Front Page Titles (by Subject) All Objections Against the Government of the People, Answered. - Excellencie of a Free-State
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All Objections Against the Government of the People, Answered. - 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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All Objections Against the Government of the People, Answered.
[MP 92, 4-11 Mar. 1652]
Considering, That in times past, the People of this Nation were bred up and instructed in the brutish Principles of Monarchy, by which means they have been the more averse from entertaining Notions of a more noble Form: and remembring, that not long since we were put into a better course, upon the declared Interest of a Free-State, or Commonwealth; I conceived nothing could more highly tend to the propagation of that good Interest, and the Honour of its Founders, than to manifest the Inconveniences and ill Consequences of the other Forms; and so to root up their Principles, that the good People227 , who but the other day were invested228 in the possession of a more excellent way, may (in order to their re-establishment) understand what Commonwealth-Principles are and229 thereby become the more resolute to defend them against the common Enemy; learn to be true Commonwealths men, and zealous against Monarchick-Interest, in all its appearances and incroachments whatsoever. To this end we have set down our Position, That a Free-State, or Government by the People, setled in a due and orderly succession of their supreme Assemblies, is the most excellent Form of Government; which (I humbly conceive) hath been sufficiently proved, both by Reason and Example: but because many pretences of Objection are in being, and such as by many are taken for granted; therefore it falls in of course, that we may refute them: which being done with the same evidence of Reason and Example, I doubt not but it will stop all the Mouths, not onely of Ignorance, but even of Malice and Flattery, which have presumed to prophane that pure way of a Free-State, or Government by the People.
A Free state the only preservative against Levelling and confusion of propriety.That Objection of Royalists, and others, which we shall first take notice of, is this, That the erecting of such a Government would be to set on Levelling and Confusion.
For answer, If we take Levelling in the common usage and application of the term in these days, it is of an odious signification, as if it levell’d all men in point of Estates, made all things common to all, destroyed propriety, introduced a community of enjoyments among men; which is a Scandal fastned by the cunning of the common Enemy upon this kinde of Government, which they hate above all others; because, were the People once put in possession of their Liberty, and made sensible of the great Benefits they may reap by its injoyment, the hopes of all the Royal Sticklers would be utterly extinct, in regard it would be the likeliest means to prevent a return of the Interest of Monarchy: for no Person or Parties seeking or setting up a private Interest of their own, distinct from the Publick, it will stop the Mouths of all Gain-sayers. But230 the Truth is, This way of Free-State, or Government by the People in their successive Assemblies, is so far from introducing a community, that it is the onely preservative of Propriety in every particular: the Reasons whereof are plain: for, as on the one side, it is not in Reason to be imagined, that so choice a Body, as the Representative of a Nation, should agree to destroy one another in their several Rights and Interests: on the231 other side, all Determinations being carried in this Form by common Consent, every Man’s particular Interest must needs be fairly provided for, against the Arbitrary disposition of others; therefore, whatever is contrary to this, is levelling indeed; because it placeth every Man’s Right under the Will of another, and is no less than Tyranny; which seating it self in an unlimited uncontrollable Prerogative over others without their Consent, becomes the very bane of propriety; and however disquieted, or in what Form soever it appears, is indeed the very Interest of Monarchy.
Now that a Free-State, or successive Government of the People, &c. is the onely preservative of Propriety, appears by Instances all the World over; yet we shall cite but a few.
Under Monarchs, we shall finde ever, That the Subjects had nothing that they could call their own; neither Lives, nor Fortunes, nor Wives, nor any thing else that the Monarch pleased to command, because the poor people knew no remedy against the levelling Will of an unbounded Soveraignity; as may be seen in the Records of all Nations that have stoop’d under that wretched Form: whereof we have also very sad Examples in France, and other Kingdoms, at this very day, where the People have nothing of Propriety; but all depends upon the Royal Pleasure, as it did of late here in England. Moreover, it is very observable, That in Kingdoms where the People have enjoyed any thing of Liberty and Propriety, they have been such Kingdoms onely, where the frame of Government hath been so well tempered, as that the best share of it hath been retained in the Peoples Hands; and by how much the greater influence the People have had therein, so much the more sure and certain they have been, in the enjoyment of their Propriety.232
To pass by many other Instances, consider how firm the Aragonians were in their Liberties and Properties, so long as they held their hold over their Kings in their supreme Assemblies; and no sooner had Philip the second deprived them of their share in the Government, but themselves and their properties233 became a prey (and have been ever since) to the Will and Pleasure of their Kings.
The like also may be said of France234, where, as long as the Peoples Interest bore sway in their supreme Assemblies, they235 could call their Lives and Fortunes their own, and no longer: for, all that have succeeded since Lewis the eleventh, followed his levelling pattern so far, that in short time they destroyed the Peoples Property, and became the greatest Levellers in Christendom. We were almost at the same pass236 here in England: for, as long as the Peoples Interest was preserved by frequent and successive Parliaments; so long we were in some measure secure of our Properties: but as Kings began to worm the People out of their share in Government, by discontinuing of Parliaments; So they carried on their levelling design, to the destroying of our Properties; and had by this means brought it so high, that the Oracles of the Law and Gospel spake it out with a good levelling Grace, That all was the King’s, and that we had nothing we might call our own.
Thus you see how much Levelling, and little of Propriety237 , the people have had certain under Monarchs; and if any at all, by what means and upon what terms they have had it. Nor hath it been thus onely under Kings; but we finde, the People have ever had as little of Property238 secure, under all other Forms of standing Powers239 ; which have produced as errant Levellers in this particular, as any of the Monarchies. In the Free-State of Athens, as long as the People kept free indeed, in an enjoyment of their successive Assemblies, so long they were secure in their Properties240 , and no longer. For, to say nothing of their Kings, whose History is very obscure, we finde, after they were laid side, they erected another Form of standing Power, in a single Person, called, a Governour, for Life; who was also accountable for misdemeanours: but yet a Tryal being made of nine of them, the People saw so little security by them, that they pitch’d upon another standing Form of Decimal Government241 ; and being oppress’d by them too, they were cashier’d. The like miseries they tasted under the standing power of Thirty, which were a sort of Levellers more rank than all the rest; who put to death, banished, pill’d, and poll’d whom they pleased, without Cause or Exception; so that the poor people having been tormented under all the Forms of standing Power, were in the end forced (as their242 last remedy) to take Sanctuary under the Form of a Free-State, in their successive Assemblies.
