Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IV: Of the Sovereign, his Obligations, and his Rights. - The Law of Nations, Or, Principles of the Law of Nature, Applied to the Conduct and Affairs of Nations and Sovereigns, with Three Early Essays on the Origin and Nature of Natural Law and on Luxury (LF ed.)
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CHAPTER IV: Of the Sovereign, his Obligations, and his Rights. - Emer de Vattel, The Law of Nations, Or, Principles of the Law of Nature, Applied to the Conduct and Affairs of Nations and Sovereigns, with Three Early Essays on the Origin and Nature of Natural Law and on Luxury (LF ed.) 
The Law of Nations, Or, Principles of the Law of Nature, Applied to the Conduct and Affairs of Nations and Sovereigns, with Three Early Essays on the Origin and Nature of Natural Law and on Luxury, edited and with an Introduction by Béla Kapossy and Richard Whitmore (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008).
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Of the Sovereign, his Obligations, and his Rights.
§38. Of the sovereign.The reader cannot expect to find here a long deduction of the rights of sovereignty, and the functions of a prince. These are to be found in treatises on the public law. In this chapter we only propose to shew, in consequence of the grand principles of the law of nations, what a sovereign is, and to give a general idea of his obligations and his rights.
We have said that the sovereignty is that public authority which commands in civil society, and orders and directs what each citizen is to perform, to obtain the end of its institution. This authority originally and essentially belonged to the body of the society, to which each member submitted, and ceded his natural right of conducting himself in every thing as he pleased according to the dictates of his own understanding, and of doing himself justice. But the body of the society does not always retain in its own hands this sovereign authority: it frequently intrusts it to a senate, or to a single person. That senate, or that person, is then the sovereign.
§39. It is solely established for the safety and advantage of society.It is evident that men form a political society, and submit to laws, solely for their own advantage and safety. The sovereign authority is then established only for the common good of all the citizens; and it would be absurd to think that it could change its nature on passing into the hands of a senate or a monarch. Flattery therefore cannot, without rendering itself equally ridiculous and odious, deny that the sovereign is only established for the safety and advantage of society.
A good prince, a wise conductor of society, ought to have his mind impressed with this great truth, that the sovereign power is solely intrusted to him for the safety of the state, and the happiness of all the people,—that he is not permitted to consider himself as the principal object in the administration of affairs, to seek his own satisfaction, or his private advantage,—but that he ought to direct all his views, all his steps, to the greatest advantage of the state and people who have submitted to him.* What a noble sight it is to see a king of England rendering his parliament an account of his principal operations,—assuring that body, the representatives of the nation, that he has no other end in view than the glory of the state, and the happiness of his people,—and affectionately thanking all who concur with him in such salutary views! Certainly a monarch who makes use of this language, and by his conduct proves the sincerity of his professions, is, in the opinion of the wise, the only great man. But in most kingdoms, a criminal flattery has long since caused these maxims to be forgotten. A crowd of servile courtiers easily persuade a proud monarch that the nation was made for him, and not he for the nation. He soon considers the kingdom as a patrimony that is his own property, and his people as a herd of cattle from which he is to derive his wealth, and which he may dispose of to answer his own views, and gratify his passions. Hence those fatal wars undertaken by ambition, restlessness, hatred and pride;—hence those oppressive taxes, whose produce is dissipated by ruinous luxury, or squandered upon mistresses and favourites;—hence, in fine, are important posts given by favour, while public merit is neglected, and every thing that does not immediately interest the prince, is abandoned to ministers and subalterns. Who can, in this unhappy government, discover an authority established for the public welfare?—A great prince will be on his guard even against his virtues. Let us not say, with some writers, that private virtues are not the virtues of kings,—a maxim of superficial politicians, or of those who are very inaccurate in their expressions. Goodness, friendship, gratitude, are still virtues on the throne; and would to God they were always to be found there! but a wise king does not yield an undiscerning obedience to their impulse. He cherishes them, he cultivates them in his private life: but in state-affairs he listens only to justice and sound policy. And why? because he knows that the government was intrusted to him only for the happiness of society, and that therefore he ought not to consult his own pleasure in the use he makes of his power. He tempers his goodness with wisdom. He gives to friendship his domestic and private favours; he distributes posts and employments according to merit,—public rewards to services done to the state. In a word, he uses the public power only with a view to the public welfare. All this is comprehended in that fine saying of Lewis XII.10 “A king of France does not revenge the injuries of a duke of Orleans.”
