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CHAPTER XI.: Who heir? - John Locke, The Works of John Locke, vol. 4 Economic Writings and Two Treatises of Government 
The Works of John Locke in Nine Volumes, (London: Rivington, 1824 12th ed.). Vol. 4.
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The great question which in all ages has disturbed mankind, and brought on them the greatest part of those mischiefs which have ruined cities, depopulated countries, and disordered the peace of the world, has been, not whether there be power in the world, nor whence it came, but who should have it. The settling of this point being of no smaller moment than the security of princes, and the peace and welfare of their estates and kingdoms, a reformer of politics, one would think, should lay this sure, and be very clear in it: for if this remain disputable, all the rest will be to very little purpose; and the skill used in dressing up power with all the splendour and temptation absoluteness can add to it, without showing who has a right to have it, will serve only to give a greater edge to man’s natural ambition, which of itself is but too keen. What can this do but set men on the more eagerly to scramble, and so lay a sure and lasting foundation of endless contention and disorder, instead of that peace and tranquillity, which is the business of government, and the end of human society?
This designation of the person our author is more than ordinary obliged to take care of, because he, affirming that the “assignment of civil power is by divine institution,” hath made the conveyance as well as the power itself sacred: so that no consideration, no act or art of man, can divert it from that person, to whom, by this divine right, it is assigned; no necessity or contrivance can substitute another person in his room. For if the “assignment of civil power be by divine institution,” and Adam’s heir be he to whom it is thus assigned, as in the foregoing chapter our author tells us, it would be as much sacrilege for any one to be king, who was not Adam’s heir, as it would have been amongst the jews, for any one to have been priest who had not been of Aaron’s posterity: for not only the priesthood “in general being by divine institution, but the assignment of it,” to the sole line and posterity of Aaron, made it impossible to be enjoyed or exercised by any one but those persons who were the offspring of Aaron: whose succession therefore was carefully observed, and by that the persons who had a right to the priesthood certainly known.
Let us see then what care our author has taken to make us know who is “this heir, who by divine institution has a right to be king over all men.” The first account of him we meet with is, p. 12, in these words: “This subjection of children being the fountain of all regal authority, by the ordination of God himself; it follows, that civil power, not only in general, is by divine institution, but even the assignment of it, specifically to the eldest parents.” Matters of such consequence as this is, should be in plain words, as little liable, as might be, to doubt or equivocation; and I think, if language be capable of expressing any thing distinctly and clearly, that of kindred, and the several degrees of nearness of blood, is one. It were therefore to be wished, that our author had used a little more intelligible expressions here, that we might have better known who it is, to whom the assignment of civil power is made by divine institution; or at least would have told us what he meant by eldest parents: for I believe if land had been assigned or granted to him, and the eldest parents of his family, he would have thought it had needed an interpreter; and it would scarce have been known to whom next it belonged.
In propriety of speech, (and certainly propriety of speech is necessary in a discourse of this nature) eldest parents signifies either the eldest men and women that have had children, or those who have longest had issue; and then our author’s assertion will be, that those fathers and mothers who have been longest in the world, or longest fruitful, have by divine institution a right to civil power. If there be any absurdity in this, our author must answer for it: and if his meaning be different from my explication, he is to be blamed, that he would not speak it plainly. This I am sure, parents cannot signify heirs male, nor eldest parents an infant child: who yet may sometimes be the true heir, if there can be but one. And we are hereby still as much at a loss, who civil power belongs to, notwithstanding this “assignment by divine institution,” as if there had been no such an assignment at all, or our author had said nothing of it. This of eldest parents leaving us more in the dark, who by divine institution has a right to civil power, than those who never heard any thing at all of heir or descent, of which our author is so full. And though the chief matter of his writing be to teach obedience to those who have a right to it, which he tells us is conveyed by descent; yet who those are, to whom this right by descent belongs, he leaves, like the philosopher’s stone in politics, out of the reach of any one to discover from his writings.
This obscurity cannot be imputed to want of language in so great a master of style as sir Robert is, when he is resolved with himself what he would say: and therefore, I fear, finding how hard it would be, to settle rules of descent by divine institution, and how little it would be to his purpose, or conduce to the clearing and establishing the titles of princes, if such rules of descent were settled, he chose rather to content himself with doubtful and general terms, which might make no ill sound in men’s ears who were willing to be pleased with them; rather than offer any clear rules of descent of this fatherhood of Adam, by which men’s consciences might be satisfied to whom it descended, and know the persons who had a right to regal power, and with it to their obedience.
How else is it possible, that laying so much stress, as he does, upon descent, and Adam’s heir, next heir, true heir, he should never tell us what heir means, nor the way to know who the next or true heir is? This, I do not remember, he does any-where expressly handle; but where it comes in his way, very warily and doubtfully touches; though it be so necessary, that without it all discourses of government and obedience upon his principles, would be to no purpose, and fatherly power, ever so well made out, will be of no use to any body. Hence he tells us, O. 244. “That not only the constitution of power in general, but the limitation of it to one kind, i. e. monarchy and the determination of it to the individual person and line of Adam, are all three ordinances of God; neither Eve nor her children could either limit Adam’s power, or join others with him; and what was given unto Adam was given in his person to his posterity.” Here again our author informs us, that the divine ordinance hath limited the descent of Adam’s monarchical power. To whom? “To Adam’s line and posterity,” says our author. A notable limitation, a limitation to all mankind: for if our author can find any one amongst mankind that is not of the line and posterity of Adam, he may perhaps tell him who this next heir of Adam is: but for us, I despair how this limitation of Adam’s empire to his line and posterity will help us to find out one heir. This limitation indeed of our author, will save those the labour, who would look for him amongst the race of brutes, if any such there were; but will very little contribute to the discovery of one next heir amongst men, though it make a short and easy determination of the question about the descent of Adam’s regal power, by telling us, that the line and posterity of Adam is to have it, that is, in plain English, any one may have it, since there is no person living that hath not the title of being of the line and posterity of Adam; and while it keeps there, it keeps within our author’s limitation by God’s ordinance. Indeed, p. 19, he tells us, that “such heirs are not only lords of their own children, but of their brethren;” whereby, and by the words following, which we shall consider anon, he seems to insinuate, that the eldest son is heir; but he no-where, that I know, says it in direct words, but by the instances of Cain and Jacob, that there follow, we may allow this to be so far his opinion concerning heirs, that where there are divers children, the eldest son has the right to be heir. That primogeniture cannot give any title to paternal power, we have already showed. That a father may have a natural right to some kind of power over his children, is casily granted; but that an elder brother has so over his brethren, remains to be proved: God or nature has not any where, that I know, placed such jurisdiction in the first-born; nor can reason find any such natural superiority amongst brethren. The law of Moses gave a double portion of the goods and possessions to the eldest; but we find not any where that naturally or by God’s institution, superiority or dominion belonged to him; and the instances there brought by our author are but slender proofs of a right to civil power and dominion in the first-born, and do rather show the contrary.
His words are in the forecited place; “And therefore we find God told Cain of his brother Abel, his desire shall be subject unto thee, and thou shalt rule over him.” To which I answer,
1. These words of God to Cain are by many interpreters, with great reason, understood in a quite different sense than what our author uses them in.
2. Whatever was meant by them, it could not be, that Cain, as elder, had a natural dominion over Abel; for the words are conditional. “If thou dost well;” and so personal to Cain: and whatever was signified by them, did depend on his carriage, and not follow his birth-right; and therefore could by no means be an establishment of dominion in the first-born in general; for before this Abel had his “distinct territories by right of private dominion,” as our author himself confesses, O. 210. which he could not have had to the prejudice of the heir’s title, “if by divine institution” Cain as heir were to inherit all his father’s dominion.
3. If this were intended by God as the charter of primogeniture, and the grant of dominion to the elder brothers in general as such, by right of inheritance, we might expect it should have included all his brethren; for we may well suppose, Adam, from whom the world was to be peopled, had by this time, that these were grown up to be men, more sons than these two: whereas Abel himself is not so much as named; and the words in the original can scarce, with any good construction, be applied to him.
4. It is too much to build a doctrine of so mighty consequence upon so doubtful and obscure a place of scripture, which may well, nay better, be understood in a quite different sense, and so can be but an ill proof, being as doubtful as the thing to be proved by it; especially when there is nothing else in scripture or reason to be found, that favours or supports it.
It follows, p. 19. “Accordingly when Jacob bought his brother’s birth-right, Isaac blessed him thus; Be lord over thy brethren, and let the sons of thy mother bow before thee.” Another instance I take it, brought by our author to evince dominion due to birth-right, and an admirable one it is: for it must be no ordinary way of reasoning in a man, that is pleading for the natural power of kings, and against all compact, to bring for proof of it an example, where his own account of it founds all the right upon compact, and settles empire in the younger brother, unless buying and selling be no compact; for he tells us, “when Jacob bought his birth-right.” But passing by that, let us consider the history itself, with what use our author makes of it, and we shall find the following mistakes about it.
