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CHAPTER ONE - Algernon Sidney, Discourses Concerning Government 
Discourses Concerning Government, ed. Thomas G. West (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 1996).
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Having lately seen a book entitled Patriarcha,1 written by Sir Robert Filmer, concerning the universal and undistinguished right of all kings, I thought a time of leisure might be well employed in examining his doctrine, and the questions arising from it; which seem so far to concern all mankind, that, besides the influence upon our future life, they may be said to comprehend all that in this world deserves to be cared for. If he say true, there is but one government in the world that can have anything of justice in it: and those who have hitherto been esteemed the best and wisest of men, for having constituted commonwealths or kingdoms; and taken much pains so to proportion the powers of several magistracies, that they might all concur in procuring the publick good; or so to divide the powers between the magistrates and people, that a well-regulated harmony might be preserved in the whole, were the most unjust and foolish of all men. They were not builders, but overthrowers of governments: Their business was to set up aristocratical, democratical or mixed governments, in opposition to that monarchy which by the immutable laws of God and nature is imposed upon mankind; or presumptuously to put shackles upon the monarch, who by the same laws is to be absolute and uncontrolled: They were rebellious and disobedient sons, who rose up against their father; and not only refused to hearken to his voice, but made him bend to their will. In their opinion, such only deserved to be called good men, who endeavoured to be good to mankind; or to that country to which they were more particularly related: and in as much as that good consists in a felicity of estate, and perfection of person, they highly valued such as had endeavoured to make men better, wiser and happier. This they understood to be the end for which men enter’d into societies: And, tho Cicero says, that commonwealths were instituted for the obtaining of justice, he contradicts them not, but comprehends all in that word; because ’tis just that whosoever receives a power, should employ it wholly for the accomplishment of the ends for which it was given. This work could be performed only by such as excelled in virtue; but lest they should deflect from it, no government was thought to be well constituted, unless the laws prevailed above the commands of men;2 and they were accounted as the worst of beasts, who did not prefer such a condition before a subjection to the fluctuating and irregular will of a man.
If we believe Sir Robert, all this is mistaken. Nothing of this kind was ever left to the choice of men. They are not to enquire what conduces to their own good: God and nature have put us into a way from which we are not to swerve: We are not to live to him, nor to ourselves, but to the master that he hath set over us. One government is established over all, and no limits can be set to the power of the person that manages it. This is the prerogative, or, as another author of the same stamp calls it, the Royal Charter granted to kings by God. They all have an equal right to it; women and children are patriarchs; and the next in blood, without any regard to age, sex, or other qualities of the mind or body, are fathers of as many nations as fall under their power. We are not to examine, whether he or she be young or old, virtuous or vicious, sober minded or stark mad; the right and power is the same in all. Whether virtue be exalted or suppressed; whether he that bears the sword be a praise to those that do well, and a terror to those that do evil; or a praise to those that do evil, and a terror to such as do well, it concerns us not; for the king must not lose his right, nor have his power diminished on any account. I have been sometimes apt to wonder, how things of this nature could enter into the head of any man: Or, if no wickedness or folly be so great, but some may fall into it, I could not well conceive why they should publish it to the world. But these thoughts ceased, when I considered that a people from all ages in love with liberty, and desirous to maintain their own privileges, could never be brought to resign them, unless they were made to believe that in conscience they ought to do it; which could not be, unless they were also persuaded to believe, that there was a law set to all mankind which none might transgress, and which put the examination of all those matters out of their power. This is our author’s work. By this it will appear whose throne he seeks to advance, and whose servant he is, whilst he pretends to serve the king. And that it may be evident he hath made use of means suitable to the ends proposed for the service of his great master, I hope to shew that he hath not used one argument that is not false, nor cited one author whom he hath not perverted and abused. Whilst my work is so to lay open these snares that the most simple may not be taken in them, I shall not examine how Sir Robert came to think himself a man fit to undertake so great a work, as to destroy the principles, which from the beginning seem to have been common to all mankind; but only weighing the positions and arguments that he allegeth, will, if there be either truth or strength in them, confess the discovery comes from him that gave us least reason to expect it, and that in spite of the ancients, there is not in the world a piece of wood out of which a Mercury may not be made. 3
The common Notions of Liberty are not from School Divines, but from Nature.
In the first lines of his book he seems to denounce war against mankind, endeavouring to overthrow the principle of liberty in which God created us, and which includes the chief advantages of the life we enjoy, as well as the greatest helps towards the felicity, that is the end of our hopes in the other. To this end he absurdly imputes to the School divines that which was taken up by them as a common notion, written in the heart of every man, denied by none, but such as were degenerated into beasts, from whence they might prove such points as of themselves were less evident.1 Thus did Euclid lay down certain axioms, which none could deny that did not renounce common sense, from whence he drew the proofs of such propositions as were less obvious to the understanding; and they may with as much reason be accused of paganism, who say that the whole is greater than a part, that two halfs make the whole, or that a straight line is the shortest way from point to point, as to say, that they who in politicks lay such foundations, as have been taken up by Schoolmen and others as undeniable truths, do therefore follow them, or have any regard to their authority. Tho the Schoolmen were corrupt, they were neither stupid nor unlearned: They could not but see that which all men saw, nor lay more approved foundations, than, that man is naturally free; that he cannot justly be deprived of that liberty without cause, and that he doth not resign it, or any part of it, unless it be in consideration of a greater good, which he proposes to himself. But if he doth unjustly impute the invention of this to School divines, he in some measure repairs his fault in saying, This hath been fostered by all succeeding papists for good divinity: The divines of the reformed churches have entertained it, and the common people everywhere tenderly embrace it. That is to say, all Christian divines, whether reformed or unreformed, do approve it, and the people everywhere magnify it, as the height of human felicity. But Filmer and such as are like to him, being neither reformed nor unreformed Christians, nor of the people, can have no title to Christianity; and, in as much as they set themselves against that which is the height of human felicity, they declare themselves enemies to all that are concern’d in it, that is, to all mankind.
But, says he, They do not remember that the desire of liberty was the first cause of the fall of man: and I desire it may not be forgotten, that the liberty asserted is not a licentiousness of doing what is pleasing to everyone against the command of God; but an exemption from all human laws, to which they have not given their assent. If he would make us believe there was anything of this in Adam’s sin, he ought to have proved, that the law which he transgressed was imposed upon him by man, and consequently that there was a man to impose it; for it will easily appear that neither the reformed or unreformed divines, nor the people following them, do place the felicity of man in an exemption from the laws of God, but in a most perfect conformity to them. Our Saviour taught us not to fear such as could kill the body, but him that could kill and cast into hell: And the Apostle tells us that we should obey God rather than man.2 It hath been ever hereupon observed, that they who most precisely adhere to the laws of God, are least solicitous concerning the commands of men, unless they are well grounded; and those who most delight in the glorious liberty of the sons of God, do not only subject themselves to him, but are most regular observers of the just ordinances of man, made by the consent of such as are concerned according to the will of God.
The error of not observing this may perhaps deserve to be pardoned in a man that had read no books, as proceeding from ignorance; if such as are grossly ignorant can be excused, when they take upon them to write of such matters as require the highest knowledge: But in Sir Robert ’tis prevarication and fraud to impute to Schoolmen and Puritans that which in his first page he acknowledged to be the doctrine of all reformed and unreformed Christian churches, and that he knows to have been the principle in which the Grecians, Italians, Spaniards, Gauls, Germans, and Britains, and all other generous nations ever lived, before the name of Christ was known in the world; insomuch that the base effeminate Asiaticks and Africans, for being careless of their liberty, or unable to govern themselves, were by Aristotle and other wise men called slaves by nature,3 and looked upon as little different from beasts.
This which hath its root in common sense, not being to be overthrown by reason, he spares his pains of seeking any; but thinks it enough to render his doctrine plausible to his own party, by joining the Jesuits to Geneva, and coupling Buchanan to Doleman,4 as both maintaining the same doctrine; tho he might as well have joined the Puritans with the Turks, because they all think that one and one makes two. But whoever marks the proceedings of Filmer and his masters, as well as his disciples, will rather believe that they have learn’d from Rome and the Jesuits to hate Geneva, than that Geneva and Rome can agree in anything farther than as they are obliged to submit to the evidence of truth; or that Geneva and Rome can concur in any design or interest that is not common to mankind.
These men allowed to the people a liberty of deposing their princes. This is a desperate opinion. Bellarmine and Calvin look asquint at it.5 But why is this a desperate opinion? If disagreements happen between king and people, why is it a more desperate opinion to think the king should be subject to the censures of the people, than the people subject to the will of the king? Did the people make the king, or the king make the people? Is the king for the people, or the people for the king? Did God create the Hebrews that Saul might reign over them? or did they, from an opinion of procuring their own good, ask a king, that might judge them, and fight their battles? If God’s interposition, which shall be hereafter explained, do alter the case; did the Romans make Romulus, Numa, Tullus Hostilius, and Tarquinius Priscus kings? or did they make or beget the Romans? If they were made kings by the Romans, ’tis certain they that made them sought their own good in so doing; and if they were made by and for the city and people, I desire to know if it was not better, that when their successors departed from the end of their institution, by endeavouring to destroy it, or all that was good in it, they should be censured and ejected, than be permitted to ruin that people for whose good they were created? Was it more just that Caligula or Nero should be suffered to destroy the poor remains of the Roman nobility and people, with the nations subject to that empire, than that the race of such monsters should be extinguished, and a great part of mankind, especially the best, against whom they were most fierce, preserved by their deaths?
I presume our author thought these questions might be easily decided; and that no more was required to shew the forementioned assertions were not at all desperate, than to examine the grounds of them; but he seeks to divert us from this enquiry by proposing the dreadful consequences of subjecting kings to the censures of their people: whereas no consequence can destroy any truth; and the worst of this is, that if it were received, some princes might be restrained from doing evil, or punished if they will not be restrained. We are therefore only to consider whether the people, senate, or any magistracy made by and for the people, have, or can have such a right; for if they have, whatsoever the consequences may be, it must stand: And as the one tends to the good of mankind in restraining the lusts of wicked kings; the other exposes them without remedy to the fury of the most savage of all beasts. I am not ashamed in this to concur with Buchanan, Calvin, or Bellarmine, and without envy leave to Filmer and his associates the glory of maintaining the contrary.
But notwithstanding our author’s aversion to truth, he confesses, That Hayward, Blackwood, Barclay,6 and others who have bravely vindicated the right of kings in this point, do with one consent admit, as an unquestionable truth, and assent unto the natural liberty and equality of mankind, not so much as once questioning or opposing it. And indeed I believe, that tho since the sin of our first parents the earth hath brought forth briars and brambles, and the nature of man hath been fruitful only in vice and wickedness; neither the authors he mentions, nor any others have had impudence enough to deny such evident truth as seems to be planted in the hearts of all men; or to publish doctrines so contrary to common sense, virtue, and humanity, till these times. The production of Laud, Manwaring, Sybthorpe, Hobbes, Filmer, and Heylyn7 seems to have been reserved as an additional curse to compleat the shame and misery of our age and country. Those who had wit and learning, with something of ingenuity and modesty, tho they believed that nations might possibly make an ill use of their power, and were very desirous to maintain the cause of kings, as far as they could put any good colour upon it; yet never denied that some had suffered justly (which could not be, if there were no power of judging them) nor ever asserted anything that might arm them with an irresistible power of doing mischief, animate them to persist in the most flagitious courses, with assurance of perpetual impunity, or engage nations in an inevitable necessity of suffering all manner of outrages. They knew that the actions of those princes who were not altogether detestable, might be defended by particular reasons drawn from them, or the laws of their country; and would neither undertake the defence of such as were abominable, nor bring princes, to whom they wished well, into the odious extremity of justifying themselves by arguments that favoured Caligula and Nero, as well as themselves, and that must be taken for a confession, that they were as bad as could be imagined; since nothing could be said for them that might not as well be applied to the worst that had been, or could be. But Filmer, Heylyn, and their associates scorning to be restrained by such considerations, boldly lay the ax to the root of the tree, and rightly enough affirm, That the whole fabrick of that which they call popular sedition would fall to the ground, if the principle of natural liberty were removed. And on the other hand it must be acknowledged that the whole fabrick of tyranny will be much weakened, if we prove, that nations have a right to make their own laws, constitute their own magistrates; and that such as are so constituted owe an account of their actions to those by whom, and for whom they are appointed.
Implicit Faith belongs to Fools, and Truth is comprehended by examining Principles.
Whilst Filmer’s business is to overthrow liberty and truth, he, in his passage, modestly professeth not to meddle with mysteries of state,1 or arcana imperii.2 He renounces those inquiries through an implicit faith, which never enter’d into the head of any but fools, and such, as through a carelessness of the point in question, acted as if they were so. This is the foundation of the papal power, and it can stand no longer than those that compose the Roman church can be persuaded to submit their consciences to the word of the priests, and esteem themselves discharged from the necessity of searching the Scriptures in order to know whether the things that are told them are true or false. This may shew whether our author or those of Geneva do best agree with the Roman doctrine: But his instance is yet more sottish than his profession. An implicit faith, says he, is given to the meanest artificer. I wonder by whom! Who will wear a shoe that hurts him, because the shoe-maker tells him ’tis well made? or who will live in a house that yields no defence against the extremities of weather, because the mason or carpenter assures him ’tis a very good house? Such as have reason, understanding, or common sense, will, and ought to make use of it in those things that concern themselves and their posterity, and suspect the words of such as are interested in deceiving or persuading them not to see with their own eyes, that they may be more easily deceived. This rule obliges us so far to search into matters of state, as to examine the original principles of government in general, and of our own in particular. We cannot distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or know what obedience we owe to the magistrate, or what we may justly expect from him, unless we know what he is, why he is, and by whom he is made to be what he is. These perhaps may be called mysteries of state, and some would persuade us they are to be esteemed arcana; but whosoever confesses himself to be ignorant of them, must acknowledge that he is incapable of giving any judgment upon things relating to the superstructure, and in so doing evidently shews to others, that they ought not at all to hearken to what he says.
His argument to prove this is more admirable. If an implicit faith, says he, is given to the meanest artificer in his craft, much more to a prince in the profound secrets of government. But where is the consequence? If I trust to the judgment of an artificer, or one of a more ingenuous profession, ’tis not because he is of it, but because I am persuaded he does well understand it, and that he will be faithful to me in things relating to his art. I do not send for Lower or Micklethwait when I am sick, nor ask the advice of Mainard or Jones in a suit of law, because the first are physicians, and the other lawyers; but because I think them wise, learned, diligent, and faithful, there being a multitude of others who go under the same name, whose opinion I would never ask. Therefore if any conclusion can be drawn from thence in favour of princes, it must be of such as have all the qualities of ability and integrity, that should create this confidence in me; or it must be proved that all princes, in as much as they are princes, have such qualities. No general conclusion can be drawn from the first case, because it must depend upon the circumstances, which ought to be particularly proved: And if the other be asserted, I desire to know whether Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Vitellius, Domitian, Commodus, Heliogabalus, and others not unlike to them, had those admirable endowments, upon which an implicit faith ought to have been grounded; how they came by them; and whether we have any promise from God, that all princes should forever excel in those virtues, or whether we by experience find that they do so. If they are or have been wanting in any, the whole falls to the ground; for no man enjoys as a prince that which is not common to all princes: And if every prince have not wisdom to understand these profound secrets, integrity to direct him, according to what he knows to be good, and a sufficient measure of industry and valour to protect me, he is not the artificer, to whom the implicit faith is due. His eyes are as subject to dazzle as my own. But ’tis a shame to insist on such a point as this. We see princes of all sorts; they are born as other men: The vilest flatterer dares not deny that they are wise or foolish, good or bad, valiant or cowardly like other men: and the crown doth neither bestow extraordinary qualities, ripen such as are found in princes sooner than in the meanest, nor preserve them from the decays of age, sickness, or other accidents, to which all men are subject: And if the greatest king in the world fall into them, he is as incapable of that mysterious knowledge, and his judgment is as little to be relied on, as that of the poorest peasant.
