Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION VIII. Of Loyalty, and certain mistaken Ideas of it. - The Works of Vicesimus Knox, vol. 5
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SECTION VIII. Of Loyalty, and certain mistaken Ideas of it. - Vicesimus Knox, The Works of Vicesimus Knox, vol. 5 
The Works of Vicesimus Knox, D.D. with a Biographical Preface. In Seven Volumes (London: J. Mawman, 1824). Vol. 5.
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Of Loyalty, and certain mistaken Ideas of it.
The mass of the community, on whom the arts of delusion are chiefly practised by politicians, are seldom accurate in the use of words; and among others which they misunderstand, and are led, by the satellites of despotism, to misapply, is the term, Loyalty.
Loyalty means, in its true sense, a firm and faithful adherence to the law and constitution of the community of which we are members. If monarchy be a part of that constitution, it certainly means a firm and faithful attachment to the person of the monarch, as well as to the monarchical form, and all the other branches of the system. It is nearly synonymous with fidelity; but as fidelity may be actuated solely by principles of duty, loyalty seems, in its common acceptation, to include in it also a sentiment of affection. It is the obedience of love, and anticipates compulsion. It is a sentiment, which all good men will feel, when they live under a good government honestly administered.
But mark the disingenuity of men impelled by high-church, high-tory, or jacobitical principles. They would limit this liberal comprehensive principle, which takes in the whole of the constitution, and therefore tends to the conservation of it all, in its full integrity; they would limit it to the person of the monarch, to that part of the whole, which favours, in their opinion, their own purposes, and the extension of power and prerogative, the largesses of which they hope to share in reward for their sycophantic zeal, their slavish, selfish, perfidious adulation.
They represent this confined loyalty as a religious duty, partaking the nature of divine worship. They set up an idol, and command all men, upon their duty, to adore it. The people are not entitled even to attention by the propagators of this inhuman, antichristian idolatry.
Let us consider a moment the mischief this artifice has in former times occasioned to our country. It attached great numbers to the family of the Stuarts, after they had forfeited all right to the crown; to the persons of the Stuarts, and for a long period harassed the lawful king and the people of this nation with wars, alarms, seditions, and treasons. Tory zealots shed their blood freely, on the impulse of this unreasonable loyalty, which disregarded the ruling powers of their country established by law; and, in promoting the interest of a dispossessed individual, considered a whole people, either as a nonentity, or as worthy to be sacrificed for one man. Such men, acting in consistency with their principles of false loyalty, would have drenched their country in blood to restore an exiled Nero, of the legitimate family.
Narrow loyalty, like this, which is but another name for bigotry, must ever be inimical to a monarch limited by laws, wishing to govern by them, and owing his seat on his throne to a revolution, to the expulsion of a preoccupant, and the refusal of a pretender's claim. It must ever keep alive a doubt of his title. If it assumes the appearance of affection for him, it may be suspected as the kiss of Judas. If it should seduce him to extend his power beyond the constitutional limits, it would lead him to destruction; and involve a people in all the misery of revolutionary disorder. Is then such loyalty a public virtue? In cunning men it is but mean servility endeavouring to ingratiate itself with the prince, for honours and emoluments. In the simple ones, it is silly superstition. In both, it is injurious to the king of a free country and to the constitution. It confines that attention to one branch, which ought duly to be distributed among all, and to comprehend, in its attachment, that main root and stock, from which all the branches grow, the people at large.