1. That our author reports this, as if Isaac had given Jacob this blessing, immediately upon his purchasing the birth-right; for he says, “when Jacob bought, Isaac blessed him;” which is plainly otherwise in the scripture: for it appears, there was a distance of time between, and if we will take the story in the order it lies, it must be no small distance: all Isaac’s sojourning in Gerar, and transactions with Abimelech, Gen. xxvi. coming between; Rebecca being then beautiful, and consequently young: but Isaac, when he blessed Jacob, was old and decrepit: and Esau also complains of Jacob, Gen. xxvii. 36. that two times he had supplanted him; “he took away my birth-right,” says he, “and behold now he hath taken away my blessing;” words, that I think signify distance of time and difference of action.
2. Another mistake of our author’s is, that he supposes Isaac gave Jacob the blessing, and bid him be “lord over his brethren,” because he had the birth-right; for our author brings this example to prove, that he that has the birth-right, has thereby a right to “be lord over his brethren.” But it is also manifest, by the text, that Isaac had no consideration of Jacob’s having bought the birth-right; for when he blessed him, he considered him not as Jacob, but took him for Esau. Nor did Esau understand any such connexion between birth-right and the blessing; for he says, “He hath supplanted me these two times, he took away my birth-right, and behold now he hath taken away my blessing:” whereas had the blessing, which was to be “lord over his brethren,” belonged to the birth-right, Esau could not have complained of this second, as a cheat, Jacob having got nothing but what Esau had sold him, when he sold him his birth-right; so that it is plain, dominion, if these words signify it, was not understood to belong to the birth-right.
And that in those days of the patriarchs, do minion was not understood to be the right of the heir, but only a greater portion of goods, is plain from Gen. xxi. 10. for Sarah, taking Isaac to be heir, says, “cast out this bondwoman and her son, for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son:” whereby could be meant nothing, but that he should not have a pretence to an equal share of his father’s estate after his death, but should have his portion presently, and be gone. Accordingly we read, Gen. xxv. 5, 6. “That Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac, but unto the sons of the concubines which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived.” That is, Abraham having given portions to all his other sons, and sent them away, that which he had reserved, being the greatest part of his substance, Isaac as heir possessed after his death; but by being heir, he had no right to be “lord over his children;” for if he had, why should Sarah endeavour to rob him of one of his subjects, or lessen the number of his slaves, by desiring to have Ishmael sent away?
Thus, as under the law, the privilege of birth-right was nothing but a double portion: so we see that before Moses, in the patriarchs time, from whence our author pretends to take his model, there was no knowledge, no thought, that birth-right gave rule or empire, paternal or kingly authority, to any one over his brethren. If this be not plain enough in the story of Isaac and Ishmael, he that will look into 1 Chron. v. 1. may there read these words: “Reuben was the first-born; but forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birth-right was given unto the sons of Joseph, the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birth-right; for Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birth-right was Joseph’s.” What this birth-right was, Jacob blessing Joseph, Gen. xlviii. 22. telleth us in these words, “Moreover I have given thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite, with my sword and with my bow.” Whereby it is not only plain that the birth-right was nothing but a double portion, but the text in Chronicles is express against our author’s doctrine, and shows that dominion was no part of the birth-right: for it tells us, that Joseph had the birth-right, but Judah the dominion. One would think our author were very fond of the very name of birth-right, when he brings this instance of Jacob and Esau, to prove that dominion belongs to the heir over his brethren.
1. Because it will be but an ill example to prove, that dominion by God’s ordination belonged to the eldest son, because Jacob the youngest here had it, let him come by it how he would: for if it prove any thing, it can only prove, against our author, that the “assignment of dominion to the eldest is not by divine institution,” which would then be unalterable: for if by the law of God, or nature, absolute power and empire belongs to the eldest son and his heirs, so that they are supreme monarchs, and all the rest of their brethren slaves, our author gives us reason to doubt whether the eldest son has a power to part with it, to the prejudice of his posterity, since he tells us, O. 158. “That in grants and gifts that have their original from God or nature, no inferior power of man can limit, or make any law of prescription against them.”
2. Because this place, Gen. xxvii. 29. brought by our author, concerns not at all the dominion of one brother over the other, nor the subjection of Esau to Jacob: for it is plain in history, that Esau was never subject to Jacob, but lived apart in mount Seir, where he founded a distinct people and government, and was himself prince over them, as much as Jacob was in his own family. The text, if considered, can never be understood of Esau himself, or the personal dominion of Jacob over him: for the words brethren, and sons of thy mother, could not be used literally by Isaac, who knew Jacob had only one brother; and these words are so far from being true in a literal sense, or establishing any dominion in Jacob over Esau, that in the story we find the quite contrary, for Gen. xxxii. Jacob several times calls Esau lord, and himself his servant; and Gen. xxxiii. “he bowed himself seven times to the ground to Esau.” Whether Esau then were a subject and vassal (nay, as our author tells us, all subjects are slaves to Jacob) and Jacob his sovereign brince by birth-right, I leave the reader to judge: and to believe, if he can, that these words of Isaac, “be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee,” confirmed Jacob in a sovereignty over Esau, upon the account of the birth-right he had got from him.
He that reads the story of Jacob and Esau, will find there never was any jurisdiction, or authority, that either of them had over the other, after their father’s death: they lived with the friendship and equality of brethren, neither lord, neither slave to his brother; but independent of each other, were both heads of their distinct families, where they received no laws from one another, but lived separately, and were the roots out of which sprang two distinct people under two distinct governments. This blessing then of Isaac, whereon our author would build the dominion of the elder brother, signifies no more, but what Rebecca had been told from God, Gen. xxv. 23. “Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people, and the elder shall serve the younger; and so Jacob blessed Judah,” Gen. xlix. and gave him the sceptre and dominion; from whence our author might have argued as well, that jurisdiction and dominion belongs to the third son over his brethren, as well as from this blessing of Isaac, that it belonged to Jacob: both these places contain only predictions of what should long after happen to their posterities, and not any declaration of the right of inheritance to dominion in either. And thus we have our author’s two great and only arguments to prove, that “heirs are lords over their brethren.”
1. Because God tells Cain, Gen. iv. that however sin might set upon him, he ought or might be master of it: for the most learned interpreters understood the words of sin, and not of Abel, and give so strong reasons for it, that nothing can convincingly be inferred, from so doubtful a text to our author’s purpose.
2. Because in this of Gen. xxvii. Isaac foretels that the Israelites, the posterity of Jacob, should have dominion over the Edomites, the posterity of Esau; therefore, says our author, “heirs are lords of their brethren:” I leave any one to judge of the conclusion.
And now we see our author has provided for the descending, and conveyance down of Adam’s monarchical power, or paternal dominion, to posterity, by the inheritance of his heir, succeeding to all his father’s authority, and becoming upon his death as much lord as his father was, “not only over his own children, but over his brethren,” and all descended from his father, and so in infinitum. But yet who this heir is, he does not once tell us; and all the light we have from him in this so fundamental a point, is only, that in his instance of Jacob, by using the word birth-right, as that which passed from Esau to Jacob, he leaves us to guess, that by heir he means the eldest son; though I do not remember he any where mentions expressly the title of the first-born, but all along keeps himself under the shelter of the indefinite term heir. But taking it to be his meaning, that the eldest son is heir, (for if the eldest be not, there will be no pretence why the sons should not be all heirs alike) and so by right of primogeniture has dominion over his brethren; this is but one step towards the settlement of succession, and the difficulties remain still as much as ever, till he can show us who is meant by right heir, in all those cases which may happen where the present possessor hath no son. This he silently passes over, and perhaps wisely too: for what can be wiser, after one has affirmed, that “the person having that power, as well as the power and form of government, is the ordinance of God, and by divine institution,” vid. O. 254, p. 12, than to be careful, not to start any question concerning the person, the resolution whereof will certainly lead him into a confession, that God and nature hath determined nothing about him? And if our author cannot show who by right of nature, or a clear positive law of God, has the next right to inherit the dominion of this natural monarch he has been at such pains about, when he died without a son, he might have spared his pains in all the rest; it being more necessary for the settling men’s consciences and determining their subjection and allegiance, to show them who, by original right, superior and antecedent to the will, or any act of men, hath a title to this paternal jurisdiction, than it is to show that by nature there was such a jurisdiction; it being to no purpose for me to know there is such a paternal power, which I ought, and am disposed to obey, unless, where there are many pretenders, I also know the person that is rightfully invested and endowed with it.
For the main matter in question being concerning the duty of my obedience, and the obligation of conscience I am under to pay it to him that is of right my lord and ruler, I must know the person that this right of paternal power resides in, and so impowers him to claim obedience from me. For let it be true what he says, p. 12. “That civil power not only in general is by divine institution, but even the assignment of it specially to the eldest parents;” and O. 254. “That not only the power or right of government, but the form of the power of governing, and the person having that power, are all the ordinance of God;” yet unless he show us in all cases who is this person, ordained by God; who is this eldest parent: all his abstract notions of monarchical power will signify just nothing, when they are to be reduced to practice, and men are conscientiously to pay their obedience: for paternal jurisdiction being not the thing to be obeyed, because it cannot command, but is only that which gives one man a right which another hath not, and if it come by inheritance, another man cannot have, to command and be obeyed; it is ridiculous to say, I pay obedience to the paternal power, when I obey him, to whom paternal power gives no right to my obedience: for he can have no divine right to my obedience, who cannot show his divine right to the power of ruling over me, as well as that by divine right there is such a power in the world.