This matter is not mended by sending us to seek those virtues in the ministers, which are wanting in the prince. The ill effects of Rehoboam’s folly could not be corrected by the wisdom of Solomon’s counsellors: He rejected them; and such as are like to him will always do the same thing.3 Nero advised with none but musicians, players, chariot-drivers, or the abominable ministers of his pleasures and cruelties. Arcadius his senate was chiefly composed of buffoons and cooks, influenced by an old rascally eunuch. And ’tis an eternal truth, that a weak or wicked prince can never have a wise council, nor receive any benefit by one that is imposed upon him, unless they have a power of acting without him, which would render the government in effect aristocratical, and would probably displease our author as much as if it were so in name also. Good and wise counsellors do not grow up like mushrooms; great judgment is required in chusing and preparing them. If a weak or vicious prince should be so happy to find them chosen to his hand, they would avail him nothing. There will ever be variety of opinions amongst them; and he that is of a perverted judgment will always chuse the worst of those that are proposed, and favour the worst men, as most like to himself. Therefore if this implicit faith be grounded upon a supposition of profound wisdom in the prince, the foundation is overthrown, and it cannot stand; for to repose confidence in the judgment and integrity of one that has none, is the most brutish of all follies. So that if a prince may have or want the qualities, upon which my faith in him can be rationally grounded, I cannot yield the obedience he requires, unless I search into the secrets relating to his person and commands, which he forbids. I cannot know how to obey, unless I know in what, and to whom: Nor in what, unless I know what ought to be commanded: Nor what ought to be commanded, unless I understand the original right of the commander, which is the great arcanum. Our author finding himself involved in many difficulties, proposes an expedient as ridiculous as anything that had gone before, being nothing more than an absurd begging the main question, and determining it without any shadow of proof. He enjoins an active or passive obedience before he shews what should oblige or persuade us to it. This indeed were a compendious way of obviating that which he calls popular sedition, and of exposing all nations, that fall under the power of tyrants, to be destroyed utterly by them. Nero or Domitian would have desired no more than that those who would not execute their wicked commands, should patiently have suffered their throats to be cut by such as were less scrupulous: and the world that had suffered those monsters for some years, must have continued under their fury, till all that was good and virtuous had been abolished. But in those ages and parts of the world, where there hath been anything of virtue and goodness, we may observe a third sort of men, who would neither do villainies, nor suffer more than the laws did permit, or the consideration of the publick peace did require. Whilst tyrants with their slaves, and the instruments of their cruelties, were accounted the dregs of mankind, and made the objects of detestation and scorn, these men who delivered their countries from such plagues were thought to have something of divine in them, and have been famous above all the rest of mankind to this day. Of this sort were Pelopidas, Epaminondas, Thrasybulus, Harmodius, Aristogiton, Philopoemen, Lucius Brutus, Publius Valerius, Marcus Brutus, C. Cassius, M. Cato, with a multitude of others amongst the ancient heathens. Such as were instruments of the like deliverances amongst the Hebrews, as Moses, Othniel, Ehud, Barak, Gideon, Samson, Jephthah, Samuel, David, Jehu, the Maccabees and others, have from the Scriptures a certain testimony of the righteousness of their proceedings, when they neither would act what was evil, nor suffer more than was reasonable. But lest we should learn by their examples, and the praises given to them, our author confines the subject’s choice to acting or suffering, that is, doing what is commanded, or lying down to have his throat cut, or to see his family and country made desolate. This he calls giving to Caesar that which is Caesar’s; whereas he ought to have considered that the question is not whether that which is Caesar’s should be rendered to him, for that is to be done to all men; but who is Caesar, and what doth of right belong to him, which he no way indicates to us: so that the question remains entire, as if he had never mentioned it, unless we do in a compendious way take his word for the whole.
The Rights of particular Nations cannot subsist, if General Principles contrary to them are received as true.
Notwithstanding this our author, if we will believe him, doth not question or quarrel at the rights or liberties of this or any other nation.1 He only denies they can have any such, in subjecting them necessarily and universally to the will of one man; and says not a word that is not applicable to every nation in the world as well as to our own. But as the bitterness of his malice seems to be most especially directed against England, I am inclined to believe he hurts other countries only by accident, as the famous French lady2 intended only to poison her father, husband, brother, and some more of her nearest relations; but rather than they should escape, destroyed many other persons of quality, who at several times dined with them: and if that ought to excuse her, I am content he also should pass uncensured, tho his crimes are incomparably greater than those for which she was condemned, or than any can be which are not of a publick extent.
To depend upon the Will of a Man is Slavery.
This, as he thinks, is farther sweetened, by asserting, that he doth not inquire what the rights of a people are, but from whence; not considering, that whilst he denies they can proceed from the laws of natural liberty, or any other root than the grace and bounty of the prince, he declares they can have none at all. For as liberty solely consists in an independency upon the will of another, and by the name of slave we understand a man, who can neither dispose of his person nor goods, but enjoys all at the will of his master; there is no such thing in nature as a slave, if those men or nations are not slaves, who have no other title to what they enjoy, than the grace of the prince, which he may revoke whensoever he pleaseth. But there is more than ordinary extravagance in his assertion, that the greatest liberty in the world is for a people to live under a monarch,1 when his whole book is to prove, that this monarch hath his right from God and nature, is endowed with an unlimited power of doing what he pleaseth, and can be restrained by no law. If it be liberty to live under such a government, I desire to know what is slavery. It has been hitherto believed in the world, that the Assyrians, Medes, Arabs, Egyptians, Turks, and others like them, lived in slavery, because their princes were masters of their lives and goods: Whereas the Grecians, Italians, Gauls, Germans, Spaniards, and Carthaginians, as long as they had any strength, virtue or courage amongst them, were esteemed free nations, because they abhorred such a subjection. They were, and would be governed only by laws of their own making: Potentiora erant legum quam hominum imperia.2 Even their princes had the authority or credit of persuading, rather than the power of commanding. But all this was mistaken: These men were slaves, and the Asiaticks were freemen. By the same rule the Venetians, Switsers, Grisons, and Hollanders, are not free nations: but liberty in its perfection is enjoyed in France, and Turkey. The intention of our ancestors was, without doubt, to establish this amongst us by Magna Charta, and other preceding or subsequent laws; but they ought to have added one clause, That the contents of them should be in force only so long as it should please the king. King Alfred, upon whose laws Magna Charta was grounded, when he said the English nation was as free as the internal thoughts of a man, did only mean, that it should be so as long as it pleased their master. This it seems was the end of our law, and we who are born under it, and are descended from such as have so valiantly defended their rights against the encroachments of kings, have followed after vain shadows, and without the expence of sweat, treasure, or blood, might have secured their beloved liberty, by casting all into the king’s hands.
We owe the discovery of these secrets to our author, who after having so gravely declared them, thinks no offence ought to be taken at the freedom he assumes of examining things relating to the liberty of mankind, because he hath the right which is common to all: But he ought to have considered, that in asserting that right to himself, he allows it to all mankind. And as the temporal good of all men consists in the preservation of it, he declares himself to be a mortal enemy to those who endeavour to destroy it. If he were alive, this would deserve to be answered with stones rather than words. He that oppugns the publick liberty, overthrows his own, and is guilty of the most brutish of all follies, whilst he arrogates to himself that which he denies to all men.
I cannot but commend his modesty and care not to detract from the worth of learned men;3 but it seems they were all subject to error, except himself, who is rendered infallible through pride, ignorance, and impudence. But if Hooker4 and Aristotle were wrong in their fundamentals concerning natural liberty, how could they be in the right when they built upon it? Or if they did mistake, how can they deserve to be cited? or rather, why is such care taken to pervert their sense? It seems our author is by their errors brought to the knowledge of the truth. Men have heard of a dwarf standing upon the shoulders of a giant, who saw farther than the giant; but now that the dwarf standing on the ground sees that which the giant did overlook, we must learn from him. If there be sense in this, the giant must be blind, or have such eyes only as are of no use to him. He minded only the things that were far from him: These great and learned men mistook the very principle and foundation of all their doctrine. If we will believe our author, this misfortune befell them because they too much trusted to the Schoolmen. He names Aristotle, and I presume intends to comprehend Plato, Plutarch, Thucydides, Xenophon, Polybius, and all the ancient Grecians, Italians, and others, who asserted the natural freedom of mankind, only in imitation of the Schoolmen, to advance the power of the pope; and would have compassed their design, if Filmer and his associates had not opposed them. These men had taught us to make the unnatural distinction between royalist and patriot, and kept us from seeing, that the relation between king and people is so great, that their well being is reciprocal. If this be true, how came Tarquin to think it good for him to continue king at Rome, when the people would turn him out? Or the people to think it good for them to turn him out, when he desired to continue in? Why did the Syracusians destroy the tyranny of Dionysius, which he was not willing to leave, till he was pulled out by the heels? How could Nero think of burning Rome? Or why did Caligula wish the people had but one neck, that he might strike it off at one blow, if their welfare was thus reciprocal? ’Tis not enough to say, these were wicked or mad men; for other princes may be so also, and there may be the same reason of differing from them. For if the proposition be not universally true, ’tis not to be received as true in relation to any, till it be particularly proved; and then ’tis not to be imputed to the quality of prince, but to the personal virtue of the man.
I do not find any great matters in the passages taken out of Bellarmine, which our author says, comprehend the strength of all that ever he had heard, read, or seen produced for the natural liberty of the subject:5 but he not mentioning where they are to be found, I do not think myself obliged to examine all his works, to see whether they are rightly cited or not; however there is certainly nothing new in them: We see the same, as to the substance, in those who wrote many ages before him, as well as in many that have lived since his time, who neither minded him, nor what he had written. I dare not take upon me to give an account of his works, having read few of them; but as he seems to have laid the foundation of his discourses in such common notions as were assented to by all mankind, those who follow the same method have no more regard to Jesuitism and popery, tho he was a Jesuit and a cardinal, than they who agree with Faber6 and other Jesuits in the principles of geometry which no sober man did ever deny.
God leaves to Man the choice of Forms in Government; and those who constitute one Form, may abrogate it.
But Sir Robert desires to make observations on Bellarmine’s words, before he examines or refutes them;1 and indeed it were not possible to make such stuff of his doctrine as he does, if he had examined or did understand it. First, he very wittily concludes, That if by the law of God, the power be immediately in the people, God is the author of a democracy: And why not as well as of a tyranny? Is there anything in it repugnant to the being of God? Is there more reason to impute to God Caligula’s monarchy, than the democracy of Athens? Or is it more for the glory of God, to assert his presence with the Ottoman or French monarchs, than with the popular governments of the Switsers and Grisons? Is pride, malice, luxury and violence so suitable to his being, that they who exercise them are to be reputed his ministers? And is modesty, humility, equality and justice so contrary to his nature, that they who live in them should be thought his enemies? Is there any absurdity in saying, that since God in goodness and mercy to mankind, hath with an equal hand given to all the benefit of liberty, with some measure of understanding how to employ it, ’tis lawful for any nation, as occasion shall require, to give the exercise of that power to one or more men, under certain limitations or conditions; or to retain it in themselves, if they thought it good for them? If this may be done, we are at end of all controversies concerning one form of government, established by God, to which all mankind must submit; and we may safely conclude, that having given to all men in some degree a capacity of judging what is good for themselves, he hath granted to all likewise a liberty of inventing such forms as please them best, without favouring one more than another.
His second observation is grounded upon a falsity in matter of fact. Bellarmine does not say, that democracy is an ordinance of God more than any other government: nor that the people have no power to make use of their right; but that they do, that is to say ordinarily, transmit the exercise of it to one or more. And ’tis certain they do sometimes, especially in small cities, retain it in themselves: But whether that were observed or not by Bellarmine, makes nothing to our cause, which we defend, and not him.
The next point is subtle, and he thinks thereby to have brought Bellarmine, and such as agree with his principle, to a nonplus. He doubts who shall judge of the lawful cause of changing the government, and says, It is a pestilent conclusion to place that power in the multitude.2 But why should this be esteemed pestilent? or to whom? If the allowance of such a power to the senate was pestilent to Nero, it was beneficial to mankind; and the denial of it, which would have given to Nero an opportunity of continuing in his villainies, would have been pestilent to the best men, whom he endeavoured to destroy, and to all others that received benefit from them. But this question depends upon another; for if governments are constituted for the pleasure, greatness or profit of one man, he must not be interrupted; for the opposing of his will, is to overthrow the institution. On the other side, if the good of the governed be sought, care must be taken that the end be accomplished, tho it be with the prejudice of the governor: If the power be originally in the multitude, and one or more men, to whom the exercise of it, or a part of it was committed, had no more than their brethren, till it was conferred on him or them, it cannot be believed that rational creatures would advance one or a few of their equals above themselves, unless in consideration of their own good; and then I find no inconvenience in leaving to them a right of judging, whether this be duly performed or not. We say in general, he that institutes, may also abrogate,3 most especially when the institution is not only by, but for himself. If the multitude therefore do institute, the multitude may abrogate; and they themselves, or those who succeed in the same right, can only be fit judges of the performance of the ends of the institution. Our author may perhaps say, the publick peace may be hereby disturbed; but he ought to know, there can be no peace, where there is no justice; nor any justice, if the government instituted for the good of a nation be turned to its ruin. But in plain English, the inconvenience with which such as he endeavour to affright us, is no more than that he or they, to whom the power is given, may be restrained or chastised, if they betray their trust; which I presume will displease none, but such as would rather submit Rome, with the best part of the world depending upon it, to the will of Caligula or Nero, than Caligula or Nero to the judgment of the senate and people; that is, rather to expose many great and brave nations to be destroyed by the rage of a savage beast, than subject that beast to the judgment of all, or the choicest men of them, who can have no interest to pervert them, or other reason to be severe to him, than to prevent the mischiefs he would commit, and to save the people from ruin.
In the next place he recites an argument of Bellarmine, that ’tis evident in Scripture God hath ordained powers; but God hath given them to no particular person, because by nature all men are equal; therefore he hath given power to the people or multitude.4 I leave him to untie that knot if he can; but, as ’tis usual with impostors, he goes about by surmises to elude the force of his argument, pretending that in some other place he had contradicted himself, and acknowledged that every man was prince of his posterity; because that if many men had been created together, they ought all to have been princes of their posterity. But ’tis not necessary to argue upon passages cited from authors, when he that cites them may be justly suspected of fraud, and neither indicates the place nor treatise, lest it should be detected; most especially when we are no way concerned in the author’s credit. I take Bellarmine’s first argument to be strong; and if he in some place did contradict it, the hurt is only to himself: but in this particular I should not think he did it, tho I were sure our author had faithfully repeated his words; for in allowing every man to be prince of his posterity, he only says, every man should be chief in his own family, and have a power over his children, which no man denies: But he does not understand Latin, who thinks that the word princeps doth in any degree signify an absolute power, or a right of transmitting it to his heirs and successors, upon which the doctrine of our author wholly depends. On the contrary, the same law that gave to my father a power over me, gives me the like over my children; and if I had a thousand brothers, each of them would have the same over their children. Bellarmine’s first argument therefore being no way enervated by the alleged passage, I may justly insist upon it, and add, that God hath not only declared in Scripture, but written on the heart of every man, that as it is better to be clothed, than to go naked; to live in a house, than to lie in the fields; to be defended by the united force of a multitude, than to place the hopes of his security solely in his own strength; and to prefer the benefits of society, before a savage and barbarous solitude; he also taught them to frame such societies, and to establish such laws as were necessary to preserve them. And we may as reasonably affirm, that mankind is forever obliged to use no other clothes than leather breeches, like Adam; to live in hollow trees, and eat acorns, or to seek after the model of his house for a habitation, and to use no arms except such as were known to the patriarchs, as to think all nations forever obliged to be governed as they governed their families. This I take to be the genuine sense of the Scripture, and the most respectful way of interpreting the places relating to our purpose. ’Tis hard to imagine, that God who hath left all things to our choice, that are not evil in themselves, should tie us up in this; and utterly incredible that he should impose upon us a necessity of following his will, without declaring it to us. Instead of constituting a government over his people, consisting of many parts, which we take to be a model fit to be imitated by others, he might have declared in a word, that the eldest man of the eldest line should be king; and that his will ought to be their law. This had been more suitable to the goodness and mercy of God, than to leave us in a dark labyrinth, full of precipices; or rather, to make the government given to his own people, a false light to lead us to destruction. This could not be avoided, if there were such a thing as our author calls a lord paramount over his children’s children to all generations. We see nothing in Scripture, of precept or example, that is not utterly abhorrent to this chimera. The only sort of kings mentioned there with approbation, is such a one as may not raise his heart above his brethren.5 If God had constituted a lord paramount with an absolute power, and multitudes of nations were to labour and fight for his greatness and pleasure, this were to raise his heart to a height, that would make him forget he was a man. Such as are versed in Scripture, not only know that it neither agrees with the letter or spirit of that book; but that it is unreasonable in itself, unless he were of a species different from the rest of mankind. His exaltation would not agree with God’s indulgence to his creatures, tho he were the better for it; much less when probably he would be made more unhappy, and worse, by the pride, luxury and other vices, that always attend the highest fortunes. ’Tis no less incredible that God, who disposes all things in wisdom and goodness, and appoints a due place for all, should, without distinction, ordain such a power, to everyone succeeding in such a line, as cannot be executed; the wise would refuse, and fools cannot take upon them the burden of it, without ruin to themselves, and such as are under them: or expose mankind to a multitude of other absurdities and mischiefs; subjecting the aged to be governed by children; the wise, to depend on the will of fools; the strong and valiant, to expect defence from the weak or cowardly; and all in general to receive justice from him, who neither knows nor cares for it.
Abraham and the Patriarchs were not kings.