And though it may be objected, That afterwards they fell into many divisions and miseries, even in that Form: yet whoever observes the Story, shall finde, it was not the fault of the Government, but of themselves, in swerving from the Rules of a Free-State, by permitting the continuance of Power in particular hands; who having an opportunity thereby to create Parties of their own among the People, did for their own ends, inveigle, ingage, and intangle them in popular Tumults and Divisions. This was the true Reason of their Miscarriages243 . And if ever any Government of the People did miscarry, it was upon that account244 .
Thus also the Lacedemonians, after they had for some yeers tryed the Government of one King, then of two Kings at once of two distinct Families; afterwards came in the Ephori, as Supervisers of their Kings: after (I say) they had tryed245 themselves through all the Forms of a standing Power, and found them all to be Levellers of the Peoples Interest and Property246 , then necessity taught them to seek shelter in a Free-State, under which they lived happily, till by a forementioned247 Error of the Athenians, they were drawn into Parties by powerful Persons, and so made the Instruments of Division among themselves, for the bringing of new Levellers into play; such as were Manchanidas and Nabis, who succeeded each other in a Tyranny.
In old Rome, after the standing Form of Kings was extinct, and a new one established, the people found as little of safety and property as ever: for, the standing Senate, and the Decemviri, proved as great Levellers, as Kings: so that they were forced to settle the Government of the People by a due and orderly248 succession of their supreme Assemblies. Then they began again to recover their propertie249 , in having somewhat they might call their own; and they happily enjoyed it, till, as by the same Error of the Lacedemonians and Athenians, swerving from the Rules of a Free-State, lengthning of power in particular hands, they were drawn and divided into Parties, to serve the lusts of such powerful men as by craft became their Leaders: so that by this means (through their own default) they were deprived of their Liberty long before the dayes of Imperial Tyranny. Thus Cinna, Sylla, Marius, and the rest of that succeeding Gang, down to Caesar, used the Peoples favour, to obtain a continuation of power in their own hands; and then having sadled the people with a new standing Form of their own, they immediately rooted up the Peoples Liberty and Property, by Arbitrary Sentences of death, Proscriptions, Fines, and Confiscations: which strain250 of levelling, (more intolerable than the former) was maintained by the same Arts of Devillish Policy down to Caesar; who striking in a Favourite251 of the People, and making use of their Affections to lengthen power in his own hands: at length, by this Errour of the people, gained opportunity to introduce a new levelling Form of standing power in himself, to an utter and irrecoverable ruine of the Romane Liberty and property252 .
In Florence they have been in the same case there, under every Form of standing power. It was so, when the Great Ones ruled: it was so under Goderino,* it was so under Savanarola the Monk. When they once began to lengthen power by the peoples Favour, they presently fell to levelling and domineering, as did Cosmus afterwards, that crafty Founder of the present Dukedom.
Upon the same terms, the Republick of Pisa lost themselves, and became the prey of several Usurpations.
Mantua was once a Free-City of the Empire; but neglecting their successive Assemblies, and permitting the Great Ones, and most Wealthy, to form a standing power in themselves: the people were so vexed with them, that one Passerimo getting power in his own hands, and then lengthening it by Artifice, turn’d Leveller too, subjecting all to his own will; so that the poor people, to rid their hands of him, were forced to pitch upon another, as bad, and translate their power into a petty Dukedom, in the hands of the Family of Gonzaga.
We may from hence safely conclude253 against all objecting Monarchs and Royalists, of what name and Title soever, that254 a Free-State or Commonwealth by the people in their successive Assemblies is so far from levelling or destroying propertie255 , that in all ages it hath been the onely preservative of Liberty and property, and the onely remedy against the Levellings and Usurpations of standing powers: for, it is cleer, That Kings256 and all standing powers are the Levellers.
[MP 93, 11-18 Mar. 1652]
257 A second Objection in the Mouths of many, is this, That the erecting of such a Form in the Peoples hands, were the ready way to cause confusionin Government; when all persons (without distinction) are allowed a right to chuse and be chosen members of the supreme Assemblies.258
A Free state gives no cause of confusion.For answer to this, know, we must consider a Commonwealth259 in a twofold condition: either in its setled state, when fully stablished and founded, and when all men were260 supposed Friends to its establishment; or else when it is newly founding or founded, and that in the close of a civil War, upon the ruine of a former Government, and those that stood for it; in which case it ever hath a great party within it self, that are enemies to its establishment.
As to the first, to wit, a Commonwealth in its setled and composed state, when all men within it are presumed to be its Friends, questionless, a right to chuse and to be chosen261 , is then to be allowed the people, (without distinction) in as great a latitude, as may stand with right Reason and Convenience, for managing a matter of so high Consequence as their Supreme Assemblies; wherein somewhat must be left to humane Prudence; and therefore that latitude being to be admitted more or less, according to the Nature, Circumstances, and Necessities of any Nation, is not here to be determined.
But as to a Commonwealth under the second consideration, when it is founding, or newly founded, in the close of a Civil War, upon the ruine of a former Government; In this case, (I say) to make no distinction betwixt men; but to allow the conquered part of the people an equal right to chuse and to be chosen, & c. were not onely262 to take away all proportion in policy, but the ready way to destroy the Commonwealth, and by a promiscuous mixture of opposite Interests, to turn all into confusion.
