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Zachary Taylor, Obedience and Submission to the Present Government - 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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Zachary Taylor, Obedience and Submission to the Present Government
[Zachary Taylor, 1653-1705]
LONDON, Printed for Robert Clavel at the Sign of the Peacock in St. Pauls-Church-Yard, 1690.
Zachary Taylor, who has been characterized as a hard-headed Whig, is regarded as author of this pamphlet. The tract illustrates the ironic transposition of the views held by radical Whigs and extreme Tories on obedience and resistance after the Glorious Revolution reversed their political fortunes.
Taylor was the son of a Presbyterian minister who had held a preferment in Ireland and served as a chaplain in the royal army there. By 1649 the family had moved to Cheshire and two years later to Lancashire. With the imposition of religious conformity in 1662 the elder Taylor was ejected from his living and turned to teaching for a livelihood. His son, Zachary, was born in Lancashire. In due course he attended Jesus College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1675 and received an M.A. in 1678. Like his father, the younger Taylor became a clergyman. In 1680 he was appointed vicar of Ormskirk in Lancashire and was still there ten years later when “Obedience and Submission to the Present Government” was published.
The tract was addressed to nonjurors and urged them to take the oath of allegiance to William and Mary. Taylor attempted to demonstrate the necessity for their pledge of loyalty by arguing from the tenets of Bishop John Overall’s Convocation Book. This collection of canons adopted by Convocation in 1606 included a denial of the subject’sright to resist an oppressive government or even a government that had been created by conquest or rebellion. Indeed, one of the reasons King James I had angrily rejected these canons was because of his vehement opposition to the teaching that any “thoroughly settled” government should be obeyed whatever its origins. Therefore, the canons of 1606 had never been formally approved. The Convocation Book was printed for the first time in 1690, more than eighty years later, when the Jacobites published it on the assumption it would help their cause. But Taylor turned its prescriptions against them by pointing to its stress on the necessity for obedience, not to the ousted king, but to de facto powers. He argues, as had the Tories before the Revolution, that government is not from the people but from God. He then concludes that the Glorious Revolution must be the will of God. In short he deftly turns Tory arguments against them. He defended the new government by their old theories, if not precisely the divine right of kings then the more traditional notion of the great sanctity of rulers and the necessity of obedience to authority.
“Obedience and Submission” appeared in two editions. Late in 1690 Thomas Wagstaffe published a tract that attacked it, and in the next year there appeared three essays, including one by Taylor, that defended its reasoning.
Obedience and Submission to the Present Government, &c.
THAT those of the Church of England, who have taken the Oaths to Their Majesties KING William and QUEEN Mary, have Deserted their Principles about Allegiance and Government, is the common Reflection cast upon them, by some, whom either Malice or Ignorance does Dispose to Reproach them: But since Bishop Overall’s Convocation-Book1 appeared, they now Plead Reason and Authority to Justify the Scandal, and pretend that they have got a whole Convocation of Unprejudiced and Learned Men, who have Unanimously Condemned the late Submission, and such, as being far removed from any Temptation, are the fittest and most fair Judges that we can be Determined by; (though their Proceedings not having the Royal Confirmation which is absolutely necessary for Canons,2 does (as some think) very much, if not altogether invalidate their Authority, and makes them as insignificant as the last Convocation we heard of).3 I thought therefore I might do some Service to the Church, and its Members, if I could in some Measure Vindicate It and Them, by proving that their Compliance with the present Settlement, has not in the least deviated from the Doctrine of the Church of England, as it was Professed and Taught in that Convocation.
I shall begin therefore with laying down the Doctrine about Government and Allegiance in Four Propositions extracted out of the Convocation-Book, to which may be Reduced, whatever almost can be pretended in this Controversy;
And they are these,
First, That the Power of Kings was Originally Patriarchal, Derived from GOD and not from the People, C. 2. 6, 13.
For though Kings are, or ought to be Bound up, and Limited in the Exercise of their Power by Laws, C. 15. yet that proceeds from GOD and Nature, who never intended Princes to be such Leviathans, whose wilful Pleasure should be Laws; but Parents of their Countrey, Impowered from Above to Maintain the Native Liberty and Property of their Subjects, as of their Children. For the Conceit of Absoluteness never did, or could prevail in any State, but where Superstition or Ignorance blinded Men’s Reasons, as in Turky, and most of the Eastern Empires; or Parasitical Flattery, and the naked Sword Maintain the Arbitrary Usurpation, as it is in a Neighbouring Kingdom.