§40. Of his representative character.A political society is a moral person (prelim. §2) inasmuch as it has an understanding and a will of which it makes use for the conduct of its affairs, and is capable of obligations and rights. When therefore a people confer the sovereignty on any one person, they invest him with their understanding and will, and make over to him their obligations and rights, so far as relates to the administration of the state, and to the exercise of the public authority. The sovereign, or conductor of the state, thus becoming the depositary of the obligations and rights relative to government, in him is found the moral person, who, without absolutely ceasing to exist in the nation, acts thenceforwards only in him and by him. Such is the origin of the representative character attributed to the sovereign. He represents the nation in all the affairs in which he may happen to be engaged as a sovereign. It does not debase the dignity of the greatest monarch to attribute to him this representative character; on the contrary, nothing sheds a greater lustre on it, since the monarch thus unites in his own person all the majesty that belongs to the entire body of the nation.
§41. He is intrusted with the obligations of the nation, and invested with its rights.The sovereign, thus clothed with the public authority, with every thing that constitutes the moral personality of the nation, of course becomes bound by the obligations of that nation, and invested with its rights.
§42. His duty with respect to the preservation and perfection of the nation.All that has been said in chap. II. of the general duties of a nation towards itself, particularly regards the sovereign. He is the depositary of the empire, and of the power of commanding whatever conduces to the public welfare; he ought, therefore, as a tender and wise father, and as a faithful administrator, to watch for the nation, and take care to preserve it, and render it more perfect,—to better its state, and to secure it, as far as possible, against every thing that threatens its safety or its happiness.
§43. His rights in this respect.Hence all the rights which a nation derives from its obligation to preserve and perfect itself, and to improve its state, (see §§18, 20, and 23, of this book)—all these rights, I say, reside in the sovereign, who is therefore indifferently called the conductor of the society, superior, prince, &c.
§44. He ought to know the nation.We have observed above, that every nation ought to know itself. This obligation devolves on the sovereign, since it is he who is to watch over the preservation and perfection of the nation. The duty which the law of nature here imposes on the conductors of nations is of extreme importance, and of considerable extent. They ought exactly to know the whole country subject to their authority,—its qualities, defects, advantages, and situation with regard to the neighbouring states; and they ought to acquire a perfect knowledge of the manners and general inclinations of their people, their virtues, vices, talents, &c. All these branches of knowledge are necessary to enable them to govern properly.
§45. The extent of his power.The prince derives his authority from the nation; he possesses just so much of it as they have thought proper to intrust him with.* If the nation has plainly and simply invested him with the sovereignty without limitation or division, he is supposed to be invested with all the Prerogatives of majesty.prerogatives, without which the sovereign command or authority could not be exerted in the manner most conducive to the public welfare. These are called regal prerogatives, or the prerogatives of majesty.
§46. The prince ought to respect and support the fundamental laws.But when the sovereign power is limited and regulated by the fundamental laws of the state, those laws shew the prince the extent and bounds of his power, and the manner in which he is to exert it. The prince is therefore strictly obliged not only to respect, but also to support them. The constitution and the fundamental laws are the plan on which the nation has resolved to labour for the attainment of happiness: the execution is intrusted to the prince. Let him religiously follow this plan,—let him consider the fundamental laws as inviolable and sacred rules,—and remember that the moment he deviates from them, his commands become unjust, and are but a criminal abuse of the power with which he is intrusted. He is, by virtue of that power, the guardian and defender of the laws:—and while it is his duty to restrain each daring violator of them, ought he himself to trample them under foot?*
§47. He may change the laws not fundamental.If the prince be invested with the legislative power, he may, according to his wisdom, and when the public advantage requires it, abolish those laws that are not fundamental, and make new ones. See what we have said on this subject in the preceding chapter, §34.