Now, that the Enemies of Liberty, being subdued upon the close of a Civil War, are not to be allowed sharers in the Rights of the people, is evident, for divers Reasons: not onely because such an allowance would be a means to give them opportunity to sow the seeds of new Broyls and Divisions, and bring a new hazard upon the Liberties of the People, (which are Reasons derived from Convenience): but there is a more special Argument from the equity of the thing, according to the Law and Custom of Nations, That such as have commenced War, to serve the Lusts of Tyrants against the Peoples Interest, should not be received263 any longer a part of the people, but may be handled as slaves when subdued, if their Subduers please so to use them; because by their Treasons against the Majesty of the people, (which they ought to have maintained) they have made forfeiture of all their Rights and Priviledges, as Members of the People; and therefore if it happens in this case at any time, That any Immunities, Properties or Enjoyments be indulged unto them, they must not take them as their own by Right, but as Boons bestowed upon them by the peoples courtesie.
The old Commonwealth of Greece was264 very severe in this particular: for, as they were wont to heap up all Honours they could vent, upon such as did or suffered any thing for the maintenance of their Liberty; so, on the other side they punished the Underminers of it, or those that any wayes appeared against it, with utmost extremity; persecuting them with Forfeitures, both of Life and Fortune; and if they escaped with Life, they usually became slaves: and many times they persecuted them, being dead, branding265 their Memories with an Eternal Mark of Infamy.
In old Rome they dealt more mildly with the greatest part of those that had sided with the Tarquins after their Expulsion: but yet they were not restored to all their former Priviledges. In process of time, as oft as any conspired against the Peoples Interest, in their successive Assemblies; after they had once gotten them, themselves were banished, and their Estates confiscated, not excepting many of the Senators, as well as others; and made for ever incapable of any Trust in the Commonwealth266 .
Afterwards, they took the same course with as many of Catiline’s Fellow-Traytors and Conspirators, as were worthy any thing; and had no doubt sufficiently paid Caesar’ s Abettors in the same Coin, but that he wore out all opposites with his prosperous Treason. Thus Millain267 , and the rest of those States, when they were free, as also the Swisses and Hollanders, in the Infancy of the Helvetian and Belgick Freedoms, who took the same course with all those unnatural Paricides and Apostates, that offered first to strangle their Liberty in the Birth, or afterwards in the Cradle, by secret Conspiracy, or open violence. Nor ought this to seem strange, since if a right of Conquest may be used over a Forain, who onely is to be accounted a fair, enemy: much more against such, as against the light of Nature, shall engage themselves in so foul practices, as tend to ruine the Liberty of their Native Country.
Seeing therefore that the people in their Government, upon all occasions of Civil War against their Liberties, have been most zealous in vindicating those Attempts upon the heads of the Conspirators: seeing also, that upon the close of a Civil War, they have a Right; and not onely a Right, but usually a very great Resolution to keep out those Enemies of Liberty, whom they conquer, from a participation of any Right in Government: therefore in this case also, as well as the former, we may conclude, That they in their successive Assemblies, are so far from levelling the Interest of Government into all hands, without distinction, that their principal care is ever to preserve it in their own, to prevent the return of new Wars, old Interests, and Confusion.
[MP 94, 18-25 Mar. 1652]
268 But there is a third Objection against it, drawn from a pretending269 inconvenience of such a succession; alledging, That the management of State-Affairs requires Judgement and Experience; which is not to be expected from new Members comming into those Assemblies upon every election.
Affairs of State as well managed under a Free-State as under any Form.Now, because the very Life of Liberty lies in a succession of Powers and Persons; therefore it is meet I should be somewhat precise & punctual by way of answer to this particular. Observe then, that in Government two things are to be considered: Acta Imperii, and Arcana Imperii: that is, Acts of State, and Secrets of State. By Acts of State, we mean the Laws and Ordinances of the Legislative Power: these are the things that have most influence upon a Commonwealth270 , to its ill or well-being; and are the onely Remedies for such bad Customes, Inconveniences, and Incroachments as afflict and grieve it. Wherefore, matters of grievance being matters of common sense, and such are obvious to the people, who best know where the shooe pinches271 them; certainly, there is no need of any great skill or judgement in passing or applying a Law for Remedy272 , which is the proper work of the people in their supreme Assemblies; and such, as every ordinary Understanding is instructed in by the Light of Nature: so that, as to this, there can be no danger by instituting an orderly succession of the people.
But as for those things called Arcana Imperii, Secrets of State, or the executive part of Government, during the Intervals of their Supreme Assemblies; these things being of a Nature remote from ordinary apprehensions, and such as necessarily require prudence, time, and experience, to fit men for management: Much in Reason may be said, and must be granted, for the continuation of such Trusts in the same hands, as relate to matter of Counsel273 , or Administration of Justice, more or less, according to their good or ill-behaviour. A prudential continuation of these, may (without question) and ought to be allowed upon discretion; because, if they do amiss, they are easily accountable to the peoples Assemblies. But now the case is otherwise, as to these Supreme Assemblies, where a few, easie, necessary things, such as common sense and reason instruct men in, are the fittest things for them to apply themselves unto: and there the Peoples Trustees are to continue, of right, no longer than meer Necessity requires, for their own redress and safety; which being provided for, they are to return into a condition of Subjection and Obedience, with the rest of the people, to such Laws and Government as themselves have erected: by which means alone, they will be able to know whether they have done well or ill, when they feel the effects of what they have done. Otherwise, if any thing happen to be done amiss, what way can there be for remedy? since no Appeal is to be had from the Supreme Body of the People, except a due course of Succession be preserved from hand to hand, by the Peoples choice; and other persons thereupon admitted (upon the same terms) into the same Authority.
This is the truth, as we have made manifest both by Reason and Example: therefore we shall adde a little to our former Discourse274 , by way of Illustration.
In Athens, when govern’d by the People, we finde, it was their course to uphold constant returns and periods of Succession in their Supreme Assemblies, for remedy of Grievances; and they had a standing Council275 , called the Areopagus, to whom all their Secrets of State were committed, together with the administration of Government during the Intervals of those Assemblies, at whose return they were accountable; and warily continued, or excluded, as the People found cause.
