Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter vi: Of Their Form of Government - An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor
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chapter vi: Of Their Form of Government - Robert Molesworth, An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor 
An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor, Edited and with an Introduction by Justin Champion (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011).
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Of Their Form of Government
The Ancient Form of Government here was the same which the Goths and Vandals established in most, if not all, Parts of Europe, whither they carried their Conquests, and which in England is retained to this day for the most part.14 ’Tis said of the Romans, That those Provinces which they Conquer’d were amply recompensed, for the loss of their Liberty, by being reduced from their Barbarity to Civility; by the Introduction of Arts, Learning, Commerce, and Politeness. I know not whether this manner of Arguing hath not more of Pomp than Truth in it; but with much greater reason may it be said that all Europe was beholding to these People for introducing or restoring a Constitution of Government far excelling all others that we know of in the World. ’Tis to the ancient Inhabitants of these Countries, with other neighbouring Provinces, that we owe the Original of Parliaments, formerly so common, but lost within this last Age in all Kingdoms but those of Poland, Great Britain, and Ireland.
Denmark therefore was till within these Two and Thirty years governed by a King chosen by the People of all sorts, even the Boors had their Voices, which King Waldemar the Third acknowledged in that memorable answer of his to the Popes Nuncio, who pretended to a great power over him. Naturam habemus à Deo, regnum à subditis, Divitias à parentibus, Religionem à Romana Ecclesia; quam si nobis invides, renuntiamus per praesentes.15 The Estates of the Realm being convened to that intent, were to Elect for their Prince such a Person as to them appeared Personable, Valiant, Just, Merciful, Affable, a Maintainer of the Laws, a Lover of the People, Prudent, and Adorned with all other Virtues fit for Government, and requisite for the great Trust reposed in him; yet with due regard had to the Family of the preceding Kings. If within that Line they found a Person thus qualified, or esteemed to be so, they thought it but a piece of just Gratitude to prefer him before any other to this high Dignity, and were pleased when they had reason to choose the Eldest Son of their former King, rather than any of the younger, as well because they had regard to Priority of Birth, when all other Virtues were equal, as because the greatness of his Paternal Estate might put him above the reach of Temptations to be covetous or dishonest, and in able him in some degree to support the Dignity of his Office. But if after such a Choice they found themselves mistaken, and that they had advanced a Cruel, Vitious, Tyrannical, Covetous, or Wasteful Person, they frequently Deposed him, oftentimes Banished, sometimes Destroyed him; and this either formally, by making him Answer before the Representative Body of the People; or if by ill Practices, such as making of Parties, levying of Soldiers, contracting of Alliances to support himself in opposition to the People’s Rights, he was grown too powerful to be legally contended with, they dispatched him without any more Ceremony the best way they could, and Elected presently a better Man in his room; sometimes the next of Kin to him, sometimes the Valiant Man that had exposed himself so far as to undertake the Expulsion or the killing of the Tyrant; at other times a private Person of a good Reputation, who possibly least dreamt of such an Advancement.
Frequent Meetings of the Estates was a part of the very Fundamental Constitution: In those Meetings all Matters relating to good Government were transacted; good Laws were enacted, all Affairs belonging to Peace or War, Alliances, disposal of great Offices, Contracts of Marriages for the Royal Family, etc. were debated. The imposing of Taxes, or demanding of Benevolences was purely accidental; no constant Tribute being ever paid, nor any Money levied on the People, unless either to maintain a necessary War with the advice and consent of the Nation, or now and then by way of Free-gift, to help to raise a Daughters Portion: the King’s ordinary Revenue at that time consisting only in the Rents of his Lands and Demesnes, in his Herds of Cattle, Forests, Services of Tenants in manuring and cultivating his Grounds, etc. Customs upon Merchandize being an Imposition of late crept into this part of the World; so that he lived like one of our Modern Noblemen, upon the Revenues of his own Estate, and eat not through the Sweat of his Subjects Brows.
His business was to see a due and impartial Administration of Justice executed according to the Laws; nay, often to sit and do it himself; to be watchful and vigilant for the welfare of his People, to Command in Person their Armies in time of War, to encourage Industry, Religion, Arts and Learning; and it was his Interest, as well as Duty, to keep fair with his Nobility and Gentry, and to be careful of the Plenty and Prosperity of his Commons.
This was the Ancient Form of Government in this Kingdom, which continued with very little variation (excepting that the Power of the Nobles encreased too much) till about Two and Thirty years ago, when at one instant the whole Face of Affairs was changed: So that the Kings have ever since been, and at present are, Absolute and Arbitrary; not the least remnant of Liberty remaining to the Subject; all Meetings of the Estates in Parliament intirely abolished, nay, the very Name of Estates and Liberty quite forgotten, as if there never had been any such thing; the very first and principal Article in the present Danish Law being, That the King has the Priviledge reserved to himself to explain the Law, nay, to alter and change it as he shall find good.16
It is easie for any considering Person to guess the Consequences of this, which are, frequent and arbitrary Taxes, and commonly very excessive ones, even in Times of Peace; little regard being had to the Occasion of them: So that the value of Estates in most parts of the Kingdom is fallen three Fourths. And it is worse near the Capital City under the Eye and Hand of the Government, than in remoter Provinces: Poverty in the Gentry, which necessarily causes extremity of Misery in the Peasants, Partiality in the distribution of Justice when Favourites are concerned; with many other Mischiefs which shall be hereafter more particularly mentioned; being the constant Effects of Arbitrary Rule in this and all other Countries wherein it has prevailed.
And because it is astonishing to consider how a free and rich People (for so they were formerly) should be persuaded intirely to part with their Liberties, I thought it very proper to give an account by what steps so great a Change and Revolution was brought about: The Particulars of which I have received not only from Eye-witnesses, but also from some of the principal Promoters and Actors in it.
[14. ]Note in margin, from Guido Bentivoglio Relatione delle provincie unite di Flandra (1611), bk. 3: “Furono veramente tutti i Re da principio Capi e non Re, di Republiche e non di regni: ma poi il lungo uso ha fatto che i popoli si sìano disposti all habito dell’ intiera ubbidìenza, come apunte suole assuefarsì una pianta e un corpo humano a vivere, in terreno e sotto clima diverso dal suo naturale.” Translated as “’Tis true, at first all Kings were Heads of the people, and not Kings; of Commonwealths and not of Kingdoms. But afterwards Custom hath so prevailed, as people have been disposed and accustomed to the habit of intire obedience: just as a plant, or humane body we see are accustomed to live in other earth, and under other Climats, which differ from their own natural ones.” In Historicall relations of the United Provinces & of Flanders written originally in Italian by Cardinall Bentivoglio; and now rendred into English by the Right Honourable Henry, Earle of Monmouth (1652), p. 47.
[15. ]King Waldemar III (1314–64): “We have our nature from God, our realm from our subjects, our wealth from our parents, our religion from the Roman church; if you begrudge her to us we shall renounce her by these presents.” The account is from Johannes Clüver’s Historiarum Totius Mundi Epitome (Amsterdam, 1667), p. 523.
[16. ]See the edition translated into English by a “Lover of the British Constitution” [Jenkin Thomas Phillips], Lex regia or the Royal Law of Denmark (1731), p. 10.