§48. He ought to maintain and observe the existing laws.But while these laws exist, the sovereign ought religiously to maintain and observe them. They are the foundation of the public tranquillity, and the firmest support of the sovereign authority. Every thing is uncertain, violent, and subject to revolutions, in those unhappy states where arbitrary power has placed her throne. It is therefore the true interest of the prince, as well as his duty, to maintain and respect the laws. He ought to submit to them himself. We find this truth established in a piece published by order of Lewis XIV.11 one of the most absolute princes that ever reigned in Europe. “Let it not be said that the sovereign is not subject to the laws of his state, since the contrary proposition is one of the truths of the law of nations, which flattery has sometimes attacked, and which good princes have always defended, as a tutelar divinity of their states.”*
§49. In what sense he is subject to the laws.But it is necessary to explain this submission of the prince to the laws. First he ought, as we have just seen, to follow their regulations in all the acts of his administration. In the second place, he is himself subject, in his private affairs, to all the laws that relate to property. I say, “in his private affairs”; for when he acts as a sovereign prince, and in the name of the state, he is subject only to the fundamental laws, and the law of nations. In the third place, the prince is subject to certain regulations of general polity, considered by the state as inviolable, unless he be excepted in express terms by the law, or tacitly by a necessary consequence of his dignity. I here speak of the laws that relate to the situation of individuals, and particularly of those that regulate the validity of marriages. These laws are established to ascertain the state of families: now the royal family is that of all others the most important to be certainly known. But, fourthly, we shall observe in general, with respect to this question, that, if the prince is invested with a full, absolute, and unlimited sovereignty, he is above the laws, which derive from him all their force; and he may dispense with his own observance of them, whenever natural justice and equity will permit him. Fifthly, as to the laws relative to morals and good order, the prince ought doubtless to respect them, and to support them by his example. But, sixthly, he is certainly above all civil penal laws. The majesty of a sovereign will not admit of his being punished like a private person; and his functions are too exalted to allow of his being molested under pretence of a fault that does not directly concern the government of the state.
§50. His person is sacred and inviolable.It is not sufficient that the prince be above the penal laws: even the interest of nations requires that we should go something farther. The sovereign is the soul of the society; if he be not held in veneration by the people, and in perfect security, the public peace, and the happiness and safety of the state, are in continual danger. The safety of the nation then necessarily requires that the person of the prince be sacred and inviolable. The Roman people bestowed this privilege on their tribunes, in order that they might meet with no obstruction in defending them, and that no apprehension might disturb them in the discharge of their office. The cares, the employments of a sovereign, are of much greater importance than those of the tribunes were, and not less dangerous, if he be not provided with a powerful defence. It is impossible even for the most just and wise monarch, not to make mal-contents; and ought the state to continue exposed to the danger of losing so valuable a prince by the hand of an assassin? The monstrous and absurd doctrine, that a private person is permitted to kill a bad prince, deprived the French, in the beginning of the last century, of a hero who was truly the father of his people.* Whatever a prince may be, it is an enormous crime against a nation to deprive them of a sovereign whom they think proper to obey.†
§51. But the nation may curb a tyrant, and withdraw itself from his obedience.But this high attribute of sovereignty is no reason why the nation should not curb an insupportable tyrant, pronounce sentence on him (still respecting in his person the majesty of his rank), and withdraw itself from his obedience. To this indisputable right a powerful republic owes its birth. The tyranny exercised by Philip II. in the Netherlands excited those provinces to rise: seven of them, closely confederated, bravely maintained their liberties, under the conduct of the heroes of the house of Orange; and Spain, after several vain and ruinous efforts, acknowledged them sovereign and independent states. If the authority of the prince is limited and regulated by the fundamental laws, the prince, on exceeding the bounds prescribed him, commands without any right, and even without a just title: the nation is not obliged to obey him, but may resist his unjust attempts. As soon as a prince attacks the constitution of the state, he breaks the contract which bound the people to him: the people become free by the act of the sovereign, and can no longer view him but as an usurper who would load them with oppression. This truth is acknowledged by every sensible writer, whose pen is not enslaved by fear, or sold for hire. But some celebrated authors maintain, that if the prince is invested with the supreme command in a full and absolute manner, nobody has a right to resist him, much less to curb him, and that nought remains for the nation but to suffer and obey with patience. This is founded upon the supposition that such a sovereign is not accountable to any person for the manner in which he governs, and that if the nation might controul his actions and resist him, where it thinks them unjust, his authority would no longer be absolute; which would be contrary to this hypothesis. They say that an absolute sovereign completely possesses all the political authority of the society, which nobody can oppose,—that, if he abuses it, he does ill indeed, and wounds his conscience,—but that his commands are not the less obligatory, as being founded on a lawful right to command,— that the nation, by giving him absolute authority, has reserved no share of it to itself, and has submitted to his discretion, &c. We might be content with answering, that in this light there is not any sovereign who is completely and fully absolute. But in order to remove all these vain subtleties, let us remember the essential end of civil society. Is it not to labour in concert for the common happiness of all? Was it not with this view that every citizen divested himself of his rights, and resigned his liberty? Could the society make such use of its authority, as irrevocably to surrender itself and all its members to the discretion of a cruel tyrant? No, certainly, since it would no longer possess any right itself, if it were disposed to oppress a part of the citizens. When therefore it confers the supreme and absolute government, without an express reserve, it is necessarily with the tacit reserve that the sovereign shall use it for the safety of the people, and not for their ruin. If he becomes the scourge of the state, he degrades himself; he is no better than a public enemy, against whom the nation may and ought to defend itself; and if he has carried his tyranny to the utmost height, why should even the life of so cruel and perfidious an enemy be spared? Who shall presume to blame the conduct of the Roman senate, that declared Nero an enemy to his country?