In Sparta they had the like; as also in Rome, after the People had once got their successive Assemblies, wherein they passed Laws for Government: and not knowing how to be rid of their hereditary Senate, they permitted them and their families to continue a standing Council276 ; but yet controllable by, and accountable to their Assemblies, who secluded and banished many of them for their misdemeanours: so that by this means the people had an opportunity to make use of their Wisdom, and curb their Ambition.
In Florence (when free) the Government was after the same Mode.277
In Holland also, and Switzerland, they have their Supreme Assemblies frequent by Election, with exceeding benefit, but no prejudice to Affairs: for the frequencie of those successive Meetings, preserves their Liberty, and provides Laws; the Execution whereof is committed to others, and affairs of State to a Council278 of their own choice, accountable to themselves: where their State-concernments very seldom miscarry, because they place and displace their Counsellors279 with extraordinary care and caution.
By these particulars, you may perceive the vanity of the aforesaid Objection, and how slender a pretence it is against that excellent course of Successive Assemblies; since affairs of State are as well disposed (or rather better) under this Form, than any other.
[MP 95, 25 Mar.-1 Apr. 1652]
Discontents & Tumults, no natural effects of a Free-State.A fourth Objection commonly used against the Constitution of a Free-State, or Government by the People in their successive Assemblies, is this: That such a Government brings great Damage to thePublike, by their frequent Discontents, Divisions, and Tumults, that arise within it.
For answer to this, it is requisite that we take notice of those Occasions which are the common causes of such humours in this Form: which being once known, it will easily appear whence those Inconveniences do arise, and not from any default in the nature of the Government: they are commonly these three.
First, when any of their fellow-Citizens, or Members of the Commonweal, shall arrogate any thing of Power and Priviledge unto themselves, or their Families, whereby to Grandize or greaten themselves, beyond the ordinary size and standard280 of the People. We finde this to be most true, by the course of affairs in the Romane State, as they are recorded by Livy; who plainly shews, that upon the expulsion of the Tarquins, though the senate introduced a new Government, yet their retaining the power of the old within the hands of themselves and their Families, was the occasion of all those after-Discontents and Tumults that arose among the People. For, had Brutus made them free, when he declared them so; or had the Senate a little after, followed the advice and example of Publicola,* and some others as honest as he; all occasion of Discontent had been taken away: but when the People saw the Senators seated in a lofty posture over281 them; when they felt the weight of that State and Dignity pressing upon shoulders that were promised to be at ease, and free; when they found themselves exempted from the enjoyment of the same common Priviledges, excluded from all Offices, or Alliance with the Senators; their purses emptied of Money, their bellies of Meat, and their hearts of Hope: then it was, that they began to grumble and mutiny; and never until they got a power to bridle the Great ones, by an happie succession of their Supreme Assemblies.282
A second Occasion of the peoples being inclined to Discontent and Tumult, under their Free Form of Government, appears in Story to be this: When they felt themselves not fairly dealt withal, by such as became their Leaders and Generals. Thus283 in Syracusa, Dionysius cloathing himself with a pretence of the peoples Liberties284 ; and being by that means made their General285 , and then making use of that power to other ends than was pretended, became the Fire-Brand of that State, and put the people all into Flames, for the expulsion of him, who had made a Forfeiture of all his glorious pretences.†
Thus in Sparta the people were peaceable enough under their own Government, till they found themselves over-reached, and their credulity abused by such as they trusted, whose designs were laid in the dark, for the converting of Liberty into Tyranny, under Manchanidas and Nabis. In old Rome, under the peoples Government, it is true, it was a sad sight oftentimes to see the people swarming in tumults, their shops shut up, and all trading given over throughout the City, and somtimes the City forsaken and left empty.
But here, as also in Athens, the Occasion was286 the same: for, as the people naturally love Peace and Ease; so finding themselves often out-witted and abused by the slights and fears of the Senate, they presently (as it is their Nature upon such Occasions) grew out of all patience. The case was the same also, when any one of their Senators, or of themselves, arrived to any height287 of power by insinuating into the peoples favour, upon specious and popular pretences, and then made a forfeiture of those pretences, by taking a contrary course. Thus Sylla of the Senatorian order, and Marius of the Plebeian, both got power into their hands, upon pretence of the peoples good, (as many others did before and after, not onely in Rome, but in other Free-States also) but288 forfeiting their pretences by taking Arbitrary courses, they were the sole Causes of all those Tumults and Slaughters among the Romanes, the infamy whereof hath most injuriously been cast upon the peoples Government, by the profane pens of such as have been bold in Pension or Relation in the Courts of Princes.
Thus Caesar also himself, striking as a Favorite of the people upon fair pretences, and forfeiting them, when in power, was the onely cause of all those succeeding Civil Broyles and Tragedies among the people.
A third Occasion of the Peoples being inclined to Discontent and Tumult in a Free-State, is this, when they are sensible of Oppression. For, I say again, The people are naturally of a peaceable temper, minding nothing, but a free Enjoyment: but if once they finde themselves circumvented, misled, or squeezed by such as they have intrusted, then they swell like the Sea, and over-run the Bounds of Just and Honest, ruining all before them.
In a word, there is not one precedent of Tumults or Sedition can be cited out of all Stories289 , by the Enemies of Freedom, against the peoples Government; but it will appear likewise thereby, that the people were not in fault, but either drawn in, or provoked thereto, by the Craft or Injustice of such fair Pretenders as have had by-ends of their own, and by-designs upon the publick Liberty.
Nevertheless, admit that the people were tumultuous in their own Nature; yet those Tumults (when they happen) are more easily to be borne, than these Inconveniences that arise from the Tyranny of Monarchs and290 Great Ones: for popular Tumults have these three Qualities:
First, The Injury of them never extends further than some few Persons; and those (for the most part) guilty enough; as were the thirty Grandees in Athens, the Ten in Rome, and those other State-Mountebanks, that suffered for their Practices by the Peoples Fury.