And hence not being able to make out any prince’s title to government, as heir to Adam, which therefore is of no use, and had been better let alone, he is fain to resolve all into present possession, and makes civil obedience as due to an usurper, as to a lawful king; and thereby the usurper’s title as good. His words are, O. 253. and they deserve to be remembered: “If an usurper dispossess the true heir, the subjects obedience to the fatherly power must go along, and wait upon God’s providence.” But I shall leave his title of usurpers to be examined in its due place, and desire my sober reader to consider what thanks princes owe such politics as this, which can suppose paternal power, i. e. a right to government in the hands of a Cade, or a Cromwell; and so all obedience being due to paternal power, the obedience of subjects will be due to them, by the same right, and upon as good grounds, as it is to lawful princes; and yet this, as dangerous a doctrine as it is, must necessarily follow from making all political power to be nothing else, but Adam’s paternal power by right and divine institution, descending from him without being able to show to whom it descended, or who is heir to it.
To settle government in the world, and to lay obligations to obedience on any man’s conscience, it is as necessary (supposing with our auther that all power be nothing but the being possessed of Adam’s fatherhood) to satisfy him who has a right to this power, this fatherhood, when the possessor dies, without sons to succeed immediately to it; as it was to tell him, that upon the death of the father, the eldest son had a right to it: for it is still to be remembered, that the great question is (and that which our author would be thought to contend for, if he did not sometimes forget it) what persons have a right to be obeyed, and not whether there be a power in the world, which is to be called paternal, without knowing in whom it resides: for so it be a power, i. e. right to govern, it matters not, whether it be termed paternal or regal, natural or acquired; whether you call it supreme fatherhood, or supreme brotherhood, will be all one, provided we know who has it.
I go on then to ask, whether in the inheriting of this paternal power, this supreme fatherhood, the grandson by a daughter hath a right before a nephew by a brother? Whether the grandson by the eldest son, being an infant, before the younger son, a man and able? Whether the daughter before the uncle? or any other man, descended by a male line? Whether a grandson, by a younger daughter, before a grand-daughter by an elder daughter? Whether the elder son by a concubine, before a younger son by a wife? From whence also will arise many questions of legitimation, and what in nature is the difference betwixt a wife and a concubine? for as to the municipal or positive laws of men, they can signify nothing here. It may farther be asked, Whether the eldest son, being a fool, shall inherit this paternal power, before the younger, a wise man? and what degree of folly it must be that shall exclude him? and who shall be judge of it? Whether the son of a fool, excluded for his folly, before the son of his wise brother who reigned? Who has the paternal power whilst the widow-queen is with child by the deceased king, and nobody knows whether it will be a son or a daughter? Which shall be heir of the two male twins, who by the dissection of the mother were laid open to the world? Whether a sister by the half-blood, before a brother’s daughter by the whole blood?
These, and many more such doubts, might be proposed about the titles of succession, and the right of inheritance; and that not as idle speculations, but such as in history we shall find have concerned the inheritance of crowns and kingdoms; and if ours want them, we need not go farther for famous examples of it, than the other kingdom in this very island, which having been fully related by the ingenious and learned author of Patriarcha non Monarcha, I need say no more of. Till our author hath resolved all the doubts that may arise about the next heir, and showed that they are plainly determined by the law of nature, or the revealed law of God, all his suppositions of a monarchical, absolute, supreme, paternal power in Adam, and the descent of that power to his heirs, would not be of the least use to establish the authority, or make out the title, of any one prince now on earth; but would rather unsettle and bring all into question: for let our author tell us as long as he pleases, and let all men believe it too, that Adam had a paternal, and thereby a monarchical power; that this (the only power in the world) descended to his heirs; and that there is no other power in the world but this; let this be all as clear demonstration, as it is manifest errour; yet if it be not past doubt, to whom this paternal power descends, and whose now it is, nobody can be under any obligation of obedience; unless any one will say, that I am bound to pay obedience to paternal power in a man who has no more paternal power than I myself; which is all one as to say, I obey a man, because he has a right to govern; and if I be asked, how I know he has a right to govern, I should answer, it cannot be known, that he has any at all: for that cannot be the reason of my obedience, which I know not to be so; much less can that be a reason of my obedience, which nobody at all can know to be so.
And therefore all this ado about Adam’s fatherhood, the greatness of its power, and the necessity of its supposal, helps nothing to establish the power of those that govern, or to determine the obedience of subjects who are to obey, if they cannot tell whom they are to obey, or it cannot be known who are to govern, and who to obey. In the state the world is now, it is irrecoverably ignorant, who is Adam’s heir. This fatherhood, this monarchical power of Adam, descending to his heirs, would be of no more use to the government of mankind, than it would be to the quieting of men’s consciences, or securing their healths, if our author had assured them, that Adam had a power to forgive sins, or cure diseases, which by divine institution descended to his heir, whilst this heir is impossible to be known. And should not he do as rationally, who upon this assurance of our author, went and confessed his sins, and expected a good absolution; or took physic with expectation of health, from any one who had taken on himself the name of priest or physician, or thrust himself into those employments, saying, I acquiesce in the absolving power descending from Adam, or I shall be cured by the medicinal power descending from Adam; as he who says, I submit to and obey the paternal power descending from Adam, when it is confessed all these powers descend only to his single heir, and that heir is unknown?
It is true, the civil lawyers have pretended to determine some of these cases concerning the succession of princes; but by our author’s principles they have meddled in a matter that belongs not to them: for if all political power be derived only from Adam, and be to descend only to his successive heirs, by the ordinance of God and divine institution, this is a right antecedent and paramount to all government; and therefore the positive laws of men cannot determine that, which is itself the foundation of all law and government, and is to receive its rule only from the law of God and nature. And that being silent in the case, I am apt to think there is no such right to be conveyed this way: I am sure it would be to no purpose if there were, and men would be more at a loss concerning government and obedience to governors, than if there were no such right; since by positive laws and compact, which divine institution (if there be any) shuts out, all these endless inextricable doubts can be safely provided against; but it can never be understood, how a divine natural right, and that of such moment as is all order and peace in the world, should be conveyed down to posterity, without any plain natural or divine rule concerning it. And there would be an end of all civil government, if the assignment of civil power were by divine institution to the heir, and yet by that divine institution the person of the heir could not be known. This paternal regal power being by divine right only his, it leaves no room for human prudence, or consent, to place it any where else; for if only one man hath a divine right to the obedience of mankind, nobody can claim that obedience, but he that can show that right; nor can men’s consciences by any other pretence be obliged to it. And thus this doctrine cuts up all government by the roots.
Thus we see how our author, laying it for a sure foundation, that the very person that is to rule, is the ordinance of God, and by divine institution; tells us at large, only that this person is the heir, but who this heir is, he leaves us to guess; and so this divine institution, which assigns it to a person whom we have no rule to know, is just as good as an assignment to nobody at all. But whatever our author does, divine institution makes no such ridiculous assignments: nor can God be supposed to make it a sacred law, that one certain person should have a right to something, and yet not give rules to mark out, and know that person by: or give an heir a divine right to power, and yet not point out who that heir is. It is rather to be thought, that an heir had no such right by divine institution, than that God should give such a right to the heir, but yet leave it doubtful and undeterminable who such heir is.
If God had given the land of Canaan to Abraham, and in general terms to somebody after him, without naming his seed, whereby it might be known who that somebody was; it would have been as good and useful an assignment, to determine the right to the land of Canaan, as it would be the determining the right of crowns, to give empire to Adam and his successive heirs after him, without telling who his heir is: for the word heir, without a rule to know who it is, signifies no more than somebody, I know not whom. God making it a divine institution, that men should not marry those who were of near kin, thinks it not enough to say, “none of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness;” but moreover, gives rules to know who are those near of kin, forbidden by divine institution; or else that law would have been of no use; it being to no purpose to lay restraint or give privileges to men, in such general terms, as the particular person concerned cannot be known by. But God not having any where said, the next heir shall inherit all his father’s estate or dominion, we are not to wonder, that he hath no where appointed who that heir should be; for never having intended any such thing, never designed any heir in that sense, we cannot expect he should any where nominate, or appoint any person to it, as we might, had it been otherwise. And therefore in scripture, though the word heir occur, yet there is no such thing as heir in our author’s sense, one that was by right of nature to inherit all that his father had, exclusive of his brethren. Hence Sarah supposes, that if Ishmael staid in the house to share in Abraham’s estate after his death, this son of a bond-woman might be heir with Isaac; and therefore, says she, cast out “this bond-woman and her son, for the son of this bond-woman shall not be heir with my son:” but this cannot excuse our author, who telling us there is, in every number of men, one who is right and next heir to Adam, ought to have told us what the laws of descent are: but he having been so sparing to instruct us by rules, how to know who is heir, let us see in the next place, what his history out of scripture, on which he pretends wholly to build his government, gives us in this necessary and fundamental point.