But it is of the utmost importance to observe, that this judgment can only be passed by the nation, or by a body which represents it, and that the nation itself can not make any attempt on the person of the sovereign, except in cases of extreme necessity, and when the prince, by violating the laws, and threatening the safety of his people, puts himself in a state of war against them. It is the person of the sovereign, not that of an unnatural tyrant and a public enemy, that the interest of the nation declares sacred and inviolable. We seldom see such monsters as Nero. In the more common cases, when a prince violates the fundamental laws,— when he attacks the liberties and privileges of his subjects,—or (if he be absolute) when his government, without being carried to extreme violence, manifestly tends to the ruin of the nation,—it may resist him, pass sentence on him, and withdraw from his obedience: but though this may be done, still his person should be spared, and that for the welfare of the state.* It is above a century since the English took up arms against their king, and obliged him to descend from the throne. A set of able enterprising men, spurred on by ambition, took advantage of the terrible ferment, caused by fanaticism and party spirit; and Great Britain suffered her sovereign to die unworthily on a scaffold. The nation coming to itself discovered its former blindness. If, to this day, it still annually makes a solemn atonement, it is not only, from the opinion that the unfortunate Charles I. did not deserve so cruel a fate, but, doubtless, from a conviction that the very safety of the state requires the person of the sovereign to be held sacred and inviolable, and that the whole nation ought to render this maxim venerable, by paying respect to it when the care of its own preservation will permit.
One word more on the distinction that is endeavoured to be made here in favour of an absolute sovereign. Whoever has well weighed the force of the indisputable principles we have established, will be convinced, that, when it is necessary to resist a prince who has become a tyrant, the right of the people is still the same, whether that prince was made absolute by the laws, or was not; because that right is derived from what is the object of all political society,—the safety of the nation, which is the supreme law.* But if the distinction of which we are treating, is of no moment with respect to the right, it can be of none in practice, with respect to expediency. As it is very difficult to oppose an absolute prince, and it cannot be done without raising great disturbances in the state, and the most violent and dangerous commotions, it ought to be attempted only in cases of extremity, when the public misery is raised to such a height, that the people may say with Tacitus, miseram pacem vel bello bene mutari,12 —that it is better to expose themselves to a civil war, than to endure them. But if the prince’s authority be limited,—if it in some respects depends on a senate or a parliament that represents the nation,—there are means of resisting and curbing him, without exposing the state to violent shocks. When mild and innocent remedies can be applied to the evil, there can be no reason for waiting until it becomes extreme.
§52. Arbitration between the king and his subjects.But however limited a prince’s authority may be, he is commonly very jealous of it; it seldom happens that he patiently suffers resistance, and peaceably submits to the judgment of his people. Can he want support, while he is the distributer of favours? We see too many base and ambitious souls, for whom the state of a rich and decorated slave has more charms than that of a modest and virtuous citizen. It is therefore always difficult for a nation to resist a prince and pronounce sentence on his conduct, without exposing the state to dangerous troubles, and to shocks capable of overturning it. This has sometimes occasioned a compromise between the prince and the subjects, to submit to the decision of a friendly power all the disputes that might arise between them. Thus the kings of Denmark, by solemn treaties, formerly referred to those of Sweden the differences that might arise between them and their senate: and this the kings of Sweden have also done with regard to those of Denmark. The princes and states of West Friesland, and the burgesses of Embden, have in the same manner constituted the republic of the United Provinces the judge of their differences. The princes and the city of Neufchatel established, in 1406, the canton of Berne perpetual judge and arbitrator of their disputes. Thus also, according to the spirit of the Helvetic confederacy, the entire body takes cognisance of the disturbances that arise in any of the confederated states, though each of them is truly sovereign and independent.