Secondly, Those Tumults are not lasting, but (like fits) quickly over: for, an Eloquent Oration, or Perswasion, (as we see in the Example of Menenius Agrippa) or the Reputation of some grave or honest Man, (as in the Example of Virginus291, and afterwards of Cato) doth very easily reduce and pacifie them.
Thirdly, The ending of those Tumults, though they have ruined some particulars, yet it appears they have usually turned to the good of the Publick: for we see, that both in Athens and Rome, the Great Ones were by this means kept in awe from Injustice; the Spirits of the people were kept warm with high thoughts of themselves and their Liberty (which turned much to the inlargement of their Empire.)
And lastly, By this means they came off alwayes with good Laws for their profit, (as in the case of the Law of twelve Tables, brought from Athens to Rome)* or else with an Augmentation of their Immunities, and Priviledges (as in the case of procuring the Tribunes, and their Supreme Assemblies) and afterwards in the frequent confirmation of them against the Incroachments of the Nobles.
Now the case is far otherwise under the standing power of the Great Ones; they, in their Counsels, Projects, and Designs, are fast and tenacious; so that the Evils under those Forms are more remediless. Besides, they reach to the whole Body of a Commonweal: and so the Evils are more Universal. And lastly, those Tumults, Quarrels, and Inconveniences that arise from among them, never tend nor end, but to the farther oppression and suppression of the people in their Interest and Propriety.
For conclusion then: by these particulars you may plainly see the vanity of this Objection about Tumults, how far they are from being natural effects of the Peoples Government; insomuch, as by the Records of History, it appears rather that they have been the necessary consequences292 of such Tricks and Cheats of Great Men, as in the dayes of yore have been put upon the people.
[MP 96, 1-8 Apr. 1652]
Calumniation less used under the peoples Government, than under any other Form.A fifth Objection against the Form of a Free-State293 , or Government by the people in their successive Assemblies, and which we finde most in the Mouths of Royalists and Parasites, is this, That little security is to be had therein for the more wealthy and powerful sort of men, in regard of that Liberty which the people assume unto themselves, to accuse or calumniate whom they please upon any occasion.
For answer to this, know, That calumniation (which signifies ambitious slandering of men, by whisperings, reports, or false accusations) was never allowed or approved in this Form of Government. ’Tis true indeed, that such Extravagancies there have been (more or less) in all Forms whatsoever; but in this, less than any: it being most in use under standing Powers of Great ones, who make it their grand Engine to remove or ruine all persons that stand in the way of them and their designes: And for this purpose, it hath ever been their common custom to have Instruments ready at hand; as we see in all the Stories of Kings and Grandees from time to time; yea, and by Aristotle himself,* together with the whole train of Commentators, it is particularly mark’d out inter flagitia Dominationis, to be one of the peculiar enormities that attend294 the Lordly interest of Dominion295 .
The Romane State, after it grew corrupt, is a sufficient Instance; where we finde, that not onely the ten Grandees, but all that succeeded them in that domineering humour over the People, ever kept a Retinue well stock’d with Calumniators and Informers, (such as we call Knights of the Post) to snap those that in any wise appeared for the Peoples Liberties. This was their constant trade, as it was afterwards also of their Emperours. But all the while that the People kept their power entire in the Supreme Assemblies, we read not of its being brought into any constant practice. Sometimes indeed, those great Commanders that had done them many eminent Services, were, by reason of some after-actions, called to an account296 ; and having, by an ingrosment of Power, render’d themselves suspected, and burthensome to the Commonwealth, were commanded to retire, (as were both the Scipio ’ s.)
And in the Stories of the Athenian Commonwealth, we finde, that by their lofty and unwary carriage, they stirr’d up the Peoples fear and jealousie so far, as to question and send divers of them into Banishment, notwithstanding all their former merits; as we read of Alcibiades, Themistocles, and others: whereas, if the Rules of a Free-State had been punctually observed, by preserving a discreet revolution of Powers, and an equability, or moderate state of particular persons, there had been no occasion of Incroachment on the one part, or of Fear on the other; nor could the prying Royalist have had the least pretence or shadow of Invective against the Peoples Government in this particular297 .
Thus much of Calumniation, which is less frequent under the Peoples Form, than any other.
Now as to the point of Accusing, or liberty of Accusation by the People, before their Supreme Assemblies; it is a thing so essentially necessary for the preservation of a Commonwealth, that there is no possibility of having persons kept accountable without it; and, by consequence, no security of Life and Estate, Liberty and Property. And of what excellent use this is, for the publike benefit of any State, appears in these two particulars.
First, it is298 apparent, that the reason wherefore Kings, and all other standing Powers, have presumed to abuse the People, is, because their continuation of Authority having been a means to state299 them in a condition of Impunity, the People either durst not, or could not assume a liberty of Accusation; and so have linger’d without remedy, whilst Great Men have proceeded without control to an Augmentation of their misery: whereas if a just Liberty of Accusation be kept in ure, and Great Persons by this means lie300 liable to questioning, the Commonwealth301 must needs be the more secure; because none then will dare to intrench, or attempt ought, against their Liberty; and in case any do, they may with much ease be suppress’d. All which amounts, in effect, to a full confirmation of this most excellent Maxime, recorded in Policie: Maximè interest Repub. Libertatis, ut liberè possis Civem aliquem accusare: It most302 highly concerns the Freedom of a Commonwealth, that the People have liberty of accusing any persons whatsoever.
