Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Right Constitution of a Commonwealth. - Excellencie of a Free-State
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The Right Constitution of a Commonwealth. - Marchamont Nedham, Excellencie of a Free-State 
Excellencie of a Free-State: Or, The Right Constitution of a Commonwealth, edited and with an Introduction by Blair Worden (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011).
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The Right Constitution of a Commonwealth.
[MP 77, 20-27 Nov. 1651]
The Romans having justly and nobly freed themselves from the Tyranny of Kings, and being in time brought to understand that the interest of Freedom consists in a due and orderly Succession of the Supreme Assemblies; they then made it their care, by all good ways and means, to fortifie the Commonwealth, and establish it in a free enjoyment of that Interest, as the onely bar to the return of Kings, and their main security against the subtil mining of Kingly humours and usurpations. The publicke Rostra, or Pulpits, sounded out the commendations of Freedom; their Augurs, or Prophets, found Freedom written in the entrails of Beasts, and collected it from the flight of the auspicious bird57 , the Sun-daring Eagle, spreading her wings aloft over the Capitol: the common people also, in their common58 discourses, breathed nothing but Freedom; and used the frequent mention of it, as a Charm against the return of Tyranny.59
Nor was it without reason, that this brave and active people were so studiously devoted to the preservation of their Freedom, when they had once attained it, considering how easie and excellent it is above all other Forms of Government, if it be kept within due bounds and order. It is an undeniable Rule, That the People (that is, such as shall be successively chosen to represent the People) are the best Keepers of their own Liberties; and that for these following Reasons.The people the best Keepers of their own Liberties.
First, because they never think of usurping60 over other mens Rights, but minde61 which way to preserve their own. Whereas, the case is far otherwise among Kings and Grandees, as all Nations in the world have felt to some purpose: for they naturally move within the circle of domination, as in their proper Centre; and count it no less Security than Wisdom and Policy, to brave it over the People.I Reason, because the people never think of usurping over other mens Rights Thus Suetonius tells us, how Caesar, Crassus, and another, Societatem iniere, nequid ageretur in Repub. quod displicuisset ulli e tribus: Made a bargain between themselves, that nothing should be done in the Commonwealth that displeased either of them three.* Such another Triumvirate of Grandees was that of Augustus, Lepidus, and Antonie, who agreed to share the world between themselves; and traced the same paths as the other did, to the top of worldly Tyranny, over the ruines of their Countries Liberties: they sav’d and destroy’d, depress’d and advanc’d whom they pleased, with a wet Finger.† But whilst the Government remained untouch’d in the peoples Hands, every particular man lived safe, (except the Ambitious) and no man could be undone, unless a true and satisfactory reason were rendered to the world for his destruction.
Secondly, the People are best Keepers of their own Liberty,The peoples care is, that publick Authority be constituted for publick ends. because it is ever the Peoples care to see, that Authority be so constituted, that it shall be rather a burthen than benefit to those that undertake it; and be qualified with such slender advantages of profit or pleasure, that men shall reap little by the enjoyment. The happy consequence whereof is this, that none but honest, generous, and publick Spirits, will then desire to be in Authority, and that onely for the Common good. Hence it was, that in the Infancy of the Romane Liberty, there was no canvasing of Voices; but single and plain-hearted men were called, intreated, and in a manner forced with importunity to the Helm of Government, in regard of that great trouble and pains that followed the imployment. Thus Cincinnatus was fetch’d out of the Field from his Plow, and placed (much against his will) in the sublime Dignity of Dictator: so the noble Camillus, and Fabius, and Curius, were, with much adoe, drawn from the recreation of Gardening, to the trouble of Governing: and the Consul-yeer being over, they returned with much gladness again to their private employment.62
[MP 78, 27 Nov.-4 Dec. 1651]
Succession in power is the grand preventive of Corruption.A third Reason why the People in their Supreme Assemblies successively chosen, are the best Keepers of their Liberty, is,63 because as motion in Bodies natural, so succession in civil, is the grand preventive of corruption. The Truth of this will appear very clearly, if we weigh the effects of every standing Authority from first to last in the Romane State: for whilst they were governed by a continued Power in one and the same Hands, the People were ever in danger of losing their Liberty: sometimes in danger of being swallowed up by Kingly aspirers, witness the design of Maelius, Manlius, and others; sometimes in danger of a surprise by a Grandee Cabinet or Junta64 , who by contracting a particular Interest, distinct from that which they had in common with the people, so ordered the matter in time, that partly by their own strength, and partly by advantage65 of Power, to gratifie and curb whom they pleased, and to wind in other Councils66 and parties to their own, they still brought the lesser into such subjection, that in the end they were forced all either to yeild to the pleasure of the Grandees, or be broken by them. By these practices, they produced that upstart Tyranny of the Decemviri, when ten men made a shift to enslave the Senate, as well as the people. Lastly, by continuing power too long in the hands of particular persons, they were swallow’d up67 by two Triumvirates of Emperors by turns, who never left pecking at one another, till Julius and Augustus, having beaten all Competitors out of the Field, subjected all to the will of a single Emperour. If this were so among the Romans, how happy then is any Nation, and how much ought they to joy in the Wisdom and Justice of their Trustees, where certain Limits and Bounds are fixed to the Powers in being, by a declared succession of the supreme Authority in the hands of the People!68
[MP 79, 4-11 Dec. 1651]
69 A fourth Reason is, because a succession of supreme Powers doth not onely keep them from corruption, but it kills that grand Cankerworm of a Commonwealth, to wit, Faction: for, as Faction is an adhering to, and a promoting of an Interest, that is distinct from the true and declared Interest of State: so it is a matter of necessity, that those that drive it on, must have time to improve their slights and projects, in disguising their designs, drawing in Instruments and Parties, and in worming out of their opposites. The effecting of all this, requires some length of time: therefore the only prevention70 is a due succession and revolution of Authority in the Hands of the People.A succession of Supreme Power kills that Cankerworm of a Commonwealth, to wit, Faction.
That this is most true, appears not onely by Reason, but by Example: if we observe the several turns of Faction in the Romane Government. What made their Kings so bold, as to incroach and tyrannize over the People, but the very same course71 that heightned our Kings heretofore in England, to wit, a continuation of Power in their own Persons and Families? Then, after the Romans became a Commonwealth, was it not for the same Reason, that the Senate fell into such heats72 and fits among themselves? Did not Appius Claudius and his Junta, by the same means, Lord it73 over the Senate? Whence was it, that Sylla and Marius caused so many proscriptions, cruelties, and combustions in Rome, but by an extraordinary continuation of Power in themselves? How came it to pass likewise, that Julius Caesar aspired, and in the end attained the Empire? and, that the People of Rome quite lost their Liberty, was it not by the same means? For, had not the Senate and People so long protracted the Power74 of Pompey and Caesar; had Pompey had less command in Asia, and Caesar less in Gallia, Rome might have stood much longer in the possession of her Liberty.
After the death of Caesar, it was probable enough, they might then have recovered their Liberty, but that they ran again into the same Error, as before: for by a continuation of Power in the hands of Octavius, Lepidus, and Antonie, the Commonwealth came to be rent and divided into three several Factions; two of which being worn out by each other, onely Octavius remained; who considering, that the Title of perpetual Dictator was the ruine of his Father Julius, continued the Government onely for a set-time, and procured it to be setled upon himself but for ten yeers. But what was the effect of this continuation of Power? Even this, That as the former protractings had been75 the occasions of Faction, so this produced a Tyranny: for, at the end of every ten yeers, he wanted no pretence to renew a lease of the Government; and by this means so played his Cards, that at length76 he easily and utterly extinguished the small remains of the Roman Freedom.
