and in Peace, exercised the Legislative power at home. And Ammianus in his 15th. Book, is more plain and positive, for he tells us, That Brittanni nulla separati fruebantur possessione, nisi Principis concessu & potestate defendatur.
From hence it may be reasonably allowed, that England was first Governed by an absolute Power, not from the Election of the People, nor by Conquest, but from the Temper, Disposition, and Circumstances of that Age of the World in which most Countries lay under the same sort of Government, and more especially by their Ignorance of better methods, which continued longer in Islands by reason of the difficulty of Commerce, than in Continents where a Correspondence was then more easily maintained. It is undoubtedly from this bottom, that the People of England are still supposed to hold all their Lands mediately or immediately from the King, and ’tis perhaps from hence that so many Commons and Wasts still remain uninclosed, and that Waifs, Strays, Wrecks, and Wasts, and all other things, in which no man can lay a particular propriety, are reputed to be in the Crown.
Upon these reasons I conclude, that the property of all the Lands here in England being originally in no particular person, must necessarily (as the Law still is in such Cases) rest in the King, and those that held from or by his power, neither had or could have any right against that power by which they held, but only against others that were in a level with themselves.
How many these Landed Men Originally were, or what seperate proportions were alloted to them, whether the quantity of a County, Hundred, or Tything, or whether their Allotments were according to the largness of their respective Families, or their Prince’s favour, I cannot say. But these Proprietors were probably the Pares Regni, or such as afterwards, by the growth of Laws and the removal of Ignorance, became by a settled and uncontroulable right, the Peers and Nobles of the Land; and having by their Prince’s permissive favour long enjoyed their Dignities and Possessions, they at last wrought them up to an Establishment by Law, insomuch that what was held before ad voluntatem Domini, is now made hereditary, performing only some small Services and Acknowlegments to their King or General, some wherof were payable in times of War, as Knight Service, Escuage, petty Serjeanty, and grand Serjeanty, others in times of Peace, such were Burgage, Villenage, Socage, Homage, and Fealty.
Thus did a part of the People first twist themselves into a real Property in part of the Lands of the Kingdom, and as the Prince proved kind and liberal, so did the numbers of these Proprietors increase, and their Properties grew more strong and indefeasable, and so consequently their Power and Dominions; but the Prince on the other hand grows proportionably poorer and weaker, Both resembling a Boat which rises and falls with the flowing Element that bears it up. After this manner the Lords grew daily richer and stronger, till they had in a great measure, by their acquisitions striped the Crown of its chiefest Embellishments, and invested themselves in much the better share of the Lands of England. And their Power grew with their Property to that degree, that they who were Originally but Servants to the Prince, became now Masters of the Nation. This, King John to his sorrow, was sufficiently sensible of in his Barons’ War; and it was from the Power of the Nobility alone that King Henry the Seventh did receive his Chaplet as well as Crown. He was a wise Prince, and from hence took an occasion of Jealousy, that the same Powers which raised and placed him in the Throne, might pull him down again and lay his Glories in the Dust. To prevent therefore all Dangers which might arise from their growing Greatness, he first procures a Statute to be Enacted against Retainers, that the number of the Followers and Attendants of Noblemen might be retrenched, for they did so far indulge the Vanity of a large Retinue in those times, that their respective Trains were sufficient for a Soveraign Prince’s Guard. In the next place he procures the Statute of Fines to pass both Houses; whereby the Nobility got a power (which by the Common Law had not) to cut off Entails, and thereby to sell their Estates to the best Purchaser. Before this Statute, an Estate in a Nobleman’s hand, might in some respect be said to be in Mortmain, for by the Intail it was so bound up in the Family, that it grew almost irremoveable; and thus having a power to purchase but not to sell, their Possessions, and consequently their Power grew daily greater, without a possibility of Diminution. But these Entails, as they were injurious to Trade and Industry, so by their Consequences they were dangerous to Regal Authority, and therefore this Device was contrived to prevent both these Inconveniencies: and it did indeed prove very effectual in divesting the Nobility both of their Property and Power, but at the same time it opened a Door to the Commonalty, and gave them free access to that Property and Dominion which the Nobility did by degrees part with. Nor did they neglect to improve this advantage they had got by Diligence, Industry and Frugality, for in process of Time they wound themselves into the better share of those Possessions which were first derived from the King to his Nobles, and from them thus to the Commons of the Nation.