Secondly, it appears, this Liberty is most necessary, because, as it hath been the onely Remedy against the Injustice of great and powerful persons; so it hath been the onely means to extinguish those Emulations, Jealousies, and Suspicions, which usually abound with fury in mens mindes, when they see such persons seated so far above, that they are not able to reach them, or bring them (as it becomes all earthly Powers)303 to an account of their actions: of which Liberty when the People have seen themselves deprived in time past, it is sad to consider how they have flown out into such absurd and extraordinary courses, in hope of Remedy, as have caused not onely Distraction, but many times utter Ruine to the Publike. Most of those Tumults304 in old Rome, were occasioned for want of this liberty in ordinary; as those that happened under the Decemviri: so that the People, not having freedom to accuse and question their Justice, were enflamed to commit sudden Outrages, to be revenged upon them. But when they had once obtained power to accuse or question any man, by assistance of their Tribunes; then we meet with none of those heats and fits among them; but they referr’d themselves over305 , with much content, to the ordinary course of proceeding. A pregnant Instance whereof, we have in the Case of Coriolanus; who having done some injury to the people, they finding him befriended and upheld by the Great ones, resolved to be revenged upon him with their own hands; and had torn him in pieces as he came out of the Senate, but that the Tribunes immediately step’d in, and not onely promised, but appointed them a day of Hearing against him; and so all was calm again, and quiet: whereas, if this ordinary course of Remedy, in calling him to account, had not been allow’d, and he been destroy’d in a Mutiny, a world of sad Consequences must have befallen the Commonwealth306 , by reason of those Enormities and Revenges that would have risen, upon the ruine of so considerable a person.
In the Stories of Florence also, we read of one Valesius, who greatning himself into little less than the posture of a Prince in that Republike, he so confirm’d himself, that the people not being able to regulate his extravagancies by any ordinary proceedings, they betook themselves to that unhappie remedy of Arms; and it cost the best blood and lives in that State, before they could bring him down: involving them in a world of Miseries, which might have been avoided, had they taken care to preserve their old Liberty of Accusation and Question, and being able to take a course with him in an ordinary way of progress307 .
Thus also in the same State, Soderino, a man of the same size, interest, and humour; when the People saw that they had lost their Liberty, in being unable to question him, ran like madmen upon a Remedy as bad as the Disease, and called in the Spaniard to suppress him308 : so that turned almost to the ruine of the State, which might have been prevented, could they have repress’d him by the ordinary way of Accusation and Question309 .*
From these310 Premises, then, let us conclude, That seeing the crooked way of Calumniation is less used under the Peoples Form of Government, than any other: and since the retaining of a Regular course, for admitting and deciding of all Complaints and Controversies by way of Accusation, is of absolute necessity to the safety and well-being of a Commonwealth311 ; Therefore this Objection is of as little weight as the rest, so as in any wise to diminish the Dignity and Reputation of a Free-State, or Government by the People in their successive Assemblies.
[MP 97, 8-15 Apr. 1652]
A sixth Objection against the Form of a Free-State, or Government by the People; is alleadged by many, to this effect: That People by nature are factious, inconstant, and ungrateful.
Faction, inconstancy, and ingratitude, no natural effects of the peoples Government.For answer, first, as to the point of being Factious, we have already shewn, that this Government, stated in a succession of its Supreme Assemblies, is the onely preventive of Faction; because, in creating a Faction, there is a necessity, that those which endeavour it, must have oportunity to improve their slights and projects, in disguising their Designes; drawing in Instruments and Parties, and in worming out Opposites: the effecting of all which, requires some length of time; which cannot be had, and consequently, no Faction form’d, when Government is not fixed in particular persons, but managed by due succession and revolution of Authority in the hands of the People.
Besides, it is to be considered, that the People are never the first or principal in Faction: they are never the authors and contrivers of it, but ever the parties that are drawn into Sidings by the influence of standing Powers, to serve their interests and designes.
Thus Sylla and Marius, Pompey and Caesar, continuing power in their own hands312 , cleft the Romane Empire at several times into several Parties: as afterwards it was cleft into three by the Triumvirate; wherein the people had no hand, being (as they are alwayes) purely passive, and passionately divided, according as they were wrought upon by the subtil Insinuations of the prime Engineers of each Faction.
Thus Italy was divided into Guelph and Gibelline; and France torn in two by the two Families of Orleance and Burgundi: also, by the Guisians and their Confederates; wherein313 the people had no further314 hand, than as they were acted by the perswasions and pretences of two powerful parties.
The case also was the same in315England, in times past, when the Grandee-Game316 was in action between317 the two Families of Yorke and Lancaster. So that it is clear enough, The people in their own nature are not inclined to be Factious, nor are they ever ingaged that way, farther than as their Nature is abused, and drawn in by powerful persons.
The second particular of this Objection, is Inconstancy; which holds true indeed in them that are debauched, and in the corrupted State of a Commonwealth, when degenerated from its pure Principles; as we finde in that of Athens, Rome, Florence, and others: but yet in Rome you may see as pregnant instances of that peoples constancy, as of any other sort of men whatsoever: for, they continued constant irreconcilable Enemies to all Tyranny in general, and318 Kingly power in particular.
In like manner, when they had once gotten their successive Assemblies, they remained so firm & stiff to uphold them, that the succeeding Tyrants could not in a long time, nor without extraordinary cunning and caution deprive them of that onely Evidence of their Liberty.
Moreover, it is observable of this people, That in making their Elections they could never be perswaded to chuse a known Infamous, Vitious, or unworthy Fellow; so that they seldom or never erred in the choice of their Tribunes and other Officers. And as in the framing of Laws, their aim was ever at the general Good, it being their own Interest, quatenus the people; so their constancy in the conservation of those Laws was most remarkable: for, notwithstanding all the crafty Devices and Fetches of the Nobles, the people could never be woo’d to a consent of abrogating any one Law, till by the alteration of Time, Affairs, and other Circumstances, it did plainly appear inconvenient.
But the case hath ever been otherwise under Kings and all standing Powers, who usually ran into all the extreams of Inconstancy, upon every new Project, petty Humour, and Occasion, that seemed319 favourable for effecting of their by-designs. And in order hereunto, Stories will inform you, That it hath been their Custome, to shift Principles every Moon, and cashier all Oaths, Protestations, Promises, and Engagements, and blot out the Memory of them with a wet Finger.