Nevertheless, such is the subtle policy of those who are actuated by the principles of tories, jacobites, royalists, despots, (call them by which name you please,) that they continue to represent every spirited effort in favour of the people's rights, as originating in disloyalty. The best friends to the constitution in its purity, and therefore the best friends to the limited monarch, are held out, both to public and to royal detestation, as disaffected to the person of the prince. Every stratagem is used to delude the common and unthinking part of the people into a belief, that their only way of displaying loyalty is, to display a most servile obsequiousness to the throne, and to oppose every popular measure. The procurers of addresses couch them in the most unmanly language of submission, and approach with a degree of prostration of sentiment, worthier to be received by the great Mogul or the Chinese emperor, than the chief magistrate of a free people. The composers and presenters of such testimonies of loyalty, hoping, if not for the splendid, at least for some substantial effect of royal gratitude, exhaust the language of all its synonymous terms, to express their abject servility. Yet after all, of such a nature is their loyalty, that, if a Stuart or a Robespierre were the possessor of power, their mean and hollow professions of attachment would be equally ardent and importunate. The powers that be are the powers which they worship. The proffer of their lives and fortunes is the common sacrifice. But to distinguish their loyalty, they would go farther than the addressers of the foolish and unfortunate James, and present their very souls to be disposed of by their earthly Deity; knowing it to be a safe oblation.
As great respect is due to the office of the supreme magistrate, so also is great affection due to his person, while he conducts himself with propriety, and consults the happiness of the people. The most decorous language should be used to him, the most respectful behaviour preserved towards him; every mode adopted of showing him proofs of love and honour, on this side idolatry. Arduous is his task, though honourable. It should be sweetened by every mode which true and sincere loyalty can devise. I would rather exceed than fall short of the deference due to the office and the man. But I will not pay a limited monarch, at the head of a free people, so ill a compliment, as to treat him as if he were a despot, ruling over a land of slaves. I cannot adopt the spirit of despotism in a land of liberty; and I must reprobate that false, selfish, adulatory loyalty, which, seeking nothing but its own base ends of avarice or ambition, and feeling no real attachment either to the person or the office of the king, contributes nevertheless to diffuse by its example, a servile, abject temper, highly promotive of the despotic spirit.
But the ministers of state have sometimes presumed so far on present possession of power, as to attempt to make the people believe, that a loyalty is due to them; that an opposition to their will is a proof of defective loyalty; a remonstrance against their measures, a mark of disaffection. They have not been unsuccessful. The servile herds who come forward into public life, solely to be bought up, when marketable, are, for the most part, more inclined to worship the minister than the monarch. While it is the priest who divides among the sacrificers the flesh of the victim, many attend with devotion at the sacrifice; who are more desirous of propitiating the priest than the Deity. There are many who, if they had it in their power, would make it constructive treason to censure any minister, whose continuance in place is necessary to realize their prospects of riches and titular distinction. Such men wander up and down society as spies, and mark those who blame the minister, as persons to be suspected of disloyalty. They usually fix on them some nickname, in order to depreciate their characters in the eyes of the people, and prevent them from ever rising to such a degree of public esteem, as might render them competitors for ministerial douceurs. Associations are formed by such men, under pretence of patriotism and loyalty, but with no other real design, than that of keeping the minister in place, whom they hope to find a bountiful paymaster of their services, at the public expense.
True loyalty has no connection with all this meanness and selfishness. True loyalty is manly, while obedient, and respects itself, while it pays a voluntary and cheerful deference to authority and the persons invested with it. It throws sordid considerations aside, and having nothing in view but the general good, bears an affection, and shows that affection, to the whole of a system established for the preservation of order and liberty. It is not misguided by pompous names, nor blinded by the glitter of external parade; but values offices and officers in the state, for the good they actually promote, for the important functions they perform, for the efficient place they fill, in the finely constituted machine of a well-regulated community.
Such loyalty, I believe, does abound in England, notwithstanding the calumnies of interested men, who would misrepresent and cry down all real patriotism, that their own counterfeit may obtain currency. Men who possess such loyalty will be found the best friends to kings; if ever those times should return, which are said to afford the truest test of friendship, the times of adversity.
May those times never come! but yet let us cherish the true loyalty and explode the false; because the true is the best security to limited monarchy and constitutional liberty: while the false, by diffusing a spirit of despotism, equally inimical to the constitution and to human happiness, is destroying the legal limitations, undermining the established systems, and introducing manners and principles at once degrading to human nature, and pregnant with misery to nations.