The Effect and Consequence of these Acquisitions, made by the Commonalty, were discovered and feared by King James, but not felt till the Reign of King Charles the First, who by an imprudent Contest with This Superior Power, was first deprived of his Crown, and afterwards of his Life. The yearly Rents of England (besides the accrewing benefit of Trade, which is altogether in the hands of the Commonalty) amounts to 14 Millions per annum. Of this the King and Nobility both together hold not above one Million at the most, the King’s Revenue being principally made up by the Excise and Customs, not by the Rents of Crown Lands; so that there remains 13 Shares of 14 of the Lands of England, and consequently a proportionable share of the Power in the Commons. But the Constitutions of our Government, as it now stands, placing the Dominion in the King, whilst the Property is in the People, does in this commit a sort of Violence upon Nature, in seperating thus the Soul from the Body, the Power from the Possession. This it is which causes these frequent Distempers and Convulsions in the Body Politick; for Power is a sort of Volatile Spirit which cannot subsist without a proper Vehicle to give it a Body, and this must be Possession, from which if it be once separated, it immediately evaporates and disappears.
Having hitherto traced the Government of England in its Originals and Procedures, I will farther take the liberty to advert some Particulars as they seem now to stand in its present Constitution; and in the first place, I cannot think it so happy and well composed a Government, and so aptly suited to the present condition of the People, as most Men endeavour to represent it, for it seems in its Frame and Nature to be sett to Factious Interests and Dissentions, and thus it has been ever since the disunion between Property and Power; the Court and Country Interests are no new nor unknown Terms to us, and have been managed and upheld by their respective Votaries (though in some Kings’ Reigns with greater Spirit and Animosity than in others) ever since, and for some time before the Barons’ Wars. The people have got the Possession, and the King is entrusted with a power and prerogative over it, or at least with so much, as may prove prejudicial to it. This Naturally creates Fears and Jealousies, least at any time the Prince by his power, should invade their Properties and abridge their Liberties, upon which account his Prerogative is the White they level at, esteeming it rather their Terror than their Security for which it was at first given and intended; and therefore when the people find an opportunity, either by their Prince’s weakness, folly, or other unhappy circumstances, they have usually made breaches upon this Bulwark of the Crown, and by such Sallies and Incursions have got ground and advantage towards the farther securing of those Liberties and Properties they with so much Diligence and Reason endeavoured to provide for. So on the other side is the Prince jealous of his people, and is always fearful that they should snatch this Rod which he holds over their Backs out of his hand; and to obviate this Evil, he is not without his Counter-designs also, and therefore spares neither Money nor Power in the Elections of Parliaments and Juries, to obtain such persons to be returned, as for a Mess of Porridge will sell their Birth-right, and by advancing his Prerogative and lengthening his Scourge, are willing to ruine and undo their Country. And so it generally falls out, that when this power happens to fall into the management of an haughty daring Spirit, it breaks in upon the people, and endeavours to get again by Force, what his Ancestors had given away by Flattery. Thus there is always a Tide of Ebb or Flow, the Scales rarely or never standing even between the King and his People; and indeed the Constitution of our Government is such, that Murmuring and Dissentions do naturally spring from it: the Ground is disposed to produce such Weeds, we are always engaged in a sort of Civil War, and in this respect continue still in the same state in which Nature left us. An House divided against itself cannot stand; every Man has enough to do to defend his own from Domestick Invaders, and whilst this Root of Division is suffered to grow at Home, it’s impossible to do anything that’s Great abroad; every Design is poisoned with a Jealousie in its Cradle, and it is enough to make the people suspect it a Snake (though the Skin and Flowers in which it lies be never so plausible and pleasing) if the King does but hand it to them. From hence it is that our Government always tottered, twice fell down, and now lies in its primitive undigested Chaos, and he must be a greater Architect, than Perhaps our Nation can afford, to warrant its standing above three ordinary Reigns, if it be rebuilt upon its old Foundations. An Expedient to prevent this Inconvenience, will be a proper Subject for this Great Convention.
Another thing not well consistent with the Policy and Government of England, is the exceeding largeness of the Revenue of the Crown. In France indeed it is six times greater, that King being reputed to have 12 Millions, and the King of England but two: But we see the miserable Effects of it, in the extreme Poverty and Vassallage of his people. ’Tis true, the Kings of England once had more, for they had in effect all, but then the people were but one remove from the state of Nature, and the possessions are now got into the hands of the people, which they will be loath to part from, so that the Case is much altered. Whatsoever the Government of Heaven may be, yet on Earth in one State there cannot be two Equals, One must submit and the other must Govern, or else there will be a constant War; and while the King has so great a Revenue as to be able to maintain a Standing Army, there still remains so much of this Equality as will promote and maintain such Differences as ought by no means to be allowed of in a well constituted Government. But moreover, the people by the present Constitution, are Sharers with the Prince in the Supreme and Legislative Power in Parliament, and ’tis by them that Grievances must be redrest. It ought therefore in every Well-Constituted Government to be provided for, that this Supreme and Legislative Power may frequently, if not always, be in a capacity to Enact and Order such things as tend to the People’s Benefit and Security; but in this, our Government is defective, it being in the Prince’s power (as our Lawyers have generally determined) to keep off Parliaments as long as he pleases. And how is this defect remedied? Only by another, which on the other side they subject the Prince to, which is, by keeping him poor, that so his poverty may necessitate him to call frequent Parliaments. Thus by a mutual lameness or infirmity on both sides, the Prince and People are become equal Matches, Both Cripples, not able to go forward in any great Enterprizes abroad, but to lie struggling with each other at home. King Henry the Fifth, had but £.56,000 per annum, and Queen Elizabeth’s whole Revenue was but £.160,000. But some kind Parliaments (and such they usually are to excess, upon the first accession of a King to the Throne) either bribed by Smiles, or flattered by Hopes of private Gain, have thought fit to fetter the Nation by advancing the Revenue to about two Millions per annum; so that now there is little hopes of meeting with those advantages and opportunities of tacking their Grievances to a Money Bill, which formerly they use to do; though in truth, even then the State was in a dangerous condition, that could not have a Remedy at hand upon every Disturbance and Malady which should happen. This I think may not improperly be esteemed a thing worthy of Your Thoughts to find a proper Expedient to redress it.
Another Particular which I take to be one of the greatest Solecisms in Government imaginable is where the most Absolute and Supreme power is yet without a Power to Remedy and Redress the People’s Grievances: Thus it has been for many years adjudged to be by the Interpreters of our Laws and Government, the Judges. And to illustrate this by an Instance. Suppose the people are agrieved, and want a Law to set them Right; The King has no power to make it of himself, and till he thinks fit to call a Parliament, the people must still continue subject to their Government. But perhaps the King’s Interest (which is unhappily divided from the people’s) forbids this Expedient; What shall be done? Why then let them stay and be ruined, till the King wants Money, which as the present Establishment is, will never be. But suppose a Parliament is called, and they in their proceedings happen to fret upon the King’s Prerogative, a Favourite evil Councellor, or some other Interest that the King has a mind to promote and protect, though never so opposite to that of the Nation’s, why then their Supreme and Legislative power is not worth a Rush, for the King, though he has no absolute power himself, yet has a power above this, to destroy it by a Dissolution or Prorogation when he pleases, and so like the Cat in the Manger, can neither eat Hay himself, nor suffer the Horse to eat to whom it belongs. This seems contrary to all the Rules of Art and Nature, and more Unintelligible than the Doctrine of the Trinity, or Transubstantiation, for here the Supreme power is subject to an Inferior, and the King who is Minor Universis, yet is also Major and Superior to them; That Power which was given for the Protection of the People is their Destroyer, and the great and weighty Affairs of the Nation becomes subject to the passions and humours of a single Person. This I think I may safely affirm, That all Governments are built upon wrong bottoms, where there is not a Supreme and Absolute Power, which may without Controll, and upon any sudden Occasion or Emergency, alter, create, or repeal such Laws as shall be thought by them necessary for the People’s Good.
Another thing that has been very incongruous and disagreeable in our Establishment is, That the Election of the Judges, and consequently the pronouncing of the Law, should be in the King’s Power. If indeed he were a Third Person unconcerned in point of Interest, this Method would be more tolerable; but being One that so often sets up an Interest different from that of his People, and is subject to be seduced by the evil Councels of a Confessor, Miss or Favourite, and the People’s Rights hanging wholly upon the Lips of these twelve men in Scarlet, it is most fit they should be chosen by Them who are chiefly concerned, and for whose benefit and protection both the King and Laws were first made and intended, otherwise that very Prerogative, which was given to the King only for the better enabling him to act for the benefit of the People, may be (and often is) set up against them. It is contrary to all Rule, that in any Controversie a Man should be Judge in his own Case; But he in effect is so who has power to make or unmake the Judge at pleasure: nor can this defect be well remedied by granting their Commissions quam diu se bene gesserint. This will only oblige a greater care in the first choice, that they may be such as in their Principles will stand firm to the King’s Interest. The Honour and Income of a Judge to one that knows not how other ways to live is a violent Provocative; it is a sort of lawful Bribery upon him to pursue his Maker and Destroyer’s Commands though against all the Rules of Justice and Equity; self Preservation is his Warrant, binds him to a Compliance, and makes him think it more allowable to break his Oath than to destroy his Honour and the Interest of a young Favourite who makes hay with great diligence whilst his Sun shines.
I have often wondered at the unjust Censures of some in saying that our late King so often and so notoriously broke his word and promises to his People in not Governing them according to Law. For Instances, they urge His Dispensing with Statutes, and his hard Usage of the Gentlemen in Maudlin Colledge, in both which I conceive he committed no breach of his Word or Promises if they be taken strictly and in a literal sense. This I think may easily be granted if it be considered, That the present Laws and Constitutions of England are such as do undoubtedly give the King a Power to make the Judge, and to the Judge a power to pronounce the Law. What he does judicially affirm is Law, and becomes from thenceforth the strongest Precedent, the last Judgement being always esteemed the surest and best Rule to go by. Now the King in both these transactions neither made or turned out any Judges but in such methods that former Judges had pronounced Lawful, nor did he do afterwards any thing either in the case of Maudlin Colledge or the Dispensing Power, but with the Opinion and Concurrence of his Judges being the Method that our Establishment and Laws in such Cases does direct.
There is also a great Cry against the late Judges, for giving their Opinions, and pronouncing Judgments contrary to the Laws of the Land, and no other Fate must be their reward, but that of Tresilian and Belknap. It does, I must confess, seem very reasonable, that Men, who by their Honour, Oaths and Rewards, were bound indistinguishably to administer Justice, should smart for those Delinquencies by which so many Hundreds have been ruined and undone. But in the first place, let me know how a Judge can give his opinion contrary to Law, whose very Opinion judicially given, by the Constitutions of our Government, is Law itself, and shall be deemed a stronger Precedent in the point, than any other formerly given. And Secondly, If Judges must suffer for giving Sentence contrary to former Judgments, there is scarcely a Term passes even in the best of Times, but there are Offences committed by them of this kind. How ordinary is it for a Judge to give his Opinion in common Cases contrary to his Brethren on the same Bench, and for one Court to reverse the Judgments of another? And how full are the Law Books of Judgments and Opinions directly contrary to each other? The Law is not Mathematically demonstrable, it is a Science which depends upon the Judgment and Opinion only of those that are Learned therein, which we often find various and uncertain. Is not a Judge Sworn to act and determine according to his Opinion only, and who can pretend a power to direct and rectifie it, or to judge whether the Sentence given, was not according to his real judgment, since none can know his heart and thoughts but God. And suppose it could be proved by Demonstration, that his Sentence or Opinion was not Law, this may proceed as well from his want of Knowledge as Honesty, and what Law is there to punish a Judge’s ignorance or mistake? ’Tis hard that Men should be deemed guilty of a Transgression where there is no Law, or condemned to punishment where there is no Transgression. No, no, Though our King was misguided, and our Judges were corrupt, yet it is not at their doors, we must lay our Misfortunes but to the weakness of our Government, which gives a Loose to these Inconveniencies, and which pitts the Justice of the Nation upon the Frailties of a single Man in so Arbitrary a manner. Opportunity makes a Thief, and these Meshes in the Government, tempts the Ministers thereof to slip through sometimes when a Bait lies on the other side to invite them to it. It is from this Root that all our late Miscarriages sprung; We suffered much, and yet it was all but little, if compared to that which was likely to befall us, had not Providence snatcht us by a Miracle from the Jaws of Misery; and as it has delivered us from the Evil Administration of Law, so in some things I wish it would rescue us from the Law itself, and so far change it, that for the future it may be no more subject to such Shams and Delusions, nor in a capacity thus to become an Accessory to its own Death.
It seems farther very incongruous, That where Government is made up of two different Interests as here it is, the absolute power of Peace and War should be only in the King, whilst the power of maintaining it, continues in the People: For if the King should be led aside by a private Interest, and should refuse to make War in a time when perhaps the Safety and Honour of the Nation did wholly depend upon it; What a condition must the People then be in? Put the case, that before this our late but seasonable Deliverance, the King, in whom this Power did reside, should have opened the Gates of the Kingdom, our Harbours and Strengths (which are to protect us from Forreign Invaders) to a French, or Irish Army; Who durst lift a hand to stop this inundation of Tyranny, without incurring the penalty of a Traitor: Nay they must farther be called Friends and Allies, even whilst they pillage our Houses, and hold their Knives to our Throats. This Branch of our Laws serves to cover the Landing of a Foreign Power, and so long to cherish and keep it warm, till like the Serpent in the Fable, it at last stings the improvident Benefactor to death.
Another thing which highly requires Your Regulation, is the Elections for Parliament. ’Tis a great Blemish to our Government, that such whose Place gives them the Title of Founders of our Laws, and Preservers of our Liberties; and whose Reputation for Principles of Honour, Honesty & Prudence should be beyond assault or censure, must yet be exposed to a Necessity of doing such things as are really mean and scandalous as well as expensive, before they can get into a Capacity of doing their Country service: for if such things be not done, some Pensioner from Court bids higher, jostles him out and gets thereby into a Power to put to Sale both the Laws and Liberties of his Country which he is willing to barter for the hopes of some Court Preferment, and the Euge of his great Master. In old times no person had an Electing Vote in the Shire, who had not a Freehold of 40 s. per Ann. but I could easily demonstrate 40 s then, to be Equivalent in value to £.40 now, for by the discovery of the Western World, Gold and Silver is to that degree increased. Now if the number of Electors were reduced to those only having Freeholds of £.40 per An. these lavish Expences would certainly cease, and the Electors, though fewer in number, would be less apt to be led aside by such low and indirect means. There are also great irregularities in the Corporations and Burroughs Electing as well as in the Electors. I can see no reason why Cornwall a poor and barren County should return 43 Members for Parliament, and yet Cheshire together with the City of Chester should return in all but 3, and why old Sarum which has but 2 Houses, and those under the Commands of one Landlord, should send 2 Representatives to Parliament, whilst many other Towns which might deserve the Title and Priviledges of Cities send no Representatives at all. I can scarcely think a Parliament thus Constituted can truly and fairly represent the People, the Majority and Richest of them being by such inequallities excluded from an Electing Vote. The same inconvenience springs from the Constitutions of the Boroughs which Elect, not by vertue of their Wealth, Dignity, or Number of Inhabitants, but by the Burrough Houses in which they live, These only, (which perhaps are the most inconsiderable part of the Burrough) having in them the Electing power exclusive of the rest. This Qualification makes such Houses sell better to a purchaser than any others in the Town, and it is customary for Gentlemen who are desirous of a Seat in Parliament, to lay out their Mony in such Bargains, and though it costs them dear, yet if it be possible, they will be Landlords of a sufficient number of these Borough Houses, (in the purchase whereof some Friend’s Name is mostly made use of in Trust) that thereby they may Command an Election either for themselves or their Assigns at pleasure. What is this less than buying of Votes with Money? A Crime which has been always lookt upon with a severe brow, and yet Licensed by this old Usage. Nor can I discern why this Electing-power should be thus fixt to the Freehold in being, restrained to a small and inconsiderable number of Houses, as if Wood and Stone had a Rational faculty, and must be made use of to build and repair the Government.
The Methods of Electing in these Boroughs are various, Titles to Elect are also different, and very often dubious and uncertain. This necessitates double Elections, and countenances false Returns, which are often made ill use of; for the King having a power to nominate the Sheriff, and he to make a Return, it may happen that the true and rightful Members shall continue Petitioners only, whilst such as came in by unjust Returns, pass an Act to give the King Money for the maintainance of a Standing Army. This Artifice was of much use in the last Parliament at Westminster, and became so notorious from the great Number of Petitioners, that a Gentleman being asked, whether the House of Commons sate that day in the Parliament; No, (replied he) It stood in the Lobby.
It is Customary in the Borough of Limmington in Hampshire, to Elect by the Ballot. The manner is to give to every Electing Burgess (their number being limitted and known) a different Coloured Ball for every Competitor, each Colour being respectively appropriated to the several Competitors: As suppose there should be three Candidates, each Elector has three several Balls given him, which he so manages as to keep only that in his hand, which by its Colour belongs to the person he intends to chuse; this being inclosed in his hand, he puts it into a close Box made for that purpose, leaving no possibility to any one to detect what coloured Ball he put into it. Thus each having put in his Ball according to his Vote, the Balls of one Colour are separated from those of another colour, and so according to the Majority of Balls of one Colour, the Return is made. This Method I know to be of great advantage where it is made use of; It prevents Animosities and Distaste, and very much assists that freedom which ought to be in Elections. No man in this way need fear the disobliging of his Landlord, Customer, or Benefactor; for it can by no means be discovered how he gave his Vote, if he will but keep his own counsel. If this or some such Device were appointed to be made use of in every Borough over all the Kingdom, I am perswaded it would abundantly answer expectation, in the many Advantages which would attend it. And perhaps it would be of equal Benefit in all other Elections, as well as in those, for Members of Parliament, if the Government were so disposed as to fill up all Vacancies, whether in Church or State, by the plurality of Votes appointed to elect. And I am apt to believe that succeeding Ages may reduce it into a Law, that Privy Councellors shall be chosen by the Lords, Judges by the Gentlemen at the Bar, Bishops by their Dean and Chapters, Ministers by their Parishioners, Fellows and Masters of Colledges by the Graduates of the same Colledge, Sheriffs by the Gentry of the County, Officers of Trust in the State and in the Army by the Parliament, the Parliament by Freeholders of £.40 per annum, and all by the Ballott.
’Tis much easier (I know) to find Faults than to mend them; and I could mention many other things of the same nature, the Redress whereof, I hope will be thought of in this great Convention, before They proceed to dispose of the Crown. ’Tis an easier matter for a People to make ten Kings, than to unmake One, and to deck a Crown with the highest Prerogatives, than to deprive it, when they are Confered, of the least of them. If the Crown be given again with the same Qualifications that Other Heads wore it, It will then be exalted above the People’s reach, without some such assisting Miracle as was lately shewn in favour of them. Now, to reform its Redundancies is natural, easie, and prudent, the Government being escheated to the People by the King’s deserting it; But to offer at any such Attempts afterwards, will be both unkind and imprudent, and will signifie no more than the chatterings of a parcel of Magpies about an Owl in her Majesty.
Some Men have espoused an odd and unwarrantable Notion, that the King’s Desertion of the Government amounts to a Demise, or Civil Death. If this be so, the next Heir ought immediately to be Proclaimed, and must Inherit the Crown with the same inseperable Prerogatives that heretofore belonged to it, and all Laws or Acts of Parliament made to limit and abridge them, (if Lawyers speak truth) are void and null. But if the Departure of the King amounts to such a desertion as dissolves the Government, then the Power must necessarily revert and vest in the People, who may Erect a new One, either according to the old Modell, if they like it so well, or any other that they like and approve of better.
Were such a mighty Thing to be determined by my single Vote, the Government should be Monarchy, and this Monarchy should be Absolute and Arbitrary, and the Prince should be my King. ’Tis He alone who is The Man in Christendom in respect of Courage and an innate Disposition to delight in the Happiness of his People, with whom I could freely and securely intrust my All. But the Honour I have for Him, runs not to His Posterity, for as a good Man may notwithstanding, get a Profligate Son, so I should be loath to Repose such a Trust at a venture in the hands of any one whom I do not know. You have a great Work to do, and ’tis from Your Councels, that after Ages must date their Happiness or Misery, and it therefore Obliges Your most Serious Thoughts.
I hope, Sir, you will excuse the Liberties I have taken, in giving you so large a Diversion from better Notions of your own, which I know are of an higher flight and swifter wing than what I can pretend to: Mine I do not impose, but submit, as becomes,
Your Obliged humble Servant