This was very remarkable in the late King320 , whose inconstancy in this kinde, was beyond compare; who no sooner had passed any Promises, made Vows and Protestations, fix’d321 Appeals in the High Court of Heaven, in the behalf of Himself and his Family; but presently he forfeited all, and cancell’d them by his Actions.322
As to the third point, of Ingratitude, it is much charged upon this Form of Government; because we read both in Athens and Rome, of divers unhandsome Returns made to some worthy Persons that had done high services for those Commonwealths; as Alcibiades, Themistocles, Phocion, Miltiades, Furius,Camillus, Coriolanus, and both the Scipio’s; the cause323 of whose misfortunes is described by Plutarch and Livy, to be their own lofty and unwary carriage; Having (say they) by an ingrossment of power, rendred themselves suspected, and burthensome to the Commonwealth, and thereby stirred up the peoples fear & jealousie: whereas if they had kept themselves within the Rules of a Free-State, by permitting324 a disceet Revolution of power in particular hands; there had been no occasion of incroachment on the one part, nor of fear on the other. Of all325 , the Scipio’s indeed were most to be pitied, because their only326 fault seems to be too much power and greatness, (which indeed is the greatest fault that Members of a Commonwealth can be guilty of, if seriously considered;) insomuch, that being grown formidable to their Fellow-Senators, they were by them removed: and so it appears to have been the act of the Nobles, (upon their own score and Interest) and not of the people. But as for Camillus and Coriolanus, they sufficiently deserved whatsoever327 befel them, because they made use of the power and reputation328 they had gotten by their former merits, onely to maligne and exercise an implacable hate towards the peoples Interest. Nevertheless, the people restored Camillus again to his Estate and Honour, after some little time of Banishment.
And though this accident in a Free-State hath been objected by many, as a great deffect; yet others again do highly commend the humour: For (say they) it is not onely a good sign of a Commonwealths being in pure and perfect health, when the people are thus active, zealous, and jealous in the behalf of their Liberties329 , that will permit no such growth of power as may endanger it; but it is also a convenient means to curb the Ambition of its Citizens, and make them contain within due bounds, when they see there is no presuming after Inlargements, and Accessions of Powers and Greatness330 , without incurring the danger and indignation of the people.
Thus much of the Reason why the people many times cast off persons that have done them eminent services: yet on the other side, they were so far from Ingratitude, that they have alwayes331 been excessive in their Rewards and Honours, to such men as deserved any way of the Publike, whilst they conformed themselves to Rules, and kept in a posture suiting to Liberty332 . Witness their Consecration of Statues, Incense, Sacrifices, and Crowns of Laurel, inrolling such men in the number of their Deities.
Therefore the crime of Ingratitude cannot in any peculiar manner be fastned upon the People: but if we consult the Stories of all standing Powers, we may produce innumerable testimonies of their Ingratitude toward such as have done them the greatest service; ill recompence being a Mystery of State practised by all Kings and Grandees, who (as Tacitus tells us)* ever count themselves disobliged, by the bravest actions of their subjects.
Upon this account, Alexander hated Antipater and Parmenio, and put the latter to death. Thus the Emperour Ve-spasian cashiered and ruined the meritorious Antonies333 . Thus also was Alphonsus Albuquerque served by his Master the King of Portugal; and Consalvus the Great, by Ferdinand of Aragon: as was also that Stanley of the House of Derby, who set the Crown upon King Henry the seventh’s head. Thus Sylla the Romane Grandee destroyed his choicest Instruments that help’d him into the Saddle; as Augustus served his friend Cicero, and exposed him to the malice and murther of Anthonie.
Innumerable are the Examples of this kinde, which evidence, that such unworthy dealings are the effect334 of all standing Powers; and therefore more properly to be objected against them, than against the Government of the People.
335 Thus having answered all, or the main Objections, brought by the adversaries of a Free-State; before we proceed to the Errours of Government, and Rules of Policie, it will not be amiss, but very convenient, to say something of that which indeed is the very Foundation of all the rest; to wit, That the Original of all Just Power and Government is in the PEOPLE.
[* ]Presumably Soderino. Yet the spelling was reproduced from Politicus and was retained in the republication of 1767.
[* ]Livy, Ab Urbe Condita, II.8.
[† ]Perhaps a reference to Plutarch, Life of Dion, XLIV.
[* ]The Law of the Twelve Tables formed the basis of the Roman Republican constitution. According to Livy, Ab Urbe Condita, III.32-33, during the preparation of the laws ca. 450 bc, the Decemvirate sent an embassy to Athens in order to study the Solonian Constitution.
[* ]Aristotle, Politics, V.11.
[* ]Machiavelli, Discourses, I.7.
[* ]Machiavelli, Discourses, I.29, in discussing the ingratitude of princes, quotes Tacitus, History, IV.3 to that effect.
[228.]who being now invested
[229.]may (in order to the preservation of this Common-wealth) understand what Common-weal Principles are, and
[230.]interest of monarchy. But
[231.]so on the
[234.]like may be said also of France
[235.]their Successive Assemblies, so long they
[236.]same pass too
[237.]how much of Levelling, and how little of Property
[243.]those miscariages, as (if ever there be occasion) shall be made appear at large by the current of the Story:
[244.]that very account
[247.]by the aforementioned
[248.]property as ever; for, as Livy tels us, They soon lost their Propriety under that erroneous constitution of a standing Senate; The great Ones not only deprived them of all interest in the Government, but even in ordinary enjoyments, eating them out with debt, usury, extortion, and circumvention; so that they were fain to beg, and many times make Mutinies and Uproars for Bread; and at last to leave the City, with a Resolution never to return, till they were perswaded back once by the eloquence of Menenius Agrippa; at another time wonn by the fair promises of Q. Hortensius. The same miseries rather increased than diminished under the other form of standing Power, called the Decemviri; during whose government the People were (besides the many other extremities) reduced to so much want, having no Propriety nor possession, that upon an uproar for Bread in the comon Forum, they set upon Appius Claudius, the chief of the Decemviri, with Curses and imprecations; so that he not with much adoe escaped at a Back-doore, he had bin torn in pieces. Thus you see how the Romans also shifted out of one standing Form to another, to no purpose till necessity taught them a remedy against those merciless Levellers, by setling the Government in the Peoples hands, by an orderly
[249.]recover a propriety
[250.]which new strain
[251.]in as a Favorite
[252.]MP reads: liberty and Property, as appears more at large in the Story.