Second Proposition. That Descent in Hereditary Kingdoms, is the ordinary Way whereby a Right and Title to the Crown is Claimable.
I say, is the ordinary Way; For since Kings Rule by GOD, it is only, as the Convocation-Book saith, The Lord, who both may, and is able to overthrow Kings or Emperors, notwithstanding any Claim, Right, Title, or Interest which they can Challenge to their Countries, Kingdoms or Empires, pag. 53.
Third Proposition. That no Violence is to be used to Kings from their own Subjects for any Irregularities that they commit, C. 22.
For the Doctrine of Passive Obedience to a Government Established by Law, whether the PRINCE be Limited and Sworn to Govern byLaws Chosen by the People, and Enacted with his Consent, or the PRINCE be Absolute, and his will sufficiently Declared, by the Law, is of absolute necessity to the Support of any Government; and they who deny that, can never clear themselves from the Suspicion of some Designs against this.
Fourth Proposition. That having sworn Allegiance to a Prince, we cannot without the Dreadful Guilt of Perjury, transfer our Allegiance, whilst he continues to have an Authoritative Right and Title to the Crown, C. 36.
I say an Authoritative Right and Title, because the Case may so happen, that these being separated, the Claim of Right without the Authority, cannot Challenge our Allegiance, as in the Case of the Kings of Israel and Judah, that were led Captive by the Babylonians, who they survived in Babylon, and some of them out of Confinement yet, (as it appears from Jeremy’s calling for the People’s Prayers, and Obedience to the Babylonish Kings) could lay no Claim to the Allegiance of their late Subjects. The Reason of which, is, Because it is the Authority, which is GOD’s, that Commands our Allegiance; and though no Mortal can separate this Authority from the Person invested with it, yet GOD can, (of which more hereafter) and if he do transfer it to another, wherever it is placed, it calls for our Allegiance.
This is the Sum, I think, of what can be pretended in the present Controversie. To Reply to which, I will not Expatriate on what hath been abundantly offered by others, but Confine myself, as much as possible, to the Convocation-Book, that the Impartial Reader may judge which side, the Jurors or Non-Jurors, the Old Established Doctrine of the Church of England does countenance.
And as to the First Proposition, That Government in general, whether Monarchy, or any other Form, derives its Authority from GOD, the Author of Nature, and consequently of Human Society, and not from the People, (though their Consent be ordinarily necessary to the Constitution, both of the Form of Government, and the Persons Governing) is that which is to be the Ground-work of the whole Discourse, and therefore in the first Place to be admitted, which I the more Confirm, by observing from the Right Reverend the Author; First, That all Kingdoms are now (what was more peculiarly appropriated to the Jewish Nation in their First Constitution) in some sort Theocracies, wherein GOD according to His own Pleasure, takes away Kings, and setteth up Kings: For C. 35. P. 83. GOD being the Universal Lord, and Ruler over all the World, the whole World is His Universal Kingdom; in the Government whereof, He useth the Ministry of Civil Magistrates, as well in other Countries, as amongst His own peculiar People Israel, without any Desert of theirs, but as in His Heavenly Providence, He thinks it most convenient, p. 84. Howbeit He does not leave them at Liberty to do what they list, but holds Himself the Helm of every Kingdom, and useth their Services in such sort, as be they Good or Bad, and their Designments Holy or Wicked; He ever makes them the Executioners of His own Just Judgments, Will, and Good Pleasure, according as He is minded to Punish any Kingdom, People, or Countrey. And this He does by reserving to His Providence, the Prerogative of the Designation of the Person whom He intends for His Vice-Regent, and that even in Hereditary Kingdoms, as Adoniah, who was Solomon’s Elder Brother, and Anointed by Abiathar to succeed his Father, so his great Disappointment may be an Instance. Nay, GOD sometimes for the only designed Usurpation of a Prince, whose Title, and that in an Hereditary, was altogether Indisputable, does deprive him of the Government in Part or Whole, and will not allow him so much as to Endeavour the re-gaining of it, which was the Case of Rehoboam. And how oft he has Extinguished the Line Royal, and Advanced to the Crown such as had no Relation to it, the History of the Kings of Israel does amply Testify. In all which Cases, since it was GOD’s doing, the Dethroned Prince could have no Pretence unto the Subject’s Allegiance. All that I will Note hence, is, That the Line of Descent in an Hereditary Kingdom may be Interrupted, and yet the Law of Succession not Violated.