Our author, to make good the title of his book, p. 13, begins his history of the descent of Adam’s regal power, p. 13, in these words: “This lordship which Adam by command had over the whole world, and by right descending from him, the patriarchs did enjoy, was a large,” &c. How does he prove that the patriarchs by descent did enjoy it? for “dominion of life and death,” says he, “we find, Judah the father pronounced sentence of death against Thamar his daughter-in-law for playing the harlot,” p. 13. How does this prove that Judah had absolute and sovereign authority? “he pronounced sentence of death.” The pronouncing of sentence of death is not a certain mark of sovereignty, but usually the office of inferior magistrates. The power of making laws of life and death is indeed a mark of sovereignty, but pronouncing the sentence according to those laws, may be done by others, and therefore this will but ill prove that he had sovereign authority: as if one should say, judge Jefferies pronounced sentence of death in the late times, therefore judge Jefferies had sovereign authority. But it will be said, Judah did it not by commission from another, and therefore did it in his own right. Who knows whether he had any right at all? heat of passion might carry him to do that which he had no authority to do. “Judah had dominion of life and death:” how does that appear? He exercised it, he “pronounced sentence of death against Thamar:” our author thinks it is very good proof, that because he did it, therefore he had a right to do it: he lay with her also; by the same way of proof, he had a right to do that too. If the consequence be good from doing, to a right of doing, Absalom too may be reckoned amongst our author’s sovereigns, for he pronounced such a sentence of death against his brother Amnon, and much upon a like occasion, and had it executed too, if that be sufficient to prove a dominion of life and death.
But allowing this all to be clear demonstration of sovereign power, who was it that had this “lordship by right descending to him from Adam, as large and ample as the absolutest dominion of any monarch?” Judah, says our author, Judah a younger son of Jacob, his father and elder brethren living; so that if our author’s own proof be to be taken, a younger brother may, in the life of his father and elder brothers, “by right of descent, enjoy Adam’s monarchical power;” and if one so qualified may be a monarch by descent, why may not every man? if Judah, his father and elder brother living, were one of Adam’s heirs, I know not who can be excluded from this inheritance; all men by inheritance may be monarchs as well as Judah.
“Touching war, we see that Abraham commanded an army of 318 soldiers of his own family, and Esau met his brother Jacob with 400 men at arms: for matter of peace, Abraham made a league with Abimelech,” &c. p. 13. Is it not possible for a man to have 318 men in his family without being heir to Adam? A planter in the West-Indies has more, and might, if he pleased, (who doubts?) muster them up and lead them out against the Indians, to seek reparation upon any injury received from them; and all this without the “absolute dominion of a monarch, descending to him from Adam.” Would it not be an admirable argument to prove, that all power by God’s institution descended from Adam by inheritance, and that the very person and power of this planter were the ordinance of God, because he had power in his family over servants born in his house, and bought with his money? For this was just Abraham’s case; those who were rich in the patriarch’s days, as in the West Indies now, bought men and maid servants, and by their increase, as well as purchasing of new, came to have large and numerous families, which though they made use of in war or peace, can it be thought the power they had over them was an inheritance descended from Adam, when it was the purchase of their money? A man’s riding in an expedition against an enemy, his horse bought in a fair, would be as good a proof that the owner “enjoyed the lordship which Adam by command had over the whole world, by right descending to him,” as Abraham’s leading out the servants of his family is, that the patriarchs enjoyed this lordship by descent from Adam: since the title to the power the master had in both cases, whether over slaves or horses, was only from his purchase; and the getting a dominion over any thing by bargain and money, is a new way of proving one had it by descent and inheritance.
“But making war and peace are marks of sovereignty.” Let it be so in politic societies: may not therefore a man in the West Indies, who hath with him sons of his own, friends, or companions, soldiers under pay, or slaves bought with money, or perhaps a band made up of all these, make war and peace, if there should be occasion, and “ratify the articles too with an oath,” without being a sovereign, an absolute king over those who went with him? He that says he cannot, must then allow many masters of ships, many private planters, to be absolute monarchs, for as much as this they have done. War and peace cannot be made for politic societies, but by the supreme power of such societies; because war and peace giving a different motion to the force of such a politic body, none can make war or peace but that which has the direction of the force of the whole body, and that in politic societies is only the supreme power. In voluntary societies for the time, he that has such a power by consent, may make war and peace, and so may a single man for himself, the state of war not consisting in the number of partisans, but the enmity of the parties, where they have no superior to appeal to.
The actual making of war or peace is no proof of any other power, but only of disposing those to exercise or cease acts of enmity for whom he makes it; and this power in many cases any one may have without any politic supremacy: and therefore the making of war or peace will not prove that every one that does so is a politic ruler, much less a king; for then commonwealths must be kings too, for they do as certainly make war and peace as monarchical government.
But granting this a “mark of sovereignty in Abraham,” is it a proof of the descent to him of Adam’s sovereignty over the whole world? If it be, it will surely be as good a proof of the descent of Adam’s lordship to others too. And then commonwealths, as well as Abraham, will be heirs of Adam, for they make war and peace as well as he. If you say, that the “lordship of Adam” doth not by right descend to commonwealths, though they make war and peace, the same say I of Abraham, and then there is an end of your argument: if you stand to your argument, and say those that do make war and peace, as commonwealths do without doubt, “do inherit Adam’s lordship,” there is an end of your monarchy, unless you will say, that commonwealths “by descent enjoying Adam’s lordship” are monarchies; and that indeed would be a new way of making all the governments in the world monarchical.
To give our author the honour of this new invention, for I confess it is not I have first found it out by tracing his principles, and so charged it on him, it is fit my readers know that (as absurd as it may seem) he teaches it himself, p. 23, where he ingenuously says, “In all kingdoms and commonwealths in the world, whether the prince be the supreme father of the people, or but the true heir to such a father, or come to the crown by usurpation or election, or whether some few or a multitude govern the commonweath; yet still the authority that is in any one, or in many, or in all these, is the only right and natural authority of a supreme father;” which right of fatherhood, he often tells us, is “regal and royal authority;” as particularly, p. 12, the page immediately preceding this instance of Abraham. This regal authority, he says, those that govern commonweaths have; and if it be true, that regal and royal authority be in those that govern commonwealths, it is as true that commonwealths are governed by kings; for if regal authority be in him that governs, he that governs must needs be a king, and so all commonwealths are nothing but downright monarchies; and then what need any more ado about the matter? The governments of the world are as they should be, there is nothing but monarchy in it. This, without doubt, was the surest way our author could have found, to turn all other governments, but monarchical, out of the world.
But all this scarce proves Abraham to have been a king as heir to Adam. If by inheritance he had been king, Lot, who was of the same family, must needs have been his subject by that title, before the servants in his family; but we see they lived as friends and equals, and when their herdsmen could not agree, there was no pretence of jurisdiction or superiority between them, but they parted by consent, Gen. xiii. hence he is called, both by Abraham and by the text, Abraham’s brother, the name of friendship and equality, and not of jurisdiction and authority, though he were really but his nephew. And if our author knows that Abraham was Adam’s heir, and a king, it was more, it seems, than Abraham himself knew, or his servant whom he sent a wooing for his son; for when he sets out the advantages of the match, Gen. xxiv. 35, thereby to prevail with the young woman and her friends, he says, “I am Abraham’s servant, and the Lord hath blessed my master greatly, and he is become great: and he hath given him flocks and herds, and silver and gold, and men-servants and maid-servants, and camels and asses; and Sarah, my master’s wife, bare a son to my master when she was old, and unto him hath he given all he hath.” Can one think that a discreet servant, that was thus particular to set out his master’s greatness, would have omitted the crown Isaac was to have, if he had known of any such? Can it be imagined he should have neglected to have told them on such an occasion as this, that Abraham was a king, a name well known at that time, for he had nine of them his neighbours, if he or his master had thought any such thing, the likeliest matter of all the rest, to make his errand successful?
But this discovery, it seems, was reserved for our author to make two or three thousand years after, and let him enjoy the credit of it; only he should have taken care that some of Adam’s land should have descended to this his heir, as well as all Adam’s lordship: for though this lordship which Abraham (if we may believe our author), as well as the other patriarchs, “by right descending to him, did enjoy, was as large and ample as the absolutest dominion of any monarch which hath been since the creation;” yet his estate, his territories, his dominions, were very narrow and scanty; for he had not the possession of a foot of land, till he bought a field and a cave of the sons of Heth to bury Sarah in.