§53. The obedience which subjects owe to a sovereign.As soon as a nation acknowledges a prince for its lawful sovereign, all the citizens owe him a faithful obedience. He can neither govern the state, nor perform what the nation expects from him, if he be not punctually obeyed. Subjects then have no right, in doubtful cases, to examine the wisdom or justice of their sovereign’s commands; this examination belongs to the prince: his subjects ought to suppose (if there be a possibility of supposing it) that all his orders are just and salutary: he alone is accountable for the evil that may result from them.
§54. In what cases they may resist him.Nevertheless this ought not to be entirely a blind obedience. No engagement can oblige or even authorise a man to violate the law of nature. All authors who have any regard to conscience or decency, agree that no one ought to obey such commands as are evidently contrary to that sacred law. Those governors of places who bravely refused to execute the barbarous orders of Charles IX.13 on the memorable day of St. Bartholomew,14 have been universally praised; and the court did not dare to punish them, at least openly. “Sire,” said the brave Orte, governor of Bayonne, in his letter, “I have communicated your majesty’s command to your faithful inhabitants and warriors in the garrison: and I have found there only good citizens and brave soldiers; but not a single executioner: wherefore both they and I most humbly entreat your majesty to be pleased to employ our hands and our lives in things that are possible, however hazardous they may be; and we will exert ourselves to the last drop of our blood in the execution of them.”* The count de Tende, Charny, and others, replied to those who brought them the orders of the court, “that they had too great a respect for the king, to believe that such barbarous orders came from him.”
It is more difficult to determine in what cases a subject may not only refuse to obey, but even resist a sovereign, and oppose his violence by force. When a sovereign does injury to any one, he acts without any real authority; but we ought not thence to conclude hastily that the subject may resist him. The nature of sovereignty, and the welfare of the state, will not permit citizens to oppose a prince whenever his commands appear to them unjust or prejudicial. This would be falling back into the state of nature, and rendering government impossible. A subject ought patiently to suffer from the prince, doubtful wrongs, and wrongs that are supportable,—the former, because whoever has submitted to the decision of a judge, is no longer capable of deciding his own pretensions; and as to those that are supportable, they ought to be sacrificed to the peace and safety of the state, on account of the great advantages obtained by living in society. It is presumed, as matter of course, that every citizen has tacitly engaged to observe this moderation; because, without it, society could not exist. But when the injuries are manifest and atrocious,— when a prince, without any apparent reason, attempts to deprive us of life, or of those things, the loss of which would render life irksome,— who can dispute our right to resist him? Self-preservation is not only a natural right, but an obligation imposed by nature, and no man can entirely and absolutely renounce it. And though he might give it up, can he be considered as having done it by his political engagements, since he entered into society only to establish his own safety upon a more solid basis? The welfare of society does not require such a sacrifice; and, as Barbeyrac well observes in his notes on Grotius, “If the public interest requires, that those who obey should suffer some inconvenience, it is no less for the public interest that those who command, should be afraid of driving their patience to the utmost extremity.”* The prince who violates all laws,—who no longer observes any measures,—and who would in his transports of fury take away the life of an innocent person,— divests himself of his character, and is no longer to be considered in any other light than that of an unjust and outrageous enemy, against whom his people are allowed to defend themselves. The person of the sovereign is sacred and inviolable: but he who, after having lost all the sentiments of a sovereign, divests himself even of the appearances and exterior conduct of a monarch, degrades himself: he no longer retains the sacred character of a sovereign, and cannot retain the prerogatives attached to that exalted rank. However, if this prince is not a monster,—if he is furious only against us in particular, and from the effects of a sudden transport or a violent passion, and is supportable to the rest of the nation,—the respect we ought to pay to the tranquillity of the state is such, and the respect due to sovereign majesty so powerful, that we are strictly obliged to seek every other means of preservation, rather than to put his person in danger. Every one knows the example set by David: he fled,—he kept himself concealed, to secure himself from Saul’s fury,— and more than once spared the life of his persecutor.15 When the reason of Charles VI.16 of France was suddenly disordered by a fatal accident, he in his fury killed several of those who surrounded him: none of them thought of securing his own life at the expense of that of the king; they only endeavoured to disarm and secure him. They did their duty like men of honour and faithful subjects, in exposing their lives, to save that of this unfortunate monarch: such a sacrifice is due to the state and to sovereign majesty: furious from the derangement of his faculties, Charles was not guilty; he might recover his health, and again become a good king.
§55. Of ministers.What has been said is sufficient for the intention of this work: the reader may see these questions treated more at large in many books that are well known. We shall conclude this subject with an important observation. A sovereign is undoubtedly allowed to employ ministers to ease him in the painful offices of government; but he ought never to surrender his authority to them. When a nation chuses a conductor, it is not with a view that he should deliver up his charge into other hands. Ministers ought only to be instruments in the hands of the prince; he ought constantly to direct them, and continually endeavour to know whether they act according to his intentions. If the imbecillity of age, or any infirmity, render him incapable of governing, a regent ought to be nominated, according to the laws of the state: but when once the sovereign is capable of holding the reins, let him insist on being served, but never suffer himself to be superseded. The last kings of France of the first race surrendered the government and authority to the mayors of the palace: thus becoming mere phantoms, they justly lost the title and honours of a dignity of which they had abandoned the functions. The nation has every thing to gain in crowning an all-powerful minister; for he will improve that soil as his own inheritance, which he plundered whilst he only reaped precarious advantages from it.
[* ] The last words of Louis VI. [[Louis the Fat, r. 1108–37 to his son Louis VII. Louis VII, the Younger, r. 1137–80 were—“Remember, my son, that royalty is but a public employment of which you must render a rigorous account to him who is the sole disposer of crowns and sceptres.” Abbé Velly’s Hist. of France, Vol. III. p. 65.
Timur-Bec declared (as he often before had done on similar occasions) that “a single hour’s attention devoted by a prince to the care of his state, is of more use and consequence than all the homage and prayers he could offer up to God during his whole life.” Timur-Bec, or Tamurlane, ca. 1336–1405, Mongol warlord; as conqueror of much of central Asia, he founded the Timurid dynasty. The same sentiment is found in the Koran. Hist. of Timur-Bec, Book II. ch. xli. Sharaf ad-Din ʿAli Yazdi, History of Timur-Bec, translated into French by de la Croix. Note added in 1773/1797 editions.]]
[10. ] Louis XII, called “Father of the People,” r. 1498–1515.
[* ] Neque enim se princeps reipublicae et singulorum dominum arbitrabitur, quamvis assentatoribus id in aurem insusurrantibus, sed rectorem mercede a civibus designata, quam augere, nisi ipsis volentibus, nefas existimabit. Ibid. c. v. [[“For the prince will not consider himself lord of the state and of individuals, however much yes-men might whisper in his ear, but rather a governor with remuneration assigned by the citizens which he will think it unlawful to increase except by their wish” (trans. Eds.). The source is not identified.—From this principle it follows that the nation is superior to the sovereign. Quod caput est, sit principi persuasum, totius reipublicae majorem quam ipsius unius auctoritatem esse: neque pessimis hominibus credat diversum affirmantibus gratificandi studio; quae magna pernicies est. Ibid. “The chief point is, let the prince be persuaded that the authority of the entire state is greater than that of one person in himself, and let him not believe the opposite when the worst of men affirm it out of a desire to curry favor, which is a great evil” (trans. Eds.). The source is not identified. Note added in 1773/1797 editions.]]
[* ] In some countries, formal precautions are taken against the abuse of power.— “Reflecting, among other things (says Grotius), that princes are often found to make no scruple of violating their promises under the stale pretext of the public good, the people of Brabant, in order to obviate that inconvenience, established the custom of never admitting their prince to the possession of the government without having previously made with him a covenant, that, whenever he may happen to violate the laws of the country, they shall be absolved from the oath of obedience they had sworn to him, until ample reparation be made for the outrages committed. The truth of this is confirmed by the example of past generations, who formerly made effectual use of arms and decrees to reduce within proper bounds such of their sovereigns as had transgressed the line of duty, whether through their own licentiousness or the artifices of their flatterers. Thus it happened to John the Second: nor would they consent to make peace with him or his successors, until those princes had entered into a solemn engagement to secure the citizens in the enjoyment of their privileges.” Annals of the Netherlands, book ii. [[Note added in 1773/1797 editions.]]
[11. ] Louis XIV of France, “the Sun King,” r. 1643–1715.
[* ] [[Antoine Bilaine, A treatise on the right of the queen to several states of the Spanish monarchy, 1667, in 12mo, part II. p. 191.]]
[* ] Since the above was written, France has witnessed a renewal of those horrors. She sighs at the idea of having given birth to a monster capable of violating the majesty of kings in the person of a prince, whom the qualities of his heart entitle to the love of his subjects and the veneration of foreigners. [The author alludes to the attempt made by Damien to assassinate Louis XV.]
[† ] In Mariana’s work above quoted [[De rege et regis institutione, I find (chap. vii. towards the end) a remarkable instance of the errors into which we are apt to be led by a subtle sophistry destitute of sound principles.—That author allows us to poison a tyrant, and even a public enemy, provided it be done without obliging him, either by force or through mistake or ignorance, to concur in the act that causes his own death,—which would be the case, for instance, in presenting him a poisoned draught. For (says he), in thus leading him to an act of suicide, although committed through ignorance, we make him violate the natural law which forbids each individual to take away his own life; and the crime of him who thus unknowingly poisons himself redounds on the real author,—the person who administered the poison.—Necogatur tantum sciens aut imprudens sibi conscire mortem; quod esse nefas judicamus, veneno in potu aut cibo, quod hauriat qui perimendus est, aut simili alia retemperato. “Let him not be forced knowingly or imprudently to be complicit in his own death; we judge it to be unlawful that he who must perish should swallow poison in food or drink or mixed with some other substance” (trans. Eds.). A fine reason, truly! Was Mariana disposed to insult the understandings of his readers, or only desirous of throwing a slight varnish over the detestable doctrine contained in that chapter? Note added in 1773/1797 editions.]]
[* ] Dissimulandum censeo quatenus salus publica patiatur, privatimque corruptis moribus princeps contingat: alioquin si rempublicam in periculum vocat, si patriae religionis contemptor existit, neque medicinam ullam recipit, abdicandum judico, alium substituendum; quod in Hispania non semel fuisse factum scimus: quasi fera irritata, omnium telis peti debet, cum, humanitate abdicata, tyrannum induit. Sic Petro rege ob immanitatem dejecto publice, Henricus ejus frater, quamvis ex impari matre, regnum obtinuit. Sic Henrico hujus abnepote ob ignaviam pravosque mores abdicato procerum suffragiis, primum Alfonsus ejus frater, recte an secus non disputo, sed tamen in tenera aetate rex est proclamatus: deinde defuncto Alfonso, Elisabetha ejus soror, Henrico invito, rerum summam ad se traxit, regio tantum nomine abstinens dum ille vixit. [[“My assessment is that there must be secrecy about the extent of what public safety can tolerate, and the extent to which the prince can be privately involved with corrupted morals; otherwise if he brings the state into danger, if he stands forth as one who despises the religion of his country, and accepts no remedy, then I judge he must abdicate and another take his place. We know this has happened more than once in Spain when, as a provoked wild animal needs to be pursued by the weapons of all, human decency has been in abeyance and she has taken on a tyrant. Thus, when Peter was king, when the people were laid low on account of his excesses, his brother Henry, although from a different mother, obtained the kingdom. Thus when by the votes of the nobles Henry had been deposed by his grandson on account of his sloth and vicious morals, in the first instance his brother Alfonsus was proclaimed king, I will not argue whether rightly or wrongly but at any rate at a tender age. Then on the death of Alfonsus his sister Elisabeth assumed control of affairs despite Henry’s unwillingness and was queen in all but name as long as he lived” (trans. Eds.). Mariana, de Rege et Regis Institut. Lib. I. c. iii.
To this authority furnished by Spain, join that of Scotland, proved by the letter of the barons to the pope, dated April 6, 1320 the Declaration of Arbroath, or formal confirmation of Scotland’s independence, requesting him to prevail on the king of England to desist from his enterprises against Scotland. After having spoken of the evils they had suffered from him, they add—A quibus malis innumeris, ipso juvante qui post vulnera medetur et sanat, liberati sumus per serenissimum principem regem et dominum nostrum, dominum Robertum, qui pro populo et haereditate suis de manibus inimicorum liberandis, quasi alter Maccabaeus aut Josue, labores et taedia, inedias et pericula, laeto sustinuit animo. Quem etiam divina dispositio, et (juxta leges et consuetudines nostras, quas usque ad mortem sustinere volumus) juris successio, et debitus nostrorum consensus et assensus nostrum fecerunt principem atque regem: cui, tanquam illi per quem salus in populo facta est, pro nostra libertate tuenda, tam jure quam meritis tenemur, et volumus in omnibus adhaerere. Quem, si ab inceptis desistet, regi Anglorum aut Anglis nos aut regnum nostrum volens subjicere, tanquam inimicum nostrum et sui nostrique juris subversorem, statim expellere nitemur, et alium regem nostrum, qui ad defensionem nostram sufficiet, faciemus: quia, quamdiu centum viri remanserint, nunquam Anglorum dominio aliquatenus volumus subjugari. Non enim propter gloriam, divitias, aut honores pugnamus, sed propter libertatem solummodo, quam nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit. “But from these countless evils we have been set free, by the help of Him Who though He afflicts yet heals and restores, by our most tireless Prince, King and Lord, the Lord Robert. He, that his people and his heritage might be delivered out of the hands of our enemies, met toil and fatigue, hunger and peril, like another Maccabaeus or Joshua, and bore them cheerfully. Him, too, divine providence, his right of succession according to our laws and customs which we shall maintain to the death, and the due consent and assent of us all have made our prince and king. To him, as to the man by whom salvation has been wrought unto our people, we are bound both by law and by his merits that our freedom may be still maintained, and by him, come what may, we mean to stand. Yet if he should give up what he has begun, and agree to make us or our kingdom subject to the king of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our king; for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom—for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.” (Scottish nobles to Pope John XXII.)
“In the year 1581 (says Grotius, Ann. book III.) the confederated provinces of the Netherlands,—after having for nine years continued to wage war against Philip the Second king of Spain, r. 1556–98 without ceasing to acknowledge him as their sovereign,—at length solemnly deprived him of the authority he had possessed over their country, because he had violated their laws and privileges.” The author afterwards observes that “France, Spain herself, England, Sweden, Denmark, furnish instances of kings deposed by their people, so that there are at present few sovereigns in Europe whose right to the crown rests on any other foundation than the right which the people possess of divesting their sovereign of his power when he makes an ill use of it.” Pursuant to this idea, the United Provinces, in their justificatory letters on that subject, addressed to the princes of the Empire and the king of Denmark,—after having enumerated the oppressive acts of the king of Spain,—added—“Then, by a mode which has been often enough adopted even by those nations that now live under kingly government, we wrested the sovereignty from him whose actions were all contrary to the duty of a prince.” Ibid. Note added in 1773/1797 editions.]]
[* ] Populi patroni non pauciora neque minora praesidia habent. Certe a republica unde ortum habet regia postestas, rebus exigentibus, regens in jus vocari potest, et, si sanitatem respuat, principatu spoliari; neque ita in principem jura potestatis transtulit, ut non sibi majorem reservârit potestatem. Ibid. cap. VI. [[“The defenders of the people have means of defense which are not scantier or smaller. Certainly when circumstances demand it the ruler can be brought before the law by the state from which royal power has its origin, and if he refuses to see sense he can be stripped of his power; and no power has legally transferred to the prince, so he does not reserve power to himself.” Annales et historiae de rebus Belgicis, lib. III (trans. Eds.).
Est tamen salutaris cogitatio, ut sit principibus persuasum, si rempublicam oppresserint, si vitiis et foeditate intolerandi erunt, ea se conditione vivere, ut non jure tantum, sed cum laude et gloria, perimi possint. Ibid. “It is however a salutary consideration, that princes should be persuaded, if they oppress the state, if through vice and foulness they are unendurable, that they live under this condition that their removal can be not just legal but praiseworthy and glorious” (trans. Eds.). Note added in 1773/1797 editions.]]
[12. ] “Even war is a good exchange for a miserable peace.” Tacitus, Annales, III.47.
[13. ] Charles IX, king of France, r. 1560–74.
[14. ] August 24, 1572, when approximately three thousand Protestants were murdered at Paris.
[* ] Mezeray’s Hist. of France, vol. II. p. 1107.
[* ] De Jure Belli & Pacis, Lib. 1. cap. iv. §11. not. 2.
[15. ] I Samuel 19–20.
[16. ] Charles VI, “the Well-Beloved,” r. 1380–1422.