If any man say, that we are not to seek into the depth of God’s counsels; I answer, that if he had, for reasons known only to himself, affixed such a right to any one line, he would have set a mark upon those who come of it, that nations might know to whom they owe subjection; or given some testimony of his presence with Filmer and Heylyn, if he had sent them to reveal so great a mystery. Till that be done, we may safely look upon them as the worst of men, and teachers only of lies and follies. This persuades me little, to examine what would have been, if God had at once created many men, or the conclusions that can be drawn from Adam’s having been alone. For nothing can be more evident, than that if many had been created, they had been all equal, unless God had given a preference to one. All their sons had inherited the same right after their death; and no dream was ever more empty, than his whimsey of Adam’s kingdom, or that of the ensuing patriarchs. To say the truth, ’tis hard to speak seriously of Abraham’s kingdom, or to think any man to be in earnest who mentions it. He was a stranger, and a pilgrim in the land where he lived, and pretended to no authority beyond his own family, which consisted only of a wife and slaves. He lived with Lot as with his equal, and would have no contest with him, because they were brethren. His wife and servants could neither make up, nor be any part of a kingdom, in as much as the despotical government, both in practice and principle, differs from the regal. If his kingdom was to be grounded on the paternal right, it vanished away of itself; he had no child: Eliezer of Damascus, for want of a better, was to be his heir: Lot, tho his nephew, was excluded: He durst not own his own wife: He had not one foot of land, till he bought a field for a burying place: His three hundred and eighteen men were servants (bought according to the custom of those days), or their children;1 and the war he made with them, was like to Gideon’s enterprize; which shews only that God can save by a few as well as by many, but makes nothing to our author’s purpose. For if they had been as many in number as the army of Semiramis, they could have no relation to the regal, much less to the paternal power; for a father doth not buy, but beget children.
Notwithstanding this, our author bestows the proud title of lord paramount upon him, and transmits it to Isaac, who was indeed a king like his father, great, admirable, and glorious in wisdom and holiness, but utterly void of all worldly splendor or power. This spiritual kingdom was inherited by Jacob, whose title to it was not founded on prerogative of birth, but election and peculiar grace; but he never enjoyed any other worldly inheritance, than the field and cave which Abraham had bought for a burying place, and the goods he had gained in Laban’s service.
The example of Judah his sentence upon Thamar2 is yet farther from the purpose, if it be possible; for he was then a member of a private family, the fourth son of a father then living; neither in possession, nor under the promise of the privileges of primogeniture, tho Reuben, Simeon and Levi fell from it by their sins. Whatsoever therefore the right was, which belonged to the head of the family, it must have been in Jacob; but as he professed himself a keeper of sheep, as his fathers had been, the exercise of that employment was so far from regal, that it deserves no explication. If that act of Judah is to be imputed to a royal power, I have as much as I ask: He, tho living with his father, and elder brothers, when he came to be of age to have children, had the same power over such, as were of, or came into his family, as his father had over him; for none can go beyond the power of life and death: The same in the utmost extent, cannot at the same time equally belong to many. If it be divided equally, it is no more than that universal liberty which God hath given to mankind; and every man is a king till he divest himself of his right, in consideration of something that he thinks better for him.
Nimrod was the first King, during the life of Cush, Ham, Shem, and Noah.
The Creation is exactly described in the Scripture; but we know so little of what passed between the finishing of it and the Flood, that our author may say what he pleases, and I may leave him to seek his proofs where he can find them.1 In the meantime I utterly deny, that any power did remain in the heads of families after the flood, that does in the least degree resemble the regal in principle or practice. If in this I am mistaken, such power must have been in Noah, and transmitted to one of his sons. The Scripture says only, that he built an altar, sacrificed to the Lord, was a husbandman, planted a vineyard, and performed such offices as bear nothing of the image of a king, for the space of three hundred and fifty years. We have reason to believe, that his sons after his death, continued in the same manner of life, and the equality properly belonging to brethren. ’Tis not easy to determine, whether Shem or Japheth were the elder;2 but Ham is declared to be the younger; and Noah’s blessing to Shem seems to be purely prophetical and spiritual, of what should be accomplished in his posterity; with which Japheth should be persuaded to join. If it had been worldly, the whole earth must have been brought under him, and have forever continued in his race, which never was accomplished, otherwise than in the spiritual kingdom of Christ, which relates not to our author’s lord paramount.
As to earthly kings, the first of them was Nimrod, the sixth son of Cush the son of Ham, Noah’s younger and accursed son. This kingdom was set up about a hundred and thirty years after the Flood, whilst Cush, Ham, Shem and Noah were yet living; whereas if there were anything of truth in our author’s proposition, all mankind must have continued under the government of Noah whilst he lived; and that power must have been transmitted to Shem, who lived about three hundred and seventy years after the erection of Nimrod’s kingdom; and must have come to Japheth if he was the elder, but could never come to Ham, who is declared to have been certainly the younger, and condemned to be a servant to them both; much less to the younger son of his son, whilst he, and those to whom he and his posterity were to be subjects, were still living.
This rule therefore, which the partizans of absolute monarchy fancy to be universal and perpetual, falling out in its first beginning, directly contrary to what they assert; and being never known to have been recovered, were enough to silence them, if they had anything of modesty or regard to truth. But the matter may be carried farther: For the Scripture doth not only testify, that this kingdom of Nimrod was an usurpation, void of all right, proceeding from the most violent and mischievous vices, but exercised with the utmost fury, that the most wicked man of the accursed race, who set himself up against God, and all that is good, could be capable of. The progress of this kingdom was suitable to its institution: that which was begun in wickedness, was carried on with madness, and produced confusion. The mighty hunter, whom the best interpreters call a cruel tyrant, receding from the simplicity and innocence of the patriarchs, who were husbandmen or shepherds, arrogating to himself a dominion over Shem, to whom he and his fathers were to be servants, did thereby so peculiarly become the heir of God’s curse, that whatsoever hath been said to this day, of the power that did most directly set itself against God and his people, hath related literally to the Babel that he built, or figuratively to that which resembles it in pride, cruelty, injustice and madness. 3
But the shameless rage of some of these writers is such, that they rather chuse to ascribe the beginning of their idol to this odious violence, than to own it from the consent of a willing people; as if they thought, that as all action must be suitable to its principle, so that which is unjust in its practice, ought to scorn to be derived from that which is not detestable in its principle. ’Tis hardly worth our pains to examine whether the nations, that went from Babel after the confusion of languages, were more or less than seventy two, for they seem not to have gone according to families, but every one to have associated himself to those that understood his speech; and the chief of the fathers, as Noah and his sons, were not there, or were subject to Nimrod; each of which points doth destroy, even in the root, all pretence to paternal government. Besides, ’tis evident in Scripture, that Noah lived three hundred and fifty years after the Flood; Shem five hundred; Abraham was born about two hundred and ninety years after the Flood, and lived one hundred seventy five years: He was therefore born under the government of Noah, and died under that of Shem: He could not therefore exercise a regal power whilst he lived, for that was in Shem: So that in leaving his country, and setting up a family for himself, that never acknowledged any superior, and never pretending to reign over any other, he fully shewed he thought himself free, and to owe subjection to none: And being as far from arrogating to himself any power upon the title of paternity, as from acknowledging it in any other, left every one to the same liberty.
The punctual enumeration of the years, that the fathers of the holy seed lived, gives us ground of making a more than probable conjecture, that they of the collateral lines were, in number of days, not unequal to them; and if that be true, Ham and Cush were alive when Nimrod set himself up to be king. He must therefore have usurped this power over his father, grandfather, and great grandfather; or, which is more probable, he turned into violence and oppression the power given to him by a multitude; which, like a flock without a shepherd, not knowing whom to obey, set him up to be their chief. I leave to our author the liberty of chusing which of these two doth best suit with his paternal monarchy; but as far as I can understand, the first is directly against it, as well as against the laws of God and man; the other being from the consent of the multitude, cannot be extended farther than they would have it, nor turned to their prejudice, without the most abominable ingratitude and treachery, from whence no right can be derived, nor any justifiable example taken.
Nevertheless, if our author resolve that Abraham was also a king, he must presume that Shem did emancipate him, before he went to seek his fortune. This was not a kingly posture; but I will not contradict him, if I may know over whom he reigned. Paternal monarchy is exercised by the father of the family over his descendants, or such as had been under the dominion of him, whose heir he is. But Abraham had neither of these: Those of his nearest kindred continued in Mesopotamia, as appears by what is said of Bethuel and Laban. He had only Lot with him, over whom he pretended no right: He had no children till he was a hundred years old (that is to say, he was a king without a subject), and then he had but one. I have heard that sovereigns do impatiently bear competitors;4 but now I find subjection also doth admit of none. Abraham’s kingdom was too great when he had two children, and to disburthen it, Ishmael must be expelled soon after the birth of Isaac. He observed the same method after the death of Sarah: He had children by Keturah; but he gave them gifts and sent them away, leaving Isaac like a stoical king reigning in and over himself, without any other subject till the birth of Jacob and Esau. But his kingdom was not to be of a larger extent than that of his father: The two twins could not agree: Jacob was sent away by his mother; he reigned over Esau only, and ’tis not easy to determine who was the heir of his worldly kingdom; for tho Jacob had the birthright, we do not find he had any other goods, than what he had gotten in Laban’s service. If our author say true, the right of primogeniture, with the dominion perpetually annexed by the laws of God and nature, must go to the eldest: Isaac therefore, tho he had not been deceived, could not have conferred it upon the younger; for man cannot overthrow what God and nature have instituted. Jacob, in the court language, had been a double rebel, in beguiling his father, and supplanting his brother. The blessing of being lord over his brethren, could not have taken place. Or if Isaac had power, and his act was good, the prerogative of the elder is not rooted in the law of God or nature, but a matter of conveniency only, which may be changed at the will of the father, whether he know what he do or not. But if this paternal right to dominion were of any value, or dominion over men were a thing to be desired, why did Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, content themselves with such a narrow territory, when after the death of their ancestors, they ought, according to that rule, to have been lords of the world? All authors conclude that Shem was the eldest by birth, or preferred by the appointment of God, so as the right must have been in him, and from him transmitted to Abraham and Isaac; but if they were so possessed with the contemplation of a heavenly kingdom, as not to care for the greatest on earth; ’tis strange that Esau, whose modesty is not much commended, should so far forget his interest, as neither to lay claim to the empire of the world, nor dispute with his brother the possession of the field and cave bought by Abraham, but rather to fight for a dwelling on Mount Seir, that was neither possessed by, nor promised to his fathers. If he was fallen from his right, Jacob might have claimed it; but God was his inheritance, and being assured of his blessing, he contented himself with what he could gain by his industry, in a way that was not at all suitable to the pomp and majesty of a king. Which way soever therefore the business be turned, whether, according to Isaac’s blessing, Esau should serve Jacob, or our author’s opinion, Jacob must serve Esau, neither of the two was effected in their persons: And the kingdom of two being divided into two, each of them remained lord of himself.
The Power of a Father belongs only to a Father.
This leads us to an easy determination of the question, which our author thinks insoluble; If Adam was lord of his children, he doth not see how any can be free from the subjection of his parents.1 For as no good man will ever desire to be free from the respect that is due to his father, who did beget and educate him, no wise man will ever think the like to be due to his brother or nephew that did neither. If Esau and Jacob were equally free; if Noah, as our author affirms, divided Europe, Asia and Africa, amongst his three sons, tho he cannot prove it; and if seventy two nations under so many heads or kings went from Babylon to people the earth, about a hundred and thirty years after the Flood, I know not why, according to the same rule and proportion, it may not be safely concluded, that in four thousand years kings are so multiplied, as to be in number equal to the men that are in the world; that is to say, they are, according to the laws of God and nature, all free, and independent upon each other, as Shem, Ham and Japheth were. And therefore, tho Adam and Noah had reigned alone when there were no men in the world except such as issued from them, that is no reason why any other should reign over those that he hath not begotten. As the right of Noah was divided amongst the children he left, and when he was dead, no one of them depended on the other, because no one of them was father of the other; and the right of a father can only belong to him that is so, the like must forever attend every other father in the world. This paternal power must necessarily accrue to every father: He is a king by the same right as the sons of Noah; and how numerous soever families may be upon the increase of mankind, they are all free, till they agree to recede from their own right, and join together in, or under one government, according to such laws as best please themselves.
Such as enter into Society, must in some degree diminish their Liberty.
Reason leads them to this: No one man or family is able to provide that which is requisite for their convenience or security, whilst everyone has an equal right to everything, and none acknowledges a superior to determine the controversies, that upon such occasions must continually arise, and will probably be so many and great, that mankind cannot bear them. Therefore tho I do not believe that Bellarmine said, a commonwealth could not exercise its power;1 for he could not be ignorant, that Rome and Athens did exercise theirs, and that all the regular kingdoms in the world are commonwealths; yet there is nothing of absurdity in saying, that man cannot continue in the perpetual and entire fruition of the liberty that God hath given him. The liberty of one is thwarted by that of another; and whilst they are all equal, none will yield to any, otherwise than by a general consent. This is the ground of all just governments; for violence or fraud can create no right; and the same consent gives the form to them all, how much soever they differ from each other. Some small numbers of men, living within the precincts of one city, have, as it were, cast into a common stock, the right which they had of governing themselves and children, and by common consent joining in one body, exercised such power over every single person as seemed beneficial to the whole; and this men call perfect democracy. Others chose rather to be governed by a select number of such as most excelled in wisdom and virtue; and this, according to the signification of the word, was called aristocracy: Or when one man excelled all others, the government was put into his hands under the name of monarchy. But the wisest, best, and far the greatest part of mankind, rejecting these simple species, did form governments mixed or composed of the three, as shall be proved hereafter, which commonly received their respective denomination from the part that prevailed, and did deserve praise or blame, as they were well or ill proportioned
It were a folly hereupon to say, that the liberty for which we contend, is of no use to us, since we cannot endure the solitude, barbarity, weakness, want, misery and dangers that accompany it whilst we live alone, nor can enter into a society without resigning it; for the choice of that society, and the liberty of framing it according to our own wills, for our own good, is all we seek. This remains to us whilst we form governments, that we ourselves are judges how far ’tis good for us to recede from our natural liberty; which is of so great importance, that from thence only we can know whether we are freemen or slaves; and the difference between the best government and the worst, doth wholly depend upon a right or wrong exercise of that power. If men are naturally free, such as have wisdom and understanding will always frame good governments: But if they are born under the necessity of perpetual slavery, no wisdom can be of use to them; but all must forever depend on the will of their lords, how cruel, mad, proud or wicked soever they be.
No Man comes to command many, unless by Consent or by Force.
But because I cannot believe God hath created man in such a state of misery and slavery as I just now mentioned; by discovering the vanity of our author’s whimsical patriarchical kingdom, I am led to a certain conclusion, that every father of a family is free and exempt from the domination of any other, as the seventy two that went from Babel were. ’Tis hard to comprehend how one man can come to be master of many, equal to himself in right, unless it be by consent or by force. If by consent, we are at an end of our controversies: Governments, and the magistrates that execute them, are created by man. They who give a being to them, cannot but have a right of regulating, limiting and directing them as best pleaseth themselves; and all our author’s assertions concerning the absolute power of one man, fall to the ground: If by force, we are to examine how it can be possible or justifiable. This subduing by force we call conquest; but as he that forceth must be stronger than those that are forced, to talk of one man who in strength exceeds many millions of men, is to go beyond the extravagance of fables and romances. This wound is not cured by saying, that he first conquers one, and then more, and with their help others; for as to matter of fact, the first news we hear of Nimrod is, that he reigned over a great multitude, and built vast cities; and we know of no kingdom in the world, that did not begin with a greater number than any one man could possibly subdue. If they who chuse one to be their head, did under his conduct subdue others, they were fellow conquerors with him; and nothing can be more brutish, than to think, that by their virtue and valour they had purchased perpetual slavery to themselves and their posterity. But if it were possible, it could not be justifiable; and whilst our dispute is concerning right, that which ought not to be is no more to be received, than if it could not be. No right can come by conquest, unless there were a right of making that conquest, which, by reason of the equality that our author confesses to have been amongst the heads of families, and as I have proved goes into infinity, can never be on the aggressor’s side. No man can justly impose anything upon those who owe him nothing. Our author therefore, who ascribes the enlargement of Nimrod’s kingdom to usurpation and tyranny, might as well have acknowledged the same in the beginning, as he says all other authors have done.1 However, he ought not to have imputed to Sir Walter Raleigh an approbation of his right, as lord or king over his family; for he could never think him to be a lord by the right of a father, who by that rule must have lived and died a slave to his fathers that overlived him. Whosoever therefore like Nimrod grounds his pretensions of right upon usurpation and tyranny, declares himself to be, like Nimrod, a usurper and a tyrant, that is an enemy to God and man, and to have no right at all. That which was unjust in its beginning, can of itself never change its nature. Tempus in se, saith Grotius, nullam habet vim effectricem.2 He that persists in doing injustice, aggravates it, and takes upon himself all the guilt of his predecessors. But if there be a king in the world, that claims a right by conquest, and would justify it, he might do well to tell whom he conquered, when, with what assistance, and upon what reason he undertook the war; for he can ground no title upon the obscurity of an unsearchable antiquity; and if he does it not, he ought to be looked upon as a usurping Nimrod.
The pretended paternal Right is divisible or indivisible: if divisible, ’tis extinguished; if indivisible, universal.