The instance of Esau joined with this of Abraham, to prove that the “lordship which Adam had over the whole world, by right descending from him, the patriarchs did enjoy,” is yet more pleasant than the former. “Esau met his brother Jacob with 400 men at arms;” he therefore was a king by right of heir to Adam. Four hundred armed men then, however got together, are enough to prove him that leads them to be a king, and Adam’s heir. There have been tories in Ireland, (whatever there are in other countries) who would have thanked our author for so honourable an opinion of them, especially if there had been nobody near with a better title of 500 armed men, to question their royal authority of 400. It is a shame for men to trifle so, to say no worse of it, in so serious an argument. Here Esau is brought as a proof that Adam’s lordship, “Adam’s absolute dominion, as large as that of any monarch, descended by right to the patriarchs,” and in this very chap. p. 19, Jacob is brought as an instance of one, that by “birth-right was lord over his brethren.” So we have here two brothers absolute monarchs by the same title, and at the same time heirs to Adam; the eldest, heir to Adam, because he met his brother with 400 men; and the youngest, heir to Adam by birth-right: “Esau enjoyed the lordship which Adam had over the whole world by right descending to him, in as large and ample manner as the absolutest dominion of any monarch; and at the same time, Jacob lord over him, by the right heirs have to be lords over their brethren.” Risum teneatis? I never, I confess, met with any man of parts so dexterous as sir Robert at this way of arguing: but it was his misfortune to light upon an hypothesis that could not be accommodated to the nature of things, and human affairs; his principles could not be made to agree with that constitution and order which God had settled in the world, and therefore must needs often clash with common sense and experience.
In the next section he tells us, “This patriarchal power continued not only till the flood, but after it, as the name patriarch doth in part prove.” The word patriarch doth more than in part prove, that patriarchal power continued in the world as long as there were patriarchs; for it is necessary that patriarchal power should be whilst there are patriarchs, as it is necessary there should be paternal or conjugal power whilst there are fathers or husbands; but this is but playing with names. That which he would fallaciously insinuate is the thing in question to be proved, viz. that the “lordship which Adam had over the world, the supposed absolute universal dominion of Adam by right descending from him, the patriarchs did enjoy.” If he affirms such an absolute monarchy continued to the flood, in the world, I would be glad to know what records he has it from; for I confess I cannot find a word of it in my bible: if by patriarchal power he means any thing else, it is nothing to the matter in hand. And how the name patriarch in some part proves, that those who are called by that name, had absolute monarchical power, I confess I do not see, and therefore I think needs no answer till the argument from it be made out a little clearer.
“The three sons of Noah had the world, says our author, divided amongst them by their father, for of them was the whole world overspread,” p. 14. The world might be overspread by the offspring of Noah’s sons, though he never divided the world amongst them; for the earth might be replenished without being divided: so that all our author’s argument here proves no such division. However, I allow it to him, and then ask, the world being divided amongst them, which of the three was Adam’s heir? If Adam’s lordship, Adam’s monarchy, by right descended only to the eldest, then the other two could be but his subjects, his slaves: if by right it descended to all three brothers, by the same right it will descend to all mankind; and then it will be impossible what he says, p. 19, that “heirs are lords of their brethren,” should be true; but all brothers, and consequently all men, will be equal and independent, all heirs to Adam’s monarchy, and consequently all monarchs too, one as much as another. But it will be said, Noah their father divided the world amongst them; so that our author will allow more to Noah than he will to God Almighty, for O. 211, he thought it hard, that God himself should give the world to Noah and his sons, to the prejudice of Noah’s birthright: his words are, “Noah was left sole heir to the world: why should it be thought that God would disinherit him of his birth-right, and make him, of all men in the world, the only tenant in common with his children?” and yet he here thinks it fit that Noah should disinherit Shem of his birth-right, and divide the world betwixt him and his brethren; so that his birth-right, when our author pleases, must, and when he pleases must not, be sacred and inviolable.
If Noah did divide the world between his sons, and his assignment of dominions to them were good, there is an end of divine institution: all our author’s discourse of Adam’s heir, with whatsoever he builds on it, is quite out of doors; the natural power of kings falls to the ground; and then “the form of the power governing, and the person having that power, will not be (as he says they are, O. 254,) the ordinance of God, but they will be ordinances of man:” for if the right of the heir be the ordinance of God, a divine right; no man, father or not father, can alter it: if it be not a divine right, it is only human, depending on the will of man: and so where human institution gives it not, the first-born has no right at all above his brethren; and men may put government into what hands, and under what form they please.
He goes on, “most of the civilest nations of the earth labour to fetch their original from some of the sons or nephews of Noah,” p. 14. How many do most of the civilest nations amount to? and who are they? I fear the Chinese, a very great and civil people, as well as several other people of the East, West, North, and South, trouble not themselves much about this matter. All that believe the Bible, which I believe are our author’s “most of the civilest nations,” must necessarily derive themselves from Noah; but for the rest of the world, they think little of his sons or nephews. But if the heralds and antiquaries of all nations, for it is these men generally that labour to find out the originals of nations, or all the nations themselves, “should labour to fetch their original from some of the sons or nephews of Noah,” what would this be to prove, that the “lordship which Adam had over the whole world by a right descended to the patriarchs?” Whoever, nations, or races of men, “labour to fetch their original from,” may be concluded to be thought by them men of renown, famous to posterity for the greatness of their virtues and actions; but beyond these they look not, nor consider who they were heirs to, but look on them as such as raised themselves by their own virtue, to a degree that would give lustre to those who in future ages could pretend to derive themselves from them. But if it were Ogyges, Hercules, Brama, Tamerlain, Pharamond; nay, if Jupiter and Saturn were the names, from whence divers races of men, both ancient and modern, have laboured to derive their original; will that prove, that those men “enjoyed the lordship of Adam by right descending to them?” If not, this is but a flourish of our author’s to mislead his reader, that in itself signifies nothing.
To as much purpose is what he tells us, p. 15, concerning this division of the world, “That some say it was by lot, and others that Noah sailed round the Mediterranean in ten years, and divided the world into Asia, Afric, and Europe, portions for his three sons.” America, then, it seems, was left to be his that could catch it. Why our author takes such pains to prove the division of the world by Noah to his sons, and will not leave out an imagination, though no better than a dream, that he can find any where to favour it, is hard to guess, since such a division, if it prove any thing, must necessarily take away the title of Adam’s heir; unless three brothers can altogether be heirs of Adam; and therefore the following words, “howsoever the manner of this division be uncertain, yet it is most certain the division was by families from Noah and his children, over which the parents were heads and princes,” p. 15, if allowed him to be true, and of any force to prove, that all the power in the world is nothing but the lordship of Adam’s descending by right, they will only prove that the fathers of the children are all heirs to this lordship of Adam: for if in those days Cham and Japhet, and other parents, besides the eldest son, were heads and princes over their families, and had a right to divide the earth by families, what hinders younger brothers, being fathers of families, from having the same right? If Cham and Japhet were princes by right descending to them, notwithstanding any title of heir in their eldest brother, younger brothers by the same right descending to them are princes now; and so all our author’s natural power of kings will reach no farther than their own children; and no kingdom, by this natural right, can be bigger than a family: for either this lordship of Adam over the whole world, by right descends only to the eldest son, and then there can be but one heir, as our author says, p. 19, or else it by right descends to all the sons equally, and then every father of a family will have it, as well as the three sons of Noah: take which you will, it destroys the present governments and kingdoms, that are now in the world; since whoever has this natural power of a king, by right descending to him, must have it, either as our author tells us Cain had it, and be lord over his brethren, and so be alone king of the whole world; or else, as he tells us here, Shem, Cham, and Japhet had it, three brothers, and so be only prince of his own family, and all families independent one of another: all the world must be only one empire by the right of the next heir, or else every family be a distinct government of itself, by the “lordship of Adam’s descending to parents of families.” And to this only tend all the proofs he here gives us of the descent of Adam’s lordship: for continuing his story of this descent, he says,
“In the dispersion of Babel, we must certainly find the establishment of royal power, throughout the kingdoms of the world,” p. 14. If you must find it, pray do, and you will help us to a new piece of history: but you must show it us before we shall be bound to believe, that regal power was established in the world upon your principles: for, that regal power was established “in the kingdoms of the world,” I think nobody will dispute; but that there should be kingdoms in the world, whose several kings enjoyed their crowns, “by right descending to them from Adam,” that we think not only apocryphal, but also utterly impossible. If our author has no better foundation for his monarchy than a supposition of what was done at the dispersion of Babel, the monarchy he erects thereon, whose top is to reach to heaven to unite mankind, will serve only to divide and scatter them as that tower did; and, instead of establishing civil government and order in the world, will produce nothing but confusion.