The Observation then arising from hence, is this, that the onely way for a people to preserve themselves in the enjoyment of their Freedom, and to avoid those fatal inconveniences of Faction and Tyranny, is, to maintain a due and orderly succession of Power and Persons. This was, and is, good Commonwealths77 Language; and without this Rule, it is impossible any Nation should long subsist in a State of Freedom. So that the Wisdom, the Piety, the Justice, and the self-denial of those Governours in Free-States, is worthy of all honour and admiration, who have, or shall at any time as willingly resign their Trusts, as ever they took them up; and have so far denied themselves, as to prefix Limits and Bounds to their own Authority. This was it that made Brutus so famous in the beginning of the Romane Commonwealth.78 For this also it was, that History hath left so reverend a remembrance of Scipio, Camillus, and Virginus79; as did Cato likewise of Pompey: whilst the ten Grandee Usurpers, with Sylla, and Caesar, and the Names of others that practised the contrary, are left as odious upon the Roman Record, as the Name of Richard the third80 , will be in our modern Chronicle, to all Posterity.
[MP “79” (80), 11-18 Dec. 1651]
A succession of Powers & Persons is the onely remedy against self-seeking.A fifth Reason to prove the Life of Liberty lies in succession of Powers and Persons, is, because it is the onely Remedy81 against Self-seeking, with all the powerful Temptations and Charms of self-interest: for the attaining of particular ends, requires length of time, as well as the creating and promoting of a Faction: both these designs must lie long in fermentation, or else they can never gain the beloved opportunity to bring matters to perfection. The Truth of this appears likewise in the Story of the Romane State: for, as long as all Authority was confined within the Walls of a standing Senate, they being more studious of their own, than the common good, in a short time the Commonwealth was turned altogether into a private; insomuch, that the people became not onely incapable of any Honour and Authority; but well-nigh reduced to flat beggery. Hence it was, that so many Quarrels and Combustions arose one after another: for, the Great Ones having made use of their time, in drawing all to themselves, the People were forc’d to live upon borrowing; and when they could borrow no longer, they fell into a general Mutiny, and forsook the City: nor could they be pacified till all Accounts were quitted; and then, with much adoe, they were wrought upon with the Eloquence of Menenius Agrippa, with his excellent Fable of a Mutiny in a natural Body, among the Members against the Belly.*
Thus, as the first Insurrection was occasioned by the Usury and Exactions of the Great Ones; who by their long continuance in Power, had drawn all unto themselves: so the second was occasioned by the Lordliness of those ten Persons, who being elected to do Justice, according to the Laws, made use of their time, onely to confirm their Power, and Greaten themselves, by replenishing their own Coffers, ingrossing of Offices, and preferring their own Kindred and Alliances: and at length, improved Self-Interest so high, that they domineered, like absolute Tyrants, advancing and depressing whom they pleased, without respect of Merit or Insufficiency, Vice or Vertue; so that having secured all in their own Hands, they over-ruled82 their Fellow-Senators at pleasure, as well as the People.83
Many more instances of After-times might be given; but these are sufficient whereupon to ground this Observation84 , That as the first Founders of the Roman Liberty did well in driving out their Kings; so on the other side, they did very ill in setling a standing Authority within themselves: for, by this means, lying open to the Temptations of Honour and Profit, (which are Sails too big for any humane bulk) they were immediately swallowed up of Self85 ; and taking their rise from the opportunity of a continued Power, made use of the Publick onely to advance their Private, whereby they put the Commonwealth86 into frequent flames of discontent and sedition; which might all have been prevented, could they have denied themselves at first, and setled the State Free indeed, (as they ought to have done) by placing an orderly succession of supreme87 Authority in the Hands of the People.88
[MP 81, 18-25 Dec. 1651]
The end of all Government, being the good & ease of the people, they best know where the shooe pinches.A sixth Reason, why a Free-State is much more excellent than a Government by Grandees or Kings; and, that the People are the best Keepers of their own Liberties, is,89 because, as the end of all Government is (or ought to be) the good and ease of the People, in a secure enjoyment of their Rights, without Pressure and Oppression: so questionless the People, who are most sensible of their own Burthens, being once put into a capacity and Freedom of Acting, are the most likely to provide Remedies for their own Relief; they onely know where the shooe wrings,* what Grievances are most heavy, and what future Fences they stand in need of, to shelter them from the injurious Assaults of those Powers that are above them: and therefore it is but Reason, they should see that none be interested in the supreme Authority, but Persons of their own election, and such as must in a short time return again into the same condition with themselves, to reap the same Benefit or Burthen, by the Laws enacted, that befalls the rest of the People. Then the issue of such a Constitution must needs be this, That no Load shall be laid upon any, but what is common to all, and that always by common consent; not to serve the Lusts of any, but onely to supply the Necessities of their Country.
But when it happens, that a supreme Power long continues in the Hands of any Person or Persons; they, by greatness of place, being seated above the middle Region of the People, sit secure from all windes and weathers, and from those storms of violence that nip and terrifie the inferiour part of the World: whereas, if by a successive Revolution of Authority, they came to be degraded of their Earthly Godheads, and return into the same condition with other Mortals, they must needs be the more sensible and tender of what shall be laid upon them. The strongest Obligation that can be laid upon any Man in pub-lick Matters, is, To see that he ingage in nothing but what must either offensively or beneficially reflect upon himself: for as, if any be never so good a Patriot, yet if his power be prolonged, he will finde it hard to keep Self from creeping in upon him, and prompting him to some Extravagancies for his own private Benefit; so, on the other side, if he be shortly to return to a condition common with the rest of his Brethren, self-Interest90 bindes him to do nothing but what is Just and Equal; he himself being to reap the good or evil of what is done, as well as the meanest of the people.
This without controversie must needs be the most Noble, the most Just, and the most excellent way of Government in Free-States; without which, it is obvious to common sense, no Nation can long continue in a state of Freedom: as appears likewise by Example out of the Romane Story. For what more noble Patriots were there ever in the World, than the Romane Senators were, whilst they were kept under by their Kings, and felt the same Burthens of their fury, as did the rest of the people? but afterwards being freed from the Kingly yoke, and having secured all power within the hands of themselves and their posterity, they at length fell into the same Absurdities that had been before committed by their Kings; so that this new yoke became more intolerable than the former. Nor could the people finde any Remedy, untill91 they procured that necessary office of the Tribunes; who being invested with a temporary Authority by the peoples Election, remained the more sensible of their condition, and were as Moderators between the Power of the Great Ones, and the Rights of the People.
What more excellent Patriot could there be than Manlius, till he became corrupted by Time and Power? Who more Noble, and Courteous, and Well-affected to the common good, than was Appius Claudius92 at first? but afterwards, having obtained a Continuation of the Government in his own hands, he soon lost his primitive Innocency and Integrity, and devoted himself to all the Practices of an Absolute Tyrant.93 Many others might be reckon’d up. And therefore, hence it was, That when the Senate (for some Reasons) thought to continue Lucius Quintius in the Consulship longer than the usual time; that gallant Man utterly refused it,* and chose rather to deny himself, than that a Precedent so prejudicial to the Romane Freedom should be made for his sake, by a Prerogative94 of Authority in his hands, beyond the ordinary Custome.95
[MP 82, 25 Dec. 1651-1 Jan. 1652]
In this Government the door of Dignity stands open to all that ascend thither by the steps of Worth and Vertue.A seventh Reason why a people qualified with a due and orderly succession of their Supreme Assemblies, are the best keepers of their own Liberties, is, Because96 , as in other Forms, those persons onely have access to Government, who are apt to serve the lust and will of the Prince, or else are parties or97 compliers with some powerful Faction: so in this Form of Government by the People, the door of Dignity stands open to all (without exception) that ascend thither by the steps of Worth and Vertue: the consideration whereof hath this noble effect in Free-States, That it edges mens spirits with an active emulation, and raiseth them to a lofty pitch of designe and action.
The truth of this is very observable in the Romane State98 : for, during the Vassalage of that People under Kings, we read not of any notable Exploits, but finde them confined within a narrow compass, oppress’d at home, and ever and anon ready to be swallowed up by their enemies. After this Government of Kings was abolished, you know that of Grandees in a standing Senate was next erected; under which Form, they made shift to enlarge their bounds a little: but the most they could then do, was only to secure themselves from the attempts of the banished Tarquins, and those petty neighbours that envied the small increase of their Dominion. But at length, when the State was made free indeed, and the People admitted into a share and interest in the Government, as well as the Great Ones; then it was, and never till then, that their thoughts and power began to exceed the bounds of Italy, and aspire towards that prodigious Empire. For, while the road of Preferment lay plain to every man, no publike work was done, nor any Conquest made; but every man thought he did and conquered all for himself, as long as he remained valiant and vertuous: it was not Alliance, nor Friendship, nor Faction, nor Riches, that could advance men; but Knowledge, Valour, and vertuous Poverty, was preferred above them all.
For the confirmation whereof, we finde in the same Story, how that many99 of their brave Patriots and Conquerors were men of the meanest Fortune, and of so rare a temper of spirit, that they little cared to improve them, or enrich themselves by their publike employment: so that when they died, they were fain to be buried at the publike charge. We finde Cincinnatus, a man of mean fortune, fetch’d from the Plough, to the dignity of a Dictator: for he had100 no more than four acres of land, which he tilled with his own hands. Yet so it101 happened, that when the Roman Consul with his whole Army was in great peril, being circumvented and straitned by the Equuns102 , and the City of Rome it self in a trembling condition103 ; then, with one consent, they pitch’d upon Cincinnatus, as the fittest man for their deliverance: and he behaved himself so well104 , with so much magnanimity, integrity, and wisdom, that he relieved the Consul, routed and utterly subdued the Enemy, and gave as it were a new life to his Countries Liberties: which work being over, he with all willingness quitted his Authority, and returned to the condition of a painful private life.
This Example might seem strange, but that we know it was ordinary in that State, till it grew corrupt again: for, we read also, how Lucius Tarquin, (not of the Tyrants family) a man of mean fortune, yet of great worth, was chosen General of the Horse, and drawn to it out of the Country, in which place he surpassed all the Romane youth for gallant behaviour. Such another plain Country-fellow was Attilius Regulus, the scourge of Carthage in his time; of whom many eminent points of Bravery were105 recorded: as were also most of those Heroick spirits that succeeded, down to the times of Lucius Paulus106Emilius, by whose Conquests, the first charms and inchantments of Luxury were brought out of Asia to Rome, and there they soon swallowed up the remainders of primitive integrity and simplicity. And yet it is very observable also, that so much of the ancient severity was remaining still even in the time of this Paulus, the famous General, that a Silver dish, that was part of the Spoil, being given to a son-in-law of his, who had fought stoutly in that war, it was thought a great reward; and observed by the Historian,* to be the first piece of plate that ever was seen in the Family.
This Observation then arises from this Discourse,107 That as Rome never thrived till it was setled in a Freedom of the People; so that Freedom was preserved,108 and that109 Interest best advanced, when all Places of Honour and Trust were exposed to men of Merit, without distinction; which happiness could never be obtained, until110 the people were instated in a capacity of preferring whom they thought worthy, by a Freedom of electing men successively into their Supreme Offices and Assemblies. So long as this Custome continued, and Merit took place, the people made shift111 to keep and encrease their Liberties: but when it lay neglected, and the stream of Preferment began to run along with the favour and pleasure of particular powerful men, then Vice and Compliance making way for Advancement, the people could keep their Liberties no longer; but both their Liberties and themselves were made the price of every man’s Ambition and Luxury.The People are the best Keepers of their Liberty, because they only are concerned in the point of Liberty.
[MP 83, 1-8 Jan. 1652]
The eighth Reason, why the People in their Assemblies are the best Keepers of their Liberty, is,112 because it is they onely that are concerned in the point of Liberty: for, whereas in other Forms the main Interest and Concernment both of Kings and Grandees, lies either in keeping the People in utter ignorance what Liberty is, or else in allowing and pleasing them onely with the name and shadow of Liberty in stead of the substance: so in Free-States the People being sensible of their past condition in former times113 , under the Power of Great Ones, and comparing it with the possibilities and enjoyments of the present, become immediately instructed, that their main Interest and Concernment consists in Liberty; and are taught by common sense, that the onely way to secure it from the reach of Great Ones, is, to place it in the Peoples Hands, adorned with all the Prerogatives and Rights of Supremacy. The Truth of it is, the Interest of Freedom is a Virgin that every one seeks to deflower; and like a Virgin, it must be kept from114 any other Form, or else (so great is the Lust of mankinde after dominion) there follows a rape upon the first opportunity. This being considered, it will easily be granted, That Liberty must needs lie more secure in the Peoples than in any others hands, because they are most concerned in it: and the careful eyeing of this Concernment, is that which makes them both jealous and zealous; so that nothing will satisfie, but the keeping of a constant Guard against the Attempts and Incroachments of any powerful or crafty Underminers.
Hence it is, that the115 People having once tasted the Sweets of Freedom, are116 so extreamly affected with it, that if they discover, or do but suspect the least Design to incroach117 upon it, they count it a Crime never to be forgiven for any consideration whatsoever. Thus it was in the Romane State, where one gave up his Children, another his Brother to death, to revenge an Attempt against common Liberty: divers also sacrificed their Lives, to preserve it; and some their best Friends, to vindicate it, upon bare suspicion; as in the Cases of Maelius, and Manlius, and others, after manifest violation, as in the Case of Caesar.
Nor was it thus onely in Rome; but we finde also as notable instances of revenge in the Free-People of Greece, upon the same occasion. But the most notable of all, is that which happened in the Island of Corcyra, during the war of Peloponnesus: where the People having been rook’d of Liberty by the slights and power of the Grandees, and afterwards by the assistance of the Free-states118 of Athens recovering it again, took occasion thereupon to clap up all the Grandees, & chop’d off ten of their Heads at one time, in part of satisfaction for the Injury: but yet this would not serve the turn; for, some delay being made in executing of the rest, the People grew so inraged, that they ran, and pull’d down the very Walls, and buried them in the ruines and rubbish of the Prison.
We see it also in the Free-State of Florence, where Cosmus the first Founder of the Tuscan -Tyranny, having made shipwrack of their Liberty, and seized all into his own Hands; though he enslaved their Bodies, yet he could not subdue their Hearts, nor wear their past Liberty out of Memory; for upon the first opportunity, they sought revenge, and a recovery; forcing him to fly for the safety of his Life: and though afterwards he made way for his Return and Re-establishment by Treachery, yet now after so long a time, the old Freedom is fresh119 in memory, and would shew it self again upon a favourable occasion.
But of all Modern Instances, the most strange is that of the Land of Holstein; which being deprived of Liberty, and about seventy yeers120 since made a Dutchy, and an Appendix to the Crown of Denmark; though the Inhabitants be but a Boorish, poor, silly Generation, yet still they retain a sense of Indignation at the loss of their Liberty; and being given to drink, the usual Complement in the midst of their Cups, is this, Here is121a health to the remembrance of our Liberty.
Thus you see what an impression the love of Freedom makes in the minds of the people: so that122 it will be easily concluded, They must be the best Keepers of their own Liberties; being more tender and more concerned in their security, than any powerful pretenders whatsoever.
[MP 84, 8-15 Jan. 1652]
The Government of a Free State is less Luxurious, than Kings or GrandeesThe ninth Reason to justifie a Free-State, is,123 because in Free-States the People are less Luxurious, than Kings or Grandees use to be. Now, this is most certain, that where Luxury takes place, there is as natural a tendency to Tyranny, as there is from the Cause to the Effect: for, you know the Nature of Luxury lies altogether in Excess. It is a Universal Depravation of Manners, without Reason, without Moderation; it is the Canine appetite of a corrupt Will and Phant’sie, which nothing can satisfie; but in every Action, in every Imagination, it flies beyond the Bounds of Honesty,124 Just, and Good, into all Extremity: so that it will easily be granted, That Form of Government must needs be the most excellent, and the Peoples Liberty most secured,125 where Governours are least exposed to the baits and snares of Luxury.
The evidence of this may be made out, not onely by Reason, but by Examples old126 and new. And first, by Reason, it is evident, That the People must needs be less luxurious than Kings or the Great Ones, because they are bounded within a more lowly pitch of Desire and Imagination: give them but panem & circenses; Bread, Sport and Ease, and they are abundantly satisfied. Besides, the People have less means and opportunities for Luxury, than those pompous standing powers, whether in the hands of one or many: so that were they never so much inclined to Vice or Vanity, yet they are not able to run on to the same measure of Excess and Riot. Secondly, as it appears they are less Luxurious; so, for this Cause also, it is cleer, They (that is, their successive Representatives) must be the best Governours; not onely, because the current of succession keeps them the less corrupt and presumptious; but also, because, being the more free from luxurious Courses, they are likewise free from those oppressive127 and injurious Practices, which Kings and Grandees are most commonly led and forced128 unto, to hold up the port and splendor of their Tyranny, and to satisfie those natural appetites of Covetousness, Pride, Ambition and Ostentation, which are the perpetual Attendants of Great Ones, and Luxury. Thus much for Reason.
Now, for Example, we might produce a Cloud of Instances, to shew, That Free-States, or the People duely qualified with the Supreme Authority, are less devoted to Luxury, than the Grandee or Kingly Powers: but we shall give you onely a few.
The first that comes in our way is the State of Athens, which, whilst it remained free in the Peoples Hands, was adorned with such Governours as gave themselves up to a serious, abstemious, severe course of Life; so that whilst Temperance and Liberty walked hand in hand, they improved the points of Valour and Prudence so high, that in a short time they became the onely Arbitrators of all Affairs in Greece. But being at the height, then (after the common fate of all worldly Powers) they began to decline; for, (contrary to the Rules of a Free-State) permitting some men to greaten themselves, by continuing long in Power and Authority, they soon lost their pure Principles of Severity and Libertie: for, up-started129 those thirty Grandees, (commonly called the Tyrants) who having usurped a standing Authority unto themselves, presently quitted the old Discipline and Freedom, gave up themselves first to Charms of Luxury, and afterwards to all the practices of an absolute Tyranny. Such also was the condition of that State, when at another time (as in the dayes of Pistratus130 ) it was usurp’d in the hands of a single Tyrant.
From Athens let us pass to Rome, where we finde it in the dayes of Tarquin, dissolved into Debauchery. Upon the change of Government, their manners were somewhat mended, as were the Governours in the Senate: but that being a standing Power, soon grew corrupt; and first let in Luxury, then Tyranny, till the people being interested in the Government, established a good Discipline and Freedom both together; which was upheld with all Severity, till the ten Grandees came in play after; whose131 Deposition, Liberty, and Sobriety began to breath again, till the dayes of Sylla, Marius, and other132 Grandees that followed down to Caesar, in whose time Luxury and Tyranny grew to such a height, that unless it were in the Life and Conversation of Cato, there was not so much as one spark, that could be raked out of the ashes, of the old Roman Discipline and Freedom; so that of all the World, onely Cato remained as a Monument of that Temperance, Virtue and Freedom, which flourished under the Government of the People.133
Omitting many other Examples, our Conclusion upon134 these Particulars shall be this, That since the Grandee or Kingly Powers, are ever more luxurious, than the popular are, or can be: and since Luxury ever brings on Tyranny, as the onely bane of Liberty; certainly the Rights and Priviledges of the People, placed and provided for, in a due and orderly succession of their Supreme Assemblies, must needs remain more secure in their own Hands, than in any others whatsoever.135
[MP 85, 15-22 Jan. 1652]
A tenth Reason, to prove the excellency of a Free-State or Government by the People, above any other Form of Government, is,136 because under this Government, the People are ever indued with a more magnanimous, active, and noble temper of Spirit, than under the Grandeur of any standing power whatsoever. And this arises from that apprehension which every particular Man hath of his own immediate share in the publick Interest, as well as of that security which he possesses137 in the enjoyment of his private Fortune, free from the reach of any Arbitrary Power. Hence it is, that whensoever any good success or happiness betides the Publick, every one counts it his own:In a Free-State, the People are ever more magnanimous and valiant. if the Commonwealth conquer, thrive in Dominion, Wealth or Honour, he reckons all done for himself; if he sees138 Distributions of Honour, high Offices, or great Rewards, to Valiant, Vertuous, or139 Learned Persons, he esteems them as his own, as long as he hath a door left open to succeed in the same Dignities and Enjoyments, if he can attain unto the same measure of Desert. This it is140 which makes men aspire unto great Actions, when the Reward depends not upon the Will and Pleasure of particular Persons, as it doth under all standing Powers; but is conferred upon Men (without any consideration of Birth or Fortune) according to merit, as it ever is, and ought to be in Free-States, that are rightly constituted.
The Truth of this will appear much more evident, if ye list a little to take a view of the condition of People, under various Forms of Government: for, the Romanes of old, while under Kings, (as you heard before) remained141 a very inconsiderable People, either in Dominion or Reputation; and could never inlarge their Command very far beyond the Walls of their City. Afterwards, being reduced unto that standing power of the Senate, they began to thrive a little better, &, for a little time: yet all they142 could do, was only to struggle that for a subsistence among bad Neighbours. But at length, when the People began to know, claim, and possess their Liberties in being govern’d by a succession of their Supreme Officers and Assemblies; then it was, and never till then, that they laid the Foundation, and built the Structure of that wondrous Empire that overshadowed the whole World143 . And truely the founding of it must needs be more144 wonderful, and a great Argument of an extraordinary Courage and Magnanimity, wherewith the People was indued in145 Recovery of Liberty; because their first Conquests were laid in the ruine of mighty Nations, and such as were every jot as free as themselves: which made the difficulties so much the more, by how much the more free (and consequently, the more couragious) they were, against whom they made opposition: for as in those dayes the World abounded with Free-States, more than any other Form, as all over Italy, Gallia, Spain, and Africa, &c. so specially146 in Italy, where the Tuscans, the Samnites, and other Emulators and Competitors of the Romane Freedom,* approved themselves magnanimous Defenders of their Liberty against Rome, that they endured Wars so147 many yeers with utmost extremity, before ever they could [be] brought to bow under the Romane Yoke148 . This magnanimous State of Freedom, was the cause also why Charthage149 was enabled so long, not only to oppose, but often150 to hazard the Romane Fortune, and usurp the Laurel. It brought Hannibal within view, and the Gauls within the Walls of the City, to a besieging of the Capitol; to shew, that their Freedom had given them the courage to rob her of her Maiden-head, who afterwards became Mistriss of the whole World. But what serves all this for, but151 onely to shew, That as nothing but a State of Freedom could have enabled those Nations with a Courage sufficient so long to withstand the Romane Power: so Rome her self also was beholden to this State of Freedom, for those Sons of Courage which brought the Necks of her Sister-States and Nations under her Girdle? And it is observable also in after-times, when Tyranny took place against152 Liberty, the Romans soon lost their ancient Courage and Magnanimity; first under usurping Dictators, then under Emperors, and in the end, the Empire it self.153
Now, as on the one side, we feel154 a loss of Courage and Magnanimity, follow155 the loss of Freedom: so, on the other side, the People ever grow magnanimous and couragious156 upon a Recovery; witness at present, the valiant Swisses, the Hollanders, and not long since, our own Nation, when declared a Free-State, and a Re-establishment of our Freedom in the hands of the People procured, (though not secured) what noble Designs were undertaken and prosecuted with success? The Consideration157 whereof, must needs make highly for the Honour of all Governours in Free-States, who have been, or shall be instrumental in redeeming and setting158 any People in a fulness of Freedom, that is, in a due and orderly succession of their supreme Assemblies.
[MP 86, 22-29 Jan. 1652]
No determinations are carried but by consent of the People.The eleventh Reason is159 , because in this Form no Determinations being carried, but by consent of the People; therefore they must needs remain secure out of the reach of Tyranny, and free from the Arbitrary Disposition of any commanding Power. In this Case, as the People know what Laws they are to obey, and what Penalties they are to undergo, in case of Transgression; so having their share and interest in the making of Laws, with the Penalties annexed, they become the more inexcusable if they offend, and the more willingly submit unto punishment when they suffer for any offence. Now the case is usually far otherwise, under all standing Powers: for, when Government is managed in the hands of a particular Person, or continued in the hands of a certain number of Great Men, the People then have no Laws but what Kings and Great Men please to give: Nor do they know how to walk by those Laws, or how to understand them, because the sense is oftentimes left at uncertainty; and it is reckoned a great Mystery of State in those Forms of Government, That no Laws shall be of any sense or force, but as the Great Ones please to expound them: so as160 by this means, the People many times are left as it were without Law161 , because they bear no other construction and meaning, but what sutes with particular mens Interests and Phant’sies; not with Right Reason, or the Publike Liberty.
For the proof of this under Kingly Government, we might run all the world over; but our own Nation affords162 Instances enough in the Practices of all our Kings: yet this Evil never came to such a height, as it did in the Raign of Henry the seventh; who by usurping a Prerogative of expounding the Laws after his own pleasure, made them rather Snares, than Instruments of Relief, (like a grand Catch-pole) to pill, poll, and geld the Purses of the People; as his Son Harry did after him, to deprive many Gallant Men both of their Lives and Fortunes. For, the Judges being reputed the Oracles of the Law, and the power of creating Judges being usurp’d by Kings, they had a care ever to create such, as would make the Laws speak in Favour of them, upon any occasion. The Truth whereof hath abundantly appeared in the dayes of the late King163 , and his Father James, whose usual Language was this: As long as I have power of making what Judges and Bishops I please, I am sure to have no Law nor Gospel but what shall please me.164
This very providing165 for this Inconvenience, was the great Commendation of Lycurgus his Institution in Sparta; who, though he cut out the Lacedemonian Commonwealth166 after the Grandee fashion, confirming the Supremacy within the Walls of the Senate167 , (for their King was but a Cypher) yet he so ordered the matter, that he took away the Grandeur; that as their King was of little more value than any one of the Senators; so the Senate was restrained by Laws, walking in168 the same even pace of subjection with the People; having very few Offices of Dignity or Profit allowed, which might make them swell with State and Ambition; but were prescribed also the same Rules of Frugality, Plainness, and Moderation, as were the Common People: by which means immoderate lusts and desires being prevented in the Great Ones, they were the less inclined to Pride and Oppression; and no great profit or pleasure being to be gotten by Authority, very few desired it; and such as were in it, sate free from Envie, by which means they avoided that odium and emulation which169 uses to rage betwixt the Great Ones and the People in that Form of Government.
But now the case is far otherwise in the Commonwealth of Venice, where the People being excluded from all interest in Government, the power of making and executing of Laws, and bearing of Offices, with all other Immunities, lies onely in the hands of a standing Senate, and their Kindred, which they call the Patrocian, or Noble Order. Their Duke, or Prince, is indeed restrained, and made just such another Officer as were the Lacedemonian Kings; differing from the rest of the Senate, onely in a Corner of his Cap, besides a little outward Ceremony and Splendor: but the Senators themselves have Liberty at random, Arbitrarily to ramble, and do what they please with the people: who excepting the City it self, are so extreamly oppress’d in all their Territories, living by no Law, but the Arbitrary Dictates of the Senate, that it seems rather a Junta, than a Commonwealth170 ; and the Subjects take so little content in it, that seeing more to be enjoyed under the Turk, they that are his Borderers take all opportunities to revolt171 , and submit rather to the mercy of a Pagan-Tyranny. Which disposition if you consider, together with the little Courage in their Subjects, by reason they press them so hard; and how that they are forced, for this cause, to relie upon Forrain Mercenaries in all warlike Expeditions, you might wonder how this State hath held up so long; but that we know the Interest of Christendom, being concerned in her Security, she hath been chiefly supported by the Supplies and Arms of others.
Therefore our Conclusion172 shall be this, That since Kings, and all standing Powers, are so inclinable to act according to their own Wills and Interests, in making, expounding, and executing of Laws to the prejudice of the Peoples Liberty and Security: and seeing the onely way to prevent Arbitrariness, is, That no Laws or Dominations173 whatsoever should be made, but by the Peoples Consent and Election: therefore it must of necessity be granted, that the People are the best Keepers of their own Liberties, being setled in a due and orderly succession of their supreme Assemblies.
[MP 87, 29 Jan.-5 Feb. 1652]
174 A twelfth Reason is, because this Form is most sutable to the Nature and Reason of Mankinde:A Free-State is most sutable to the Nature and Reason of mankinde. for, as Cicero saith175 , Man is a noble Creature, born with Affections to rule, rather than obey; there being in every man a natural appetite or desire of Principality.* And therefore the Reason why176 one man is content to submit to the Government of another, is, not because he conceives himself to have less right than another to govern; but either because he findes himself less able, or else because he judgeth it will be more convenient for himself, and that community whereof he is a Member, if he submits177 unto another’s Government. Nemini178purere vult animus a naturâ bene informatus, nisi, &c. saith the same Cicero: that is to say, in honest English, A minde well in-structed by the light of Nature, will pay obedience unto none, but such as command, direct, or govern, for its good and benefit.* From both which passages and expressions of that Oracle of Humane wisdom, these three Inferences do naturally arise: First, that by the light of Nature people are taught to be their own Carvers and Contrivers, in the framing of that Government under which they mean to live. Secondly, that none are to preside in Government, or sit at the Helm, but such as shall be judged fit, and chosen by the People. Thirdly, that the People are the onely proper Judges of the convenience or inconvenience of a Government when it is erected, and of the behaviour of Governours after they are chosen: which three Deductions179 appear to be no more, but an Explanation of this most excellent Maxime, That the Original and Fountain of all just Power and Government is in the People.
This being so, that a Free-State-Government by the People, that is, by their successive Representatives, or supreme Assemblies, duely chosen, is most natural, and onely sutable to the Reason of mankinde: then it follows, that the other forms, whether it be of a standing Power in the Hands of a particular person, as a King; or of a set number of Great Ones, as in a Senate, are besides the Dictates180 of Nature, being meer artificial devices of Great Men, squared out onely to serve the Ends and Interests of Avarice, Pride and Ambition of a few, to a vassalizing of the Community. The Truth whereof appears so much the more, if we consider, That a181 Consent and free Election of the People, which is the most natural Way and Form of governing, hath no real effect in the other Forms; but is either supplanted by Craft and Custome, or swallowed up by a pernicious pretence of Right (in one or many) to govern, onely by vertue of an Hereditary succession. Now certainly, were there no other Argument to prove the excellency of Government by the People, &c. beyond the other Forms; yet this one might suffice, That in the Peoples Form, men have Liberty to make use of that Reason and Understanding God hath given them, in chusing of Governours, and providing for their own safety in182 Government: but in the other Forms of a standing183 Power, all Authority being entailed to certain Persons and Families, in a course of inheritance, men are alwayes deprived of the use of their Reason about choice of Governours, and forced to receive them blindely, and at all adventure184 : which course being so destructive to the Reason, common Interest, and Majesty of that Noble Creature, called Man, that he should not in a matter of so high consequence as Government, (wherein the good and safety of all is concerned) have a Freedom of Choice and Judgement, must needs be the most irrational and brutish Principle in the World, and fit onely to be hissed out of the World, together with all Forms of standing Power (whether in Kings, or others) which have served for no other end, but transform185 Men into Beasts, and mortified mankinde with misery through all Generations.
The Truth of this is evident all the World over; first, by sad Examples of Monarchy: for, the Kingly form having been retained in a course of Inheritance, men being forced to take what comes next for a Governour, whether it be Male or Female, a wise Man or a Fool, Good or Bad; so that the major part of Hereditary Princes, have been Tyrannous and Wicked by Nature, or made so by Education and Opportunity: the People have been for the most part banded186 to and fro, with their Lives and Fortunes, at the Will and Pleasure of some one single unworthy Fellow, who usually assumes the greater confidence in his unrighteous dealing, because he knows the People are tied in that Form to him and his, though he practice all the Injustice in the World. This was it that brought on Tyranny in Rome, first under their Kings, afterwards under Emperors: for it is to be observed out of the187 Story, that all those Emperors which ruled by right of Inheritance, proved most of them no better than savage Beasts, and all of them Wicked except Titus. ’Tis true indeed, That a Nation may have some respite and recruit now and then, by the Vertue and Valour of a single Prince; yet this is very rare; and when it doth happen, it usually lasts188 no longer than for his Life, because his Son or Successor (for the most part) proves more weak or vitious, than himself was Virtuous, as you may see in the several Lists of Kings throughout Great Britain,*France, Spain, and all the World. But this is not all the Inconvenience, that Hereditary Princes have been and are for the most part Wicked in their own Persons: for, as great Inconveniences happen by their being litigious189 in their Titles; witness the bloody disputes between190 the Princes of the Blood in France, as also in England, between the two Houses of Yorke and Lancaster; to which many more might be reckoned out of all other Kingdoms; which miseries, the people might have avoided, had they not been tied to one particular Line of Succession. Therefore, if any Kingly Form be tolerable, it must be that which is by Election, chosen by the Peoples Representatives, and made an Officer of Trust by them, to whom they are to be accountable. And herein, as Kings are onely tolerable upon this account, as Elective; so these Elective Kings191 are as intolerable upon another account, because their present Greatness gives them opportunity ever to practise such slights, that in a short time, the Government that192 they received onely for their own Lives, will become entailed upon their Families, whereby the Peoples Election will be made of no effect further, than193 for Fashion, to mock the poor People, and adorn the Triumphs of an aspiring194 Tyranny; as it hath been seen in the Elective Kingdoms of Bohemia, Poland, Hungaria195, and Sweden; where the Forms of Election were, and are still retained; but the Power swallowed up, and the Kingdoms made Hereditary; not only in Sweden, by the Artifice of Gustavus Ericus; but also in Poland, and the Empire, where the peoples right of election was soon eaten out by the cunning of the two Families of Casimira196 and Austria.
Let this serve to manifest,197 that a Government by a free Election and Consent of the People, setled in a due and orderly succession of their supreme Assemblies, is more consonant to the light of Nature and Reason, and consequently much more excellent than any Hereditary standing Power198 whatsoever. To take off all mis-constructions; when we mention the People, observe all along, that we do not mean the confused promiscuous Body of the People, nor any part of the people who have forfeited their Rights by Delinquency, Neutrality, or Apostacy, &c. in relation199 to the divided state of any Nation; for they are not to be reckon’d within the Lists of the People200 .
[MP 88, 5-12 Feb. 1652]
In this Government there are fewer opportunities of Oppression and Tyranny, then under any other Form.The thirteenth Reason, to prove the excellency of a Free-State above any other Form, is,201 because in Free-States there are fewer opportunities of Oppression and Tyranny, than in the other Forms. And this appears, in that it is ever the care of Free-Commonwealths202 , for the most part, to preserve, not an Equality, (which were irrational and odious) but an Equability of Condition among all the Members; so that no particular Man or Men shall be permitted to grow over-great in Power; nor any Rank of Men be allowed above the ordinary Standard, to assume unto themselves the State and Title of Nobility.
The Observation of the former, secures the Peoples Liberty from the reach of their own Officers, such as being entrusted with the Affairs of high Trust and Imployment, either in Campe and Council,203 might perhaps take occasion thereby to aspire beyond Reason, if not restrained and prevented.
The Observation of the later204 , secures the People from the pressures and Ambition of such petty Tyrants, as would usurp and claim a Prerogative, Power, and Greatness above others, by Birth and Inheritance. These are a sort of Men not to be endured in any well-ordered Commonwealth; for they alwayes bear a Natural and Implacable Hate towards the People, making it their Interest to deprive them of their Liberty; so that if at any time it happen, that any great Man or Men whatsoever, arrive to so much Power and Confidence, as to think of usurping, or to be in a Condition to be tempted thereunto; these are the first that will set them on, mingle Interests with them, and become the prime Instruments in heaving them up into the Seat of Tyranny.
For the clearing of these Truths; and first, to manifest the Inconvenience of permitting any persons to be205 over-great in any State; and that Free-States that206 have not avoided it, have soon lost their Liberty, we shall produce a File of Examples. In Greece we finde, that the Free-State of Athens lost its Liberty upon that account once, when they suffered certain of the Senators to over-top the rest in power; which occasioned that multiplied Tyranny, made famous by the name of the thirty Tyrants: at another time, when by the same Error they were constrained, through the power of Pistratus207 , to stoop unto his single Tyranny.
Upon this score also, the people of Syracusa had the same misfortune under the Tyrant Hiero, as had they of Sicily under Dyonisius and Agathocles.
In Rome also the case is208 the same too: for during the time that Liberty was included within the Senate, they gave both Maelius & Manlius an opportunity to aspire, by permitting them a growth of too much Greatness: but by good fortune escaping their clutches, they afterwards fell as foolishly into the hands of ten of their Fellow-Senators, called the Decemviri, in giving them so much power as tempted them unto Tyranny. Afterwards, when the people scuffled, and made a shift to recover their Liberty out of the hands of the Senate, they committed the same Error too, by permitting of209 their Servants to grow over-great; such as Sylla, who by power tyrannized and made himself Dictator for five yeers, as Caesar afterwards setled the Dictatorship upon himself for ever: and after Caesar ’s death, they might have recovered their Liberty again, if they had taken care (as they might easily have done) to prevent the growing Greatness of Augustus, who gaining power first, by the courtesie & good will of the Senate and People, made use of it to establish himself in a Tyranny, which could never after be extinguished, but in the ruine of the Roman Empire it self.
Thus also the Free-State of Florence foolishly ruined it self by the greatning of Cosmus; first, permitting him to ingross the Power, which gave him opportunity to be a tyrant; & then as foolishly forcing him to declare himself a Tyrant, by an unseasonable demand of the power back out of his hands. Many more instances might be fetch’d out of Milan, Switzerland, and other places: but we have one neerer home, and of a later date, in Holland; whereby, permitting the Family of Orange to greaten a little more than beseemed a Member of a Free-State, they were insensibly reduced to the last cast, to run the hazzard of the loss of their Liberty.
Therefore one prime Principle of State, is,210 To keep any man, though he have deserved never so well by good success or service, from being too great or popular: it is a notable means (and so esteemed by all Free-States) to keep and preserve a Commonwealth from211 the Rapes of Usurpation.212
[MP 91, 26 Feb.-4 Mar. 1652]
In this form all Powers are accountable for misdemeanours in Government.A fourteenth Reason, (and though the last, yet not the least) to prove a Free-State or Government by the People, setled in a due and orderly succession of their supreme Assemblies, is much more excellent than any other Form, is,213 because in this Form, all Powers are accountable for misdemeanors in Government, in regard of the nimble Returns and Periods of the Peoples Election: by which means, he that ere-while was a Governour, being reduced to the condition of a Subject, lies open to the force of the Laws, and may with ease be brought to punishment for his offence; so that after the observation of such a course, others which succeed, will become the less daring to offend, or to abuse their Trust in Authority, to an oppression of the People. Such a course as this, cuts the very throat of all Tyranny; and doth not onely root it up when at full growth, but crusheth214 the Cockatrice in the Egg, destroys it in the Seed, in the principal,215 and in the very possibilities of its being for ever after. And as the safety of the People, is the Soveraign and Supreme Law; so an establishment of this Nature, is an impregnable Bulwark of the Peoples safety, because without it, no certain Benefit can be obtained by the ordinary Laws; which if they should be dispensed by uncontrolable, unaccountable Persons in Power, shall never be interpreted, but in their own sense; nor executed, but after their own Wills and Pleasure.
Now, this is most certain, That as in the Government of the People, the successive Revolution of Authority by their consent, hath ever been the onely Bank against Inundations of Arbitrary Power and Tyranny; so on the other side, it is as sure, That all standing Powers have and ever do assume unto themselves an Arbitrary Exercise of their own dictates at pleasure, and make it their onely Interest to settle themselves in an unaccountable state of Dominion216 : so that, though they commit all the injustice in the World, their custome hath been still to perswade men, partly by strong pretence of Argument, and partly by force, that they may do what they list; and that they are not bound to give an account of their Actions to any, but to God217 himself. This Doctrine of Tyranny hath taken the deeper Root in mens mindes, because the greatest218 part was ever inclined to adore the Golden Idol of Tyranny in every Form: by which219 means the rabble of mankinde being prejudicated in this particular, and having plac’d their corrupt humour or interest in base fawning, and the favour of present Great Ones; Therefore if any resolute Spirit happen to broach and maintain true Principles of Freedom, or do at any time arise to so much courage, as to perform a noble Act of Justice, in calling Tyrants to an account, presently he draws all the enmity and fury of the World about him. But in Commonwealths it is and ought to be otherwise; for, in the Monuments of the Grecian and Romane Freedom, we finde, those Nations were wont to heap all the Honours they could invent, by publick Rewards, Consecration of Statues, and Crowns220 of Laurel, upon such worthy Patriots: and as if on earth all were too little, they inroll’d them in heaven among the221 Deities. And all this they did out of a Noble sense of Commonweal-interest;222 knowing that the life of Liberty consists in a strict hand, and zeal against Tyrants and Tyranny, and by keeping persons in power from all the occasions of it: which cannot be better done, than (according to the custom of all States that are really free) by leaving them liable to account: which happiness was never seen yet under the sun, by any Law or Custom established, save onely in those States, where all men are brought to taste of Subjection as well as Rule, and the Government setled by a due succession of Authority, by consent of the People.
In Switzerland the people are free indeed,223 because all Officers and Governours in the Cantons, are questionable by the People in their successive Assemblies.
The Inference from the fore-going particulars, is easie, That since Freedom is to be preserved no other way in a Commonwealth, but by keeping Officers and Governours in an accountable state; and since it appears no standing Powers can never be called to an account224 without much difficulty, or involving a Nation in Blood or Misery. And since a revolution of Government in the Peoples hands, hath ever been the onely means to make Governours accountable, and prevent the inconveniences of Tyranny, Distraction, and Misery; therefore for this, and those other reasons fore-going225 , we may conclude, That a Free-State, or Government by the People, setled in a due and orderly succession of their supreme Assemblies, is far more excellent every way, than any other Form whatsoever.226
[* ]Suetonius, Life of Julius Caesar, XIX.2. “Another” was Pompey.
[† ]Easily or lightly; without hesitation (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “finger”).
[* ]Livy, Ab Urbe Condita, II.32. The fable was well known in the Renaissance and was famously told in Sir Philip Sidney’s An Apology for Poetry and in the opening scene of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus.
[* ]Livy, Ab Urbe Condita, III.21.
[* ]Plutarch, Life of Aemelius Paulus, XXVIII.11-13.
[* ]In The Case of the Commonwealth, where this passage also appears, Nedham cites “Mach. lib. 2 cap. 2,” an accurate reference to Machiavelli’s Discourses (Knachel, p. 116).
[* ]Perhaps a further reference to Cicero, De Officiis, I.19.
[* ]Ibid., I.4.
[* ]One list Nedham will have had in mind is that of Scottish kings in The Grounds and Reasons of Monarchy (n.p., 1650) by his literary partner John Hall; another, from the same year, that of English kings in Henry Parker, The True Portraiture of the Kings of England (London, 1650; reprinted in Scott, Somers Tracts, 6:77-103).
[59.]E omits: No doubt but the famous Cobler’s Crow was wont then to prattle in the same strain too, though afterwards, he were taught to crie caĩre Kaĩsar . [ The story of the “cobler’s crow” taught by its owner to say “ave caesar” to Augustus upon his return from Egypt was originally told by Macrobius, Saturnalia , II. 4.29-30. Nedham may have known it from the reference in Erasmus’s Apothegmata, IV.42-43, or the plays of Robert Greene and Thomas Nashe. ]
[62.]E substitutes this paragraph for:
[63.]MP begins: In the last, you had a Touch of some Reasons, justifying the form of a Free-State (or a Government by the People) to be much more excellent than the Grandee, or the Kingly Power: By the People, we mean such as shal be duely chosen to represent the People successively in their Supream Assemblies; And that the People thus qualified or constituted, are the best Keepers of their own Liberties, shal be farther made evident by Reasons[.]
[65.]by their advantage
[68.]E omits: More of this hereafter.
[69.]E omits: To justifie the Excellency of a Free-State above a Kingly government, and to prove that the People, in a due and orderly succession of their Supream Assemblies, are the best Keepers of their own Liberties; we have already given you some Reasons, and shall here presume to set down one more.
[72.]such frequent heats
[73.]means, at length Lord it
[75.]had ever bin
[77.]This is good Common-wealth
[80.]the name of Stuart
[81.]MP begins: It hath in some measure been already proved, that the People, interested in a due and orderly succession of the supreme Authority, are the best Keepers of their own Liberties; And that this qualification of a Free State (without which it cannot be free indeed) renders it so much more excellent then the Kingly, or any other form of Governmen[t] whatsoever[.] The life of Liberty lies in the Succession of Powers and Persons, as we shall farther demonstrate by Reason.
[82.]they (much like our eleven impeached Members in the year 1647.) over-ruled
[83.]E omits: By this you see the first and second insurrection was caused by Necessity, the third and fourth hapned through Emulation: For, the great ones of the Senate taking advantage by their standing Authority, took care likewise to establish a [S]elf-interest, by confining of Marriages and Magistracie; They proceeded so far as to bear the people from marrying into their Families; and by this means (as they do now in Venice, for the most part) keeping a kind of State and Grandeur above the people, they the more easily made a shift to keep them out of all places of high trust and Au[t]hority.
[84.]ground an Observation, which shall be this:
[89.]MP begins: In pursuance of our Position, That a Free State is much more excellent than a Government by Grandees, or Kings; and that the People are the best Keepers of their own Liberties; give leave to proceed yet farther upon the Accompt of Reason.
[95.]E omits: But after-times growing more corrupt, you shall find in story, that when the lengthning of Powers and Trusts in the same hands grew customary, it utterly spoiled all the brave Roman Patriots, insomuch, that most of the great Favourers and Defenders of the peoples interest, by the same means were tempted from the pure principles of Liberty, and in the end degenerated into Tyranny.
[96.]MP begins: That a Free State is much more excellent then any other form of Government, & that the People, qualified with a due and orderly succession of their supreme assemblies are the best Keepers of their own Liberties, appears more evident still by Reason.
[100.]for, (to the admiration of more gay fellows and gawdy daies, be it spoken) he had
[101.]Yet it so
[103.]trembling condition despaired of safety
[104.]deliverance. But in what pickle did they finde him? Even following his plough in a poor rustick habit, a plain simple man and very unwilling, because he feared himself unfit, for so high an employment: But they who neglected all the Grandees and Gallants of Rome, to make choice of this poor man, constrained him to undertake it; and he behaved himself therein so well
[107.]The Observation then, that ariseth from this discourse is this:
[111.]made a shift
[112.]MP begins: Our Design is still to prove, That a Free-State Government is much more excellent then any other form, Or that the People, instated in a due and orderly succession of their Supreme Assemblies, are the best Keepers of their own Liberties.
[114.]kept, free from mixture with
[122.]mindes of the people, with how great a Spirit of Zeal and Revenge they are acted in its behalf, upon any occasion; and how jealous they are to preserve it, it being their onely delight, their Interest, their Life, and all; so that
[123.]MP begins: To proceed in the justification of a Free State, or a Government by the people in a due and orderly succession of their supreme Assemblies; and to prove, that a Form thus qualified, is much more excellent than that of Kings, or Grandees, we are still upon the account of Reason.
[127.]those many oppressive
[128.]led, and often forced
[131.]play; after whose (E has: play after; which).
[133.]E omits the passage below. In it, Nedham takes the verse from the translation of Lucan’s Pharsalia (II. 280-91) by the poet and historian Thomas May, who died in 1650 (and whose relations with Nedham are discussed in LP, pp. 73-78). In the third line Nedham changes “sowre Cato” to “wise Cato”; in the last two lines he abbreviates May’s text. The passage about William the Silent is taken, with two slight alterations of wording, from Fulke Greville’s life of Sir Philip Sidney, which was first published in 1652 in London. The Prose Works of Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, ed. John Gouws (Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1986), pp. 13-14: But that you may know what it was, take here the copy of old Catos countenance, as it was drawn by Lucan.
If we come down to later times, we find that the Free-States of Milan, Florence, Siena, and Luca, during their Liberty, were a severe and sober people, free from all those vanities and tyrannies wherewith they a[r]e now intangled, since they have been trampled on by ambitious, luxurious Grandees and Princes; for, even in those States the lengthning of Powers in particular hands, brought on ambition and luxury to the losse of their Liberty; witness the actions of the two Families of Medices and Sforza.
If we look neerer home to such Free-States as are now in being, we find the United Provinces, while under a Tyranny, to abound in luxurious Governors and people, but much alter’d upon the very first appearance of Liberty, insomuch that Luxury and Tyranny flying both away together, they have lived ever since in a sober parcimonious condition (yet wealthy) under a grave and serious Government by the people. And the Family of Orange it selfe (before it grew corrupt) was in every respect suited unto this popular Form, as appears by that description of Prince William the Founder of their liberty, as it is set forth by Sir Fulk Grevil in the life of Sir Philip Sidney. For, when Sir Fulk came to visit him in the Town of Delph, he saith he found him thus accuoltred.
[“]His uppermost garment was a Gown, yet such as (I dare confidently affirm) a mean student in our Inns of court, would not have been well-pleased to walk the streets in. Unbutton’d his Doublet was, and of like precious Matter and form to the other. His Wast-coat (which shewed it self under it) not unlike the best sort of those woollen knit ones, which our ordinary water-men row us in. His company about him were the Burgo-masters of that bear-brewing Town; and he so fellow-like encompassed with them, as I had not known his Face, no outw[ar]d signe of degree or merit, could have discovered the inequality of his worth or estate from that multitude. Notwithstanding, I no sooner came into his presence, but it pleased him to take knowledg of me; And even upon that (as if it had been a signall to make a change) his Respect to a stranger instantly begat Respect to himself in all about him: An outward passage of inward Greatnesse, which in a popular state is worth the observing.[”] Thus farr Sr Fulk Grevil; which may serve to upbraid the Cours and conversation of the later Branches of that stock, who having by degrees forsaken their first Principles, and wedded themselves to the Bloud and Interrest of Rogalty, no sooner became infected with pride and Luxury, but they began to hatch Projects and designs, for the ruin of the Low-Country Liberty.
We might also cite another Instance from the free Cantons of Switzerland, by comparing their present State of Freedom, Industry, and Sobriety, with the Luxury and Tyranny of former times in that Country, but we have been too large already. And as for Venice, though it bear the name of a Freestate, yet it have little of the Substance; for, the chief Power being deposited in the hands of a standing Senate of Grandees, the People must needs be to seek of their Freedom. And this is observable, that by how much the lesse they have of that Freedom which the united Provinces & the Cantons now enjoy, so much the more both they and their Governers are now inclined to Luxury, being (to speak mildly) of a more soft and delicate demeanour than is usuall in a state that is really free.
And thus much let us have further to say, it is no good signe of that Grandee Venetian Government’s being pleasing to the People, since we finde by all our Intelligence that way, that the Islands in the Archipelago, and other of their Territories, are ready still, upon any opportunity (as they have been ever) to revolt unto the Turkish Government.
[134.]Our Conclusion therefore upon
[135.]E omits: More I might inlarge, but less I could not.
[136.]MP begins: To go on upon our old Subject of a free-State or Government by the People, as it is constituted in a due and orderly succession of their supreme Assemblies; and to prove its excellency above all other Forms, wee shall make matters yet more evident by Reason.
[140.]This is it
[141.]while under Kings, remained
[142.]a little more, and for a little time; yet all that they
[145.]wherewith that people was endued upon the
[148.]the yoak of the Romans
[157.]Hollanders, and also our own Nation; whose high atchievments may match any of the Ancients, since the extirpation of Tyranny, and a re-establishment of our Freedom in the hands of the People: The consideration
[159.]MP begins: That a Free State, or Government by the People, setled in a due and orderly succession of their supreme Assemblies, is much more excellent than any other Form, we shall farther illustrate by Reason.
[164.]E omits: Nor is it thus only in the government of Kings, but the same Inconvenience hath been seen also in that of the great ones, where they held a standing power in their own hands over the people: For, as in Rome, where Kings were expel’d, and the supremacy usurpt by the Senate, they made Laws at the pleasure of great men, without the suffrage or consent of the people in their successive Assemblies; so the execution of those Laws was committed onely to such as were of the Senatorian Order or Alliance, who never construed them in favour of the people, but onely so far still as would suit with the Lordly interest of the Senate, as is manifest by the several Decisions made in the Matrimoniall, Tribunitian, and Agrarian controversies in old Rome, betwixt the great ones, of the Senate and the people: yea, they proceeded so far, as to swear against the people, binding each other by oath and confederacy (saith Livy) to bridle, suppresse, and keep them under, not permitting them the enjoyment of any office or Dignity in the Commonwealth; which practices are by him taxed of high imprudence; for, by this means the People grew desperate, & never gave over mutiny, till they gain’d a Right, not onely to the execution of Law, in being admitted to Offices, but also to the making of Laws, that nothing should passe for Law, but what was first ratified by consent in their solemne Assemblies.
[165.]The wary providing
[167.]of a standing Senate
[168.]Senate was strictly tyed up by Lawes, that they walked in
[170.]rather a Juncta then a Common-weal
[171.]opportunities (as I once mentioned before) to revolt
[172.]Therefore (to bee brief) our Conclusion
[174.]E omits: Hitherto, We have pretty well cleared our way, to prove that a Free State, or a Government by a free election and consent of the People, setled in a due and orderly succession of their Supream Assemblies, is much more excellent than any other Form; But let us go on.
[175.]saith in the first of his Offices
[179.]three Deductions of mine
[184.]at all adventure, from the hand of Chance, or Fortune
[188.]it lasts usually
[189.]being often litigious
[191.]MP reads: Line of Succession. Therefore, if any Kingly Form be tollerable, it must be that which is by Election; and herein as Kings are tolerable only upon this Account of being Elective, so these Elective Kings
[193.]effect, farther than
[197.]MP reads: Casimire and Austria.
[199.]Delinquency, or Neutrality, &c. in relation
[200.]the People, as shall be proved hereafter.
[201.]MP begins: To proceed still in the maintenance of our Position, that a Free State, or Government by the People, constituted in a due and orderly Succession of their Supream Assemblies, is the most excellent Form, we shall add a few Reasons more.
[203.]Camp or Councel
[208.]In Rome the case was
[209.]permitting many of
[210.]MP reads: loss of their Liberty.
[211.]great or popular, esteeming it a notable means (as indeed it hath been) in securing herself from
[213.]E omits the editorials of MP 89 and 90 (12-19 Feb., 19-26 Feb. 1652), which are reproduced in Appendix B. The first of them gives further reasons to support the thirteenth “reason”; the second advances a fourteenth; the editorial that follows consequently gives the fifteenth. It begins: We have onely one Reason more to insist upon, for the proof of our Position, that a Free-state, or government by the People, setled in a due and orderly succession of their supreme Assemblies, is much more excellent than any other Form.
[217.]any but God
[219.]every form, by reason of its outward splendor, and present power; by which
[223.]MP reads: consent of the People.
[224.]Powers could ever be called to accompt
[225.]Reasons formerly published
[226.]E omits: Our next Cours shall be to refute all Objections to the contrary.