This paternal right to regality, if there be anything in it, is divisible or indivisible; if indivisible, as Adam hath but one heir, one man is rightly lord of the whole world, and neither Nimrod nor any of his successors could ever have been kings, nor the seventy two that went from Babylon: Noah survived him near two hundred years: Shem continued one hundred and fifty years longer. The dominion must have been in him, and by him transmitted to his posterity forever. Those that call themselves kings in all other nations, set themselves up against the law of God and nature: This is the man we are to seek out, that we may yield obedience to him. I know not where to find him; but he must be of the race of Abraham. Shem was preferred before his brethren: The inheritance that could not be divided must come to him, and from him to Isaac, who was the first of his descendants that outlived him. ’Tis pity that Jacob did not know this, and that the lord of all the earth, through ignorance of his title, should be forced to keep one of his subject’s sheep for wages; and strange, that he who had wit enough to supplant his brother, did so little understand his own bargain, as not to know that he had bought the perpetual empire of the world. If in conscience he could not take such a price for a dish of pottage, it must remain in Esau: However our lord paramount must come from Isaac. If the deed of sale made by Esau be good, we must seek him amongst the Jews; if he could not so easily divest himself of his right, it must remain amongst his descendants, who are Turks. We need not scruple the reception of either, since the late Scots Act tells us, That kings derive their royal power from God alone; and no difference of religion, &c. can divert the right of succession.1 But I know not what we shall do, if we cannot find this man; for de non apparentibus & non existentibus eadem est ratio.2 The right must fall if there be none to inherit: If we do not know who he is that hath the right, we do not know who is near to him: All mankind must inherit the right, to which everyone hath an equal title; and that which is dominion, if in one, when ’tis equally divided among all men, is that universal liberty which I assert. Wherefore I leave it to the choice of such as have inherited our author’s opinions, to produce this Jew or Turk that ought to be lord of the whole earth, or to prove a better title in some other person, and to persuade all the princes and nations of the world to submit: If this be not done, it must be confessed this paternal right is a mere whimsical fiction, and that no man by birth hath a right above another, or can have any, unless by the concession of those who are concerned.
If this right to an universal empire be divisible, Noah did actually divide it among his three sons: Seventy and two absolute monarchs did at once arise out of the multitude that had assembled at Babel: Noah, nor his sons, nor any of the holy seed, nor probably any elder than Nimrod having been there, many other monarchs must necessarily have arisen from them. Abraham, as our author says, was a king: Lot must have been so also; for they were equals: his sons Ammon and Moab had no dependence upon the descendants of Abraham. Ishmael and Esau set up for themselves, and great nations came of them: Abraham’s sons by Keturah did so also; that is to say, every one as soon as he came to be of age to provide for himself, did so, without retaining any dependence upon the stock from whence he came: Those of that stock, or the head of it, pretended to no right over those who went from them. Nay, nearness in blood was so little regarded, that tho Lot was Abraham’s brother’s son, Eliezer his servant had been his heir, if he had died childless. The like continued amongst Jacob’s sons; no jurisdiction was given to one above the rest: an equal division of land was made amongst them: Their judges and magistrates were of several tribes and families, without any other preference of one before another, than what did arise from the advantages God had given to any particular person. This I take to be a proof of the utmost extent and certainty, that the equality amongst mankind was then perfect: He therefore that will deny it to be so now, ought to prove that neither the prophets, patriarchs, or any other men did ever understand or regard the law delivered by God and nature to mankind; or that having been common and free at the first, and so continued for many hundreds of years after the Flood, it was afterwards abolished, and a new one introduced. He that asserts this must prove it; but till it does appear to us, when, where, how, and by whom this was done, we may safely believe there is no such thing; and that no man is or can be a lord amongst us, till we make him so; and that by nature we are all brethren.
Our author, by endeavouring farther to illustrate the patriarchical power, destroys it, and cannot deny to any man the right which he acknowledges to have been in Ishmael and Esau. But if every man hath a right of setting up for himself with his family, or before he has any, he cannot but have a right of joining with others if he pleases. As his joining or not joining with others, and the choice of those others depends upon his own will, he cannot but have a right of judging upon what conditions ’tis good for him to enter into such a society, as must necessarily hinder him from exercising the right which he has originally in himself. But as it cannot be imagined that men should generally put such fetters upon themselves, unless it were in expectation of a greater good that was thereby to accrue to them, no more can be required to prove that they do voluntarily enter into these societies, institute them for their own good, and prescribe such rules and forms to them as best please themselves, without giving account to any. But if every man be free, till he enter into such a society as he chuseth for his own good, and those societies may regulate themselves as they think fit; no more can be required to prove the natural equality in which all men are born, and continue, till they resign it as into a common stock, in such measure as they think fit for the constituting of societies for their own good, which I assert, and our author denies.
There was no shadow of a paternal Kingdom amongst the Hebrews, nor precept for it.
Our author is so modest to confess, that Jacob’s kingdom consisting of seventy two persons, was swallowed up by the power of the greater monarch Pharaoh:1 But if this was an act of tyranny, ’tis strange that the sacred and eternal right, grounded upon the immutable laws of God and nature, should not be restored to God’s chosen people, when he delivered them from that tyranny. Why was not Jacob’s monarchy conferred upon his right heir? How came the people to neglect a point of such importance? Or if they did forget it, why did not Moses put them in mind of it? Why did not Jacob declare to whom it did belong? Or if he is understood to have declared it, in saying the scepter should not depart from Judah, why was it not delivered into his hands, or into his heirs’? If he was hard to be found in a people of one kindred, but four degrees removed from Jacob their head, who were exact in observing genealogies, how can we hope to find him after so many thousand years, when we do not so much as know from whom we are derived? Or rather how comes that right, which is eternal and universal, to have been nipp’d in the bud, and so abolished before it could take any effect in the world, as never to have been heard of amongst the gentiles, nor the people of God, either before or after the Captivity, from the death of Jacob to this day? This I assert, and I give up the cause if I do not prove it. To this end I begin with Moses and Aaron the first rulers of the people, who were neither of the eldest tribe according to birth, nor the disposition of Jacob, if he did, or could give it to any; nor were they of the eldest line of their own tribe; and even between them the superiority was given to Moses, who was the younger, as ’tis said, I have made thee a God to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy Prophet.2 If Moses was a king, as our author says, but I deny, and shall hereafter prove, the matter is worse: He must have been an usurper of a most unjust dominion over his brethren; and this patriarchical power, which by the law of God was to be perpetually fixed in his descendants, perished with him, and his sons continued in an obscure rank amongst the Levites. Joshua of the tribe of Ephraim succeeded him; Othniel was of Judah, Ehud of Benjamin, Barak of Naphtali, and Gideon of Manasseh. The other judges were of several tribes; and they being dead, their children lay hid amongst the common people, and we hear no more of them. The first king was taken out of the least family of the least and youngest tribe. The second, whilst the children of the first king were yet alive, was the youngest of eight sons of an obscure man in the tribe of Judah: Solomon one of his youngest sons succeeded him: Ten tribes deserted Rehoboam, and by the command of God set up Jeroboam to be their king. The kingdom of Israel by the destruction of one family passed into another: That of Judah by God’s peculiar promise continued in David’s race till the Captivity; but we know not that the eldest son was ever preferred, and have no reason to presume it. David their most reverenced king left no precept for it, and gave an example to the contrary: he did not set up the eldest, but the wisest. After the Captivity they who had most wisdom or valour to defend the people, were thought most fit to command; and the kingdom at the last came to the Hasmonean race, whilst the posterity of David was buried in the mass of the common people, and utterly deprived of all worldly rule or glory. If the judges had not a regal power, or the regal were only just, as instituted by God, and eternally annexed to paternity, all that they did was evil: There could be nothing of justice in the powers exercised by Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, and the rest of the judges. If the power was regal and just, it must have continued in the descendants of the first: Saul, David, and Solomon could never have been kings: The right failing in them, their descendants could inherit none from them; and the others after the Captivity were guilty of the like injustice.
Now as the rule is not general, to which there is any one just exception, there is not one of these examples that would not overthrow our author’s doctrine: If one deviation from it were lawful, another might be, and so to infinity. But the utmost degree of impudent madness to which perhaps any man in the world hath ever arrived, is to assert that to be universal and perpetual, which cannot be verified by any one example to have been in any place of the world, nor justified by any precept.
If it be objected, that all these things were done by God’s immediate disposition: I answer, that it were an impious madness to believe that God did perpetually send his prophets to overthrow what he had ordained from the beginning, and as it were in spite to bring the minds of men into inextricable confusion and darkness; and by particular commands to overthrow his universal and eternal law. But to render this point more clear, I desire it may be considered, that we have but three ways of distinguishing between good and evil.
And first; It cannot be said we have an explicit word for that continuance of the power in the eldest; for it appears not, and having none, we might conclude it to be left to our liberty: For it agrees not with the goodness of God to leave us in a perpetual ignorance of his will in a matter of so great importance, nor to have suffered his own people, or any other to persist, without the least reproof or admonition, in a perpetual opposition to it, if it had displeased him.
To the 2d. The dispensations of his providence, which are the emanations of his will, have gone contrary to this pretended law: There can therefore be no such thing; for God is constant to himself: his works do not contradict his word, and both of them do equally declare to us that which is good.
Thirdly; If there be any precept that by the light of nature we can in matters of this kind look upon as certain, ’tis that the government of a people should be given to him that can best perform the duties of it: No man has it for himself, or from himself; but for and from those who before he had it were his equals, that he may do good to them. If there were a man, who in wisdom, valour, justice and purity, surpassed all others, he might be called a king by nature, because he is best able to bear the weight of so great a charge; and like a good shepherd to lead the people to good. Detur digniori3 is the voice of reason; and that we may be sure detur seniori4 is not so, Solomon tells us, That a wise child is better than an old and foolish king.5 But if this pretended right do not belong to him that is truly the eldest, nothing can be more absurd than a fantastical pretence to a right deduced from him that is not so. Now lest I should be thought to follow my own inventions, and call them reason, or the light of God in us, I desire it may be observed that God himself has ever taken this method. When he raised up Moses to be the leader of his people, he endowed him with the most admirable gifts of his spirit that ever he bestowed upon a man: When he chose seventy men to assist him, he endowed them with the same spirit. Joshua had no other title to succeed him than the like evidence of God’s presence with him. When the people through sin fell into misery, he did not seek out their descendants, nor such as boasted in a prerogative of birth; but shewed whom he designed for their deliverer, by bestowing such gifts upon him as were required for the performance of his work; and never fail’d of doing this, till that miserable sinful people rejecting God and his government, desired that which was in use among their accursed neighbours, that they might be as like to them in the most shameful slavery to man, as in the worship of idols set up against God.
But if this pretended right be grounded upon no word or work of God, nor the reason of man, ’tis to be accounted a mere figment, that hath nothing of truth in it.
If the paternal Right had included Dominion, and was to be transferred to a single Heir, it must perish if he were not known; and could be applied to no other person.
Having shewed that the first kings were not fathers, nor the first fathers kings; that all the kings of the Jews and gentiles mentioned in Scripture came in upon titles different from, and inconsistent with that of paternity; and that we are not led by the word nor the works of God, nor the reason of man, or light of nature to believe there is any such thing, we may safely conclude there never was any such thing, or that it never had any effect, which to us is the same. ’Tis as ridiculous to think of retrieving that, which from the beginning of the world was lost, as to create that which never was. But I may go farther, and affirm, that tho there had been such a right in the first fathers of mankind exercised by them, and for some ages individually transmitted to their eldest sons, it must necessarily perish, since the generations of men are so confused, that no man knows his own original, and consequently this heir is nowhere to be found; for ’tis a folly for a man to pretend to an inheritance, who cannot prove himself to be the right heir. If this be not true, I desire to know from which of Noah’s sons the kings of England, France, or Spain do deduce their original, or what reason they can give why the title to dominion, which is fancied to be in Noah, did rather belong to the first of their respective races, that attained to the crowns they now enjoy, than to the meanest peasant of their kingdoms; or how that can be transmitted to them, which was not in the first. We know that no man can give what he hath not; that if there be no giver, there is no gift; if there be no root, there can be no branch; and that the first point failing, all that should be derived from it must necessarily fail.
Our author, who is good at resolving difficulties, shews us an easy way out of this strait. ’Tis true, says he, all kings are not natural parents of their subjects; yet they either are, or are to be reputed the next heirs to those first progenitors, who were at first the natural parents of the whole people, and in their right succeed to the exercise of the supreme jurisdiction; and such heirs are not only lords of their own children, but also of their brethren, and all those that were subject to their father, &c. By this means it comes to pass, that many a child succeeding a king hath the right of a father over many a grey-headed multitude, and hath the title of pater patriae.1
An assertion comprehending so many points, upon which the most important rights of all mankind do depend, might deserve some proof: But he being of opinion we ought to take it upon his credit, doth not vouchsafe to give us so much as the shadow of any. Nevertheless being unwilling either crudely to receive, or rashly to reject it, I shall take the liberty of examining the proposition, and hope I may be pardoned, if I dwell a little more than ordinarily upon that which is the foundation of his work.
We are beholden to him for confessing modestly that all kings are not the natural fathers of their people, and sparing us the pains of proving, that the kings of Persia, who reigned from the Indies to the Hellespont, did not beget all the men that lived in those countries; or that the kings of France and Spain, who began to reign before they were five years old, were not the natural fathers of the nations under them. But if all kings are not fathers, none are, as they are kings: If any one is, or ever was, the rights of paternity belong to him, and to no other who is not so also. This must be made evident; for matters of such importance require proof, and ought not to be taken upon supposition. If Filmer therefore will pretend that the right of father belongs to any one king, he must prove that he is the father of his people; for otherwise it doth not appertain to him; he is not the man we seek.
’Tis no less absurd to say he is to be reputed heir to the first progenitor: for it must be first proved, that the nation did descend from one single progenitor without mixture of other races: that this progenitor was the man, to whom Noah (according to Filmer’s whimsical division of Asia, Europe, and Africa among his sons) did give the land now inhabited by that people: That this division so made was not capable of subdivisions; and that this man is by a true and uninterrupted succession descended from the first and eldest line of that progenitor; and all fails, if every one of these points be not made good. If there never was any such man who had that right, it cannot be inherited from him. If by the same rule that a parcel of the world was allotted to him, that parcel might be subdivided amongst his children as they increased, the subdivisions may be infinite, and the right of dominion thereby destroyed. If several nations inhabit the same land, they owe obedience to several fathers: that which is due to their true father, cannot be rendered to him that is not so; for he would by that means be deprived of the right which is inseparably annexed to his person: And lastly, whatsoever the right of an heir may be, it can belong only to him that is heir.
Lest any should be seduced from these plain truths by frivolous suggestions, ’tis good to consider that the title of pater patriae, with which our author would cheat us, hath no relation to the matters of right, upon which we dispute. ’Tis a figurative speech, that may have been rightly enough applied to some excellent princes on account of their care and love to their people, resembling that of a father to his children; and can relate to none but those who had it. No man that had common sense, or valued truth, did ever call Phalaris, Dionysius, Nabis, Nero, or Caligula, fathers of their countries; but monsters, that to the utmost of their power endeavoured their destruction: which is enough to prove, that sacred name cannot be given to all, and in consequence to none but such, as by their virtue, piety, and good government do deserve it.
These matters will yet appear more evident, if it be considered, that tho Noah had reigned as a king; that Zoroaster, as some suppose, was Ham, who reigned over his children, and that thereby some right might perhaps be derived to such as succeeded them; yet this can have no influence upon such as have not the like original; and no man is to be presumed to have it, till it be proved, since we have proved that many had it not. If Nimrod set himself up against his grandfather, and Ninus, who was descended from him in the fifth generation, slew him; they ill deserved the name and rights of fathers; and none, but those who have renounced all humanity, virtue, and common sense, can give it to them, or their successors. If therefore Noah and Shem had not so much as the shadow of regal power, and the actions of Nimrod, Ninus, and others who were kings in their times, shew they did not reign in the right of fathers, but were set up in a direct opposition to it, the titles of the first kings were not from paternity, nor consistent with it.
Our author therefore, who should have proved every point, doth neither prove any one, nor assert that which is agreeable to divine or human story, as to matter of fact; and as little conformable to common sense. It does not only appear contrary to his general proposition, that all governments have not begun with the paternal power; but we do not find that any ever did. They who according to his rules should have been lords of the whole earth, lived and died private men, whilst the wildest and most boisterous of their children commanded the greatest part of the then inhabited world, not excepting even those countries where they spent and ended their days; and instead of entering upon the government by the right of fathers, or managing it as fathers, they did by the most outrageous injustice usurp a violent domination over their brethren and fathers.
It may easily be imagined what the right is that could be thus acquired, and transmitted to their successors. Nevertheless our author says, All kings either are, or ought to be reputed next heirs, &c. But why reputed, if they were not? How could any of the accursed race of Ham be reputed father of Noah or Shem, to whom he was to be a servant? How could Nimrod and Ninus be reputed fathers of Ham, and of those whom they ought to have obeyed? Can reason oblige me to believe that which I know to be false? Can a lie, that is hateful to God and good men, not only be excused, but enjoined, when (as he will perhaps say) it is for the king’s service? Can I serve two masters, or without the most unpardonable injustice, repute him to be my father, who is not my father; and pay the obedience that is due to him who did beget and educate me, to one from whom I never received any good? If this be so absurd, that no man dares affirm it in the person of any, ’tis as preposterous in relation to his heirs: For Nimrod the first king could be heir to no man as king, and could transmit to no man a right which he had not. If it was ridiculous and abominable to say that he was father of Cush, Ham, Shem and Noah; ’tis as ridiculous to say, he had the right of father, if he was not their father; or that his successors inherited it from him, if he never had it. If there be any way through this, it must have accrued to him by the extirpation of all his elders, and their races; so as he who will assert this pretended right to have been in the Babylonian kings, must assert, that Noah, Shem, Japheth, Ham, Cush, and all Nimrod’s elder brothers, with all their descendents, were utterly extirpated before he began to reign, and all mankind to be descended from him.
This must be, if Nimrod, as the Scripture says, was the first that became mighty in the earth; unless men might be kings, without having more power than others; for Cush, Ham and Noah were his elders and progenitors in the direct line, and all the sons of Shem and Japheth, and their descendants in the collaterals, were to be preferred before him; and he could have no right at all, that was not directly contrary to those principles which, our author says, are grounded upon the eternal and indispensable laws of God and nature. The like may be said of the seventy two heads of colonies, which (following, as I suppose, Sir Walter Raleigh)2 he says, went out to people the earth, and whom he calls kings: for, according to the same rule, Noah, Shem and Japheth, with their descendants, could not be of the number; so that neither Nimrod, nor the others that established the kingdoms of the world, and from whence he thinks all the rest to be derived, could have anything of justice in them, unless it were from a root altogether inconsistent with his principles. They are therefore false, or the establishments before mentioned could have no right. If they had none, they cannot be reputed to have any; for no man can think that to be true, which he knows to be false: having none, they could transmit none to their heirs and successors. And if we are to believe, that all the kingdoms of the earth are established upon this paternal right; it must be proved that all those, who in birth ought to have been preferred before Nimrod, and the seventy two were extirpated; or that the first and true heir of Noah did afterwards abolish all these unjust usurpations; and making himself master of the whole, left it to his heirs, in whom it continues to this day. When this is done, I will acknowledge the foundation to be well laid, and admit of all that can be rightly built upon it; but if this fails, all fails: The poison of the root continues in the branches. If the right heir be not in possession, he is not the right who is in possession: If the true heir be known, he ought to be restored to his right: If he be not known, the right must perish: That cannot be said to belong to any man, if no man knows to whom it belongs, and can have no more effect than if it were not. This conclusion will continue unmoveable, tho the division into seventy two kingdoms were allowed; which cannot be without destroying the paternal power, or subjecting it to be subdivided into as many parcels as there are men, which destroys regality; for the same thing may be required in every one of the distinct kingdoms, and others derived from them. We must know who was that true heir of Noah, that recovered all: How, when, and to whom he gave the several portions; and that every one of them do continue in the possession of those, who by this prerogative of birth are raised above the rest of mankind; and if they are not, ’tis an impious folly to repute them so, to the prejudice of those that are; and if they do not appear, to the prejudice of all mankind; who being equal, are thereby made subject to them. For as truth is the rule of justice; there can be none, when he is reputed superior to all who is certainly inferior to
[In this place two pages are wanting in the original manuscript.]3
[SECTION 15] 1
—degenerated from that reason which distinguisheth men from beasts. Tho it may be fit to use some ceremonies, before a man be admitted to practice physick, or set up a trade, ’tis his own skill that makes him a doctor or an artificer, and others do but declare it. An ass will not leave his stupidity, tho he be covered with scarlet; and he that is by nature a slave, will be so still, tho a crown be put upon his head: and ’tis hard to imagine a more violent inversion of the laws of God and nature, than to raise him to the throne, whom nature intended for the chain; or to make them slaves to slaves, whom God hath endowed with the virtues required in kings. Nothing can be more preposterous, than to impute to God the frantick domination, which is often exercised by wicked, foolish and vile persons, over the wise, valiant, just and good; or to subject the best to the rage of the worst. If there be any family therefore in the world, that can by the law of God and nature, distinct from the ordinance of man, pretend to an hereditary right of dominion over any people, it must be one that never did, and never can produce any person that is not free from all the infirmities and vices that render him unable to exercise the sovereign power; and is endowed with all the virtues required to that end; or at least a promise from God, verified by experience, that the next in blood shall ever be able and fit for that work. But since we do not know that any such hath yet appeared in the world, we have no reason to believe that there is, or ever was any such; and consequently none upon whom God hath conferred the rights that cannot be exercised without them.
If there was no shadow of a paternal right in the institution of the kingdoms of Saul and David, there could be none in those that succeeded. Rehoboam could have no other, than from Solomon: When he reigned over two tribes, and Jeroboam over ten, ’tis not possible that both of them could be the next heir of their last common father Jacob; and ’tis absurd to say, that ought to be reputed, which is impossible: for our thoughts are ever to be guided by truth, or such an appearance of it, as doth persuade or convince us.
The same title of father is yet more ridiculously or odiously applied to the succeeding kings. Baasha had no other title to the crown, than by killing Nadab the son of Jeroboam, and destroying his family. Zimri purchased the same honour by the slaughter of Elah when he was drunk; and dealing with the house of Baasha, as he had done with that of Jeroboam. Zimri burning himself, transferred the same to Omri, as a reward for bringing him to that extremity. As Jehu was more fierce than these, he seems to have gained a more excellent recompence than any since Jeroboam, even a conditional promise of a perpetual kingdom; but falling from these glorious privileges, purchased by his zeal in killing two wicked kings, and above one hundred of their brethren, Shallum inherited them, by destroying Zechariah and all that remained of his race. This in plain English is no less than to say, that whosoever kills a king, and invades a crown, tho the act and means of accomplishing it be never so detestable, does thereby become father of his country, and heir of all the divine privileges annexed to that glorious inheritance. And tho I cannot tell whether such a doctrine be more sottish, monstrous or impious, I dare affirm, that if it were received, no king in the world could think himself safe in his throne for one day: They are already encompassed with many dangers; but lest pride, avarice, ambition, lust, rage, and all the vices that usually reign in the hearts of worldly men, should not be sufficient to invite them perpetually to disturb mankind, through the desire of gaining the power, riches and splendor that accompanies a crown, our author proposes to them the most sacred privileges, as a reward of the most execrable crimes. He that was stirred up only by the violence of his own nature, thought that a kingdom could never be bought at too dear a rate;
But if the sacred character of God’s anointed or vicegerent, and father of a country, were added to the other advantages that follow the highest fortunes; the most modest and just men would be filled with fury, that they might attain to them. Nay, it may be, even the best would be the most forward in conspiring against such as reigned: They who could not be tempted with external pleasures, would be most in love with divine privileges; and since they should become the sacred ministers of God, if they succeeded, and traitors or rogues only if they miscarried, their only care would be so to lay their designs, that they might be surely executed. This is a doctrine worthy of Filmer’s invention, and Heylyn’s approbation; which being well weighed, will shew to all good and just kings how far they are obliged to those, who under pretence of advancing their authority, fill the minds of men with such notions as are so desperately pernicious to them.
The ancients chose those to be Kings, who excelled in the Virtues that are most beneficial to Civil Societies.
If the Israelites, whose lawgiver was God, had no king in the first institution of their government, ’tis no wonder that other nations should not think themselves obliged to set up any: if they who came all of one stock, and knew their genealogies, when they did institute kings, had no regard to our author’s chimerical right of inheritance, nor were taught by God or his prophets to have any; ’tis not strange that nations, who did not know their own original, and who probably, if not certainly, came of several stocks, never put themselves to the trouble of seeking one, who by his birth deserved to be preferred before others; and if the various changes happening in all kingdoms (whereby in process of time the crowns were transported into divers families, to which the right of inheritance could not without the utmost impiety and madness be imputed) such a fancy certainly could only enter into the heads of fools; and we know of none so foolish to have harbour’d it.
The Grecians, amongst others who followed the light of reason, knew no other original title to the government of a nation, than that wisdom, valour and justice, which was beneficial to the people. These qualities gave beginning to those governments, which we call heroum regna;1 and the veneration paid to such as enjoyed them, proceeded from a grateful sense of the good received from them: They were thought to be descended from the gods, who in virtue and beneficence surpassed other men: The same attended their descendants, till they came to abuse their power, and by their vices shewed themselves like to, or worse than others. Those nations did not seek the most ancient, but the most worthy; and thought such only worthy to be preferred before others, who could best perform their duty. The Spartans knew that Hercules and Achilles were not their fathers, for they were a nation before either of them were born; but thinking their children might be like to them in valour, they brought them from Thebes and Epirus to be their kings. If our author is of another opinion, I desire to know, whether the Heraclidae, or the Aeacidae were, or ought to be reputed fathers of the Lacedemonians; for if the one was, the other was not.
The same method was followed in Italy; and they who esteemed themselves Aborigines,
could not set up one to govern them under the title of parent. They could pay no veneration to any man under the name of a common father, who thought they had none; and they who esteemed themselves equal, could have no reason to prefer any one; unless he were distinguished from others by the virtues that were beneficial to all. This may be illustrated by matters of fact. Romulus and Remus, the sons of a nun, constuprated, as is probable, by a lusty soldier, who was said to be Mars, for their vigour and valour were made heads of a gathered people. We know not that ever they had any children; but we are sure they could not be fathers of the people that flocked to them from several places, nor in any manner be reputed heirs of him or them that were so; for they never knew who was their own father; and when their mother came to be discovered, they ought to have been subjects to Amulius or Numitor, when they had slain him. They could not be his heirs whilst he lived, and were not when he died: The government of the Latins continued at Alba, and Romulus reigned over those who joined with him in building Rome. The power not coming to him by inheritance, must have been gained by force, or conferred upon him by consent: It could not be acquired by force; for one man could not force a multitude of fierce and valiant men, as they appear to have been. It must therefore have been by consent: And when he aimed at more authority than they were willing to allow, they slew him. He being dead, they fetched Numa from among the Sabines: He was not their father, nor heir to their father, but a stranger; not a conqueror, but an unarmed philosopher. Tullus Hostilius had no other title: Ancus Marcius was no way related to such as had reigned. The first Tarquin was the son of a banished Corinthian. Servius Tullius came to Rome in the belly of his captive mother, and could inherit nothing but chains from his vanquished father. Tarquin the Proud murdered him, and first took upon himself the title of king, sine jussu populi.3 If this murder and usurpation be called a conquest, and thought to create a right, the effect will be but small: The conqueror was soon conquered, banished, and his sons slain, after which we hear no more of him or his descendants. Whatsoever he gained from Servius, or the people, was soon lost, and did accrue to those that conquered and ejected him; and they might retain what was their own, or confer it upon one or more, in such manner and measure as best pleased themselves. If the regal power, which our author says was in the consuls, could be divided into two parts, limited to a year, and suffer such restrictions as the people pleased to lay upon it, they might have divided it into as many parcels, and put it into such form, as best suited with their inclinations; and the several magistracies which they did create for the exercise of the kingly, and all other powers, shews that they were to give account to none but themselves.
The Israelites, Spartans, Romans and others, who thus framed their governments according to their own will, did it not by any peculiar privilege, but by a universal right conferred upon them by God and nature: They were made of no better clay than others: They had no right, that does not as well belong to other nations; that is to say, the constitution of every government is referred to those who are concerned in it, and no other has anything to do with it.
Yet if it be asserted, that the government of Rome was paternal, or they had none at all; I desire to know, how they came to have six fathers of several families, whilst they lived under kings; and two or more new ones every year afterwards: Or how they came to be so excellent in virtue and fortune, as to conquer the best part of the world, if they had no government. Hobbes indeed doth scurrilously deride Cicero, Plato and Aristotle, caeterosque Romanae & Graecae anarchiae fautores.4 But ’tis strange that this anarchy, which he resembles to a chaos, full of darkness and confusion, that can have no strength or regular action, should overthrow all the monarchies that came within their reach, If (as our author says) the best order, greatest strength, and most stability be in them.5 It must therefore be confessed, that these governments are in their various forms, rightly instituted by several nations, without any regard to inheritance; or that these nations have had no governments, and were more strong, virtuous and happy without government, than under it, which is most absurd.
But if governments arise from the consent of men, and are instituted by men according to their own inclinations, they did therein seek their own good; for the will is ever drawn by some real good, or the appearance of it. This is that which man seeks by all the regular or irregular motions of his mind. Reason and passion, virtue and vice do herein concur, tho they differ vastly in the objects, in which each of them thinks this good to consist. A people therefore that sets up kings, dictators, consuls, praetors or emperors, does it not, that they may be great, glorious, rich or happy, but that it may be well with themselves and their posterity. This is not accomplished simply by setting one, a few, or more men in the administration of powers, but by placing the authority in those who may rightly perform their office. This is not every man’s work: valour, integrity, wisdom, industry, experience and skill, are required for the management of those military and civil affairs that necessarily fall under the care of the chief magistrates. He or they therefore may reasonably be advanced above their equals, who are most fit to perform the duties belonging to their stations, in order to the publick good, for which they were instituted.
Marius, Sulla, Catiline, Julius or Octavius Caesar, and all those who by force or fraud usurped a dominion over their brethren, could have no title to this right; much less could they become fathers of the people, by using all the most wicked means that could well be imagined to destroy them; and not being regularly chosen for their virtues, or the opinion of them, nor preferred on account of any prerogative that had been from the beginning annexed to their families, they could have no other right than occupation could confer upon them. If this can confer a right, there is an end of all disputes concerning the laws of God or man. If Julius and Octavius Caesar did successively become lords and fathers of their country, by slaughtering almost all the senate, and such persons as were eminent for nobility or virtue, together with the major part of the people, it cannot be denied, that a thief, who breaks into his neighbour’s house, and kills him, is justly master of his estate; and may exact the same obedience from his children, that they render to their father. If this right could be transferred to Tiberius, either through the malice of Octavius, or the fraud of his wife; a wet blanket laid over his face, and a few corrupted soldiers could invest Caligula with the same. A vile rascal pulling Claudius out by the heels from behind the hangings where he had hid himself, could give it to him. A dish of mushrooms well seasoned by the infamous strumpet his wife, and a potion prepared for Britannicus by Locusta, could transfer it to her son, who was a stranger to his blood. Galba became heir to it, by driving Nero to despair and death. Two common soldiers by exciting his guards to kill him, could give a just title to the empire of the world to Otho, who was thought to be the worst man in it. If a company of villains in the German army, thinking it as fit for them as others, to create a father of mankind, could confer the dignity upon Vitellius; and if Vespasian, causing him to be killed, and thrown into a jakes less impure than his life, did inherit all the glorious and sacred privileges belonging to that title, ’tis in vain to inquire after any man’s right to anything.
If there be such a thing as right or wrong to be examined by men, and any rules set, whereby the one may be distinguished from the other; these extravagancies can have no effect of right. Such as commit them, are not to be looked upon as fathers; but as the most mortal enemies of their respective countries. No right is to be acknowledged in any, but such as is conferred upon them by those who have the right of conferring, and are concerned in the exercise of the power, upon such conditions as best please themselves. No obedience can be due to him or them, who have not a right of commanding. This cannot reasonably be conferred upon any, that are not esteemed willing and able rightly to execute it. This ability to perform the highest works that come within the reach of men; and integrity of will not to be diverted from it by any temptation, or consideration of private advantages, comprehending all that is most commendable in man; we may easily see, that whensoever men act according to the law of their own nature, which is reason, they can have no other rule to direct them in advancing one above another, than the opinion of a man’s virtue and ability, best to perform the duty incumbent upon him; that is, by all means to procure the good of the people committed to his charge. He is only fit to conduct a ship, who understands the art of a pilot: When we are sick, we seek the assistance of such as are best skill’d in physick: The command of an army is prudently conferred upon him that hath most industry, skill, experience and valour: In like manner, he only can, according to the rules of nature, be advanced to the dignities of the world, who excels in the virtues required for the performance of the duties annexed to them; for he only can answer the end of his institution. The law of every instituted power, is to accomplish the end of its institution, as creatures are to do the will of their creator, and in deflecting from it, overthrow their own being. Magistrates are distinguished from other men, by the power with which the law invests them for the publick good: He that cannot or will not procure that good, destroys his own being, and becomes like to other men. In matters of the greatest importance, detur digniori6 is the voice of nature; all her most sacred laws are perverted, if this be not observed in the disposition of the governments of mankind: But all is neglected and violated, if they are not put into the hands of such as excel in all manner of virtues; for they only are worthy of them, and they only can have a right who are worthy, because they only can perform the end for which they are instituted. This may seem strange to those, who have their heads infected with Filmer’s whimseys; but to others, so certainly grounded upon truth, that Bartholomew de Las Casas Bishop of Chiapa, in a treatise written by him, and dedicated to the Emperor Charles the 5th, concerning the Indies, makes it the foundation of all his discourse, that notwithstanding his grant of all those countries from the pope, and his pretentions to conquest, he could have no right over any of those nations, unless he did in the first place, as the principal end, regard their good: The reason, says he, is, that regard is to be had to the principal end and cause, for which a supreme or universal lord is set over them, which is their good and profit, and not that it should turn to their destruction and ruin; for if that should be, there is no doubt but from thence forward, that power would be tyrannical and unjust, as tending more to the interest and profit of that lord, than to the publick good and profit of the subjects; which, according to natural reason, and the laws of God and man, is abhorred, and deserves to be abhorred.7 And in another place speaking of the governors, who, abusing their power, brought many troubles and vexations upon the Indians; he says, They had rendered his majesty’s government intolerable, and his yoke insupportable, tyrannical, and most justly abhorred.8 I do not allege this through an opinion, that a Spanish bishop is of more authority than another man; but to shew, that these are common notions agreed by all mankind; and that the greatest monarchs do neither refuse to hear them, or to regulate themselves according to them, till they renounce common sense, and degenerate into beasts.
But if that government be unreasonable, and abhorred by the laws of God and man, which is not instituted for the good of those that live under it; and an empire, grounded upon the donation of the pope, which amongst those of the Roman religion is of great importance, and an entire conquest of the people, with whom there had been no former compact, do degenerate into a most unjust and detestable tyranny, so soon as the supreme lord begins to prefer his own interest or profit, before the good of his subjects; what shall we say of those who pretend to a right of dominion over free nations, as inseparably united to their persons, without distinction of age or sex, or the least consideration of their infirmities and vices; as if they were not placed in the throne for the good of their people, but to enjoy the honours and pleasures that attend the highest fortune? What name can be fit for those, who have no other title to the places they possess, than the most unjust and violent usurpation, or being descended from those, who for their virtues were, by the people’s consent, duly advanced to the exercise of a legitimate power; and having sworn to administer it, according to the conditions upon which it was given, for the good of those who gave it, turn all to their own pleasure and profit, without any care of the publick? These may be liable to hard censures; but those who use them most gently, must confess, that such an extreme deviation from the end of their institution, annuls it; and the wound thereby given to the natural and original rights of those nations cannot be cured, unless they resume the liberties, of which they have been deprived, and return to the ancient custom of chusing those to be magistrates, who for their virtues best deserve to be preferred before their brethren, and are endowed with those qualities that best enable men to perform the great end of providing for the publick safety.
God having given the Government of the World to no one Man, nor declared how it should be divided, left it to the Will of Man.
Our author’s next inquiry is, What becomes of the right of fatherhood, in case the crown should escheat for want of an heir? Whether it doth not escheat to the people? His answer is, ’Tis but the negligence or ignorance of the people, to lose the knowledge of the true heir, &c. And a little below, The power is not devolved to the multitude: No; the kingly power escheats on independent heads of families: All such prime heads have power to consent in the uniting, or conferring their fatherly right of sovereign authority on whom they please; and he that is so elected, claims not his power as a donative from the people, but as being substituted by God, from whom he receives his royal charter of universal father, &c.1
In my opinion, before he had asked, What should be done in case the crown should escheat for want of an heir? he ought to have proved, there had been a man in the world, who had the right in himself, and telling who he was, have shewed how it had been transmitted for some generations, that we might know where to seek his heir; and before he accused the multitude of ignorance or negligence, in not knowing this heir, he ought to have informed us, how it may be possible to know him, or what it would avail us if we did know him, for ’tis in vain to know to whom a right belongs, that never was, and never can be executed. But we may go farther, and affirm, that as the universal right must have been in Noah and Shem (if in any) who never exercised it; we have reason to believe there never was any such thing: And having proved from Scripture and human history, that the first kingdoms were set up in a direct opposition to this right, by Nimrod and others, he that should seek and find their heirs, would only find those, who by a most accursed wickedness, had usurped and continued a dominion over their fathers, contrary to the laws of God and nature; and we should neither be more wise, nor more happy than we are, tho our author should furnish us with certain and authentick genealogies, by which we might know the true heirs of Nimrod, and the seventy two kings that went from Babylon, who, as he supposes, gave beginning to all the kingdoms of the earth.
Moreover, if the right be universal, it must be in one; for the universe being but one, the whole right of commanding it cannot at the same time be in many, and proceed from the ordinance of God, or of man. It cannot proceed from the ordinance of God; for he doth nothing in vain: He never gave a right that could not be executed: No man can govern that which he does not so much as know: No man did ever know all the world; no man therefore did or could govern it: and none could be appointed by God to do that which is absolutely impossible to be done; for it could not consist with his wisdom. We find this in ourselves. It were a shame for one of us poor, weak, shortsighted creatures, in the disposal of our affairs, to appoint such a method, as were utterly ineffectual for the preservation of our families, or destructive to them; and the blasphemy of imputing to God such an ordinance, as would be a reproach to one of us, can suit only with the wicked and impudent fury of such as our author, who delights in monsters. This also shews us that it cannot be from men: One, or a few, may commit follies, but mankind does not universally commit, and perpetually persist in any: They cannot therefore, by a general and permanent authority, enact that which is utterly absurd and impossible; or if they do, they destroy their own nature, and can no longer deserve the name of reasonable creatures. There can be therefore no such man, and the folly of seeking him, or his heir that never was, may be left to the disciples of Filmer.
The difficulties are as great, if it be said, the world might be divided into parcels, and we are to seek the heirs of the first possessors; for besides that no man can be obliged to seek that which cannot be found (all men knowing that caliginosa nocte haec premit Deus2 ), and that the genealogies of mankind are so confused, that, unless possibly among the Jews, we have reason to believe there is not a man in the world, who knows his own original, it could be of no advantage to us tho we knew that of everyone; for the division would be of no value, unless it were at the first rightly made by him who had all the authority in himself (which does nowhere appear), and rightly deduced to him, who, according to that division, claims a right to the parcel he enjoys; and I fear our author would terribly shake the crowns, in which the nations of Europe are concerned, if they should be persuaded to search into the genealogies of their princes, and to judge of their rights according to the proofs they should give of titles rightly deduced by succession of blood from the seventy two first kings, from whom our author fancies all the kingdoms of the world to be derived.
Besides, tho this were done, it would be to no purpose: for the seventy two were not sent out by Noah, nor was he or his sons of that number; but they went or were sent from Babylon where Nimrod reigned, who, as has been already proved, neither had, nor could have any right at all; but was a mighty hunter, even a proud and cruel tyrant, usurping a power to which he had no right, and which was perpetually exercised by him and his successors against God and his people, from whence I may safely conclude, that no right can ever be derived; and may justly presume it will be denied by none who are of better morals, and of more sound principles in matters of law and religion than Filmer and Heylyn; since ’tis no less absurd to deduce a right from him that had none, than to expect pure and wholesome waters from a filthy, polluted, and poisonous fountain.
If it be pretended that some other man since Noah had this universal right, it must either remain in one single person, as his right heir, or be divided. If in one, I desire to know who he is, and where we may find him, that the empire of the world may be delivered to him: But if he cannot be found, the business is at an end; for every man in the world may pretend himself to be the person; and the infinite controversies arising thereupon can never be decided, unless either the genealogies of everyone from Noah were extant and proved, or we had a word from heaven, with a sufficient testimony of his mission who announceth it. When this is done, ’twill be time to consider what kind of obedience is due to this wonderfully happy and glorious person. But whilst the first appears to be absolutely impossible, and we have no promise or reason to expect the other, the proposition is to be esteemed one of our author’s empty whimseys, which cannot be received by mankind, unless they come all to be possessed with an epidemical madness, which would cast them into that which Hobbes calls bellum omnium contra omnes;3 when every man’s sword would be drawn against every man, and every man’s against him, if God should so abandon the world to suffer them to fall into such misery.
If this pretended right be divided, it concerns us to know by whom, when, how, and to whom: for the division cannot be of any value, unless the right was originally in one; that he did exercise this right in making the division; that the parcels into which the world is divided are according to the allotment that was made; and that the persons claiming them by virtue of it are the true heirs of those to whom they were first granted. Many other difficulties may be alleged no less inextricable than these; but this seeming sufficient for the present, I shall not trouble myself with more, promising that when they shall be removed I will propose others, or confessing my errors, yield up the cause.
But if the dominion of the whole world cannot belong to any one man, and every one have an equal title to that which should give it; or if it did belong to one, none did ever exercise it in governing the whole, or dividing it; or if he did divide it, no man knows how, when, and to whom; so that they who lay claim to any parcels can give no testimony of that division, nor shew any better title than other men derived from his first progenitor, to whom ’tis said to have been granted; and that we have neither a word, nor the promise of a word from God to decide the controversies arising thereupon, nor any prophet giving testimony of his mission that takes upon him to do it, the whole fabrick of our author’s patriarchical dominion falls to the ground; and they who propose these doctrines, which (if they were received) would be a root of perpetual and irreconcilable hatred in every man against every man, can be accounted no less than ministers of the Devil, tho they want the abilities he has sometimes infused into those who have been employ’d upon the like occasions. And we may justly conclude that God having never given the whole world to be governed by one man, nor prescribed any rule for the division of it; nor declared where the right of dividing or subdividing that which every man has should terminate; we may safely affirm that the whole is forever left to the will and discretion of man: We may enter into, form, and continue in greater or lesser societies, as best pleases ourselves: The right of paternity as to dominion is at an end, and no more remains, but the love, veneration, and obedience, which proceeding from a due sense of the benefits of birth and education, have their root in gratitude, and are esteemed sacred and inviolable by all that are sober and virtuous. And as ’tis impossible to transfer these benefits by inheritance, so ’tis impossible to transfer the rights arising from them. No man can be my father but he that did beget me; and ’tis as absurd to say I owe that duty to one who is not my father, which I owe to my father, as to say, he did beget me, who did not beget me; for the obligation that arises from benefits can only be to him that conferred them. ’Tis in vain to say the same is due to his heir; for that can take place only when he has but one, which in this case signifies nothing: For if I being the only son of my father, inherit his right, and have the same power over my children as he had over me; if I had one hundred brothers, they must all inherit the same; and the law of England, which acknowledges one only heir, is not general, but municipal, and is so far from being general, as the precept of God and nature, that I doubt whether it was ever known or used in any nation of the world beyond our island. The words of the Apostle, If we are children, we are therefore heirs and co-heirs with Christ,4 are the voice of God and nature; and as the universal law of God and nature is always the same, every one of us who have children have the same right over them, as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had over theirs; and that right which was not devolved to any one of them, but inherited by them all (I mean the right of father as father) not the peculiar promises, which were not according to the law of nature, but the election of grace, is also inherited by every one of us, and ours, that is, by all mankind. But if that which could be inherited was inherited by all, and it be impossible that a right of dominion over all can be due to everyone, then all that is or can be inherited by everyone is that exemption from the dominion of another, which we call liberty, and is the gift of God and nature.
If a right of Dominion were esteemed Hereditary according to the Law of Nature, a multitude of destructive and inextricable Controversies would thereupon arise.
There being no such thing therefore, according to the law of nature, as an hereditary right to the dominion of the world, or any part of it; nor one man that can derive to himself a title from the first fathers of mankind, by which he can rightly pretend to be preferred before others to that command, or a part of it, and none can be derived from Nimrod, or other usurpers, who had none in themselves; we may justly spare our pains of seeking farther into that matter. But as things of the highest importance can never be too fully explained; it may not be amiss to observe, that if mankind could be brought to believe that such a right of dominion were by the law of God and nature hereditary, a great number of the most destructive and inextricable controversies must thereupon arise, which the wisdom and goodness of God can never enjoin, and nature, which is reason, can never intend; but at present I shall only mention two, from whence others must perpetually spring. First if there be such a law, no human constitution can alter it: No length of time can be a defence against it: All governments that are not conformable to it are vicious and void even in their root, and must be so forever: That which is originally unjust may be justly overthrown. We do not know of any (at least in that part of the world in which we are most concerned) that is established, or exercised with an absolute power, as by the authors of those opinions is esteemed inseparable from it: Many, as the empire, and other states, are directly contrary; and on that account can have no justice in them. It being certain therefore that he or they who exercise those governments have no right: that there is a man to whom it doth belong, and no man knowing who he is, there is no one man who has not as good a title to it as any other: There is not therefore one who hath not a right, as well as any, to overthrow that which hath none at all. He that hath no part in the government may destroy it as well as he that has the greatest; for he neither has that which God ordained he should have, nor can shew a title to that which he enjoys from that original prerogative of birth, from whence it can only be derived.
If it be said, that some governments are arbitrary, as they ought to be, and France, Turkey, and the like be alleged as instances, the matter is not mended: for we do not only know when those, who deserve to be regarded by us, were not absolute, and how they came to be so; but also, that those very families which are now in possession are not of very long continuance, had no more title to the original right we speak of than any other men, and consequently can have none to this day. And tho we cannot perhaps say that the governments of the barbarous Eastern nations were ever other than they are, yet the known original of them deprives them of all pretence to the patriarchical inheritance, and they may be as justly as any other deprived of the power to which they have no title.
In the second place, tho all men’s genealogies were extant, and fully verified, and it were allowed that the dominion of the world, or every part of it did belong to the right heir of the first progenitor, or any other to whom the first did rightly assign the parcel, which is under question; yet it were impossible for us to know who should be esteemed the true heir, or according to what rule he should be judged so to be: for God hath not by a precise word determined it, and men cannot agree about it, as appears by the various laws and customs of several nations, disposing severally of hereditary dominions.
’Tis a folly to say, they ought to go to the next in blood; for ’tis not known who is that next. Some give the preference to him who amongst many competitors is the fewest degrees removed from their common progenitor who first obtained the crown: Others look only upon the last that possessed it. Some admit of representation, by which means the grandchild of a king by his eldest son, is preferred before his second son, he being said to represent his dead father, who was the eldest: Others exclude these, and advance the younger son, who is nearer by one degree to the common progenitor that last enjoyed the crown than the grandchild. According to the first rule, Richard the second was advanced to the crown of England, as son of the eldest son of Edward the third, before his uncles, who by one degree were nearer to the last possessor: And in pursuance of the second, Sancho surnamed the Brave, second son of Alfonso the Wise, King of Castile, was preferred before Alfonso son of Ferdinand his elder brother, according to the law of tanistry, which was in force in Spain ever since we have had any knowledge of that country, as appears by the contest between Corbis and Orsua, decided by combat before Scipio Africanus; continued in full force as long as the kingdom of the Goths lasted, and was ever highly valued, till the House of Austria got possession of that country, and introduced laws and customs formerly unknown to the inhabitants.
The histories of all nations furnish us with innumerable examples of both sorts; and whosoever takes upon him to determine which side is in the right, ought to shew by what authority he undertakes to be the judge of mankind, and how the infinite breaches thereby made upon the rights of the governing families shall be cured, without the overthrow of those that he shall condemn, and of the nations where such laws have been in force as he dislikes: and till that be done, in my opinion, no place will afford a better lodging for him that shall impudently assume such a power, than the new buildings in Moor-Fields.
’Tis no less hard to decide whether this next heir is to be sought in the male line only, or whether females also be admitted. If we follow the first as the law of God and nature, the title of our English kings is wholly abolished; for not one of them since Henry the 1st has had the least pretence to an inheritance by the masculine line; and if it were necessary, we have enough to say of those that were before them.
If it be said, that the same right belongs to females, it ought to be proved that women are as fit as men to perform the office of a king, that is, as the Israelites said to Samuel, to go in and out before us, to judge us, and to fight our battles; for it were an impious folly to say that God had ordained those for the offices on which the good of mankind so much depends, who by nature are unable to perform the duties of them. If on the other side, the sweetness, gentleness, delicacy, and tenderness of the sex render them so unfit for manly exercises, that they are accounted utterly repugnant to, and inconsistent with that modesty which does so eminently shine in all those that are good amongst them; that law of nature which should advance them to the government of men, would overthrow its own work, and make those to be the heads of nations, which cannot be the heads of private families; for, as the Apostle says, The woman is not the head of the man, but the man is the head of the woman.1 This were no less than to oblige mankind to lay aside the name of reasonable creature: for if reason be his nature, it cannot enjoin that which is contrary to itself; if it be not, the definition homo est animal rationale,2 is false, and ought no longer to be assumed.
If any man think these arguments to be mistaken or misapplied, I desire him to enquire of the French nation on what account they have always excluded females, and such as descended from them? How comes the house of Bourbon to be advanced to the throne before a great number of families that come from the daughters of the house of Valois? Or what title those could have before the daughters of the other lines, descended from Hugh Capet, Pepin, Meroveus, or Pharamond? I know not how such questions would be received; but I am inclined to think that the wickedness and folly of those who should thereby endeavour to overthrow the most ancient and most venerated constitutions of the greatest nations, and by that means to involve them in the most inextricable difficulties, would be requited only with stones.
It cannot be denied that the most valiant, wise, learned, and best polished nations have always followed the same rule, tho the weak and barbarous acted otherwise;3 and no man ever heard of a queen, or a man deriving his title from a female among the ancient civilized nations: but if this be not enough, the law of God, that wholly omits females, is sufficient to shew that nature, which is his handmaid, cannot advance them. When God describes who should be the king of his people (if they would have one) and how he should govern; no mention is made of daughters.4 The Israelites offer’d the kingdom to Gideon, and to his sons: God promised, and gave it to Saul, David, Jeroboam, Jehu and their sons. When all of them, save David, by their crimes fell from the kingdom, the males only were extirpated, and the females who had no part in the promises, did not fall under the penalties, or the vengeance that was executed upon those families: and we do not in the word of God, or in the history of the Jews, hear of any feminine reign, except that which was usurped by Athaliah; nor that any consideration was had of their descendants in relation to the kingdom: which is enough to shew that it is not according to the law of God, nor to the law of nature, which cannot differ from it. So that females, or such as derive their right by inheritance from females, must have it from some other law, or they can have none at all.
But tho this question were authentically decided, and concluded that females might or might not succeed, we should not be at the end of our contests: for if they were excluded, it would not from thence follow, as in France, that their descendants should be so also; for the privilege which is denied to them, because they cannot, without receding from the modesty and gentleness of the sex, take upon them to execute all the duties required, may be transferred to their children, as Henry the second and Henry the seventh were admitted, tho their mothers were rejected.