Secondly, I Remark, That a Sovereign may be Devested of his Power which he received from GOD, and Decline into the Inferiour Condition of a Subject.
This is plain from the Kings of Israel and Judah, who of Independent Monarchs, became not only Tributary, but Subjects to the Kings of Babylon, and being Subjects, whatever other Duty might, yet Allegiance could no way be due unto them, that being in general, peculiar only to a Sovereign Prince, not Dependent on, or Tributary to, another. This is Confirmed and Improved from the Convocation-Book, which in the Case of Jehu intimates, That his former Prince became his Subject, Ch. 25. p. 40. and both he and Ahud are excused from Guilt in laying violent Hands upon their Liege-Lords, in that though they had been Subjects, yet before the Commission of the Fact, they were Advanced to be Judges, Princes, and Rulers of God’s People, C. 27. p. 53. I will make no Corollary from hence, because of the Reverence that I bear to all such Heads as ever wore a Crown. I therefore hasten to the Last Observation; which is,
Thirdly, That when a Prince is thus Devested of his Power from GOD, and another Advanced to his Throne, our Legal Allegiance may justly be Claimed by the Possessor.
We have been told this from our Law-Books again, and again, and now you shall hear the Decision of it from the Convocation-Book, which taking Notice, C. 28. p. 56. of the strange Variations of Governments in its Forms, and Governours in their Persons, whether by Usurping Nimrods, or Traitorous Phocas’s, gives hereunto this Satisfaction, p. 57. That when either Ambitious Kings by bringing any Countrey into their Subjection, or Disloyal Subjects by their Rebellious Rising against their Natural Sovereign, have Established any Degenerate Form of Government, (viz. Aristocratical, Democratical, &c.) amongst theirPeople; The Authority either so unjustly gotten, or wrung by Force from the True and Lawful Possessor, being always God’s Authority (and therefore receiving no Impeachment by the Wickedness of those that have it) is ever (when any such Alterations are throughly Settled) to be Reverenced and Obeyed, and the People of all sorts (as well of the Clergy as of the Laity) are to be subject unto it, not only for Fear, but also for Conscience’ sake.
Here you may see that upon a Revolution from the worst of Circumstances, Usurpation, and Rebellion, Obedience to the Establishment is acknowledged Due. And sure I am, That Malice itself cannot be so bitter as to think the present Settlement Parallel to this Representation: For,
First, Here was no Ambitious Monarch, but a Prince that had a Just Cause of War, on the Account of the Pretended Prince of Wales, which whether he was Real, or Supposititious, since he had not that Satisfaction which was but Equitable as he Demanded, he might Appeal to GOD to Decide the Truth and Justice of it by the Sword. And,
Secondly, As for those who did Desert King James, thus much may be said for them, That they could not with a Safe Conscience Assist him in that War, because they Esteemed it on his Side Unlawful, and therefore they were Obliged at the least to Lay down their Arms.
Thirdly, The Monarchy is not Degenerated into a baser Form. We have the same Constitution, the same Laws, the same Liberties, or Greater than we had before; and therefore if in want of all these we ought to yield (as the Book asserts) Obedience; in the Enjoyment of them, we ought to add unto it, Thankfulness.
All that can be moved hereupon, is, When a Government may be said to be Settled.
And with Submission, I cannot but conceive, That the Government is Settled, when the Crown with all its Dignities, Prerogatives, Administrations, Authorities, Revenues, &c. are generally Recognized, and Personally Enjoyed, which must be supposed to be, when all Places of Power and Trust, of Royalty and Importance, are in the Sovereign’s Hands, and wholly at his Disposal. For to say, Because there are Foreign Wars, or Secret Plots, that the Crown is not in full Possession, since there always was, and always will be Discontented Parties at home, and Politick Machinations abroad, that either Actually do, or Craftily design to Disturb the Peace; so that we cannot but acknowledge that to be a Real Establishment, which hath the Countenance of Laws, and Parliament, to Own and Confirm it.
Thus since GOD hath been pleased to Devest the Late King James of that Authority which he had once Committed to him, and Transferred it into another’s Hands; both Clergy and Laity according to the Doctrine of the Church of England, ought to Reverence, Obey, and be Subject to it, not only for Wrath, but also for Conscience’ sake.
I have almost Flattered myself, so as to Believe the most moderate Persons will Subscribe what I have said, if I could but Produce any Moral Evidence that this was GOD’s Doing: To Answer whose Expectations, I will Search after such Criterions, as may Evince the present Revolution to be the Will and Pleasure of Almighty GOD. I therefore before hand, declare my Aversion to such Doctrines (as have not long since been Censured by one of our flourishing Universities)4 wherein, Success produced for an Argument of the Divine Aprobation of such Means, Methods, and Instruments, as are concerned in a Revolution.
But then I must assume, That GOD’s Providence in permitting, is a sufficient Indication of his Will and Pleasure as to the Event; which whether He designs it that he may thereby Punish the Sins of his People, or that he may Protect the Peace of the Church, is above my Capacity to Determine. But since Prophecy hath ceased, sure I am, that nothing but his Providence is Vocal to us; and such strong Arguments may we produce from it (especially where we can find a Parity of GOD’s Proceeding) as will not with Ease or Ridicule be Eluded.
I cannot therefore but observe, and that from this Convocation-Book, C. 24. p. 47. That even the Success of Divine Benedictions are to be left to the Disposition of GOD’s Heavenly Providence, which is there ascribed to the very Reason, why David, though already Anointed King, was not Advanced to the promised Crown till Saul’s Death. Whence since a Prediction, though Divine, is not sufficient Ground to proceed upon, until GOD’s Providence does interfere; I cannot restrain my Pen from moving this Query, viz. Whether the manifest Interpositions of a Gracious Providence, that tends to the promotion of GOD’s Honor, and the Establishment of his Church, (without which, Predictions themselves are not rashly to be Executed) be not to us (now that Prophecy is ceased) a Justifiable Ground for any Rational Man to Act upon, especially when it holds Analogy with those Proceedings, wherein GOD hath already Notified His Holy Will and Pleasure?
I think this will hardly be denied, and therefore all that remains, is to produce some Precedents wherein Royal Authority has been Translated, and GOD hath owned it for his immediate Doing. For if his Head was Interposed there, I see not how we can Exclude it here: Therefore,
First, When Kings have Illegally Oppressed their Subjects, and been too Arbitrary in their Imposition, GOD hath been pleased to Discharge them of their Trust: The Reason of which is, because they are GOD’s Representatives, and therefore what they do by Implication is, and cannot but be Interpreted to be GOD’s Work; and then as he saith of the Judges in the Execution of their Office, That they Judge not for Man, but for the LORD who is with them in the Judgment. The Wrong, if they do any, is an Injury to GOD, whose Judgement it is supposed to be; which Injury, he will not suffer to go unpunished. So the Usurpations of Princes, being Reflections upon GOD, whose Trustees they are, his Honor stands Engaged, (when our sins are sufficiently punished by such Scourges) to Vindicate its own Innocence, in Removing or otherwise Animadverting upon them that so abused his Trust. We have a notable Instance of this in Rehoboam, who being Rejected of the People, because of his Resolved Usurpations, and Endeavouring to Regain his Right by the Sword, is forbid by GOD; of which Prohibition, the Reason that is given by no mean Statesman, my Lord Clarendon,5 is this, Because he had been in the Fault himself. The Application I leave to the Reader.
Secondly, The Instance of Time is another Mark of GOD’s Interposition. For when His Church is on the Brink of Ruin, and the Designs against Her, have been so prevalent, that it is not in the Power of Man to overrule Them, than θεὸς ἀπὸ μηχανῆς,6 He is a Present GOD in Trouble. This the Deliverance of the Israelites out of Aegypt, will Attest, who have made upon it, this Comfortable Observation; then, whenever the Tale of Bricks, i.e. The utmost Servitude is imposed; Moses, i.e. A Deliverer is near at hand. And the Methods prescribed by Father Parsons, for the Reduction of England to the Roman Yoak, found in the Closet of the Late King James,7 and so religiously observed throughout his Reign, is too great an Evidence of our designed Extirpation for Impudence itself to deny.
Thirdly, The Way and Manner of this Revolution, which was without Bloodshed and Battles, i.e. Such as beseems the God of Peace, doth confirm the same. For not to enlarge on this, I desire any of the Non-Jurors to speak plainly, if they do not think the Peaceableness of the Restoration of King Charles to be an unanswerable Testimony of God’s Work, and Interposition; for my part, I must confess I always did. And then I know not how to deny the Infatuation of his Brother’s Desertion to intimate, that the same Hand that restored the One, was very much Consenting to the withdrawing of the Other.
I have done, and will provoke no Man by Reflections, but yet I earnestly intreat our Non-Juring Brethren, to Consider;
First, That the refusing of an Oath which may Lawfully be taken, as this in Controversie may, (if what these Canons say, be True) makes the Refusers Responsible for the Want of all that Good, which their Officiating in their Cures might have produced, together with all that Unsettledness in the STATE, which their Example hath encouraged.
Secondly, If what I have produced, be the Canonical Doctrine of the Church of England, let them be advised of the Mischief of that Fatal Division, which their Obstinacy will bring amongst us, and is already designed, if not begun, in a Form of Prayer pretended (though I think it smells too strong of Jesuite) to be theirs.
Therefore, for the Sake of Peace, whereof Christ is the Head, and his Doctrine is the Gospel: For the Sake of our Church threatened with a more Affecting and Pathetical Division than ever: For the Sake of the Reformation, which this Breach, above all things, will prejudice; and above all, for the Sake of GOD, Whose Truth and Worship, if another Revolution come, are, as far as we can see, to be extinguished. I entreat and beg of you seriously, to lay aside all Passion, Heat, and Peevishness, and whatever else may biass your Reason; and Consider, if what I have wrote be the Genuine Doctrine of the Church of England. For if it be not, I must Acknowledge my Mistake, and beg GOD Pardon for the Guilt, which by taking the New Oath I have incurred; which, till my Conscience be more enlightened, I am so far from suspecting, that I would not as my Conscience, for more Kingdoms than King James has lost, be in the same Guilt with those, who by refusing to take the Oaths, Contribute too much to the Designs of such, as will favour neither Them, nor Us, if our Sins should ever prevail with GOD to give them the Ascendency. Which GOD prevent for the Merits of His Son, the King of Peace and Truth. Amen.
[1. ]John Overall, Bishop Overall’s Convocation-Book MDCVI concerning the government of God’s catholic church and the kingdoms of the whole world (London, 1690). John Overall, bishop successively of Coventry and Lichfield and of Norwich and Regius Professor of Theology at Cambridge in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, took part in the Hampton Court conference of 1604. His Convocation Book, framed by the members of that meeting, was intended to discuss and settle the origin of both the civil and the ecclesiastical polities. James I took exception to some of the canons. The book was first published by William Sancroft, Archibishop of Canterbury, in 1690.
[2. ]Because James I objected to several of the proposed canons the proceedings never were officially adopted.
[3. ]Convocation agreed the courts of Star Chamber and High Commission, abolished in 1641, should remain suppressed, Laud’s canons of 1640 were declared illegal and Convocation gave up its claim to tax the clergy. According to David Edwards in Christian England the result was that Convocations did not need to meet at all and were, in fact, suppressed from 1664 until 1689 and throughout most of the next century and a half. See Edwards, Christian England (London, 1983), 2:311.
[4. ]The campaign to exclude James from the throne and the discovery of the Rye House Plot of 1683 had raised the terrifying specter of civil war. The reaction of the Anglican church was a vigorous reaffirmation of nonresistance and insistence upon divine right monarchy. A convocation of the University of Oxford in July 1683 issued decrees against “certain pernicious books and damnable doctrines.” The condemned books included works of Buchanan, Milton, Goodwin, and Hobbes. The damnable doctrines included the principle that authority is derived from the people, the compact theory of government, and the idea that a Christian can resist a lawless king.
[5. ]Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon.
[6. ]The god from the machine (Greek for deus ex machina).
[7. ]Robert Parsons was a prominent English Jesuit in the sixteenth century. He was a prolific and talented author and managed to publish scores of tracts under the noses of the Elizabethan authorities. He was particularly notorious, however, for his zealous promotion over the course of twenty years of a Spanish invasion of England. In 1690 Edward Gee published a tract purporting to contain extracts from a copy of Parsons’ work that had been presented to James II. Gee’s tract was entitled “A Jesuit Memorial for the intended reformation of England under their first Popish prince.”