Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Original of All Just Power Is in the People. - Excellencie of a Free-State
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The Original of All Just Power Is in the People. - 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 Original of All Just Power Is in the People.
[MP 98, 15-22 Apr. 1652]
336 Those Men that deny this Position, are fain to run up as high as Noah and Adam, to gain a pretence for their Opinion: alledging, That the primitive or first Governments of the World were not instituted by the consent and election of those that were governed, but by an absolute Authority invested in the persons governing.* Thus they say our first Parent ruled, by a plenary Power and Authority in himself onely, as did also the Patriarchs before and after the Flood too, for some time, becoming Princes by vertue of a paternal right over all the Families of their own Generation and Extraction: so that the Fathers, by reason of their extraordinary long Lives, and the multiplicity of Wives, happened to be Lords of Kingdoms or Principalities of their own begetting.
And so some deriving the Pedigree or Government of this Paternal Right of Soveraignty, would by all means conclude, That the Original of Government, neither was nor ought to be in the People.
For answer to this, consider, That Magistracy or Government is to be considered, as Natural, or as Political: Naturally he was a true publick Magistrate or Father of his Country, who in those Patriarchal times ruled over his own Children and their Descendants. This Form of Government was only temporary, and took an end not long after the Flood, when Nimrod changed it, and by force combining numbers of distinct Families into one Body, and subjecting them to his own Regiment, did, by an Arbitrary Power, seated in his own Will and Sword, constrain them to submit unto what Laws and Conditions himself pleased to impose on337 them.
Thus the Paternal Form became changed into a Tyrannical. Neither of these had (I confess) their Original in or from the People, nor hath either of them any relation to that Government which we intend in our Position.
But secondly, There is a Government Political, not grounded in Nature, nor upon Paternal Right by Natural Generation; but founded upon the free Election, Consent or mutual Compact of men entring into a form of civil society. This is the Government we now speak of, it having been in request in most ages, and still is: whereas the other was long since out of date, being used onely in the first age of the World, as proper onely for that time.
So that to prevent all Objections of this nature, when we speak here of Government, we mean onely the Political, which is by Consent or Compact; whose original we shall prove to be in the people. As for the Government of the Israelites, first under Moses, then Joshua and the Judges; The Scripture plainly shews, that they were extraordinary Governours, being of God’s immediate institution, who raised them up by his Spirit, and imposed them upon that people; whose peculiar happiness it was in cases of this nature, to have so infallible and sure a direction; so that their Government was a Theocracie, (as some have called it) having God himself for its onely Original: and therefore no wonder we have in that time & Nation, so few visible foot-steps of the peoples Election, or of an institution by Compact. But yet we finde after the Judges, when this people rejected this more immediate way of Government by God, (as the Lord told Samuel, They have not rejected thee, but me)* and desired a Government after the manner of other Nations; then God seems to forbear the use of his Prerogative, and leave them to an exercise of their own natural Rights and Liberties, to make choice of a new Government and Governour by suffrage and compact.
The Government they aimed at, was Kingly: God himself was displeased at it, and so was Samuel too; who, in hope to continue the old Form, and to fright them from the new, tells them, what Monsters in Government Kings would prove, by assuming unto themselves an Arbitrary Power, (not that a King might lawfully and by right do what Samuel describes, but338 onely to shew how far Kings would presume to abuse their power; which no doubt Samuel foresaw, not onely by Reason, but by the Spirit of Prophecie.) Nevertheless the people would have a King; say they, Nay, but there shall be a King over us: whereupon, saith God to Samuel, Hearken to their voice.† Where we339 plainly see; first, God gives them leave to use their own natural Rights340 , in making choice of their own Form341 of Government; but then indeed, for the choice of their Governor, there was one thing extraordinary, in that God appointed them one, he vouchsafing still in an extraordinary and immediate manner to be their Director and Protector: but yet, though God was pleased to nominate the person, he left the confirmation and ratification of the Kingship unto the people; to shew, that naturally the right of all was in them, however the exercise of it were superseded at that time, by his Divine pleasure, as to the point of nomination: for, that the people might understand it was their Right, Samuel calls them all to Mizpeh, as if the matter were all to be done anew on their part; and there by lot, they at length made choice of Saul, and so immediately by proclaiming him with shouts and acclamations: and then having had proof of his valour against the Amorites, they meet at Gilgal, and proclaim him King once again, to shew that (naturally) the validity of the Kingship depended wholly upon the peoples consent and confirmation. And so you see the first and most eminent evidence of the institution of Political Government in Scripture doth notoriously demonstrate, that its original is in or from the people; and therefore I shall wave any further instances in cases of the like nature out of Scripture, which are not a few. Onely let it be remembred, that Peter in his first Epistle, calls all Government the Ordinance of man,* (in the Original, the creation of man, a Creature of a mans making) to shew, that in all its forms it depends onely upon the will & pleasure of the people.
We might insist farther to evince the Truth of this by strength of Reason; but let this serve to assert the right of the thing; and as for the rest, every man will easily believe it very consonant to reason, if he reflect upon the matter of fact, and consider, that it hath been the unanimous practice of all the Nations of the World, to assert their own Rights of Election and Consent (as often as they had opportunity) in the various turns of institution and alteration of Government. In Italy of old they had most Free-States, and few Princes; now all Princes, and no Free-States. Naples, after many Revolutions, is under Spain, Rome under a Pope, and under him one Senator, in stead of those many that were wont to be; Venice and Genoa have Senators and Dukes, but the Dukes are of small power; Florence, Ferrara, Mantua, Parma, and Savoy, have no Senators, but Dukes only, and they absolute; Burgundy, Lorain, Gascoin, and Britany, had once Kings, then Dukes, but now are incorporated into France: so all the Principalities of Germany that now are, were once imbodied in one entire Regiment: Castile, Aragon, Portugal, & Barcelona, were once distinct Kingdoms, but now united all to Spain, save Portugal, which fell off the other day; France was first one Kingdom under Pharamond, afterwards parted into four Kingdoms, and at last become one again: England consisted of Free-States till the Romans yoked it, afterwards it was divided into seven Kingdoms, and in the end it became one again. Thus you see how the world is subject to shiftings of Government: and though it be most true, that the power of the Sword hath been most prevalent in many of these changes, yet some of them have been chiefly managed, (as they ought) by the peoples Consent; and even in those where the Sword hath made way, the peoples consent hath ever been drawn and taken in afterwards, for corroboration of Title; it having been the custom of all Usurpers, to make their investitures appear as just as they could, by getting the Communities Consent ex post facto, and entring into some compact with them, for the better establishing themselves with a shew of legality: which act of all Tyrants and Usurpers, is a manifest (though tacite) confession of theirs, That de jure the original of all Power and Government, is and ought to be in the people.
[* ]Nedham’s target is Sir Robert Filmer, the theorist of patriarchal monarchy, whose The Anarchy of a Limited or Mixed Monarchy had been published in 1648 in London.
[* ]I Samuel 8:7.
[† ]I Samuel 8:6-7.
[* ]I Peter 2:13-15.
[336.]E omits: Before we proceed to any new Discours, Let us have Leave to bring in that last, which should have bin handled first, and is indeed the very Foundation of all the rest; to wit, That the originall of all just Power and Government is in the People.
[338.]describes (as Salmasius and all the Royal Interpreters would have use beleeve) but