If it be said that every nation ought in this to follow their own constitutions, we are at an end of our controversies; for they ought not to be followed, unless they are rightly made: They cannot be rightly made, if they are contrary to the universal law of God and nature. If there be a general rule, ’tis impossible, but some of them being directly contrary to each other, must be contrary to it. If therefore all of them are to be followed, there can be no general law given to all; but every people is by God and nature left to the liberty of regulating these matters relating to themselves according to their own prudence or convenience: and this seems to be so certainly true, that whosoever does, as our author, propose doctrines to the contrary, must either be thought rashly to utter that which he does not understand, or maliciously to cast balls of division among all nations, whereby every man’s sword would be drawn against every man, to the total subversion of all order and government.
Kings cannot confer the right of Father upon Princes, nor Princes upon Kings.
Lest what has been said before by our author should not be sufficient to accomplish his design of bringing confusion upon mankind, and some may yet lie still for want of knowing at whose command he should cut his brother’s throat, if he has not power or courage to set up a title for himself, he has a new project that would certainly do his work, if it were received. Not content with the absurdities and untruths already uttered in giving the incommunicable right of fathers, not only to those who, as is manifestly testified by sacred and profane histories, did usurp a power over their fathers, or such as owed no manner of obedience to them: and justifying those usurpations, which are most odious to God and all good men, he now fancies a kingdom so gotten may escheat for want of an heir; whereas there is no need of seeking any, if usurpation can confer a right; and that he who gets the power into his hands ought to be reputed the right heir of the first progenitor; for such a one will be seldom wanting, if violence and fraud be justified by the command of God, and nations stand obliged to render obedience, till a stronger or more successful villain throws him from the throne he had invaded. But if it should come to pass that no man would step into the vacant place, he has a new way of depriving the people of their right to provide for the government of themselves. Because, says he, the dependency of ancient families is oft obscure, and worn out of knowledge; therefore the wisdom of all or most princes hath thought fit many times to adopt those for heads of families and princes of provinces, whose merits, abilities, or fortunes have ennobled them, and made them fit and capable of such royal favours: All such prime heads and fathers have power to consent to the uniting and conferring of their fatherly right and sovereignty on whom they please, &c.1
I may justly ask how any one or more families come to be esteemed more ancient than others, if all are descended from one common father, as the Scriptures testify; or to what purpose it were to enquire what families were the most ancient, if there were any such, when the youngest and most mean by usurpation gets an absolute right of dominion over the eldest, tho his own progenitors, as Nimrod did: but I may certainly conclude, that whatever the right be that belongs to those ancient families, it is inherent in them, and cannot be conferred on any other by any human power; for it proceeds from nature only. The duty I owe to my father does not arise from an usurped or delegated power, but from my birth derived from him; and ’tis as impossible for any man to usurp or receive by the grant of another the right of a father over me, as for him to become, or pretend to be made my father by another who did not beget me. But if he say true, this right of father does not arise from nature; nor the obedience that I owe to him that begot, from the benefits which I have received, but is merely an artificial thing depending upon the will of another: and that we may be sure there can be no error in this, our author attributes it to the wisdom of princes. But before this comes to be authentick, we must at the least be sure that all princes have this great and profound wisdom, which our author acknowledges to be in them, and which is certainly necessary for the doing of such great things, if they were referred to them. They seem to us to be born like other men, and to be generally no wiser than other men. We are not obliged to believe that Nebuchadnezzar was wise, till God had given him the heart of a man; or that his grandson Belshazzar, who being laid in the balance was found too light, had any such profound wisdom. Ahasuerus shewed it not in appointing all the people of God to be slain, upon a lie told to him by a rascal; and the matter was not very much mended, when being informed of the truth, he gave them leave to kill as many of their enemies as they pleased. The hardness of Pharaoh’s heart, and the overthrow thereby brought upon himself and people, does not argue so profound a judgment as our author presumes every prince must have: And ’tis not probable that Samuel would have told Saul, He had done foolishly, if kings had always been so exceeding wise: Nay, if wisdom had been annexed to the character, Solomon might have spared the pains of asking it from God, and Rehoboam must have had it. Not to multiply examples out of Scripture, ’tis believed that Xerxes had not inflicted stripes upon the sea for breaking his navy in pieces, if he had been so very wise. Caligula for the same reason might have saved the labour of making love to the moon, or have chosen a fitter subject to advance to the consulate than his horse Incitatus: Nero had not endeavoured to make a woman of a man, nor married a man as a woman.2 Many other examples might be alleged to shew that kings are not always wise: and not only the Roman satyrist, who says quicquid delirant reges, &c.3 shews that he did not believe them to be generally wiser than other men; but Solomon himself judges them to be as liable to infirmities, when he prefers a wise child before an old and foolish king.4 If therefore the strength of our author’s argument lies in the certainty of the wisdom of kings, it can be of no value, till he proves it to be more universal in them than history or experience will permit us to believe. Nay, if there be truth or wisdom in the Scripture, which frequently represents the wicked man as a fool, we cannot think that all kings are wise, unless it be proved that none of them have been wicked; and when this is performed by Filmer’s disciples, I shall confess my error.
Men give testimony of their wisdom, when they undertake that which they ought to do, and rightly perform that which they undertake; both which points do utterly fail in the subject of our discourse. We have often heard of such as have adopted those to be their sons who were not so, and some civil laws approve it. This signifies no more, than that such a man, either through affection to one who is not his son, or to his parents, or for some other reason, takes him into his family, and shews kindness to him, as to his son; but the adoption of fathers is a whimsical piece of nonsense. If this be capable of an aggravation, I think none can be greater, than not to leave it to my own discretion, who having no father, may resolve to pay the duty I owed to my father to one who may have shewed kindness to me; but for another to impose a father upon a man, or a people composed of fathers, or such as have fathers, whereby they should be deprived of that natural honour and right, which he makes the foundation of his discourse, is the utmost of all absurdities. If any prince therefore have ever undertaken to appoint fathers of his people, he cannot be accounted a man of profound wisdom, but a fool or a madman; and his acts can be of no value. But if the thing were consonant to nature, and referred to the will of princes (which I absolutely deny) the frequent extravagancies committed by them in the elevation of their favourites, shews that they intend not to make them fathers of the people, or know not what they do when they do it.
To chuse or institute a father is nonsense in the very term; but if any were to be chosen to perform the office of fathers to such as have none, and are not of age to provide for themselves (as men do tutors or guardians for orphans) none could be capable of being elected, but such as in kindness to the person they were to take under their care, did most resemble his true father, and had the virtues and abilities required rightly to provide for his good. If this fails, all right ceases; and such a corruption is introduced as we saw in our court of wards, which the nation could not bear, when the institution was perverted, and the king, who ought to have taken a tender care of the wards and their estates, delivered them as a prey to those whom he favoured.5
Our author ridiculously attributes the title and authority of father to the word prince; for it hath none in it, and signifies no more than a man, who in some kind is more eminent than the vulgar. In this sense Mucius Scaevola told Porsenna, that three hundred princes of the Roman youth had conspired against him:6 by which he could not mean that three hundred fathers of the Roman youth, but three hundred Roman young men had conspired: and they could not be fathers of the city, unless they had been fathers of their own fathers. Princeps senatus 7 was understood in the same sense; and T. Sempronius the censor chusing Q. Fabius Maximus to that honour, gave for a reason, Se lecturum Q. Fabium Maximum, quem tum principem Romanae civitatis esse, vel Annibale judice, dicturus esset;8 which could not be understood that Hannibal thought him to be the father or lord of the city (for he knew he was not) but the man, who for wisdom and valour was the most eminent in it.
The like are and ought to be the princes of every nation; and tho something of honour may justly be attributed to the descendants of such as have done great services to their country, yet they who degenerate from them cannot be esteemed princes; much less can such honours or rights be conferred upon court-creatures or favourites. Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, and others, could advance Macro, Pallas, Narcissus, Tigellinus, Vinius, Laco, and the like, to the highest degrees of riches and power; but they still continued to be villains, and so they died.
No wise or good man ever thought otherwise of those who through the folly of princes have been advanced to the highest places in several countries. The madness of attributing to them a paternal power, seems to have been peculiarly reserved to compleat the infamy of our author; for he only could acknowledge a cooptitious father, or give to another man the power of chusing him. I confess that a man in his infancy may have been exposed, like Moses, Cyrus, Oedipus, Romulus: He may have been taken in war; or by the charity of some good person saved from the teeth of wild beasts, or from the sword by which his parents fell, and may have been educated with that care which fathers usually have of their children: ’tis reasonable that such a one in the whole course of his life should pay that veneration and obedience to him, who gave him as it were a second birth, which was due to his natural father; and this, tho improperly, may be called an adoption. But to think that any man can assume it to himself, or confer it upon another, and thereby arrogate to himself the service and obedience, which, by the most tender and sacred laws of nature, we owe to those from whom we receive birth and education, is the most preposterous folly that hitherto has ever entered into the heart of man.
Our author nevertheless is not ashamed of it, and gives reasons no way unsuitable to the proposition. Men are, says he, adopted fathers of provinces for their abilities, merits, or fortunes.9 But these abilities can simply deserve nothing; for if they are ill employed, they are the worst of vices, and the most powerful instruments of mischief. Merits, in regard of another, are nothing, unless they be to him; and he alone can merit from me the respect due to a father, who hath conferred benefits upon me, in some measure proportionable to those which we usually receive from our fathers: and the world may judge, whether all the court-ministers and favorites that we have known, do upon this account deserve to be esteemed fathers of nations. But to allow this on account of their fortunes, is, if possible, more extravagant than anything that hath been yet utter’d. By this account Mazarin must have been father of the French nation: The same right was inherited by his chaste niece, and remained in her, till she and her silly husband dissipated the treasures which her uncle had torn from the bowels of that people. The partizans may generally claim the same right over the provinces they have pillaged: Old Audley, Dog Smith, Bp. Duppa, Brownlow, Child, Dashwood, Fox, &c.10 are to be esteemed fathers of the people of England. This doctrine is perfectly canonical, if Filmer and Heylyn were good divines; and legal, if they judged more rightly touching matters of law. But if it be absurd and detestable, they are to be reputed men, who, by attributing the highest honours to the vilest wretches of the world, for what they had gain’d by the most abominable means, endeavour to increase those vices, which are already come to such a height, that they can by no other way be brought to a greater. Daily experience too plainly shews, with what rage avarice usually fills the hearts of men. There are not many destructive villainies committed in the world, that do not proceed from it. In this respect ’tis called idolatry, and the root of all evil. Solomon warns us to beware of such as make haste to grow rich, and says, they shall not be innocent. But ’tis no matter what the prophets, the apostles, or the wisest of men say of riches, and the ways of gaining them; for our author tells us, that men of the greatest fortunes, without examining how they came to them, or what use they make of them, deserve to be made fathers of provinces.
But this is not his only quarrel with all that is just and good: His whole book goes directly against the letter and spirit of the Scripture. The work of all those, whom God in several ages has raised up to announce his word, was to abate the lusts and passions that arise in the hearts of men; to shew the vanity of worldly enjoyments, with the dangers that accompany riches and honours, and to raise our hearts to the love of those treasures that perish not. Honest and wise men following the light of nature, have in some measure imitated this. Such as lived private lives, as Plato, Socrates, Epictetus, and others, made it their business to abate men’s lusts, by shewing the folly of seeking vain honours, useless riches, or unsatisfying pleasures; and those who were like to them, if they were raised to supreme magistracies, have endeavoured by the severest punishments to restrain men from committing the crimes by which riches are most commonly gained: but Filmer and Heylyn lead us into a new way. If they deserve credit, whosoever would become supreme lord and father of his country, absolute, sacred and inviolable, is only to kill him that is in the head of the government: Usurpation confers an equal right with election or inheritance: We are to look upon the power, not the ways by which it is obtained: Possession only is to be regarded; and men must venerate the present power, as set up by God, tho gained by violence, treachery or poison: Children must not impose laws upon, nor examine the actions of their father. Those who are a little more modest, and would content themselves with the honour of being fathers and lords only of provinces, if they get riches by the favour of the king, or the favour of the king by riches, may receive that honour from him: The lord paramount may make them peculiar lords of each province as sacred as himself; and by that means every man shall have an immediate and a subaltern father. This would be a spur to excite even the most sleeping lusts; and a poison that would fill the gentlest spirits with the most violent furies. If men should believe this, there would hardly be found one of whom it might not be said, hac spe, minanti fulmen, occurret Jovi.11 No more is required to fill the world with fire and blood, than the reception of these precepts: No man can look upon that as a wickedness, which shall render him sacred; nor fear to attempt that which shall make him God’s vicegerent. And I doubt, whether the wickedness of filling men’s heads with such notions was ever equalled, unless by him who said, Ye shall not die, but be as gods.
But since our author is pleased to teach us these strange things, I wish he would also have told us, how many men in every nation ought to be look’d upon as adopted fathers: What proportion of riches, ability or merit, is naturally or divinely required to make them capable of this sublime character: Whether the right of this chimerical father does not destroy that of the natural; or whether both continue in force, and men thereby stand obliged, in despite of what Christ said, to serve two masters. For if the right of my artificial father arise from any act of the king, in favour of his riches, abilities or merit, I ought to know whether he is to excel in all, or any one of these points: How far, and which of them gives the preference; since ’tis impossible for me to determine whether my father, who may be wise, tho not rich, is thereby divested of his right, and it comes to be transferr’d to another, who may be rich tho not wise, nor of any personal merit at all, till that point be decided; or, so much as to guess, when I am emancipated from the duty I owe to him, by whom I was begotten and educated, unless I know whether he be fallen from his right, through want of merit, wisdom or estate: and that can never be, till it be determined that he hath forfeited his right, by being defective in all, or any of the three; and what proportion of merit, wisdom or estate is required in him, for the enjoyment of his right, or in another that would acquire it: for no man can succeed to the right of another, unless the first possessor be rightly deprived of it; and it cannot belong to them both, because common sense universally teaches, that two distinct persons cannot, at the same time, and in the same degree, have an equal right to the same individual thing.
The right of father cannot therefore be conferred upon princes by kings, but must forever follow the rule of nature. The character of a father is indelible, and incommunicable: The duty of children arising from benefits received is perpetual, because they can never not have received them; and can be due only to him from whom they are received. For these reasons, we see, that such as our author calls princes, cannot confer it upon a king; for they cannot give what they have not in themselves: They who have nothing, can give nothing: They who are only suppositious, cannot make another to be real; and the whimsey of kings making princes to be fathers, and princes conferring that right on kings, comes to nothing.
All just Magistratical Power is from the People.
Having proved that the right of a father proceeds from the generation and education of his children: That no man can have that right over those, whom he hath not begotten and educated: That every man hath it over those, who owe their birth and education to him: That all the sons of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and others, did equally inherit it: That by the same reasons, it doth forever belong to every man that begets children; it plainly appears, that no father can have a right over others, unless it be by them granted to him, and that he receive his right from those who granted it. But our author, with an admirable sagacity peculiar to himself, discovers, and with equal confidence tells us, that that which is from the people, or the chief heads of them, is not from the people: He that is so elected, says he, claims not his right from the people as a donative, but from God.1 That is, if I mistake not, Romulus was not made king of the Romans by that people, but by God: Those men being newly gathered together, had two fathers, tho neither of them had any children; and no man knew who was their father, nor which of them was the elder: But Romulus by the slaughter of his brother decided all questions, and purchased to himself a royal charter from God; and the act of the people which conferred the power on him, was the act of God. We had formerly learnt, that whatsoever was done by monarchs, was to be imputed to God; and that whosoever murdered the father of a people, acquired the same right to himself: but now it seems, that nations also have the same privilege, and that God doth, what they do. Now I understand why it was said of old, vox populi est vox Dei:2 But if it was so in regard of Romulus, the same must be confessed of Tullus Hostilius, Ancus Marcius, Tarquinius Priscus, and Servius Tullius; who being all strangers to each other, and most of them aliens also, were successively advanced by the same people, without any respect to the children, relations or heirs of their predecessors. And I cannot comprehend, why the act of the same people should not have the same virtue, and be equally attributed to God, when they gave the same or more power to consuls, military tribunes, decemviri, or dictators; or why the same divine character should not be in the same manner conferred upon any magistracies, that by any people have been, are, or shall be at any time erected for the same ends.
Upon the same grounds we may conclude, that no privilege is peculiarly annexed to any form of government; but that all magistrates are equally the ministers of God, who perform the work for which they were instituted; and that the people which institutes them, may proportion, regulate and terminate their power, as to time, measure, and number of persons, as seems most convenient to themselves, which can be no other than their own good. For it cannot be imagined that a multitude of people should send for Numa, or any other person to whom they owed nothing, to reign over them, that he might live in glory and pleasure; or for any other reason, than that it might be good for them and their posterity. This shews the work of all magistrates to be always and everywhere the same, even the doing of justice, and procuring the welfare of those that create them. This we learn from common sense: Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and the best human authors lay it as an unmoveable foundation, upon which they build their arguments relating to matters of that nature: And the Apostle from better authority declares, That rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil: Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same; for he is the minister of God unto thee for good: But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil.3 And the reason he gives for praying for kings, and all that are in authority, is, that we may live a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.4 But if this be the work of the magistrate, and the glorious name of God’s minister be given to him for the performance of it, we may easily see to whom that title belongs. His children and servants ye are, whose works ye do. He therefore, and he only, is the servant of God, who does the work of God; who is a terror to those that do evil, and a praise to those that do well; who beareth the sword for the punishment of wickedness and vice, and so governs, that the people may live quietly in all godliness and honesty. The order of his institution is inverted, and the institution vacated, if the power be turned to the praise of those that do evil, and becomes a terror to such as do well; and that none who live honestly and justly can be quiet under it. If God be the fountain of justice, mercy and truth, and those his servants who walk in them, no exercise of violence, fraud, cruelty, pride, or avarice, is patronized by him: and they who are the authors of those villainies, cannot but be the ministers of him, who sets himself up against God; because ’tis impossible that truth and falsehood, mercy and cruelty, justice and the most violent oppression can proceed from the same root. It was a folly and a lie in those Jews, to call themselves the children of Abraham, who did not the works of Abraham; and Christ declared them to be the children of the Devil, whose works they did:5 which words proceeding from the eternal truth, do as well indicate to us, whose child and servant every man is to be accounted, as to those who first heard them.
If our author’s former assertions were void of judgment and truth, his next clause shews a great defect in his memory, and contradicts the former: The judgments of God, says he, who hath power to give and take away kingdoms, are most just; yet the ministry of men, who execute God’s judgments without commission, is sinful and damnable.6 If it be true, as he says, that we are to look at the power, not the ways by which it is gained; and that he who hath it, whether it be by usurpation, conquest, or any other means, is to be accounted as father, or right heir to the father of the people, to which title the most sublime and divine privileges are annexed, a man, who by the most wicked and unjust actions advances himself to the power, becomes immediately the father of the people, and the minister of God; which I take to be a piece of divinity worthy our author and his disciples.
It may be doubted what he means by a commission from God; for we know of none but what is outwardly by his word, or inwardly by his spirit; and I am apt to think, that neither he nor his abettors allowing of either, as to the point in question, he doth fouly prevaricate, in alleging that which he thinks cannot be of any effect. If any man should say, that the word of God to Moses, Joshua, Ehud, Gideon, Samuel, Jeroboam and Jehu, or any others, are, in the like cases, rules to be observed by all; because that which was from God was good; that which was good, is good; and he that does good, is justified by it: He would probably tell us, that what was good in them, is not good in others; and that the word of God doth justify those only to whom it is spoken: That is to say, no man can execute the just judgments of God, to the benefit of mankind, according to the example of those servants of God, without damnable sin, unless he have a precise word particularly directed to him for it, as Moses had. But if any man should pretend that such a word was come to him, he would be accounted an enthusiast, and obtain no credit. So that, which way soever the clause be taken, it appears to be full of fraud, confessing only in the theory, that which he thinks can never be brought into practice; that his beloved villainies may be thereby secured, and that the glorious examples of the most heroick actions, performed by the best and wisest men that ever were in the world for the benefit of mankind, may never be imitated.
The next clause shews, that I did our author no wrong in saying, that he gave a right to usurpation; for he plainly says, That whether the prince be the supreme father of his people, or the true heir of such a father; or whether he come to the crown by usurpation, or election of the nobles or people, or by any other way whatsoever, &c. it is the only right and authority of the natural father.7 In the 3d chap. sect. 8. It skills not which way the king comes by his power, whether by election, donation, succession, or by any other means.8 And in another place, That we are to regard the power, not the means by which it is gained. To which I need say no more, than that I cannot sufficiently admire the ingeniously invented title of father by usurpation; and confess, that since there is such a thing in the world, to which not only private men, but whole nations owe obedience, whatsoever has been said anciently (as was thought to express the highest excess of fury and injustice), as, jus datum sceleri; jus omne in ferro est situm; jus licet in jugulos nostros sibi fecerit ense Sylla potens Mariusque; ferox & Cinna cruentus, Caesareaeque domus series,9 were solid truths, good law and divinity; which did not only signify the actual exercise of the power, but induced a conscientious obligation of obeying it. The powers so gained, did carry in themselves the most sacred and inviolable rights; and the actors of the most detestable villainies thereby became the ministers of God, and the fathers of their subdued people. Or if this be not true, it cannot be denied, that Filmer and his followers, in the most impudent and outrageous blasphemy, have surpassed all that have gone before them.
To confirm his assertions, he gives us a wonderful explanation of the fifth commandment; which, he says, enjoins obedience to princes, under the terms of, Honour thy father and thy mother; drawing this inference, That as all power is in the father, the prince who hath it, cannot be restrained by any law; which being grounded upon the perfect likeness between kings and fathers, no man can deny it to be true. But if Claudius was the father of the Roman people, I suppose the chaste Messalina was the mother, and to be honoured by virtue of the same commandment: But then I fear that such as met her in the most obscene places, were not only guilty of adultery, but of incest. The same honour must needs belong to Nero and his virtuous Poppaea, unless it were transferred to his new-made woman Sporus; or perhaps he himself was the mother, and the glorious title of pater patriae belonged to the rascal, who married him as a woman. The like may be said of Agathocles, Dionysius, Phalaris, Busiris, Machanidas, Peter the Cruel of Castile, Christian of Denmark, the last princes of the house of Valois in France, and Philip the Second of Spain. Those actions of theirs, which men have ever esteemed most detestable, and the whole course of their abominable government, did not proceed from pride, avarice, cruelty, madness and lust, but from the tender care of most pious fathers. Tacitus sadly describes the state of his country, urbs incendiis vastata, consumptis antiquissimis delubris, ipso Capitolio civium manibus incenso; pollutae ceremoniae; magna adulteria; plenum exiliis mare; infecti caedibus scopuli; atrocius in urbe saevitum; nobilitas, opes, omissi vel gesti honores pro crimine, & ob virtutes certissimum exitium;10 but he was to blame: All this proceeded from the ardency of a paternal affection. When Nero, by the death of Helvidius Priscus and Thrasea, endeavoured to cut up virtue by the roots, ipsam exscindere virtutem,11 he did it, because he knew it was good for the world that there should be no virtuous man in it. When he fired the city, and when Caligula wished the people had but one neck, that he might strike it off at one blow, they did it through a prudent care of their children’s good, knowing that it would be for their advantage to be destroyed; and that the empty desolated world would be no more troubled with popular seditions. By the same rule Pharaoh, Eglon, Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus, Herod, and the like, were fathers of the Hebrews. And without looking far backward, or depending upon the faith of history, we may enumerate many princes, who in a paternal care of their people, have not yielded to Nero or Caligula. If our author say true, all those actions of theirs, which we have ever attributed to the utmost excess of pride, cruelty, avarice and perfidiousness, proceeded from their princely wisdom and fatherly kindness to the nations under them: and we are beholden to him for the discovery of so great a mystery which hath been hid from mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day; if not, we may still look upon them as children of the Devil; and continue to believe, that princes as well as other magistrates were set up by the people for the publick good; that the praises given to such as are wise, just and good, are purely personal, and can belong only to those, who by a due exercise of their power do deserve it, and to no others.
[The notes to the present edition refer to Patriarcha and Other Political Writings, edited by Peter Laslett (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1949), based on one of the two surviving early manuscripts.
Potentiora legum quam hominum imperia. Tacit. [“The rule of laws is more powerful than that of men.” Actually in Livy, History of Rome, 14 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, Loeb Classical Library, 1922–1959), bk. 2, ch. 1. Subsequent citations will refer to these standard editions as “Loeb.”]
[According to a proverb, not every block of wood is good enough to make a statue of the god Mercury.]
[Sidney’s quotations from Filmer in this section are from Patriarcha, ch. 1 (“The Natural Freedom of Mankind, a New, Plausible, and Dangerous Opinion”), pp. 53–54 of Laslett’s edition.]
[Luke 12:4; Acts 5:29.]
[Aristotle, Politics (Loeb, 1932), bk. 1, 1255a.]
[In Sidney’s day the Jesuits were the most extreme advocates of Catholic political power; Geneva was the home of the Protestant political writer John Calvin. The Protestant George Buchanan (in De jure regni apud Scotos 1579) and the Jesuit R. Doleman (in A Conference about the Next Succession to the Crowne of Ingland, 1594) both defended the people’s right to choose their form of government and to overthrow tyrannical kings. But Doleman (pseudonym for Robert Parsons) was abhorred in England as a treasonous advocate of Catholic Spain’s pretensions to the British throne.]
[Filmer cited the Jesuit Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, De Laicis, bk. 3, ch. 6, and Calvin’s Institutes, bk. 4, ch. 10.]
[John Hayward answered Doleman (previous note) in An Answer … (London, 1603), attacking Doleman’s defense of the people’s right to choose their government and upholding the naturalness of monarchy. Hayward does not in fact argue for natural freedom and equality, as Filmer claimed (although he conceded for the sake of argument that even if there were natural freedom and equality, hereditary monarchy and passive obedience would still follow).
[These men were leading 17th-century defenders of absolute monarchy. William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury under Charles I, sought to eliminate Puritanism in England and Presbyterianism in Scotland. Parliament impeached him for high treason, and he was executed in 1645.
[Quotations from Filmer in this section are from Patriarcha, ch. 1, pp. 54–55.]
[Or: mysteries of government.]
[1 Kings 12.]
[Patriarcha, ch. 1, p. 55.]
The Marchioness of Brinvilliers. [She was executed for her many poisonings in Paris in 1676.]
[Patriarcha, ch. 1, p. 55.]
C. Tacit. [“The rule of laws was more powerful than that of men.” Actually in Livy, History of Rome, bk. 2, ch. 1.]
[The quotations in this paragraph are from Patriarcha, ch. 1, p. 55.]
[The Anglican political thinker Richard Hooker, like Barclay, defended the monarchy but affirmed the basis of government in the consent of the governed. Sidney quotes Hooker in ch. II, sec. 6.]
[Patriarcha, ch. 2 (“The Question Stated out of Bellarmine: And Some Contradictions of His Noted”), p. 56.]
[Johannes Faber, German Roman Catholic Bishop, opponent of the Reformation, and author of Malleus in Haeresin Lutheranam (Hammer against the Lutheran Heresy), 1524.]
[Patriarcha, ch. 2, p. 56.]
[Patriarcha, ch. 2, p. 57.]
Cujus est instituere, ejus est abrogare.
[The quotations in this paragraph are from Patriarcha, ch. 3 (“The Argument of Bellarmine Answered out of Bellarmine Himself: And of the Regal Authority of the Patriarchs after the Flood”), p. 57.]
[Patriarcha, ch. 4 (“The Dispersion of Nations after the Flood Was by Entire Families over Which the Fathers Were Kings, and from Those Kings, all Kings are Descended”), pp. 58–60.]
[Genesis 10–11 .]
Omnisque potestas impatiens consortis erit. Lucan. [Lucan, Pharsalia, also called The Civil War (Loeb, 1928), bk. I, li. 92–93.]
[Patriarcha, ch. 3, p. 57.]
[Patriarcha, ch. 2, p. 56.]
[Patriarcha, ch. 4, pp. 58–60.]
[“Time in itself has no power as a cause.” Hugo Grotius, De jure belli ac pacis libri tres, bk. 2, ch. 4, sec. 1. Trans. (in vol. 2) as The Law of War and Peace (New York: Oceana, 1964).]
[A right established by the Parliament of Scotland in 1681.]
[Concerning things which do not appear and things which do not exist the reasoning is the same.]
[Patriarcha, ch. 4, p. 60.]
[Let it be given to the worthier.]
[Let it be given to the elder.]
[“Father of his country.” Patriarcha, ch. 5 (“Kings Are Either Fathers of Their People, or Heirs of Such Fathers, or the Usurpers of the Rights of Such Fathers”), pp. 60–61 .]
[Filmer refers to the seventy-two in Patriarcha, ch. 4, p. 58, and on the next page (in another connection) cites Sir Walter Raleigh, History of the World, in Works (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1829), vol. 2, p. 353.]
[This is the first of three gaps in the manuscript that are noted by the editor of the first edition.]
[The first edition of the Discourses does not indicate that a new section begins here, but the running head on the next page of that edition reads “Section 15,” and the next new section is Section 16. Unless the first editor misnumbered the remaining sections in Chapter 1, it appears that Sidney began a new section on the missing pages.]
[“For a kingdom I would give country, household gods, and wife to the flames: Imperial power is well purchased at any price.” These are the last verses of the surviving fragment of Seneca’s Thebaid, widely known today as Phoenissae, in Tragedies, 2 vols. (Loeb, 1917).]
[Kingdoms of heroes.]
[“Natives, … who were born of split oaks, made of clay, having no parents.” Juvenal, Satire 6, li. 12–13, in Juvenal and Perseus, Satires (rev ed.; Loeb, 1940).]
T. Liv. [“Without the command of the people.” Livy, History of Rome, bk. 1, ch. 49.]
[“And the other patrons of Greek and Roman anarchy.” Thomas Hobbes, On the Citizen, ch. 12, sec. 3.]
[Patriarcha, ch. 15, p. 86.]
[“Let it be given to the worthier.”]
La razon es porque siempre se ha de tener respeto al fin y causa final, por el qual, el tal supremo y universal sennor se los pone, que es su bien y utilitad; y a que no se le convierte el tal supremo sennorio in danno, pernicie y destruycion. Porque si assi fuesse, no ay que dudar, que non desde entonees inclusivamente seria injusto, tyrannico y iniquo tal sennorio, come mas se enderezasse al proprio interesse y provecho del sennor, que al bien y utilitad comun de los subditos; lo qual de la razon natural y de todas las leyes humanas y divinas es abhorrecido y abhorrexible. Bar. de las Casas. destr. de las Indias, pag. 111 . [Bartolomé de Las Casas, Brevísima Relación de la Destrucción de las Indias (1552), actually on p. 115. The quotation is from a dispute between Casas and Sepulveda, Twelfth Reply.]
El yugo y governacion de Vuestra Magestad importable, tirannico y degno de todo abhorrecimento. Pag. 167. [Ibid. The quotation is from a section called Entre los Remedios …, Fourth Reason.]
[Patriarcha, ch. 6 (“Of the Escheating of Kingdoms”), pp. 61–62.]
[“God obscures these things in the mists of night.” Horace, Odes, bk. 3, Ode 29, li. 30, The Odes and Epodes (rev. ed.; Loeb, 1927).]
[“A war of all against all.” Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. 14.]
[Man is the rational animal.]
reginarumque sub armis / Barbariae pars magna jacet. Lucan. Phars. [“And a great part of the barbarians is subjected to the arms of queens.” Actually in Claudian, Against Eutropius, bk. 1, li. 322, Poems, vol. 1 (Loeb, 1922).]
[Patriarcha, ch. 6, p. 62.]
Sueton. [Suetonius, Life of Caligula, ch. 22, 55, and Life of Nero, ch. 28–29, in Lives of the Caesars, 2 vols. (Loeb, 1913–1914). Xerxes, named in the preceding sentence, ordered the Hellespont to suffer three hundred lashes and to have a pair of fetters thrown into it; see Herodotus, bk. 7, ch. 35, in Histories, 4 vols. (Loeb, 1920–1925).]
Horat. [“Whatever kings rave at.” Horace, Epistles, bk. 1, Ep. 2, li. 14. The full line is “Whatever kings rave at, the people suffer from.” Horace, Satires, Epistles, and Ars Poetica (rev. ed.; Loeb, 1929).]
[Parliament’s attempt to reform these abuses in 1604 was vetoed by James I. It was the first of many occasions under the Stuart monarchs when Parliament stated its liberties in opposition to the king.]
Trecenti Romanae juventutis principes. T. Liv. [Livy, History of Rome, bk. 2, ch. 12.]
[Prince (i.e., leading man) of the senate.]
T. Liv. 1. 7. [“He would choose Q. Fabius Maximus, whom he could prove, even with Hannibal as a judge, to be at that time the prince (i.e., first citizen) of the city of Rome.” Livy, History of Rome, bk. 27, ch. 11.]
[Patriarcha, ch. 6, p. 62.]
[These men acquired large fortunes as government officials.]
Senec. Theb. [“With this hope he will (even) attack Jupiter, who threatens with his lightning bolt.” Actually in Seneca, Thyestes, li. 290.]
[Patriarcha, ch. 6, p. 62.]
[The voice of the people is the voice of God.]
1 Tim. 2.
[Patriarcha, ch. 6, p. 62.]
[Chapter 26, p. 106 in the Laslett edition, which is based on Filmer’s manuscript. Sidney used the 1680 edition of Filmer, which had three chapters subdivided into 46 numbered sections.]
Lucan, &c. [“Right is ascribed to crime”; “all right is located in the sword”; “it is granted that powerful Sulla, fierce Marius, bloody Cinna, and the whole line of Caesar’s house made right for themselves by the sword at our throats.” The third quotation is from Lucan, Pharsalia, bk. 4, li. 821.]
[“The city was devastated by conflagrations, in which her most ancient shrines were consumed and the very Capitol fired by citizens’ hands; the rites were polluted; there were great adulteries; the sea was filled with exiles, the cliffs stained with their blood; in the city there was more awful savagery; nobility, wealth, the refusal or acceptance of office, were grounds for accusation, and virtues ensured ruin.” Tacitus, Histories, bk. 1, ch. 2, in The Histories and The Annals, 4 vols. (Loeb, 1925–1937).]
[Tacitus, Annals, bk. 16, ch. 21.]