For he tells us, the nations they were divided into, “were distinct families, which had fathers for rulers over them; whereby it appears, that even in the confusion, God was careful to preserve the fatherly authority, by distributing the diversity of languages according to the diversity of families.” p. 14. It would have been a hard matter for any one but our author to have found out so plainly, in the text he here brings, that all the nations in that dispersion were governed by fathers, and that “God was careful to preserve the fatherly authority.” The words of the text are, “These are the sons of Shem after their families, after their tongues in their lands, after their nations;” and the same thing is said of Cham and Japhet, after an enumeration of their posterities: in all which there is not one word said of their governors, or forms of government; of fathers, or fatherly authority. But our author, who is very quick-sighted to spy out fatherhood, where nobody else could see any the least glimpses of it, tells us positively their “rulers were fathers, and God was careful to preserve the fatherly authority?” and why? Because those of the same family spoke the same language, and so of necessity in the division kept together. Just as if one should argue thus: Hannibal in his army, consisting of divers nations, kept those of the same language together; therefore fathers were captains of each band, and Hannibal was careful of the fatherly authority: or in peopling of Carolina, the English, French, Scotch, and Welsh, that are there, plant themselves together, and by them the country is divided “in their lands after their tongues, after their families, after their nations;” therefore care was taken of the fatherly authority: or because, in many parts of America, every little tribe was a distinct people, with a different language, one should infer, that therefore “God was careful to preserve the fatherly authority,” or that therefore their rulers “enjoyed Adam’s lordship by right descending to them,” though we know not who were their governors, nor what their form of government; but only that they were divided into little independent societies, speaking different languages.
The scripture says not a word of their rulers or forms of government, but only gives an account, how mankind came to be divided into distinct languages and nations; and therefore it is not to argue from the authority of scripture, to tell us positively, fathers were their rulers, when the scripture says no such thing; but to set up fancies in one’s own brain, when we confidently aver matter of fact, where records are utterly silent. Upon a like ground, i. e. none at all, he says, “That they were not confused multitudes without heads and governors, and at liberty to choose what governors or governments they pleased.”
For I demand, when mankind were all yet of one language, all congregated in the plain of Shinar, were they then all under one monarch, “who enjoyed the lordship of Adam by right descending to him?” If they were not, there were then no thoughts, it is plain, of Adam’s heir, no right to government known then upon that title; no care taken, by God or man, of Adam’s fatherly authority. If when mankind were but one people, dwelt altogether, and were of one language, and were upon building a city together; and when it is plain, they could not but know the right heir; for Shem lived till Isaac’s time, a long while after the division at Babel; if then, I say, they were not under the monarchical government of Adam’s fatherhood, by right descending to the heir, it is plain there was no regard had to the fatherhood, no monarchy acknowledged due to Adam’s heir, no empire of Shem’s in Asia, and consequently no such division of the world by Noah, as our author has talked of. As far as we can conclude any thing from scripture in this matter, it seems from this place, that if they had any government, it was rather a commonwealth than an absolute monarchy: for the scripture tells us, Gen. xi. “They said:” it was not a prince commanded the building of this city and tower, it was not by the command of one monarch, but by the consultation of many, a free people; “let us build us a city;” they built it for themselves as free men, not as slaves for their lord and master; “that we be not scattered abroad;” having a city once built, and fixed habitations to settle our abodes and families. This was the consultation and design of a people, that were at liberty to part asunder, but desired to keep in one body; and could not have been either necessary or likely in men tied together under the government of one monarch, who if they had been, as our author tells us, all slaves under the absolute dominion of a monarch, needed not have taken such care to hinder themselves from wandering out of the reach of his dominion. I demand whether this be not plainer in scripture than any thing of Adam’s heir or fatherly authority?
But if being, as God says, Gen. xi. 6, one people, they had one ruler, one king by natural right, absolute and supreme over them, “what care had God to preserve the paternal authority of the supreme fatherhood,” if on a sudden he suffer 72 (for so many our author talks of) distinct nations to be erected out of it, under distinct governors, and at once to withdraw themselves from the obedience of their sovereign? This is to intitle God’s care how, and to what we please. Can it be sense to say, that God was careful to preserve the fatherly authority in those who had it not? For if these were subjects under a supreme prince, what authority had they? Was it an instance of God’s care to preserve the fatherly authority, when he took away the true supreme fatherhood of the natural monarch? Can it be reason to say, that God, for the preservation of fatherly authority, lets several new governments with their governors start up, who could not all have fatherly authority? And is it not as much reason to say, that God is careful to destroy fatherly authority, when he suffers one, who is in possession of it, to have his government torn in pieces and shared by several of his subjects? Would it not be an argument just like this for monarchical government, to say, when any monarchy was shattered to pieces, and divided amongst revolted subjects, that God was careful to preserve monarchical power, by rending a settled empire into a multitude of little governments? If any one will say, that what happens in providence to be preserved, God is careful to preserve as a thing therefore to be esteemed by men as necessary or useful; it is a peculiar propriety of speech, which every one will not think fit to imitate: but this I am sure is impossible to be either proper or true speaking, that Shem, for example, (for he was then alive) should have fatherly authority, or sovereignty by right of fatherhood, over that one people at Babel, and that the next moment, Shem yet living, 72 others should have fatherly authority, or sovereignty by right of fatherhood, over the same people, divided into so many distinct governments: either these 72 fathers actually were rulers, just before the confusion, and then they were not one people, but that God himself says they were; or else they were a commonwealth, and then where was monarchy? or else these 72 fathers had fatherly authority, but knew it not. Strange! that fatherly authority should be the only original of government amongst men, and yet all mankind not know it; and stranger yet, that the confusion of tongues should reveal it to them all of a sudden, that in an instant these 72 should know that they had fatherly power, and all others know that they were to obey it in them, and every one know that particular fatherly authority to which he was a subject. He that can think this arguing from scripture, may from thence make out what model of an Eutopia will best suit with his fancy or interest; and this fatherhood, thus disposed of, will justify both a prince who claims an universal monarchy, and his subjects, who, being fathers of families, shall quit all subjection to him, and canton his empire into less governments for themselves: for it will always remain a doubt in which of these the fatherly authority resided, till our author resolves us, whether Shem, who was then alive, or these 72 new princes, beginning so many new empires in his dominions, and over his subjects, had right to govern; since our author tells us, that both one and the other had fatherly, which is supreme authority, and are brought in by him as instances of those who did “enjoy the lordships of Adam by right descending to them, which was as large and ample as the absolutest dominion of any monarch.” This at least is unavoidable, that “if God was careful to preserve the fatherly authority, in the 72 new-erected nations,” it necessarily follows, that he was as careful to destroy all pretences of Adam’s heir: since he took care, and therefore did preserve the fatherly authority in so many, at least 71, that could not possibly be Adam’s heirs, when the right heir, (if God had ever ordained any such inheritance) could not but be known, Shem then living, and they being all one people.
Nimrod is his next instance of enjoying this patriarchal power, p. 16; but I know not for what reason our author seems a little unkind to him, and says, that he “against right enlarged his empire, by seizing violently on the rights of other lords of families.” These lords of families here were called fathers of families, in his account of the dispersion at Babel; but it matters not how they were called, so we know who they are; for this fatherly authority must be in them, either as heirs to Adam, and so there could not be 72, nor above one at once; or else as natural parents over their children, and so every father will have paternal authority over his children by the same right, and in as large extent as those 72 had, and so be independent princes over their own offspring. Taking his lords of families in this latter sense, (as it is hard to give those words any other sense in this place) he gives us a very pretty account of the original of monarchy, in these following words, p. 16. “And in this sense he may be said to be the author and founder of monarchy,” viz. As against right seizing violently on the rights of fathers over their children; which paternal authority, if it be in them, by right of nature (for else how could those 72 come by it?) nobody can take from them without their own consents; and then I desire our author and his friends to consider how far this will concern other princes, and whether it will not, according to his conclusion of that paragraph, resolve all regal power of those, whose dominions extend beyond their families, either into tyranny and usurpation, or election and consent of fathers of families, which will differ very little from consent of the people.
All his instances in the next section, p. 17, of the 12 dukes of Edom, the nine kings in a little corner of Asia in Abraham’s days, the 31 kings in Canaan destroyed by Joshua, and the care he takes to prove that these were all sovereign princes, and that every town in those days had a king, are so many direct proofs against him, that it was not the lordship of Adam by right descending to them, that made kings: for if they had held their royalties by that title, either there must have been but one sovereign over them all, or else every father of a family had been as good a prince, and had as good a claim to royalty, as these: for if all the sons of Esau had each of them, the younger as well as the eldest, the right of fatherhood, and so were sovereign princes after their father’s death; the same right had their sons after them, and so on to all posterity; which will limit all the natural power of fatherhood, only to be over the issue of their own bodies, and their descendents: which power of fatherhood dies with the head of each family, and makes way for the like power of fatherhood to take place in each of his sons over their respective posterities: whereby the power of fatherhood wil be preserved indeed, and is intelligible, but will not be at all to our author’s purpose. None of the instances he brings are proofs of any power they had, as heirs of Adam’s paternal authority by the title of his fatherhood descending to them; no, nor of any power they had by virtue of their own: for Adam’s fatherhood being over all mankind, it could descend to but one at once, and from him to his right heir only, and so there could by that title be but one king in the world at a time: and by right of fatherhood, not descending from Adam, it must be only as they themselves were fathers, and so could be over none but their own posterity. So that if those 12 dukes of Edom; if Abraham and the nine kings his neighbours; if Jacob and Esau, and the 31 kings in Canaan, the 72 kings mutilated by Adonibeseck, the 32 kings that came to Benhadad, the 70 kings of Greece making war at Troy; were, as our author contends, all of them sovereign princes; it is evident that kings derived their power from some other original than fatherhood, since some of these had power over more than their own posterity; and it is demonstration, they could not be all heirs to Adam: for I challenge any man to make any pretence to power by right of fatherhood either intelligible or possible in any one, otherwise, than either as Adam’s heir, or as progenitor over his own descendents, naturally sprung from him. And if our author could show that any one of these princes, of which he gives us here so large a catalogue, had his authority by either of these titles, I think I might yield him the cause; though it is manifest they are all impertinent, and directly contrary to what he brings them to prove, viz. “That the lordship which Adam had over the world by right descended to the patriarchs.”