[253.]We might enlarge, but being too large already, we may (I suppose) safely conclude
[255.]destroying of Proprieties
[256.]Usurpations of all Standing powers. Add to the former Instances, the consideration of the former sad condition of Switzerland, and Holland, under standing Powers; with the flourishing state they have bin in ever since the expulsion of those powers, and a setling of those Governments in the Peoples Successive Assemblies. It is clear then, that Kings
[257.]E omits: In our last was proved; That the way of a free-State, or government by the People, setled in a due succession of their supreme Assemblies, is so farr from introducing of Community, and Levelling of Estates, that it is, and ever hath bin the only preservative of Property in all particulars.
[258.]Assemblies; which equality of Right in all to chuse and to bee chosen, is by Aristotle called Levelling.
[261.]and be chosen
[262.]MP reads: is not here to be determined; nor shall we presume to define what it ought to be in our own Nation hereafter, when it shall please God to extinguish the present Animosities, and unite us all in heart, under the form of a Free-State, as one People: In this Case a due Latitude (as aforesaid) cannot be accounted Levelling.
[264.]Common-wealths of Greece were
[265.]dead, devou[r]ing them to the deeps with Imprecations, and branding
[267.]Treason. This also hath been the practice of Florence, Luca, Siena, Millain
[268.]E omits: Our Position is, That a Free-State, or Government by the People, setled in a due and orderly succession of their supreme Assemblies, is the most excellent Form.
[272.]for ease and remedy
[274.]as we have heretofore sufficiently made manifest more at large, both by reason and example: Therefore all we shall do at present, is to add a little to the former part of our Discourse
[276.]continue as their standing Councell
[277.]E omits: And in Venice, though the People have no interest above that standing Senate, all Power and Authority being comprised in a great Councel, made up onely of that which they call the Patrician Order, in which great Council or Assembly they pass all Laws, and prescribe rules for Government, yet ever in the intervals of that meeting, they observ the same Method as hath bin us’d in States really free, committing the Arts & secrets of Government to a Councel, cald the councel of Ten, chosen by the great Councel, but with this difference, in regard they chuse them out of the Senatorian order, excluding the People.
[280.]size or Standard
[282.]E omits: But yet it will be said, that there were as many great and grievous Tumults after those Assemblies were in being. ’Tis true; but the fault was not in the People, nor in the Freedom that they had gotten, but in this, that they never were so free as they ought, or might have been, had not the body of their Commonweal been infected with that rank mixture of an Hereditary standing Power, which was reserved still in the Senate. For, though all ultimate Appeals (the great Ensignes of Supremacy) were directed to the People, for that the Senate could not controll their Assemblie; yet the Senators being men of greater wealth, Power, and wit then ordinary, and having an Interest still in Affairs, as an hereditary distinct Order of men from the People (which is the Bane of all in a Commonweal) they by this means had such an influence, that they could perplex, puzzle, and over-reach the people (ever and anon) to serve their own ends, in the great Assemblies: which the people afterwards observing with regret, to see themselves baffled and cosen’d, was the true cause of most of those discontents, and Tumults that happened after the erection of their successive Assemblies; and this, with the like, might be made evident from time to time, not only by the Roman, but Athenian Stories, were not the multitude of Particulars more fit for a Treatise then a Pamphlet.
[283.]such as become their, Leaders. Thus
[286.]the occasions were
[288.]before, and after, but
[293.]the form of Free-State
[296.]called to account
[298.]First, Because it is
[302.]accusare; which being Englished saith, It most
[303.]reach them, nor have any ordinary course allowed for the keeping of them (as it becomes all earthly powers)
[304.]of the horrid tumults
[309.]E omits: We might be much larger, and shew you what miseries our own Nation hath endured for want of this liberty against our Kings and their grand creatures, such as Strafford, &c. [W]e might hint also, what adoe there was in and about London, in the year 1647 when the corrupt party then shelter’d themselves in both Houses under a pretended priviledge of Parliament, so that they could not be brought into question, till it pleased God that the Army, with extream hazard, brought in a Charge against them; which hazard of a new War (by God alone happily prevented) had never been, if there had been any ordinary way left for the management of their accusation.
[313.]confederates; and now again at this instant, between the Court and the Princes, wherein
[315.]same also in
[318.]all Tyranny, and
[320.]This was remarkable in the late Tyrant Charles
[322.]E omits: How closely his son also hath troden the Father’s steps, appears by the last Game with the Presbyters in Scotland, where he plaid fast and loose with the Covenant and the stool of Repentance. It is memorable too, how Hollis, Stapleton, and the rest of those impeached grand stagers, diserted the Peoples interest, and all the pure pretences of their first engaging, so that had not the People been more constant, firm, and resolute, we might then have bid farwell to the Liberties of England.
[323.]Scipios, (of whom you had a hint in our last:) the cause
[324.]themselves within the rules of a Free-State, in an equability or moderate condition, by permitting
[330.]and access of power and greatnessions
[332.]suiting with the Interest of Liberty
[334.]unworthy dealing is the naturall effect
[335.]E substitutes this paragraph for: But the more large disquisition of all these things is referr’d to a better leisure and Oportunity, than this of a Paper-kite or Phamphlet; only thus far I have presumed (week after week) in sincerity of heart, and in honor to the Founders of our Commonwealth, to make it appear how highly they deserve of our Nation and the whole world, who have laid the Foundations of Freedom, upon that noble and declared interest of a Free-State, which consists onely in a due and orderly succession of the Peoples Assemblies, and without which I dare say I have fully proved, there can be no superstructure of true Liberty in a Nation. Therefore here we make an end of our Reasons, and Answers to the most material Objections; which are not to be taken apart, but compared one with one another, and consider’d alltogether, if you mean to judge aright of particulars.