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Samuel Masters, The Case of Allegiance in Our Present Circumstances - Joyce Lee Malcom, The Struggle for Sovereignty: Seventeenth-Century English Political Tracts, vol. 2 
The Struggle for Sovereignty: Seventeenth-Century English Political Tracts, 2 vols, ed. Joyce Lee Malcolm (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999). Vol. 2.
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Samuel Masters, The Case of Allegiance in Our Present Circumstances
[Samuel Masters, 1646?-1693]
In a LETTER from a Minister in the City, to a Minister in the Country.
Rom. 4.22. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
Printed for Ric. Chiswell at the Rose and Crown in St. Paul’s Church Yard. MDCLXXXIX.
This tract in the form of a letter has been attributed to the clergyman Samuel Masters. It was among the first of some eighty tracts on the crucial issue of allegiance that were published in the year of the Glorious Revolution.
Samuel Masters, a gentleman’s son, was born in Salisbury the year Charles I surrendered. He attended Wadham College, Oxford, and was a fellow of Exeter College. His career as a minister began when he was appointed preacher at Stanton Harcourt and South Ley in Oxfordshire. He later became prebendary of Saint Paul’s and Lichfield, chaplain to the earl of Radnor, and preacher to the hospital and precinct of Bridewell near London. Although the earl of Radnor’s son, Francis, was a Tory member of the Convention Parliament, Masters seems to have been a moderate Whig in his sympathies.
“The Case of Allegiance” was licensed on 21 March before the Convention Parliament agreed that all holders of civil and ecclesiasticaloffice must take a new oath of allegiance to William and Mary by 1 August. The tract provides an excellent review of the Whig theory of English government at that significant point. What the author considers widely accepted errors about the subject’s obligation to his king are discussed as well as the limits on loyalty oaths. Masters argues strongly for the propriety of switching allegiance from James II to William and Mary. He points to the contractual nature of the coronation oath and insists allegiance is sworn to the office of king, not to the person of the monarch.
The tract appeared in two variations. A reply, also anonymous, entitled “Reflections upon a Late Book, Entitled, The Case of Allegiance Considered, . . .” appeared in May. “The Case of Allegiance” was reprinted in State Tracts, a collection of important pamphlets published in 1692-93.
The Case of Allegiance Consider’d.
You having thought fit to consult my Judgement about the lawfulness of transferring our Allegiance from the late to the present KING; I shall not mispend time in blaming the ill choice of so incompetent a Casuist, for so important a Case; but according to the Laws of that Friendship which have been for some time observed between us, I shall endeavour to approve my readiness, if not my ability in serving you.
I must not dissent from you, in professing a very tender and awful regard of Conscience, whose Authority I acknowledg to be sacred and inviolable, and in the neglect of which I expect no peace in my own mind, nor any confidence toward God: and I think it necessary to add, That we ought to take as much care to inform our Consciences, as to follow them; that we provide them all possible helps and advantages; that we place Truths in the fairest light, and view them with a steddy unprejudiced Eye: And we who are Ministers are more especially concerned to do so, who being appointed Guides, not only to ourselves, but also to others, must beware of the double guilt of misleading our Flock, by going ourselves astray before them.
You may believe me, Sir, as far as I can know myself, that I have no Antimonarchical Principles, or secret disgust to the Person of the late King, to alienate my mind from him: Neither am I conscious of any angry resentments of former Suffereings, or of any discontent with my present Station, or of any ambitious design, or hope of a future advancement, to bend my Inclinations to a concurrence with the present Revolution; for I solemnly protest, That if the late KING would have thought fit to continue his Government over us, though with many tolerable Inconveniences to the Publick, and though with any intolerable Prejudices to my private Interest, I would never have retracted my Reverence and Submission to his Authority, nor have desisted to intercede with Heaven for blessings on his Person and Government. Whatever change therefore it made on my mind, it did not, I assure you, proceed from any design or choice of my own, but was necessarily induced from a change without, and from those new Circumstances into which the late King unexpectedly cast us.
It is indeed very difficult, as you complain, to determine the present Case with a satisfactory clearness and certitude, because it is complicated of a great variety of things, some of which are foreign to our faculty, and which for the most part require a great niceness of thought to apprehend and distinguish them; because also we are yet scarce got out of the amazement into which so great a Revolution hath surprized us, and must have time to recollect and compose our thoughts, ere we can consider so exactly, or deliberate so steddily as such an Affair deserves; but chiefly because we have of late years imbibed some false Maxims and Notions, which unhappily intangle our Consciences, and prejudice our minds against that truth, which it is now become our interest to discover and acknowledg; and have had those Notions inculcated upon us with so much force and importunity, that through a slavish fear of those who have been a long time practising upon us, we have almost lost our liberty of thinking freely, and judging impartially of these matters. Yet these difficulties are not insuperable to an honest inquisitive mind; they may indeed prompt us to excuse candidly the Errors of others, and to seek more earnestly for Wisdom, to him that hath promised to give it to those that lack, without upbraiding; but should rather animate than discourage our industry in the researches of a Truth wherein our Consciences are so much concerned.
These things being premised, I will now set close to my Work; and upon a general view of the Design before me, I find it necessary for me to do these three things.
1. To discover and remove some false Principles about Government and Obedience, whence the obscurities and difficulties in the present Case do chiefly arise.
2. To resolve the chief difficulties in the Case propounded.
3. To prove that Resolution to be consistent with all the Obligations that can affect a good Conscience.
1. It will be necessary in the first place to detect and discard those false principles of Government and Obedience which have been in this last Age too earnestly obtruded, and too easily entertained among us; and which are as a false biass on our minds to mislead their Considerations, and betray them into Error.
And if we find such Principles do rather inslave than oblige our Consciences, and are as inconsistent with Truth, as they are with the present Revolution, we must take the honest courage, to break off those bands, and assert our Liberty. Of this kind are chiefly these three.
1. That a Monarchical form of Government, and the appropriation of it to a particular Person or Family, is jure Divino, or by a Divine Right. How boldly this Principle hath been asserted by some men, you and I cannot be ignorant; upon which so great a stress hath been laid, that to alter the Government in the State, hath been thought as lewd an impiety as to alter either of the Holy Sacraments in the Church; to divert the Succession, as unlawful as to pervert the very Course of Nature; and to oppose a King, though in the most illegal extravagancies, or barbarous outrages, to be no less than fighting against God. If indeed such a Divine Right did appear, it must be acknowledged indisputable and inviolable, whatever sad consequences attend it; but upon examination we shall find that God hath nowhere instituted such a Right, but some men have with too bold a fraud, made use of his Name to advance and support their unreasonable pretensions. If by such a Divine Right, no more were intended than God’s permission and allowance, it would have no Opponents; for we know of no Law that doth forbid a Monarchical form of Government, or exclude any particular person or family from the Administration of it: But then the pretence so interpreted, will not be sufficient to render an alteration in the Government or Succession, a sin against God, as the assertors of this notion have sometimes pretended. They therefore who plead this Argument, must be thought to assert, That God hath by some Law or Constitution appointed Monarchy to be the specific form of Civil Government; and that the Crown should be entailed on such particular persons succeeding in the same Family, whereby the one cannot be changed, or the other debared without transgressing a Divine Institution. This being a matter of great importance, and of common continual concernment to mankind, we may reasonably expect, that if God hath made any such Law, it is somewhere promulged to the World with sufficient evidence and certainty; but though many have been for some years most sollicitously seeking after it, yet they are not agreed among themselves in the discovery, nor can direct us where we may certainly meet with it. I know but of two sort of Laws which God hath given to mankind, Either Moral, impressed on the human Nature; or Positive, revealed in the Holy Scriptures; but the jus divinum in dispute is a stranger to both. God hath indeed by both, instituted Government, or Civil Authority for the welfare and security of men in their Civil Societies; He hath also commanded, that Superiors govern justly and mercifully, and that Inferiors honour them with duty and submission. But I nowhere find that God hath commanded all nations, or ours in particular, to be under that form of Government, which in contradistinction to other forms is called Monarchy; or under some particular Person and Family in contradistinction to all others. The Law of Nature doth indeed erect a Monarchy in Families, over those who are naturally descended from him that is to Govern; but there being not the same natural reason in our Civil Societies, there is not the same Law of Nature to prescribe the same Government: And if some plead a likeness, or analogie between them, That can serve only for a rhetoricalillustration, but not for any Logical proof, such as the present case requires. From the Holy Scriptures we learn that God did once institute a Monarchy for the people of Israel, and appointed particularly that David should be their King, and also intailed the Crown upon his Posterity; but as God had particular Reasons for that institution, respecting the Messiah, so we have no Reason to think that God intended by that institution, to oblige any other Nation but the Jews only. In the New Testament we find Civil government supposed, and the moral Duties to be discharged both by superiors and inferiors, described and inforced, beyond what they are in any other institutions; but we nowhere find Christ and his Apostles prescribing the particular form of Civil Government, or preferring Monarchy, or condemning an Aristocratic or Democratic state; and much less determining the particular persons or families on whom the Regal Dignity shall descend. Some indeed have inferred from St. Paul’s assertions, Rom. 13.1. that the particular forms of Government, and the particular persons which administer it, are by a Divine Institution; but however they countenance this mistake from our English translation, which says, There is no power but of God, the powers that are, are ordained of God; yet the Text is incapable of such a sense, if we read and render it exactly according to the Original.
St. Paul’s words are Ὀυ γὰρ ἔστιν ἐξουσία εἰ μὴ ὑπὸ θεοῦ, αἱ δὲ οὖσαι ἐξουσίαι ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ τεταγμέναι εἰσὶν, which in an exact Translation would run thus; There is no Authority, if not of God; and the Authorities which are (of God’s Institution) are ordered under God. The plain Doctrine of which Text can be only this, That no man can have an Authority over other men, who are his Fellow-creatures, except it be derived to him from God, who is the Lord of all, and that whatever Power is derived to any Superiors over Inferiors, it must be subordinated to God, from whom it was derived. And as the Apostle doth infer from the former Assertion, That Every soul should be subjectto, and not resist, this Authority, even for Conscience-sake, because derived from God; so he infers from the latter, That the Superior, who useth this Authority, must administer it as the Minister of God, for the good of men, in protecting Virtue, and discouraging Vice, because his Authority is subordinated to God, the Supreme and Absolute Lord of all Mankind.
And that the Apostle doth speak of Authority according to its general nature and institution, and not the particular persons by whom, or forms in which it was then exercised, is evident from the excellent properties and ends of this Authority which he enumerates; which do belong indeed to that Authority which God hath instituted, but cannot certainly be ascribed to the Government of Nero the present, and the worst of Emperors. And to make this more plain and unquestionable, it may be observed, that as Saint Paul, speaking of Authority in the general, calls it ἡ τοῦ θεοῦ διαταγὴ the Ordinance of God; so Saint Peter speaking of the persons by whom this Authority is administered, calls them ἡ ἀνθρωπίνη κτίσις, the Ordinance of man, whether it be the King, as supreme, or inferior Magistrates commissioned by him.
After all, I am ready to acknowledg, that the Law of God doth secure Princes, yea, and the meanest of their Subjects in the quiet possession of those Rights which they have justly acquired; but the Rights themselves are not founded on a Divine but Human Constitution; for though the Law of God doth prohibit us to defraud a private person of any part of his just possessions, yet we do not think that any Law of God did antecedently entitle him to such a posession, or doth necessarily intail it on his Family; but that his Right is grounded on the Laws and Constitutions of the Country in which he lives. So, though Kings have the Law of God to maintain and protect them in the use of that Authority to which they have a just Right; yet that Right is not to be measured by any Law of God, but the Constitutions of the Realm, and may be acquired or alienated without committing any sin against God, as they who assert a Jus Divinum would pretend.
2. Another false principle to be dismissed, is a wide mistake of the Nature of that Government under which we live, which asserts the English Monarchy to be absolute and unlimited, at least that in its Original and Essential Constitution it is so, and cannot be otherwise. We cannot but reflect on the ill design, or ill conduct of some who in their Discourses on this Subject, have transcribed out of their common places all the great things which any Princes have asserted to themselves, or have been ascribed to them by ambitious flatterers, or have been acquired by them in overreaching Compacts, or by a violent force; and have without any restriction or exception, applied them to the Monarch of our Island, as if there could be but one sort of Government in the world, or that ours did eminently include all the Prerogatives that can be conceived in speculation, or can be found to be ascribed to any King or Emperor in any Part, or Age of the World.
Upon this Principle they have exalted the English Monarch into as Absolute and Arbitrary a Sovereign, as any Emperour of Rome or Constantinople; they make his Will the sole spring of our Government, from which it is originally derived, and into which it must be ultimately resolved: they allow to an English Parliament no more power than to give some inauthoritative Advice, which the King may use or neglect as he thinks fit. They think a Coronation Oath, whatever it may be with respect to God, yet with respect to the People, is only a customary Ceremony, or insignificant Formality. They suppose all legal limitations of the Government to be but the King’s arbitrary and temporary Condescentions, which he may retract without doing any Injury to the People; and, in a word, that all our Laws are entirely dependent on His Pleasure for their Being, Continuance, and Influence; but his Will is in all Cases unaccountable and irresistible. Such Maxims as these quite alter the Frame of our EnglishGovernment, raise up our King into a Tyrant, and depress his Subjects into Slaves, and serve only to render the King odious, and his People miserable; and therefore, as no wise Man can forbear wishing that they may not be true, so upon enquiry we shall find that they have been advanced either by the Fondness of some, who frame Schemes of Government in their own imagination; or by the Ignorance of others, who are deceived with the sound of the aequivocal Name of King, or by the Craft of those who make a Trade of advancing the Prerogative, in order to their own Advancement. Indeed if the preceding Principle had proved true, That Monarchy is a Divine Institution, it would be necessary for us to grant, that no other Form of Government could be mixed with it, or That be restrained by any Limitations, because it cannot be lawful for Man to adulterate or infringe the Ordinance of God: But seeing the Jus Divinum doth not appear, we have reason to suppose that our English Government is built on the Topical Constitutions of this Countrey, and may differ from the Government of other Countreys, as much as our Tempers, Interests, and Circumstances do. For, if the Supreme Governor of the World hath not thought fit to prescribe One Form of Government to be everywhere observed, he hath permitted to every Nation a Liberty of framing to themselves such a Constitution as may be most useful and agreeable; and as it is inconceivable that all Nations should conspire in the same Platform of Governments; so it is most unreasonable to seek in Judea, Italy, or France, for the Measures or Properties of the English Government, which was made, and is therefore to be found only at Home, and should be described rather from its own Laws and Constitutions, than any fine Notions we can conceive of what it might or should be. And if we contemplate the Government itself, we may easily discover what its essential Forms and Properties are; for surely a Government that hath been publickly transacted through so many Ages, and hath made so great a Figure in the world, cannot remain an imperceptible Secret, or an unintelligible Mystery; and I cannot forbear suspecting those, who disguise it with so many Uncertainties and Obscurities, that they design to mislead us into a mistake of that which they will not allow us to understand. A little skill in our English History will suffice to inform us, That the Saxons and English, from whom this Nation is chiefly descended, did first introduce the Form of our English Government, and that it was the same they had been inured to in Germany; where, as Tacitus observes, Regibus nec infinita aut libera potestas: Kings had not an Absolute or Unlimited Power. And from the ancient Records of those early Times we are assured, That the Consent of the People in a Convention or Parliament, did always concur to the making of Laws; and also their Consent in a Jury of Peers was always admitted in the Execution of Them: Whence the People of England have been always acknowledged to be Free-men. And though we read that the Saxons were subdued by the Danes, yet we find not that their Government was changed, but that, after a short Interruption, the Government and Country returned entirely into the Hands of the Saxons. The Duke of Normandy, whom we call the Conqueror, was such only with respect to Harold, who usurped the Crown, but not with respect to the Kingdom, which he claimed as Successor to King Edward, to whom he was related, by whom he was adopted, and from whom he had received a solemn Promise of the next Reversion; and accordingly we find, that though he made some external Changes in the Government, yet he made no essential Alteration in the Form of it; and the same kind of Government hath been transmitted by succeeding Kings to the present Age, with some accidental Improvements, as our Ancestors grew wiser by Experience, or the Necessities and Interests of the Nation did require. Now, inasmuch as our English Government was at first transplanted out of another Countrey, and hath been ripened into a Perfection by several degrees through a long tract of Time, it would be very fanciful to suppose one solemn time when the Original Compact between the King and People was first made, or to ask after a Book in which it is in a certain Form recorded; that Compact being nothing else than a tacit Agreement between the King and Subjects to observe such common Usages and Practices, as by an immemorial Prescription are become the Common-Law of our Government. And to understand these, so far as our present Case requires, there is no necessity that we should read over all the Records in the Tower, or all the Volumes of our English History, there being several ancient Forms and Customs among us, which fall under easie Observation, that are sufficient to inform us of the Nature of our English Government. For when at a Coronation we see a King presented to the People, and their Consent solemnly asked and given, what can we reasonably infer from thence, but that anciently Kings were advanced to their Thrones by the Consent and Agreement of the People? When we hear the King solemnly Promise and Swear to maintain to the People their Rights and Liberties, to conserve the Laws, and cause them to be observed; must we not conclude from thence, that there are Rights and Liberties reserved to the People; that the Will of the King is limited by the Law of the Realm: and that he is bound by His Oath to conserve the Laws, as we are by Ours to observe them? When we are taught to call the King our Leige-Sovereign, and ourselves his Leige-Subjects; do not those Terms import, that he is bound to protect Us in All our Rights, as we are bound to obey Him in All his Laws? When we read in the Preamble of every Statute, That it is enacted not only by the Authority of the King’s most Excellent Majesty, but also by the Authority of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and of the Commons assembled in Parliament; is it not very evident from hence, that the Parliament hath a share in the Legislative Power, which is an eminent Branch of the Supreme Authority in this Kingdom? From these, and other such easie Observations, any impartial unprejudiced person will certainly conclude, that our English Government, according to its Essential Constitution, is a mixture of Three Forms of Government; for he observes a Monarchy in the King, an Aristocracy in the Peers, and a Democracy in the Commons; all which share in that Part of the Sovereignty which consists in making Laws. And though our Government be called a Monarchy, because That Kind is predominant in the Constitution, according to the known Rule, That the Denomination is to be taken from the Excelling Part, the King having not only a share in the Nomothetick Power, but also the whole Executive Power committed to Him; yet we cannot but conclude, from the foregoing Observations, That our Monarchy is not Absolute and Unlimited; that the Law is the stated Rule and Measure of our Government; and that the Law cannot be made, altered, or annulled, by the sole Pleasure of the King: but as it is the first determinate Rule by which the King is to Govern, and the People to Obey, so it is to be made or changed only by the Consent of Both in a Parliament. I might confirm all this, by transcribing out of Books several Testimonies which occur in the Declarations of Parliaments, in the Writings of Judges, and others Learned in the Law: but as these would make a Letter too tedious, so they are unnecessary to an unprejudiced Considerer, and by others would be suspected of partiality to the People of whom they are a part. I shall therefore only add the Testimony of King Charles the I. who of all men had most reason to study, understand, and assert the Rights of the English Monarchy. He freely declares, in his Answer to the Nineteen Propositions,1 p. 96, “That there being Three Kinds of Government among Men, Absolute Monarchy, Aristocracy, and Democracy; and all these having their particular Conveniences and Inconveniences: the Experience and Wisdom of our Ancestors hath so moulded This out of a mixture of These, as to give to this Kingdom (as far as Human Prudence can provide) the Conveniences of all Three, without the Inconveniences of any One.” He also, in the same Answer, affirms, “That in this Kingdom the Laws are jointly made by a King, by a House of Peers, and by a House of Commons.” He likewise affirms in his Declaration from Newmarket,2 “That the Law is the Measure of his Power.” And in another Declaration to the Ministers and Freeholders of the County of York,3 he acknowledgeth, “That his Prerogatives are built upon the Law of the Land.”
From these and other such Passages which frequently occur in the Writings of the King, who so earnestly disputed for the Rights of the Crown, we may be abundantly convinced that the English Monarchy is not unmixt, or unlimited; and cannot therefore enough admire the lewd presumption of others, who have dared to attempt a change in our English Government, who prefer the extremes of Tyranny and Slavery to the just temperament of our English Constitution; who have laboured to tempt our Kings into an affectation of absolute and arbitrary Power, and have miserably overlayed the Consciences of their Fellow-subjects with a boundless unlimited dread of a boundless unlimited Power.
3. There are also great mistakes about the measures of our Obedience and Submission, which are necessary to be removed before our Consciences can make a free and impartial determination of the Case before us. We have been told it often, and with great earnestness, that we are bound in Conscience to yield an active Obedience to the King in all cases not countermanded by God, and to resist him in no case whatsoever. If indeed the two foregoing Errors had stood the proof, this would have followed by necessary consequence: for if a Monarch be jure Divino, he must be absolute; and if he be so, there is no case, not excepted by God, in which we must not obey him, and none at all in which we may resist him; but then we may make this advantage from the connexion which these Errors have one to another, That if one of them be refuted, the rest must necessarily fall with it: and if according to the English Principles premised, our Government be founded on the Constitutions of this Country, and according to those Constitutions be mixt and limited, then there may be some cases in which it may be lawful for us not to obey the King, and not unlawful to resist him.
For though it may be true, that we are bound to obey actively whatever is commanded by the Legislative Power of the Kingdom, and is not repugnant to any Law of God; yet we cannot assert so much with respect to the King only, because he having not the whole Legislative Power, an Act of his private Will is destitute of that Authority which can derive an obligation upon Conscience: although therefore a King may require things not inconsistent with the Law of God, yet if they are beyond that Authority which the Constitutions of England have assigned to him, his Subjects are not bound in conscience to obey those Commands; and though in some cases they may comply by a voluntary Concession, yet they are obliged to condemn and withstand such proceedings if they increase so far as to threaten a fatal subversion of the Government. But how can we defend ourselves against any exorbitant Acts of the King’s private Will, if disarmed and fettered by the Doctrines of passive Obedience and Nonresistance? what may not a King do, and a People suffer, if no defence may be used? I do not here forget to consider what submission God hath required to that Supreme Authority which he hath instituted, or what honour and reverence we are to pay to those Governors who sustain and administer it; nor how impatient men ordinarily are of the yoak of Government, and how apt to inlarge their liberty into licentiousness; nor how pernicious disorder and confusion must needs be to any Society; and therefore I use the utmost Caution I can to steer aright amidst the Rocks on the one hand, and the Sands on the other, that I may not make shipwrack of a good Conscience. I therefore premise and sincerely acknowledg, as I have learned from St. Paul, that Every soul must be subject to theSupreme Authority which God hath instituted, and that if he resist, he is worthy of condemnation: and according to St. Jude, that we must not despise dominions, or speak evil of dignities; and that those untameable Spirits which are impatient of Government, are like wild Beasts made to be destroyed. I have also learned from St. Peter, to submit to every ordinance of men for the Lord’s sake, whether to the King as supreme, or to Governors sent by him, so as not to disobey or resist them in the use of that Authority which the Constitutions of the Kingdom have assigned to them. I have from the same Apostle learned farther to be subject with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward: so that if a King in the administration of his Government should be too sparing in his Rewards, and over severe in his Justice; if too hard to be pleased, and as hard to be propitiated, I must be contented; if he injure me in my private interests, I must rather submit than oppose a private to a publick good; or if the publick Affairs of the Kingdom sustain any detriment or mischief from his Male-administration, yet if it be such as will consist with the being of the Government and the Safety of the People, it should rather be born patiently, than redressed by a violent opposition. I acknowledge also that in all cases not certain and notorious, the Subject ought to presume the Right to be rather on his Prince’s side than on his own; and never to think any oppressions intolerable till they are evidently such, or to call for a violent redress, till they appear otherwise irremediable, I must acknowledge also that I can see no Right the Subject hath from the Law of God or Man, to use any other resistance against a King than what is defensive, or to proceed judicially against him, or to inflict any punishment on his Person for any defaults of Government, because there can be no Authority in our Kingdom superior to that with which the King is invested. Yet after all these concessions it must be confessed that the Regal Power being in its Constitution limited, and in its Exercise liable to be abused, there may such cases happen wherein defensive resistance may be not only lawful, but a necessary Duty. And if we may not lie for God, much less may we do it in flattery to any Man; and if Subjects may not be defrauded of their Estates, no more should they be of their Liberties, to prevent their abuse of them. Wherefore to speak out plainly, and honestly in a case wherein Conscience is so much concerned, I must add, that we are not bound in Conscience to yield Passive Obedience to the King any farther than that Regal Authority extends, which the Constitutions of this Kingdom have invested him with; and that those Constitutions do not impower him to treat his Subjects according to his own private Will, but according to the publick rule of the Law; and by consequence, whatever grievance is without or contrary to Law, the Subject is not bound in Conscience to bear it, with respect to the King who had no authority to impose it, though he may be sometimes, with respect to the publick Peace; and if Officers be appointed by the King to oppress his Subjects contrary to Law, their Commissions being illegal, must be without authority: and therefore the Subject is not bound in Conscience to submit to them, but may resist their injust assaults, if he cannot otherwise evade them, and do not disturb the Publick Peace by the defence of his private Interests. And if we may suppose a case so sad, as that a King through ill counsel or some strong temptation should be changed from a Father into the Enemy of his Country; and should with an immoveable obstinancy ingage himself in such illegal designs, as plainly and inevitably tend to the Subversion of the Government and the Destruction of the People; his Subjects in such unhappy circumstances will be excusable before God, if they use so much defensive resistance as he hath made necessary for preserving the Government and themselves. For if in Nature a People is presupposed to Government, and Rulers are intended by God for the welfare of a People, and not a People for the pleasure of their Rulers, it will be most reasonable to infer, that when the End and the Means become inconsistent, the End should be preferred, and those Means prevented or rejected, which would destroy the End they should promote.
But these things are so easily anticipated by the common sense and reason of mankind, that there needs no long discourse about them; and they are indeed too irksom to an ingenuous mind to dwell long upon them: and though our extraordinary case at present hath made it necessary to say so much, yet I hope a like case will never happen again, to give occasion to Subjects to consider so minutely, the limits of the Regal Power, and of their own submission.
2. Having now rescued our Consciences from the prejudices of the foregoing Errors, we may be capable of making an impartial judgment of the case propounded, Whether we can with a good Conscience transfer our Allegiance from the late to the present King? Allegiance in its primary general sense signifies, being obliged or bound; in its political sense it imports that kind of relation which refers a Subject to his Prince, and by consequence it connotes the duties which result from that relation. And taking the word in its fullest latitude, there will arise these two difficulties to be distinctly resolved.
1. Whether our Consciences are discharged from Allegiance to the late King?
2. Whether we can with a good Conscience transfer our Allegiance to the present King, though not the immediate Heir of the Crown?
1. In resolving the former enquiry it will be necessary to premise, that our Allegiance to James the Second was not to his Person absolutely, but respectively, as he sustained the Character of King; and therefore as we owed no Allegiance to him before he was King, so neither can we owe him any now, if he cease to be so; and I think it too plain to need any proof, that it is possible that a person may cease to be King, though he still survive; and that a relation ceaseth when one of its Terms is lost. If therefore it appears, That James the Second doth cease to be our King, though he be still alive, our Allegiance to him will be sufficiently discharged; and that he doth cease to be our King, may, I suppose, be evinced from the following Considerations.
1. If James the Second did with an immoveable obstinacy ingage himself in such illegal and pernicious designs as were notoriously subversive of the Government, and destructive of the People, he did thereby cease de jure to be our King, and our Allegiance to him is by consequence discharged. The Title of King includes both an Office to be discharged, and an Estate to be injoyed, but the latter is an appendant to the former; when therefore he ceaseth to govern and protect his People according to the Laws of this Kingdom, his Right must so far cease to that Power, Dignity, or Revenue, which were assigned to him for that end, except we can imagine some things to have a moral power of subsisting, when the reason of them is gone. And as the Office of the King is directed by the publick rule of the Law, so the right which any person can have to the Regal Estate, must be founded on the Constitutions of the Realm; and these Constitutions must either invest him with an absolute Right irrespective to his Office, and then he would be an absolute Monarch, which is before disproved; or else it must be a conditional Right, respecting the Office he is to discharge, and then the Right in Equity must cease, upon the nonperformance of the condition. Supposing also that a Person’s Right to the Real Estate be founded on the Civil Constitutions of our Government, if he will set himself to subvert those Constitutions, he cannot thereby but Undermine and Destroy his own Right which was superstructed on them. And if he obstinately refuse to discharge the Regal Office according to the proper fixt rule of the Law, though he still usurp the title of King, yet he is become quite another thing, such as our English Constitutions assign no Authority to, and to which we are not supposed to owe any Allegiance, and which we cannot recognize without becoming Accessaries to the most illegal practices, and deriving on ourselves the heinous guilt of contributing to the ruine of the Government and our Selves.
And as such a determination of the Case is most consonant to reason, so it is most agreeable to the antient principles and practices of England. By a Law made in King Edward the Confessor’s time, it is declared, That if a King doth not perform his Office, he shall not retain so much as the name of a King. We read also that Sigebert King of the West-Saxons, being incorrigibly Proud and Wicked, he was, in the beginning of the second year of his Reign, by the Nobles, and the People of the whole Kingdom assembled together, upon mature deliberation, and by unanimous consent of them, all driven out of his Kingdom.
Thus also King John having broken his Coronation-Oath, and endeavoured by many ways to inslave both the Church and the Realm, after many applications, and a defensive War waged by the Barons against him, it was at last agreed, that if he did again return to his former wicked Courses, the Barons should be forever released from all Allegiance to him; and when he afterward relapsed into the same courses, they in a general Assembly with the approbation of all the Realm, adjudged him unworthy to be King.
We find also that King Edward the Second for following Evil Counsel, and refusing to hearken to good counsel, for his pride and arrogance, for breaking his Coronation Oath, for wasting his Kingdom, and being found incorrigible and past all hopes of amendment, was by advice and assent of all the Prelates, Earles and Barons, and of the whole communitie of the Kingdom deposed from the Government. I shall add only one instance more of King Richard the Second, to whom his Parliament sent Messengers to declare to him, among other things, that they find in an antient Statute, and it hath been done in fact not long ago, that if the King through any evil counsel, or foolish contumacy, or out of Scorn, or some petulant wilfulness, or any other irregular way shall alienate himself from his people, and shall refuse to be governed and guided by the Laws of the Realm, and the Statutes, and laudable Ordinances thereof, together with the wholsome advice of the Lords and great Men of his Realm, but persisting headstrong in his own mad counsels,shall petulantly prosecute his own private humour, that then it shall be lawfull for them with the common assent and consent of the people of the Realm, to depose that same King from his Regal Throne, and to set up some other of the Royal Family in his place.
These Testimonies which I met with in a late Pamphlet, and which I am assured from an able hand to be faithfully recited, and of an unsuspected credit, I have abridged and transcribed, to confirm that truth on which the Argument is built, that according to our English Constitutions, a person may forfeit his Regal Rights, and cease de jure to be King; and that according to the antient Statutes and irreprovable Usages of this Country, the Nobles and Commons of England may remove such a person from the Government, when necessary to prevent a general ruine otherwise inevitable. Now that the Late King had brought matters to so great an extremity, as is in the Argument supposed, is evident from many instances so recent and notorious, that it was lately acknowledged by all of us in the lowdest Complaints. We saw him attempting to subvert our Parliaments, by corrupting their Elections with the meanest arts, and using his power to pervert or frustrate their counsels. We heard those high strains in which he claimed an absolute and arbitrary Power, our Laws were trampled on in illegal dispensations, and the most partial Execution; Some were disseised of their Freehold without a trial, and levies of Mony were made without and against Law; Our Religion and Church, which are the best of all those interests which are secured to us by a legal Establishment, were so boldly threatened and attacked, that we seemed to enjoy them but precariously, and to be in danger of seeing them speedily ravished from us. And when we consider that the late King was instigated and conducted in these exorbitant courses by the Jesuits and the French King who have long since convinced the World, that they dare to perpetrate any mischief or wickedness that will advance their glory, and promote their interests: When also we consider that he proceeded in these courses with so obstinate a resolution, that when his Peers indeavoured to reclaim him by advice, they only thereby lost his favour and all their Preferments; and when some of his Bishops petitioned him in the humblest manner, they were answered only with fury and imprisonment. When lastly, we consider how far he had advanced in this way, that we already began to despair, and our Enemies to triumph; and if our Glorious Deliverer had not timely intervened, we might have been, in a few months, past all hopes of Recovery; We may surely upon these considerations be allowed to conclude, That England could not be in more danger, or any Prince lie under juster exceptions, or a people be more disobliged from their Allegiance. There are some who say, that if the League with France, the Imposture of a young Prince, the Murder of the Earl of Essex, &c. were clearly proved, they should not be able to contain themselves from renouncing all Allegiance to him; But though these may perchance be proved in due time, yet if they never are, there is certainly enough and too much besides to satisfy any reasonable Man.
2. If James the Second deserted the Kingdom without any necessity but what he induced on himself, and if he made no provision for the administration of the Government in his absence, but by taking away the publick Seals and cancelling the Writs of Parliament, designed to obstruct all regular proceedings; and if also he hath put himself into the hands of the French King the greatest Enemy of our Religion and Country,4without whom he cannot return to us, and with whom he cannot return without apparent ruine to his Kingdom, he doth thereby cease de facto to be our King, and we become discharged from all further Allegiance to him. I suppose few would hesitate in granting such a conclusion, if the Late King had by a writing under his hand and seal solemnly abdicated the Government; but I know not what mighty force there is in a form of Words for renouncing the Government, that it may not be as effectually performed by a proper and notorious fact; or that a King may not as well renounce his Crown by doing it, as by saying it; and it is the thing itself and not the way of expressing it, which is the ground on which the relation between a King and his Subjects is dissolved; and therefore if a King doth actually desert his People, his Government and their Obedience must thereupon actually cease. You would perchance easily allow the argument, if the King had withdrawn deliberately and of choice, but it is said that he was rather hurried out of his Kingdom, by force and fear. It will be therefore necessary to relate to you the History of that transaction, which according to the truest account that I can meet with, is this: When the King went hence the first time, the Prince and his Armie were at a great distance, and a Treaty between them was pretended, but he left the City before his Commissioners could return with an Answer to his Demands; and it is certain that the Treaty was but a delusive Pretence, and that his Departure was resolved on some Days before; for he himself declared to a Person of Credit, that the Queen had obtained from him a Solemn Oath upon the Sacrament, on the Sunday, that if she went away for France on Monday, he would not fail to follow her on Tuesday; Which he accordingly attempted, and we are very well assured, that though his Subjects used some Force to hinder his Flight,5 yet they used none to compel him to it. When he left this City the second time, he received a Message from the Prince, which desired him to withdraw some few Miles from London, lest the Army coming thither, and Whitehall being thronged with Papists, some Disorders might thence arise, not consistent with the Publick Peace or the King’s Safety; but we are sure that it was altogether of his own Choice that he went first to Rochester, and thence out of the Kingdom.
If you reply that the late King being deserted by his Subjects, and exposed naked to the Prince’s Power, was brought under a necessity of flying. I must answer, that that Necessity was not absolute, but conditional: For the Prince (to whom he lately allowed the Character of being always Just to his Word) had assured him in his Declaration, that if he would suffer the Grievances of his People to be redressed in a Free Parliament, his Army should peaceably depart. And not a few of his Nobles, and others, did earnestly beseech him to comply with those Terms, and solemnly assure him that in such a Compliance, they would faithfully adhere to him. If therefore the late King would have returned to the English Government, he need not have left the Kingdom: but if he chose rather to depose and banish himself, than acknowledg and correct the Errors of his Government, or let fall those glorious Projects of advancing Popery and an Arbitrary Power in England, we have no Reason to think such a wilful Necessity which he imposed upon himself, a sufficient Excuse for deserting his Kingdom; but rather to conclude, that if he would rather leave us, than leave off to oppress us, we are happily released from our Allegiance and Oppression together. Yet if we should impute his Flight rather to the weakness of his Fear, than to the obstinacy of his Resolution; I do not see how the same Conclusion can be avoided. For if he leave off to administer the Government himself, and rather hinder than promote its Administration by others, the course of the Government is thereby stoped, and either this Nation must disband into Confusion, or we are necessitated to seek out and employ some other Expedient. If you think that he might in short time overcome his Fears, and return to his People and Government, even this Hope is fatally precluded, by his making himself a Royal Prisoner to the French King, from whom he can expect only, to be used and managed as will most contribute to the Designs and Interests of that Haughty Monarch; insomuch that we cannot conceive his Return possible, without the Consent and Conduct of Him whom he hath made his Patron, and without the dreadful attendance of a French Army, and the dismal Consequence of utter Ruine to our Church and Nation. And surely that Prince who can forsake his People, and abandon them out of his Care, and make it impossible to return, except as an Enemy to vanquish and destroy them, may very well be thought to cease de facto to be a King, and his Subjects to owe any Allegiance to him.
3. If the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and the Commons of England assembled in the late Convention, have upon mature Deliberation resolved and declared, that James the 2d hath abdicated the Government and vacated the Throne; we may be satisfactorily confirmed from their Authority and Judgment, that he ceaseth to be our King, and we to be his Subjects. That they have fully and expresly asserted so much, I need not prove; and their Testimony is so proper and authentick in the present case, that we may with good Reason suffer ourselves to be concluded by it. For the matter of the Enquiry consists of several ancient Laws and customary Usages of this Kingdom, of which the two Houses are the most competent Judges; and they representing the whole Nation, and being by our Choice commissioned to consider and determine this Case for us, we cannot with any Modesty or Equity reject their Determination. If also we consider, that in all Cases of a like Nature, the Nobles and People of England by their Representatives, have usually and finally determined them; and that upon the late King’s withdrawing, the chief Power of the Nation could reside nowhere rather than in the two Houses, it seems according to our English Constitutions, to be the Duty of private Men to submit to such a publick Judgment. And indeed, if such a solemn Assembly of the three Estates of the Kingdom, after a long and serious Consultation upon the Case, shall not be thought sufficient to determine it, I wonder who can, or may do it? For as particular Persons are less capable of making so exact a Judgment, so if every one should undertake to decide it, we must be reduced thereby into a helpless state of utter Confusion.
Secondly, The other Difficulty in the present Case to be considered, is, Whether we may lawfully transfer our Allegiance to the present King, he being not the next immediate Heir? I may here presuppose that our present King is acknowledged by the World to be so eminently indued with all Royal Virtues and Abilities, and to have obliged the Gratitude of this Nation with so glorious and happy a Deliverance; that every wise and good Man among us cannot but be ready to address an hearty Allegiance to him, if it can appear lawful for him to do so; and where the Heart is so well inclined, it will not be difficult to convince the Judgment, if we consider these few Particulars.
1. That according to our English Constitutions it is not necessary that the next immediate Heir should succeed. For if we review in History the ancient Usages and Practices of our Country, which are the Common Law of our Government, we shall find, that, though the Crown hath been usually appropriated to the Royal Family, and in that Latitude is said to be Hereditary; yet it hath very frequently passed over the next Heir to some other Branch of the Family, which was thought more capable of promoting the publick Ends of the Government in its present Circumstances. And we find no publick Censure ever passed upon such a King, or his Authority and Government in the least disabled thereby. And to make this matter unquestionably evident to any Man who is not far gone in the Conceit, that the Inheritance or Succession of the Crown is Jure divino, I add that the Kings of England have been allowed by the whole Legislative Power of this Nation to dispose of the Crown by their Nomination, which, as it may suppose that they would not give it out of the Royal Family, so it must suppose that it was not necessary it should descend to the immediate Heir; for he being determined by Nature, could receive no Advantage from such a Nomination. Thus particularly it was allowed to Henry the Eighth, and he, according to the Statute in that behalf, setled the Crown on his Son Edward, and the Remainder on his Daughters Mary and Elizabeth, both which could not be Heirs. And we find it also enacted in the 13th of Elizabeth that whoever should maintain in her Time that she and her Parliament might not limit the Descent of the Crown, should incur the Guilt of High-Treason, and after her Life, the Forfeiture of his Goods. From which Authentick Testimonies we cannot conclude less, than that it is not necessary that the next immediate Heir should always succeed.
2. Let us consider that our Allegiance being removed from the late King, it must be referred to some other Person, and we can think of none for whose sake we may justly deny it to the present King. The pretended Prince of Wales lying under such a general and vehement suspicion of being an Impostor, and being at present under the Conduct and disposal of the King of France, we see in him more Reasons to dissuade than invite our Allegiance. Our present Queen, who is the next immediate Heir, is not pretermitted; and though she hath a Consort in the Royal Dignity, yet he is such as was by Marriage become one with her, and who was admitted to the Partnership, not without her Advice and Consent. And the King himself being a Branch of the Royal Family, not far removed in the Succession, and who by the late glorious Enterprize hath retrieved the Right of both the Royal Sisters, and secured the Government itself from Subversion, it cannot but seem very indecent and unjust to overlook him in our Allegiance. If, lastly, we consider that the Protestant Interest in Christendom, and the Civil Interests of our own Nation, and of some of our best Neighbours are at present in most imminent and extraordinary Danger, which in Human Probability is not to be avoided but by the Prowess and Conduct of this Illustrious Prince, whom God hath by a Special Providence raised up among us; we cannot but conclude, that the Series of Providence, and the Necessity of Affairs, have determined our Allegiance to His Majesty; and that they seem to be unreasonably nice, who can sacrifice such great Interests to an empty Formality.
3. The great Council of the Nation having actually invested our King with the Royal Dignity, he hath thereby a Right to our Allegiance, and according to the Laws of this Realm, we become punishable in refusing it, and are indemnified in performing it, although his antecedent Title to the Crown may not be such as to exclude all Exception. So great an Article of State as this can be fit to be decided only by the Wisdom of the Nation in the most Solemn Assembly; and when so decided, ought to be submitted to by all private Persons, or all Settlement must be an impracticable thing: and if our Laws should not be executed according to such an authentick Determination, the Government seems to be at a stop, beyond all hopes of reviving into Motion. I wish that they who pretend or perplex their Consciences about such Affairs, would consider seriously whether they are proper or capable Judges of such Matters, and whether their Consciences may not be better conducted by the Resolution of such as are; whether they behave themselves as becomes private Persons, who oppose their Sentiments to the publick Judgment, or whether any Government can subsist if such a Presumption be not restrained? For my own part I am verily persuaded, that in all Civil Cases, decided by their proper Judges, my Conscience ought to acquiesce, and if I may be thereby misled into any Error, it will be without Guilt before God. And I am also informed that by a Statute made 11 Hen. 7. we are legally indemnified in paying our Allegiance to the King in being; if we continue faithful therein, however infirm his Title may afterwards appear; and therefore I cannot see what Danger can affright us from our Allegiance, or with what Safety we can refuse it.
Thirdly, I have now given you my Resolution of the chief Difficulties in the Case propounded, and the Reasons on which it is built; and I can think of nothing more requisite to your Satisfaction, except to shew how this Resolution doth consist with all the Obligations which may affect a good Conscience in the present Case; which are, I suppose, chiefly these three, viz. the Prescriptions of that Holy Religion we profess; the Solemn Oaths we have taken, or the Declaration we have subscribed; and the avowed Principles and Doctrines of this Church in whose Communion we live.
1. As to the first. The Rule of our Religion being the Holy Scriptures, nothing can be inconsistent with one, which is not repugnant to the other; and according to the best of my Understanding, the principles I have proceeded upon, do not disagree with any Sacred Text, rightly interpreted. The first King of Israel we meet with in the Old Testament is Saul, who was advanced to the Throne as well by God’s Institution, as the People’s Election, and who was according to the People’s desire, an absolute Monarch, like the other Kings in those Eastern Countries: But this, thanks be to God, is not our Case, who live under a mixt Government, and a Monarchy limited by the fundamental Constitutions of this Realm. And yet I cannot but observe how David (who is usually prescribed as an eminent Pattern of Loyalty) thought it lawful to raise a band of Souldiers for a defensive Resistance against the unjust Persecutions of Saul, though an absolute Prince; and surely we may conclude a minori ad majus, that such a defensive Resistance cannot be less lawful, when apparently necessary to preserve a whole People from imminent Ruine. I remember our Lord’s determination, that his Kingdom is not of this World: and as I think we rightly infer from thence, that there is no secular Force belonging to his Kingdom for inlarging its Borders, or securing its Interests; so I can see nothing in these words to hinder, but that when any of the Kingdoms of this World is become the Kingdom of Christ, by incorporating his Religion among its civil Constitutions, then we may use any Expedients for the defence of our Religion which we might use in defending any other Priviledges of our Civil Establishment. Our Lord hath taught us, to render unto Cesar the things that are Cesar’s; and his Apostle, that we must render to all Men their Dues, Tribute to whom Tribute is due, Custom to whom Custom, Fear to whom Fear, and Honour to whom Honour; but they have left us to the Constitutions of our Country to determine, what the things of Cesar are, what Custom and Tribute is due, and when to be paid. I have already had occasion to consider the Doctrine of St. Paul and St. Peter concerning our duty of Submission to the Supreme Authority, and to those who administer it; And upon the general review of the whole, he seems to me to do the part of a good Christian as well as of a good Englishman, who hath on his Mind an awful regard for the Supreme Authority which is of divine Institution, who will not refuse an Active Obedience to the Laws of our Legislators, if consistent with the Laws of God; who can readily submit to the King, and to those that are commissioned by him, in the Execution of those Laws; who pays the highest Civil Honour to the King as the Supreme Magistrate of the Kingdom; who makes the most candid and honourable Constructions He can of all his Prince’s Actions; who can quietly submit to any acts of Government, though they seem very unjust and grievous to his private Interests; and who never thinks a defensive Resistance lawful but when apparently necessary to save a Kingdom from utter Ruin. He that can do all this, is a good Proficient in his Religion, for he will find it not very easy to Flesh and Blood to go so far. But they who are not content with any Notion of Religion which will not expose to ruin the Kingdom that embraceth it, do but traduce our Holy Religion, and expose it to the Contempt and Hatred of the World.
2. Let us next consider how the Resolution I have given, will consist with the Oaths we have taken, and the Declaration we have Subscribed. You will here give me leave to premise that the Forms we have sworn or subscribed, are not to be taken carelessly according to the meer sound of words, but are to be understood according to the Sense which they plainly express, and which appears to be intended by our Superiors in imposing them. And if we consider our Oaths and Declaration according to this Rule, we shall discover that they have brought upon us no new degree of Allegiance or Subjection, which was not always due according to the ancient Fundamental Constitutions of this Kingdom; that we have hereby lost none of our English Rights and Liberties; nor the King enlarged his Prerogative beyond what it always was and ought to be; and therefore if according to the ancient Constitutions of this Kingdom, the Government is mixt and the Monarchy limited, so it continues. If the Freemen of England were before these Oaths bound to no Active or Passive Obedience beyond what the Law of the Land prescribes, they are bound to no more since; and if it was formerly lawful for the People of England in an extreme necessity, to remove a King whose Government was became inconsistent with the Publick-Weal, and to set up another by whom the publick Interest may be secured, it is as lawful still notwithstanding these Oaths we have taken, or the Declaration we have subscribed. And to evince this more satisfactorily, let us descend to Particulars.
1. The Oath of Supremacy prescribed 1. Eliz. doth plainly appear from the Preamble and Body of the Act, and from all the parts of the Oath itself, to be intended only for asserting to the Queen a Supremacy over Ecclesiastical Persons, and in Ecclesiastical Causes, in opposition to the pretentions of the Pope and Court of Rome. When therefore it speaks of bearing Faith and true Allegiance to the Queen, and her Heirs, and lawful Successors, it is in opposition to all Foreign Jurisdictions, Powers, Superiorities and Authorities; and when it speaks of our assisting and defending her Jurisdictions, Preheminencies and Authorities, it is only of such as have been parted or belonging, or united and annexed to the Imperial Crown of this Realm. And that no new Power was hereby given to the Queen is evident, for when she was informed that this was by some pretended, she caused a Paper to be printed, called An Admonition to simple Men deceived by the Malicious, in which she declares,
That she would have all her loving Subjects understand, that nothing was, is, or shall be meant, or intended by the same Oath, to have any other Duty, Allegiance or Bond required by the same Oath, than was acknowledged to be due to Henry 8. And Edward 6.—and that her Majesty neither doth nor ever will challenge any other Authority than what was challenged and lately used by the said Noble King of Famous Memory, which is and was of ancient Times due to the Imperial Crown of this Realm; that is, under God to have the Sovereignty and Rule over all manner of Persons born within these Realms, Dominions and Countries, of what Estate either Ecclesiastical or Temporal soever they be; so as no other Foreign Power shall or ought to have any Superiority over them.
And to render this Exposition of the Queen more Authentick, we find it confirmed by an Act of Parliament 5 Eliz. wherein is this Proviso;
Provided also, That the Oath expressed in the said Act, made in the said First Year, shall be taken and expounded in such Form, as is set forth in an Admonition annexed to the Queen’s Majestie’s Injunctions, published in the First Year of her Majesty’s Reign; That is to say, to confess and acknowledg in her Majesty, her Heirs and Successors, none other Authority than that was challenged and lately used by the Noble King Henry 8. and Edward 6. as in the said Admonition more plainly may appear.
I think we may be abundantly satisfied from so express a Testimony both of the Queen and Parliament, that the Oath of Supremacy hath asserted no new Power to the Crown, nor derived any new Allegiance on the Subject, but hath only ingaged him to pay that Fealty, which an Englishman did always owe to his Prince; and if that be all, it doth no way contradict the Positions above asserted.
2. The Oath of Allegiance appointed by an Act 3. Jacob. 1. doth manifestly appear in the Body of the Act, and of the Oath itself, to be intended, not for making any new kind or degree of Allegiance, but only for asserting the old Allegiance of an Englishman against the novel Doctrines and Practices of the Pope or Court of Rome, which pretended to a Power of Excommunicating and Deposing Kings, and of releasing Subjects from their Allegiance, and of bestowing this Kingdome on some other Prince at the Pope’s pleasure. And that this Oath was intended only to assert our Allegiance in opposition to such Popish pretences, is evident from hence, that the Oath was at first appointed, and for some years was required, only of known or suspected Papists. And an Act of Parliament following 7. Jac. 1. declares concerning this Oath, that it is limited and prescribed, tending only to the Declaration of such Duty, as every true and well affected Subject, not only by bond of Allegiance, but also by the Commandment of Almighty God, ought to bear to the King his Heirs and Successors. We find also that King James doth professedly assert and defend no more in his Apology for this Oath, and in the Act of Parliament just before cited, that Apology is approved and commended. And it being in that very Act required that this Oath should be Administered not only to Papists, but also to all others his Majesty’s Subjects, we cannot conceive that our Legislators understood, or intended it in any other, than that limited and prescribed sense they had before acknowledged. From hence therefore we may infer, that this Oath doth secure the King against all Popish pretensions, but not against the English Constitutions; and that the Allegiance we have sworn is no more than was antecedently necessary from those constitutions, and by consequence that if according to those Constitutions a King may be removed from the Government, and his people be released from their Allegiance, so they may be still, notwithstanding anything expressed, or intended in the Form of this Oath. But now if some among us (which I fear is the case of many) do mistake the matter of this Oath, and think they have Sworn to another kind, or higher degree of Allegiance than our Legislators intended, they cannot but thereby inthrall their Consciences with great perplexities; and can no other way find Ease, than by stating the Obligation of their Oath, according to the intention of those Superiours who imposed it; and this may relieve them, for I suppose that though a Man may through mistake suppose his Obligation to be greater than it is, yet that a promissory Oath doth really oblige him no farther, than the party by whom the form of his Oath was prescribed, and he to whom it was made, may be reasonably supposed to intend and require. Thus for instance, if a Man thinks he hath sworn Allegiance to the person of him that is King, so as to be bound to him, whether he Administer the English Government, or set up another quite contrary to it; or that it obligeth him to obey the Acts of a King’s private Will, though without and contrary to Law; or that his Allegiance is not terminable but by death, although the person to whom he Swore, may long before cease de jure, or de facto to be King; and to mention only one case more, which I observe to be somewhat common, if any thinks, he hath sworn such an Allegiance to the King’s Heirs, and lawful Successors, as obligeth him in Conscience to find out who is the next immediate Heir, to assist him in acquiring the Crown, and to pay subjection to him and to no other; although the great Council, or the whole Legislative power of the Nation should see reason to determine otherwise; In these and other such Cases, it is plain that our Consciences are intangled, not with the real Obligations which are upon them, but with our mistakes about them; that we conceit an Allegiance which our Ancestors never knew, and our English Constitutions do not require or allow.
3. The Declaration we have subscribed according to the Act in 14 C. 2. is in these Words, That it is not lawful upon any pretence whatsoever to take Arms against the King; and that I do abhor that traiterous position, of taking Arms by his Authority against his Person, or against those that are Commissioned by him. Which Declaration may be considered, in the present case, either as it expresseth our own judgment, or as it expresseth the judgment of our Legislators, who required it. As it is our Declaration, it can only import, that when we subscribed it, our judgment was really such, as we then thought this form of words did properly express, but we did not hereby declare that we should never change that judgment, if convinced by sufficient Arguments, and therefore cannot be bound in Conscience never to think, or act contrary to that Declaration. But an Argument from this Declaration is of more force as it pleads the judgment and determination of our Legislators, which will therefore deserve to be more attentively considered. I acknowledg that this Form was intended, in direct opposition to the Rebellious principles and practices of the times immediately preceding, and must conclude that according to the judgment of this Parliament, King Charles the I. did never de jure fall from his Regal Right, and that consequently the War his Subjects waged against him was a Rebellion, and the positions on which they proceeded were traiterous; and that it is not lawful upon pretence of his Authority, or any other pretence whatsoever to take Arms against his person, who continues to be de jure King. In all which the Parliament doth declare no defensive Resistance to be unlawful, which was not always so, nor condemn any positions which are not in themselves antecedently traiterous; and whoever thinks that they intended more, must suppose that that Parliament altered the Constitutions of our English Government, and did by apparent consequence, expose the Nation to utter Destruction. And if any of us in subscribing the Declaration, had any other apprehensions of it; we may, and I think we should renounce and condemn them.
4.6 Let us in the last place consider how this resolution will agree with the received Principles and Doctrines of the Church of England. We need not, I know, profess so high a regard for our Church, as to think any doctrine upon her sole Authority, to be a Sufficient rule of our Faith or Conscience; and yet it cannot misbecome us to pay so great a deference to her Judgment, as never to depart from it without great regret. But upon second thoughts I find we shall be under no necessity of doing so; for though there have been for some time, a party among us who have appropriated to themselves the Church of England exclusive of their brethren; yet if we extend her Arms wide enough to embrace all her genuine children since the Reformation, we shall find enough on our side to justifie our doctrines to be consistent with her principles. Her Homilies nowhere, that I know of, assert the Errors I have here condemned, or condemn any of the positions I have here asserted. The Homilies of Obedience teach us to Submit to lawful Authority and to know our bounden duties to common Authority, but they teach us no loyalty, beside or contrary to law. The Homilies against Rebellion are particularly designed against the Papists, whose Rebellion was the occasion upon which they were written, and though they teach us not to resist our Prince if his Government be legal, however contrary to our Religion or any other interests, yet they nowhere forbid, a defensive resistance against illegal oppressions which threaten an inevitable ruin to our Country; for they describe the Rebellion they condemn to be no other than resisting or withstanding common Authority. And that the principles of loyalty which obtained in the Church at that time were no other than I have been now asserting, we may easily satisfie ourselves from that form of Prayer they are charged with by the Parliament, in Queen Mary’s reign, that God would turn her heart from Idolatry to the true Faith, or else shorten her dayes and take her quickly out of the way. Also from the Reasons which the Bishops presented to Queen Elizabeth to prove that she ought to take away the life of Mary Queen of Scots because an Enemy to their Religion and Country, though the next Heiress of the Crown; as Constantine did of Licinius his fellow Emperour because he was an Enemy of the Empire and of the Christian Religion; And to such as might object against their Reasons and advice they thus reply, If our danger be joined with the danger of our Gracious Soveraign and natural Country, we see not how we can be accounted godly Bishops or faithful Subjects if in common peril we should not cry out & givewarning: Or on the other hand how they can be thought to have true hearts toward God and toward their Prince and Country that will mislike our so doing, and seek thereby to discredit us. We may also know their principles in the present case from the Subsidies which the Clergy gave to the Queen in several Convocations in the fifth, thirty-fifth, and forty-third years of her Reign, for her maintaining and assisting the Scotch, French, and Dutch in their defence of their Liberties and Religion against the injust oppressions of their Princes, as may be collected out of the preambles of those Subsidy Acts. And if it were not too tedious, this might be fully attested out of the writings of such Bishops as were most eminent in those times.
Bishop Jewel speaking of Luther, Melancthon &c. hath these words They do not teach the people to rebel against their Prince, but only to defend themselves by all lawful means against oppression; as did David against King Saul, and so do the Nobles in France at this day. They seek not to kill, but to save their own lives, as they have openly protested by publick writing to the world. Bishop Bilson in his book of the true difference between Christian subjection and Unchristian Rebellion, dedicated to Queen Elizabeth, thus gives his Judgment concerning that defensive Resistance which the Hugonots used against the injust oppressions of their King. I will not, Saith he, rashly pronounce all that resist to be Rebels: Cases may fall out in Christian Kingdoms, where the people may plead their Right against the Prince and not be charged with Rebellion. As for example, if a Prince should go about to subject his Kingdom to a forreign Realm, or change the form of the Commonwealth from Empire to Tyranny, or neglect the Laws established by common consent of Prince and People, to execute his own pleasure. In these and other cases, which might be named, if the Nobles and Commons join together to defend their Ancient and accustomed Liberty, Regiment and Laws, they may not well be counted Rebels. In the next Reign, we have the judgment of Abbot Bishop of Salisbury, that the Case of the Primitive Christians and of us differs in this, that they had no legal Right for their Religion, but were subject to the meer pleasure of the Government. Andwhile it was so, Christians did suffer themselves to be killed, and killed none in their own defence; but when under Constantine the Emperour they had the Laws on their side, [Non tam caedebantur quam caedebant] they did not so much yield up themselves to be killed, as allow themselves to kill others in their just defence. Such were the principles of the Church of England in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, and King James; but indeed in the next Reign, when Popish and French Councils found admission at our Court, then arose together the New Principles of superconformity in the Church, and of Super Loyalty in the State; which like a preternatural ferment, have ever since disturbed the peace of both, and must be again cast out, if we ever recover a true English Temper, or a peaceful settlement. If then we frame our Character of the Church of England from the first and purest half of her Age, before she was secretly practised upon, by the Arts of her subtle Adversary, we shall easily discover, that her principles of Conformity and Loyalty are far more moderate and intelligible than those, which since that time, have been most industriously and impetuously recommended under her Venerable Name. And I wish that every one who professeth an Honourable and kind regard for our Church, would no longer ascribe to her such Principles and Doctrines, which she for many years was ignorant of; wherewith the Church hath given great advantage to her Enemies, and received nothing but Scorn and Contempts, and by which she may oblige the present Government to treat her with less kindness, than she might otherwise expect. But I forget that I am writing a Letter, and how much pardon I already need for running it into so great a length; but I thought it better to give you so long a trouble in reading, than to leave any trouble on your mind unremoved. I beseech you to excuse candidly the mistakes I may have committed; and to accept the Services of
Your Affectionate Brother and Faithful Friend, &c.
[1. ]See volume 1, 154.
[2. ]Charles I, “His Majesties Declaration to Parliament, in answer to that presented to him at Newmarket the ninth of March, 1641” (London, 9 March 1641/2), Wing C2801.
[3. ]Charles I, “His Majesties Declaration to the Ministers, Free-holders, etc. of the county of York, assembled at Heworth Moore” (York, and reprinted at London, 3 June 1642), Wing C2280.
[4. ]Louis XIV was regarded as a great enemy to Protestants when in 1685 he revoked the Edict of Nantes, which guaranteed the “irrevocable” right of French Huguenots to freedom of conscience. Louis proceeded to enact draconian measures to force them and their children to convert to Catholicism.
[5. ]James attempted to flee on 11 December 1688 but was intercepted and brought back. However, on reflection it seemed preferable to allow him to escape again.
[6. ]In the original this was incorrectly numbered 3.