Having told us, p. 16, That “the patriarchal government continued in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, until the Egyptian bondage,” p. 17, he tells us, “by manifest footsteps we may trace this paternal government unto the Israelites coming into Egypt, where the exercise of the supreme patriarchal government was intermitted, because they were in subjection to a stronger prince.” What these footsteps are of paternal government, in our author’s sense, i. e. of absolute monarchical power descending from Adam, and exercised by right of fatherhood, we have seen; that is, for 2290 years no footsteps at all; since in all that time he cannot produce any one example of any person who claimed or exercised regal authority by right of fatherhood: or show any one who being a king was Adam’s heir: all that his proofs amount to is only this, that there were fathers, patriarchs, and kings, in that age of the world; but that the fathers and patriarchs had any absolute arbitrary power, or by what titles those kings had theirs, and of what extent it was, the scripture is wholly silent; it is manifest by right of fatherhood they neither did, nor could claim any title to dominion or empire.
To say, “That the exercise of supreme patriarchal government was intermitted, because they were in subjection to a stronger prince,” proves nothing but what I before suspected, viz. “That patriarchal jurisdiction or government” is a fallacious expression, and does not in our author signify (what he would yet insinuate by it) paternal and regal power, such an absolute sovereignty as he supposes was in Adam.
For how can he say that patriarchal jurisdiction was intermitted in Egypt, where there was a king, under whose regal government the Israelites were, if patriarchal were absolute monarchical jurisdiction? And if it were not, but something else, why does he make such ado about a power not in question, and nothing to the purpose? The exercise of patriarchal jurisdiction, if patriarchal be regal, was not intermitted whilst the Israelites were in Egypt. It is true, the exercise of regal power was not then in the hands of any of the promised seeds of Abraham, nor before neither that I know: but what is that to the intermission of regal authority, as descending from Adam; unless our author will have it, that this chosen line of Abraham had the right of inheritance to Adam’s lordship? and then to what purpose are his instances of the 72 rulers, in whom the fatherly authority was preserved in the confusion at Babel? Why does he bring the 12 princes sons of Ishmael, and the dukes of Edom, and join them with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as examples of the exercise of true patriarchal government, if the exercise of patriarchal jurisdiction were intermitted in the world, whenever the heirs of Jacob had not supreme power? I fear, supreme patriarchal jurisdiction was not only intermitted, but from the time of the Egyptian bondage quite lost in the world; since it will be hard to find, from that time downwards, any one who exercised it as an inheritance descending to him from the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I imagined monarchical government would have served his turn in the hands of Pharaoh, or any body. But one cannot easily discover in all places what his discourse tends to, as particularly in this place it is not obvious to guess what he drives at, when he says, “the exercise of supreme patriarchal jurisdiction in Egypt,” or how this serves to make out the descent of Adam’s lordship to the patriarchs, or any body else.
For I thought he had been giving us out of scripture proofs and examples of monarchical government founded on paternal authority, descending from Adam; and not an history of the Jews: amongst whom yet we find no kings, till many years after they were a people; and when kings were their rulers, there is not the least mention or room for a pretence that they were heirs to Adam, or kings by paternal authority, I expected, talking so much as he does of scripture, that he would have produced thence a series of monarchs, whose titles were clear to Adam’s fatherhood, and who, as heirs to him, owned and exercised paternal jurisdiction over their subjects, and that this was the true patriarchal government: whereas he neither proves, that the patriarchs were kings; nor that either kings or patriarchs were heirs to Adam, or so much as pretended to it: and one may as well prove, that the patriarchs were all absolute monarchs; that the power both of patriarchs and kings was only paternal; and that this power descended to them from Adam: I say all these propositions may be as well proved by a confused account of a multitude of little kings in the West-Indies, out of Ferdinando Soto, or any of our late histories of the Northern America, or by our author’s 70 kings of Greece, out of Homer, as by any thing he brings out of scripture, in that multitude of kings he has reckoned up.
And methinks he should have let Homer and his wars of Troy alone, since his great zeal to truth or monarchy carried him to such a pitch of transport against philosophers and poets, that he tells us in his preface, that “there are too many in these days, who please themselves in running after the opinions of philosophers and poets, to find out such an original of government, as might promise them some title to liberty, to the great scandal of christianity, and bringing in of atheism.” And yet these heathens, philosopher Aristotle, and poet Homer, are not rejected by our zealous christian politician, whenever they offer any thing that seems to serve his turn; whether “to the great scandal of christianity and bringing in of atheism,” let him look. This I cannot but observe, in authors who it is visible write not for truth, how ready zeal for interest and party is to entitle christianity to their designs, and to charge atheism on those who will not without examining submit to their doctrines, and blindly swallow their nonsense.
But to return to his scripture history, our author farther tells us, p. 18, that “after the return of the Israelites out of bondage, God, out of a special care of them, chose Moses and Joshua successively to govern as princes in the place and stead of the supreme fathers.” If it be true, that they returned out of bondage, it must be in a state of freedom, and must imply, that both before and after this bondage they were free; unless our author will say, that changing of masters is returning out of bondage; or that a slave returns out of bondage, when he is removed from one galley to another. If then they returned out of bondage, it is plain that in those days, whatever our author in his preface says to the contrary, there was a difference between a son, a subject, and a slave; and that neither the patriarchs before, nor their rulers after this “Egyptian bondage numbered their sons or subjects amongst their possessions,” and disposed of them with as absolute a dominion, as they did their other goods.
This is evident in Jacob, to whom Reuben offered his two sons as pledges; and Judah was at last surety for Benjamin’s safe return out of Egypt: which all had been vain, superfluous, and but a sort of mockery, if Jacob had had the same power over every one of his family, as he had over his ox or his ass, as an owner over his substance; and the offers that Reuben or Judah made had been such a security for returning of Benjamin, as if a man should take two lambs out of his lord’s flock, and offer one as security, that he will safely restore the other.
When they were out of this bondage, what then? “God out of a special care of them, the Israelites.” It is well that once in his book he will allow God to have any care of the people: for in other places he speaks of mankind, as if God had no care of any part of them, but only of their monarchs, and that the rest of the people, the societies of men, were made as so many herds of cattle, only for the service, use, and pleasure of their princes.
“Chose Moses and Joshua successively to govern as princes;” a shrewd argument our author has found out to prove God’s care of the fatherly authority, and Adam’s heirs, that here, as an expression of his care of his own people, he chooses those for princes over them, that had not the least pretence to either. The persons chosen were Moses, of the tribe of Levi, and Joshua of the tribe of Ephraim, neither of which had any title of fatherhood. But, says our author, they were in the place and stead of the supreme fathers. If God had any where as plainly declared his choice of such fathers to be rulers, as he did of Moses and Joshua, we might believe Moses and Joshua were in their place and stead: but that being the question in debate, till that be better proved, Moses being chosen by God to be ruler of his people, will no more prove that government belonged to Adam’s heir, or to the fatherhood; than God’s choosing Aaron of the tribe of Levi to be priest, will prove that the priesthood belonged to Adam’s heir, or the prime fathers; since God would choose Aaron to be priest, and Moses ruler in Israel, though neither of those offices were settled on Adam’s heir, or the fatherhood.
Our author goes on, “And after them likewise for a time he raised up judges to defend his people in time of peril,” p. 18. This proves fatherly authority to be the original of government, and that it descended from Adam to his heirs, just as well as what went before: only here our author seems to confess, that these judges, who were all the governors they then had, were only men of valour, whom they made their generals to defend them in time of peril; and cannot God raise up such men, unless fatherhood have a title to government?
But says our author, “when God gave the Israelites kings, he re-established the ancient and prime right of lineal succession to paternal government.” p. 18.
How did God re-establish it? by a law, a positive command? We find no such thing. Our author means then, that when God gave them a king, in giving them a king, he re-established the right, &c. To re-establish de facto the right of lineal succession to paternal government, is to put a man in possession of that government which his fathers did enjoy, and he by lineal succession had a right to: for, first, if it were another government than what his ancestor had, it was not succeeding to an ancient right, but beginning a new one: for if a prince should give a man, besides his ancient patrimony, which for some ages his family had been disseized of, an additional estate never before in the possession of his ancestors, he could not be said to reestablish the right of lineal succession to any more than what had been formerly enjoyed by his ancestors. If therefore the power the kings of Israel had were any thing more than Isaac or Jacob had, it was not the re-establishing in them the right of succession to a power, but giving them a new power, however you please to call it, paternal or not: and whether Isaac and Jacob had the same power that the kings of Israel had, I desire any one, by what has been above said, to consider; and I do not think he will find, that either Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob, had any regal power at all.
Next, there can be “no re-establishment of the prime and ancient right of lineal succession” to any thing, unless he, that is put in possession of it, has the right to succeed, and to be the true and next heir to him he succeeds to. Can that be a re-establishment, which begins in a new family? or that the “re-establishment of an ancient right of lineal succession,” when a crown is given to one, who has no right of succession to it: and who, if the lineal succession had gone on, had been out of all possibility of pretence to it? Saul, the first king God gave the Israelites, was of the tribe of Benjamin. Was the “ancient and prime right of lineal succession re-established” in him? The next was David, the youngest son of Jesse, of the posterity of Judah, Jacob’s third son. Was the “ancient and prime right of lineal succession to paternal government re-established” in him? or in Solomon, his younger son and successor in the throne? or in Jeroboam over the ten tribes? or in Athaliah, a woman who reigned six years, an utter stranger to the royal blood? “If the ancient and prime right of lineal succession to paternal government were re-established” in any of these or their posterity, “the ancient and prime right of lineal succession to paternal government” belongs to younger brothers as well as elder, and may be re-established in any man living: for whatever younger brothers, “by ancient and prime right of lineal succession,” may have as well as the elder, that every man living may have a right to, by lineal succession, and sir Robert, as well as any other. And so what a brave right of lineal succession, to his paternal or regal government, our author has re-established, for the securing the rights and inheritance of crowns, where every one may have it, let the world consider.
But says our author, however, p. 19. “Whensoever God made choice of any special person to be king, he intended that the issue also should have benefit thereof, as being comprehended sufficiently in the person of the father, although the father was only named in the grant.” This yet will not help out succession: for if, as our author says, the benefit of the grant be intended to the issue of the grantee, this will not direct the succession; since, if God give any thing to a man and his issue in general, the claim cannot be to any one of that issue in particular; every one that is of his race will have an equal right. If it be said, our author meant heir, I believe our author was as willing as any body to have used that word, if it would have served his turn: but Solomon who succeeded David in the throne, being no more his heir than Jeroboam, who succeeded him in the government of the ten tribes, was his issue, our author had reason to avoid saying, that God intended it to the heirs, when that would not hold in a succession, which our author could not except against; and so he has left his succession as undetermined, as if he had said nothing about it: for if the regal power be given by God to a man and his issue, as the land of Canaan was to Abraham and his seed, must they not all have a title to it, all share in it? And one may as well say; that by God’s grant to Abraham and his seed, the land of Canaan was to belong only to one of his seed exclusive of all others, as by God’s grant of dominion to a man and his issue, this dominion was to belong in peculiar to one of his issue exclusive of all others.
But how will our author prove that whensoever God made choice of any special person to be a king, he intended that “the (I suppose he means his) issue also should have benefit thereof?” has he so soon forgot Moses and Joshua, whom in this very section, he says, “God out of a special care chose to govern as princes,” and the judges that God raised up? Had not these princes, having the same authority of the supreme fatherhood, the same power that the kings had; and being specially chosen by God himself, should not their issue have the benefit of that choice as well as David’s or Solomon’s? If these had the paternal authority put into their hands immediately by God, why had not their issue the benefit of this grant in a succession to this power? Or if they had it as Adam’s heirs, why did not their heirs enjoy it after them by right descending to them? for they could not be heirs to one another. Was the power the same, and from the same original, in Moses, Joshua, and the Judges, as it was in David and the kings; and was it inheritable in one, and not in the other? if it was not paternal authority, then God’s own people were governed by those that had not paternal authority, and those governors did well enough without it: if it were paternal authority, and God chose the persons that were to exercise it, our author’s rule fails, that “whensoever God makes choice of any person to be supreme ruler” (for I suppose the name king has no spell in it, it is not the title, but the power makes the difference) “he intends that the issue also should have the benefit of it,” since from their coming out of Egypt to David’s time, 400 years, the issue was never “so sufficiently comprehended in the person of the father,” as that any son, after the death of his father, succeeded to the government amongst all those judges that judged Israel. If, to avoid this, it be said, God always chose the person of the successor, and so, transferring the fatherly authority to him, excluded his issue from succeeding to it, that is manifestly not so in the story of Jephthah, where he articled with the people, and they made him judge over them, as is plain, Judg. xi.
It is in vain then to say, that “whensoever God chooses any special person to have the exercise of paternal authority,” (for if that be not to be king I desire to know the difference between a king and one having the exercise of paternal authority) “he intends the issue also should have the benefit of it,” since we find the authority the judges had ended with them, and descended not to their issue; and if the judges had not paternal authority, I fear it will trouble our author, or any of the friends to his principles, to tell who had then the paternal authority, that is, the government and supreme power amongst the Israelites: and I suspect they must confess that the chosen people of God continued a people several hundreds of years without any knowledge or thought of this paternal authority, or any appearance of monarchical government at all.
To be satisfied of this, he need but read the story of the Levite, and the war thereupon with the Benjamites, in the three last chapters of Judges; and when he finds, that the Levite appeals to the people for justice, that it was the tribes and the congregation that debated, resolved, and directed all that was done on that occasion; he must conclude, either that God was not “careful to preserve the fatherly authority” amongst his own chosen people: or else that the fatherly authority may be preserved where there is no monarchical government; if the latter, then it will follow, that though fatherly authority be ever so well proved, yet it will not infer a necessity of monarchical government; if the former it will seem very strange and improbable, that God should ordain fatherly authority to be so sacred amongst the sons of men, that there could be no power, or government without it, and yet that amongst his own people even whilst he is providing a government for them, and therein prescribes rules to the several states and relations of men, this great and fundamental one, this most material and necessary of all the rest, should be concealed, and lie neglected for 400 years after.
Before I leave this, I must ask how our author knows that “whensoever God makes choice of any special person to be king, he intends that the issue should have the benefit thereof?” Does God by the law of nature or revelation say so? By the same law also he must say, which of his issue must enjoy the crown in succession, and so point out the heir, or else leave his issue to divide or scramble for the government: both alike absurd, and such as will destroy the benefit of such grant to the issue. When any such declaration of God’s intention is produced, it will be our duty to believe God intends it so; but till that be done, our author must show us some better warrant before we shall be obliged to receive him as the authentic revealer of God’s intentions.
“The issue,” says our author, “is comprehended sufficiently in the person of the father, although the father only was named in the grant:” and yet God, when he gave the land of Canaan to Abraham, Gen. xiii. 15, thought fit to put his seed into the grant too: so the priesthood was given to Aaron and his seed; and the crown God gave not only to David, but his seed also: and however our author assures us that “God intends, that the issue should have the benefit of it, when he chooses any person to be king,” yet we see that the kingdom which he gave to Saul, without mentioning his seed after him, never came to any of his issue: and why, when God chose a person to be king, he should intend, that his issue should have the benefit of it, more than when he chose one to be judge in Israel, I would fain know a reason; or why does a grant of fatherly authority to a king more comprehend the issue, than when a like grant is made to a judge? Is paternal authority by right to descend to the issue of one, and not of the other? There will need some reason to be shown of this difference more than the name, when the thing given is the same fatherly authority, and the manner of giving it, God’s choice of the person, the same too; for I suppose our author, when he says, “God raised up judges,” will by no means allow they were chosen by the people.
But since our author has so confidently assured us of the care of God to preserve the fatherhood, and pretends to build all he says upon the authority of the scripture, we may well expect that that people, whose law, constitution, and history are chiefly contained in the scripture, should furnish him with the clearest instances of God’s care of preserving the fatherly authority, in that people who it is agreed he had a most peculiar care of. Let us see then what state this paternal authority or government was in amongst the Jews, from their beginning to be a people. It was omitted by our author’s confession, from their coming into Egypt, till their return out of that bondage, above 200 years: from thence till God gave the Israelites a king, about 400 years more, our author gives but a very slender account of it; nor indeed all that time are there the least footsteps of paternal or regal government amongst them. But then, says our author, “God re-established the ancient and prime right of lineal succession to paternal government.”
What a “lineal succession to paternal government” was then established, we have already seen. I only now consider how long this lasted, and that was to their captivity, about 500 years: from thence to their destruction by the Romans, above 650 years after, the “ancient and prime right of lineal succession to paternal government” was again lost, and they continued a people in the promised land without it. So that of 1750 years that they were God’s peculiar people, they had hereditary kingly government amongst them not one third of the time; and of that time there is not the least footstep of one moment of “paternal government, nor the re-establishment of the ancient and prime right of lineal succession to it,” whether we suppose it to be derived, as from its fountain, from David, Saul, Abraham, or, which upon our author’s principles is the only true, from Adam.
OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT.