Front Page Titles (by Subject) Law and Conscience During the Confusions and Revolutions of Government - The Struggle for Sovereignty: Seventeenth-Century English Political Tracts, vol. 1
Return to Title Page for The Struggle for Sovereignty: Seventeenth-Century English Political Tracts, vol. 1
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Law and Conscience During the Confusions and Revolutions of Government - Joyce Lee Malcom, The Struggle for Sovereignty: Seventeenth-Century English Political Tracts, vol. 1 
The Struggle for Sovereignty: Seventeenth-Century English Political Tracts, 2 vols, ed. Joyce Lee Malcolm (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999). Vol. 1.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Law and Conscience During the Confusions and Revolutions of Government
Francis Rous, The Lawfulnes of Obeying the Present Government
[Francis Rous, the Elder, 1579-1659]
Of obeying the
By one that loves all Presbyterian lovers of Truth and Peace, and is of their Communion.
Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgement.
Printed at London for John Wright, at the Kings Head in the Old Bailey. 1649.
If the attribution is correct it was at the age of seventy, after an already long career as a prominent Puritan divine, a member of Parliament, and a pamphleteer that Francis Rous wrote “The Lawfulnes of Obeying the Present Government” in defense of the new-modeled English government. He had set to work within a month of the publication of Parliament’s “Declaration,” and the tract appeared on 25 April 1649.
Rous was born in Devonshire, was educated at Oxford, and was step-brother to John Pym. In both religion and politics he was a vociferous member of the Presbyterian party. He already had published numerous religious tracts by the outbreak of the civil war. Shortly before the king’s execution he switched from the Presbyterian to the triumphant independent party.
Rous’s parliamentary career began with the first parliament of Charles I. He was to sit in every subsequent Parliament, including those of the Interregnum, until his death in 1659. In the Parliament of 1628 he was notable for his violent attack on Roger Maynwaring and “popery.” In the Long Parliament it was he who began the debate on the legality of Archbishop Laud’s new canons of 1640. He was speaker of the parliament of 1653. And in 1656 Rous was one of those selected to urge Cromwell to accept the crown.
The arguments Rous relied upon to urge obedience to the new regime were a break with the past. Rather than defending the legality of the Rump’s assumption of power, he argued that even an unlawful government could and should be obeyed. “It must not be looked at what he is that exercises the power,” he maintained, or “by what manner he does dispense it, but only if he have power.” Why? Because all power came of God. Moreover, not to obey those in power would cause chaos. In short, Rous turned to the arguments many royalists had used to insist upon obedience to the king. It was the most pragmatic sort of appeal, one Thomas Hobbes would endorse in Leviathan. “The Lawfulnes of Obeying the Present Government” was designed to win over the war-weary enemies of the regime. But despite its moderate tone, its arguments provoked a furor. Three replies were published within weeks, one of which is reprinted below. Within four months Rous brought out a second edition of the tract with additions, while a third edition was published in 1650. An expert on the pamphlets of the period judges that Rous’s was the one tract we can assume all his successors had read. The reasonable tone he adopted was one of his bequests to them. The first edition is reprinted below.
The Lawfulnesse of Obeying the Present Government.
A Declaration hath been lately published,1wherein the grounds are exprest of setling the present Government, with which if any be not so far satisfied as to think that Settlement lawfull, yet even to such is this Discourse directed, which proposeth Proofes, that though the change of a Government were beleeved not to be lawfull, yet it may lawfully be obeyed.
The Apostle intreating of purpose upon the duty of submission and obedience to Authority, layes down this precept; Let every soul be subject to the higher powers, for there is no power but of God; the powers that are, are ordained of God; and hereupon infers, Wherefore ye must needs be subject not only for wrath, but for conscience’ sake. And that he speakes not in this place meerly of power or authority abstracted from persons, but of persons cloathed with that authority, appeares in that he saith; For, rulers are not a terrour to good workes. So that he speakes of persons ruling, as well as of the power by which they rule. And againe, He is the Minister of God, and they are God’s Ministers; & accordingly he directs Timothy, to pray for a blessing upon those that are in authority. Now if the Powers, Rulers, and those that were in authority in that time were ordained of God, and were to be obeyed for conscience’ sake, let us consider how lawfully they came into that power, rule, and authority. This Epistle most probably, if not certainly, was written in the time of Claudius Caesar, or Nero, the former of which banished the Jews out of Rome, upon which occasion Aquila and Priscilla came out to meet with Paul at Corinth: and by the sentence of the latter, Paul having made his appeale to Caesar finished his course, and passed unto a crowne of righteousnesse. And now, behold the lawfulnesse by which these two persons came to be invested in their power and authority.
Of Claudius Caesar the Story tells us this; After the death of Gaius Caligula, the Consuls and Senate of Rome entered into a consultation, how they might restore the Common-wealth to her ancient freedom, which by the Caesars had been taken from them. So that the taking in of an Emperour, and consequently of Claudius for Emperour, was directly against the wills and resolution of the Counsuls and Senate; yet these anciently for many hundred yeares had the chiefe power of Government. But see the way of Claudius his coming to the Empire; during the Interregnum, Claudius being frighted with the newes of Caligula’s death, and fearing himselfe might be enquired for upon suspicion withdrew, and hid himselfe behind the Hangings, or covering of a doore; where a Souldier seeing his feet, and desirous to know what he was drew him forth, and upon knowledge of him saluted him Emperour, though even then for feare falling downe low before him. This one Souldier brought him forth to his fellow Souldiers, who lifted him up as Emperour; and thus while the Senate was slow in executing their purposes, and differences grew among them, Claudius, who was sent for by the Senate to give in his councell concerning the common freedome, undertooke the Empire. Thus in one Souldier at first, and then in more, was the foundation of Claudius his Emperiall power, against the will, consultations, and endeavours of Consuls and Senate. And for Nero (his Successor) Britannicus, who was nearer of kin to Claudius, being his Son, was kept in by the cunning of Nero’s mother, and by the same craft Nero being brought forth to the Souldiery, was first saluted Emperour by them. This sentence of the Souldiers was followed with the consent of the Senate, and then it was not scrupled in the Provinces; so that the Souldiery was also the foundation of Nero’s Empire. Thus we see Rulers put by Souldiers into that power which is said by the Scripture to be ordained of God; and even to these Rulers men must be subject for conscience.
But passing from the Romane state to our owne; sure we are that in this Nation many persons have beene setled in supreame power and authority by meere force without title of inheritance, or just conquest. And it hath been observed by some that accurately have looked into our story, that not any three immediately succeeding each other, came to the Crowne by true lineall succession and order of blood. Neither is there any great difficulty in finding it, untill we come to Queene Mary, whose title being by an incestuous marriage,2 these observers say that Queene Elizabeth should have raigned in her stead. However, we are cleerly told by story, that five Kings on a row (of which the Conquer was the first) had no title at all by lineall descent and proximity of blood. The first came in by force; The second and third had an elder Brother living when they came to the Crowne; The fourth raigned when his Predecessor had a Daughter, and Heire living which was Mawd the Empresse; The fifth being the Son of that Empresse, raigned while his Mother was alive, by whom his Title came. But leaving these, and Edward the third who raigned in his Father’s lifetime, and the three Henries; fourth, fifth, and sixth, who raigned upon the Lancastrian (that is a younger Brother’s) Title, Let us more particularly consider Henry the seventh. This Henry came in with an Army, and by meere power was made King in the Army, and by the Army; so that in the very field where he got the Victory, the Crowne was set upon his head, and there he gave Knighthood to divers. And upon this foundation of military power, he got himselfe afterwards to be solemnely Crowned at Westminster. And soone after upon authority thus gotten, he called a Parliament, and in that Parliament was the Crowne entailed upon him and his Heires. Thus both his Crowne and his Parliament were founded upon power. As for any right Title, he could have none; for he came from a Bastard of John of Gaunt, which though legitimated by Parliament for common Inheritances, yet expressely was excluded from right to the Crowne. And for his wive’s Title, that came in after his Kingship, and his Parliament, which before had setled the Crowne upon him and his Heirs. And he was so farre from exercising authority in her right, that her name is not used in any Lawes as Queene Marie’s was, both before and after her marriage with the Spanish King. Now this and the rest who came in by meere power without Title of inheritance, being in their opinion who are now unsatisfied, to be held unlawfull, yet the maine body of this Nation did obey them, whilst they ruled, yea doth yield subjection to their Lawes to this very day. And the learned in the Lawes doe continually plead, judge, justify, and condemne according to these Lawes. So that herein the very voice of the Nation with one consent seemes to speake aloud; That those whose title is held unlawfull, yet being possest of authority may lawfully be obeyed.
And hereunto Divines and Casuists give their concurrence; among them one that is resolute both for Monarchy and lineall Succession, thus expresseth his judgement, both for seeking of right and justice from an usurper (whom he calleth a Tyrant, in regard of an unjust Title, not in respect of Tyranicall oppression) and for obeying his commands. First, that Subjects may lawfully seek justice of him; And secondly, that if his commands be lawfull and just, they must be obeyed. And another well esteemed in the Reformed Churches, is of the same judgement.
Pareus saith, That it matters not by what means or craft Nimrod, Jeroboam, got Kingdomes to themselves; For the power is one thing which is of God, and the getting and the use of the power is another.3 And after: The beginning of Nimrod’s power was indeed evill, as to the getting and usurping power, because abusing his strength, force, & wealth, he violently subdued others, and compelled them to obey; but not the power or force wherewith he seemed to be indeed by God, above others: And another more plainely. When a question is made whom we should obey; it must not be lookt at what he is that exerciseth the power, or by what right or wrong he hath invaded the power, or in what manner he doth dispence it, but only if he have power. For if any man doe excell in power, it is now out of doubt, that he received that power of God; wherefore without all exception thou must yield thyselfe up to him, and heartily obey him.
And indeed how can it be otherwise? For when a person or persons have gotten Supreme power, and by the same excluded all other from authority, either that authority which is thus taken by power must be obeyed, or else all authority and government must fall to the ground, & so confusion (which is worse than tituler Tyranny) be admitted into a Common-wealth; And (according to the doctrine of King James) the King being for the Common-wealth, and not the Common-wealth for the King, the end should be destroyed for the meanes, the whole for a part. If a Master’s mate had throwne the Master over Board, and by power would suffer no other to guide the Ship but himselfe; if the Marriners will not obey him commanding aright for the safe guiding of the Ship, the Ship must needs perish and themselves with it. And whereas some speake of a time for setlement, they indeed do rather speak for a time of unsetlement; for they will have an unsetlement first, and a setlement after. And whereas like doth produce its like; yet they would have an unsetlement to beget a setlement. They would have confusion, distraction, destruction, to bring forth order and safety. But the former Scriptures speake not of the future, but of the present time; not of obeying those that shall be powers, and shall be in authority; but the powers that are, and those that are in authority. Neither doe the Casuists and Divines speake of obedience to those that shall be setled but those that are in actuall possession of authority. Neither did our Ancestors in the former examples defer obedience to the Kings that came in by power without Title; but gave it presently, being presently vested and possessed of authority. Besides, let it be considered whether that may not be called a setlement, how soone soever it is when there is such a way setled that men may have Justice if they will, and may enjoy that maine end of Magistracie, to live a peaceable life in godlinesse and honesty.
And indeed when one is in possession by power, and another pretends a Title, what can the maine body of a Nation, which consists of the Common-people doe in this case? They cannot judge of Titles; but they see who doth visibly and actually exercise power and authority. Yea even Learned men, and Statesmen have been found ignorant of the former observations, of the not succeeding three in order of blood since the Conquest; and then how should the Common people know it? Yet further, even Peeres, chiefe Cities, Parliaments, and all having to one in every three, thus subjected themselves upon termes of power and not of right; what can be expected but that what hath been done, may or should be done hereafter? especially when in this present age obedience is given to the Lawes and Commands of those Princes? But some say that there are Oathes that justifie disobedience to the present Government. Surely Oathes are sacred bonds and reverent obligements, and where they doe not themselves leave or make us free, we are not to cut or breake them in pieces. Yet concerning these there are faults on both hands: On the one side the slighting of an Oath, (and such is the comparing it with an Almanack) which is a light as well as an unproper comparison; except it were such an Oath as was made only for a yeare; But we finde some part of the Vow and Covenant to speake of all the dayes of our lives, which doubtlesse may lie on many of the takers for many years. True it is that the obligation of some things may end, because they can no longer be kept, as that of the King’s person; for to impossible things there is no obligation: but will any man that understands, and favours Religion and Piety, say that the clauses which concerne Religion and Piety are expired? Did we promise to God in our severall places and callings, to extirpate Profanenesse, Heresie, and Blasphemy, and to endeavour a reformed life in ourselves and ours; only till our Enemies were overcome, and then to make an end? What were this but to say unto God, If thou wilt deliver us, we will be bound to thee till we are delivered and no longer? Would this invite God to deliver us from our enemies, or rather to keep our Enemies still in strength against us? Least we being delivered from our Enemies should not serve him in righteousnesse and holinesse all our lives. Surely this is too like that course of carnall Israel, of whom it is written, When he slew them, then they sought him, and they enquired early after God; but their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his Covenant. Much more piously and faithfully a reverend and truly spirituall Divine; A well grounded covenant is a sure, a firme and an irrevocable Act. When you have such an All This (and such you have) as is here concentered in the Text, to lay into, or for the foundation of the Covenant; the superstruction (is aeternitati sacrum and) must stand forever.
But on the other side there are other faults; such are the urging of an Oath or Covenant against enemies, and not against friends in one and the same Action; and if not altogether so, yet a slight and diminishing charge of it upon one, and a vehement and aggravating charge of it upon the other. Another fault may be, a stiffe insisting on one part, and a neglect, or at least silence in another part; as likewise when by event two parts of it come to be inconsistent, to chuse and inforce the keeping of the lighter or lesse necessary part, and to give way to the losse and not keeping of the greater. There is another, in racking an Oath or Covenant, to make it speake that which it meant not. And here it were good to consider, whether there be any clause in any Oath or Covenant, which in a faire and common sence forbids obedience to the commands of the present Government and Authority, much lesse when no other can be had, and so the Common-wealth must goe to ruine. And whether it forbids obedience to the present Authority more than to Lawes that have beene formerly enacted, by those which came into Authority meerly by power? If it be said that in the Oath of Allegiance, Allegiance is sworne to the King, his Heires, and Successors, if His Heires be not His Successors, how doth that Oath binde? Either the word Successors must be superfluous, or else it must binde to Successors as well as to Heires; and if it binds not to a Successor, that is not an Heire, how can it binde to an Heire that is not a Successor? And if you will know the common and usuall sence (which should be the meaning of an Oath) of the word Successors, you need not so much aske of Lawyers and learned persons, as of men of ordinary knowledge, and demand of them, Who was the Successor of William the Conqueror, and see whether they will not say, William Rufus; and who succeeded Richard the third, and whether they will not say Henry the seventh? And yet (as it appeares before) neither of them was Heire. So it seemes in the ordinary acception, the word Successor is taken for him that actually succeeds in Government, and not for him that is actually excluded. And as in Language the ordinary acception of a word is to be taken for the meaning, so that meaning is to be understood as most proper to have been taken in an Oath.
Yet withall this Quaere may be added; While the Son is in the same posture in which the Father was, how comes this Oath at this time to stand up and plead for disobedience in regard of the Son, that was asleep and silent in regard of the Father?
Thus have I gone towards peace (as I beleeve) in the way of truth; and as farre as it is truth, and no further, I desire it may be received. I also wish that those who read and examine it, may doe it (as I professe sincerely myselfe to have endeavoured) with a calme, cleare, and peaceable spirit, without prejudice or partiship. And I doubt not but to such upright seekers of Truth, Truth will appeare in a true shape; whereas partiall and prejudiced mindes speake unto Truth what they would have her speake unto them, and doe not heare her what she saith of herselfe.
Anonymous, The Grand Case of Conscience Stated
CASE OF CONSCIENCE STATED,
about Submission to the new and present Power.
An impassionate Answer to a modest Book concerning the lawfullnesse of submitting to the present Government.
By one that professeth himself a friend to Presbytery, a lover and embracer of Truth wheresoever he find’s it.
Francis Rous’s tract, “The Lawfulnes of Obeying the Present Government,” designed to assure a war-weary public of the good sense and logic of obedience to the republican regime, set off a furor. “The Grand Case of Conscience Stated” was one of the first and most compelling essays in the debate that followed. Penned by an unknown author, the tract’s single edition appeared on 22 June 1649, about two months after Rous’s work, and took great exception to it.
Its author claimed to have adhered to the Parliament during the war but objected to the startling changes in government. He argued against convenience and pragmatism. He insisted that it was immaterial whether a free state was more convenient than a monarchy since England already had an ancient monarchy. Nor were oaths of allegiance only to be kept when convenient. He saw an insupportable contradiction between both the prewar oath of loyalty to Charles I, the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 with its vow to “preserve and defend the king’s Majesty’s person and authority,” and obedience to a kingless government. Rous was also taken to task for the dangerous implications of his argument that any ruler, no matter how he came into power, must be obeyed. This would, readers were warned, merely open the door to tyranny.
The issues set out in this debate between Rous on behalf of the Rump and his anonymous opponent were to form the basis for the argument over the engagement oath that followed several months later. Indeed the exchange hit upon most of the key issues that would constitute the controversy for the next decade. These tracts mark a sharp break with earlier debates on allegiance and political power that focused upon the ancient constitution and the proper limits of monarchy as revealed in scripture, history, and law. The new questions fixed upon the legitimacy of pragmatism, the needs of the community, and the requirements of oaths of loyalty. These same issues would resurface in the wake of the Glorious Revolution.
Although I love not contention, yet I desire satisfaction: that whilst I live amidst a tumultuous generation, and unquiet times, I may be delivered from a troubled spirit and discalmed minde. A wounded spirit who can bear? I was willing to have sat down in silence, resolving to have kept my conscience, as void of offence to others, so free from disturbance in itself, chusing rather quietly to suffer for not doing what was commanded, than knowingly to act what is (at least to me) unlawfull: such a Liberty of Conscience I conceive none will deny me. But since that Book came to mine hands, I (although unwillingly) undertook this task, not only out of an earnest desire I had to finde out truth, but for the unusuall modesty of the Tract itself, knowing that the fowlest corn is best winnowed in a gentle gale; a tempestuous winde blowes away chaffe and corne too.1
I shall take a brief view of the book, and submit what I shall speak to the Authour’s judgement, A Declaration hath been lately published, &c.2 Indeed there was such a Declaration published, which I desired with much earnestnesse, and read with some deliberation, expecting to have found the very quintessence of reason, and strength of argument, whereby judicious men might have been wholly convinced, and abundantly satisfied; but my scruples were not answered by it. For suppose that had been proved, which was there much argued, That the government of a free State were in some respects more convenient than that of Monarchy; that might have been a prevalent argument to an irregulated people, who were (de novo) to constitute a Government, not to those, who had before an ancient form suited to the people, established by Law, confirmed by Oath, and engaged to by the severall Declarations of them who are so sollicitous for the altering of it. Surely if convenience or inconvenience only can break a promise, and disingage an Oath, David was much mistaken in the 15th Psalm, and others may be easily cheated, who expect ready performance of, not needlesse disputing about Oaths, in which men stand bound to them. What is there said concerning Declarations [That the Lords and Commons were of that minde when they made them] may serve their turns for the present, but would equally serve others’ turns for the future;3 For by the same reason, when those that penned and published that Declaration, shall borrow money of men, and declare to pay them, imploy Souldiers with an engagement to satisfie them, people may suspect that their mindes may alter, and then (by this rule) their former Declarations will be of no strength.
What is further spoken in the Preface for a lawfull obedience to an unlawfull change of Government, will be touched on in the further prosecution of this discourse. It is said [The Apostle commands obedience to higher powers, Rom. 13. and thence it is inferred, that he speaks not in that place meerly of power or authority abstracted from persons, but of persons cloathed with that authority].4 The Apostle speaks there directly of Authority, of men only in subordination to that Authority; no further than as the executioners of that power, because it is impossible Authority should be exercised, but where men are to manage it. The Apostle in that place requires submission to legall Authority, by whomsoever executed, not to any men commanding by an illegall power.
Higher powers are there expressed indefinitely, not pointing at any particular government. In a Monarchy, an Aristocracy, a Democracy, the people under the severall constitutions may, yea must, by the Apostle’s command obey the higher powers, those who by their legall constitution are in Authority, not in power, over them: there is a law of nature, that will make man obey a power if he cannot resist, but the injunction of the Apostle (there) is only to lawfull Authority. I beleeve the Authour of that Book knows, that those only can be the higher powers, or legall Authority of any Kingdom, which the constitution of that Kingdom makes such, and that only can exact obedience according to the Scripture rule. Now what the Higher powers of England are, by the constitution of this Kingdom, is sufficiently known.
The Apostle commands wives to submit to their husbands, Ephes. 5.22. surely the injunction is for obedience to husbands, quà husbands, not quà men, indeed not abstracted from their persons, because it is impossible the authority of an husband should be submitted to, where a man is not to exercise it. But should a stranger come to another’s wife, and call himself husband (having before either imprisoned or slain the rightfull husband) and require submission, I scarce think the Authour himself (especially if he be married) would presse for obedience to such an usurped power: such a woman may be forced, and overpowered, but to submit to him as an husband, were a sinne.
What is there urged as the great argument to prove the lawfullnesse of obedience to the present Government, hath been my main deswuasive (viz.) the Apostle’s command to obey higher powers for conscience’ sake. Had I been convinced that the King in his person had been the higher powers of England, and that his personall command had by the Apostle’s rule exacted undeniable obedience, although he had been visibly acting what we suspected, and palpably introducing what we feared, I should have submitted for conscience’ sake. The great inducement I had to adhere to the Parliament, was (besides the hopes of better reformation) that thorow conviction that lay upon me, both by mine own reason, and Parliamentary practices, that the two Houses of Parliament, in case of the King’s absence, weaknesse or refusall, had in them such a part of the higher powers, and supream authority, as to defend, and preserve the people without, yea against the King, doing, commanding or exacting anything besides or against the law. And this is that main block, at which I stumble in yeelding obedience to this new power, because I am yet convinced, that they are not the higher powers of our Kingdom, to which the Apostle requires obedience.
I acknowledge a government may be altered (although I think it not safe, but upon urgent and evident necessity) to which being altered obedience is required, but it must be done by the higher powers still, whom we ought equally to obey in submitting to an altered, as a continued form; but for any party by force to lay low the higher powers, and to exact obedience as to the legall Authority, is to me a sinne.
I am not ignorant what pleas there may be from inconvenience in such a doctrine, but according to the light I have, where lawfull or unlawfull are in question, their convenience and inconvenience must keep silence.
It is to be observed what is spoken by the Apostle in the same place, the powers that are, are ordained by God:5 to which in the second page of the book is a little addition, viz. Rulers and those that were in authority were ordained of God: the Scripture enjoins obedience to powers, to men only as intitled to those powers: the authority was ordained by God, not the Rulers, they were constituted by men, the power may be God’s Ordinance, when the deputing of persons to the exercise of that power may be (at most) but God’s permission: nay, that men in Authority (Rulers in the Apostle’s expression) are to be obeyed no further than as acting according to that Authority, is the judgement of one much used by the composer of that book. When a Tyrant shall offer violence to his private Subjects, which they can by no other means avoid, they may defend themselves and theirs against that Tyrant as against a thief. When are men properly called tyrants, but when they either usurp or exercise a power contrary to the law and usage of those places where they rule? when a consciencious obedience is required to the Authority, but not to those, who by their own will, or procured force, either usurp or exercise a power besides that Authority.
Should we grant that men assuming to themselves the place and power of Magistrates, by what right or means soever they came by it, must be obeyed, surely it would be the greatest inlet to tyranny in the world, and the speediest means of destroying states that could be invented: for then should none govern in any Kingdome any longer, than their swords and their strength could bear them up.
Thus much I shall yeeld, That when any shall usurp Authority, by whatsoever title or force he procures it, such may be obeyed in reference to their power, while they command lawfull things, but not in reference to Authority. A man being overpowered may yeeld for his own safety, but to submit to that usurped power, as to the legall Authority of that Kingdome where it is, is to assert that as lawfull, which is but usurped, and in the Scripture language to make a lie.
From this I shall take a just occasion to speak to those instances there urged, from obedience to whom, the argument is drawn to prove the lawfullnesse of our submission now.
Concerning Claudius Caesar and Nero which are mentioned, pag. 2, 3.6 how they came in by force, yet were obeyed by the people, I shall not trouble myself nor the Reader with any tedious search into, or large recitall of the story, but take it as there laid down, and give a brief answer to it.
But before I fall upon a plain answer to what is there fallaciously urged, and shew the insufficiency thereof to prove that for which it is asserted: I conceive there will appear such a disproportion between the quoted instances and our present case, that should we grant all the premises, yet the conclusion would not directly follow to prove the question. The most that can be asserted from those examples is, That people did obey a supream power as exercised by those who had no true (at least but a dubitable) title, when the same form of government was still continued, for so it had been for many years before, during the reign of 4 Emperours, yea, such a government which was the pristine constitution of that place, it being Monarchicall for above 44 years, till Tarquinius, about the businesse of his son with Lucretia, was rejected. Whether party had or pretended most right, and the best ends in their changing of the government, either J. Brutius from, or Julius Caesar to Monarchy, I shall not dispute: nor shall I decide, whether God might not justly give them to see the evill of a change, who (it may be) chiefly out of a desire of change, would wholly alter a constituted form. But this is not our case. The insubmission of people now, is not grounded upon a suggested scruple of a dubious title to the same, but upon an apprehended illegality of the new and needlesse establishment of another government. It is one thing, and as in itself more lawfull, so to people lesse scrupulous, upon a pretended title to usurp the exercise of an established Authority: another, and as in itself lesse just, so to people more doubtfull upon pretended apprehensions to eradicate a lawfull Authority, and illegally to lay low those which legally are the higher powers of a Kingdome. In the one, people lesse able to examine titles, submit to the established government of that Kingdom where they are, and this is sufficient to yeeld obedience, that they know not who hath the right. In the other, they must give themselves up to a new-fashioned modell illegall to them, because not the constituted powers of that place, and this is enough to withhold Allegiance, that they know such have not (nor pretend) a Title.
Now to the instances themselves, to see how farre they prove the lawfullnesse of our submission to a change of government, although the change be beleeved unlawfull.
After the death of Gaius Caligula, the Consuls and Senate of Rome entered into a consultation, how they might restore the Common-wealth to her ancient freedom, I think this argument will take in all that is therein spoken: if the people of the Roman Empire did submit to the power of Claudius and Nero, who by force were put upon them, then the people of England may lawfully submit to a change of government, though beleeved unlawfull: but they did submit, therefore these may, I will finde no fault with the Syllogisme, because it is of mine own making, although it be the very summe of what is urged. What aequivocall terms there are whereby a spirituall eye would quickly see four terms (at least) in it I shall discover in mine answer to the severall propositions.
In the first Proposition, it being hypotheticall, I shall deny the consequence. For 1. A People may possibly do what is not in itself lawfull either for themselves or others to do, a facto ad jus non valet argumentum,7 had the author proved their submission legall, it had been more urgent. Indeed it is said at the end of that paragraph, We see Rulers put by souldiers into that power which is said by the Scripture to be ordained of God, and even to these Rulers men must be subject for conscience’ sake.8 But the Apostle doth not command obedience to these men, but to the powers, nay not to any men, but as commanding according to those powers (as was said before) nor is it materiall who put men in, nor what men are put into powers, if they are the powers that are ordained of God: those that command according to that Authority, must be obeyed: and whatsoever the souldiery of Rome did, had the souldiery of England (in this tacitely pleaded for) observed that doctrine before, we had not been (I think) disputing this question now. But 2. What might be lawfull for the people in the Roman Empire, may not be lawfull for the people of this Kingdome: I finde not in any History that ever they were sworn to a particular government as we have been. Things in themselves indifferent are made necessary, when by an oath engaged to. But of that more afterward.
To the Minor proposition, I shall say 1. That those mentioned had (at least seeming) titles to the Empire. Indeed it is agreed by all Historians I have met withall, that they were first encouraged by souldiers: but what iniquity is in that, if they might pretend a Title? The very end of power and strength is or should be to conserve and recover just right, we have always acknowledged it lawfull and expedient by force of Arms to acquire a rightfull possession illegally detained; But I could wish that this story had been printed and read by the sword-men in this kingdome five months agoe, that they might but have thought whether it had been greater honour to be recorded as men, that should guard a King of doubtfull title to the Crown, or to be storied as men that should bring a King of an indubitable right to the Scaffold.
I will not here dispute by what title, or according to what law Julius Caesar, nor yet his successour Octavius assumed the Empire, but when that government and those governours were received, and acknowledged by the Senate, it became lawfull to that people. Although Conquest be no true Title, nor durable tenure any longer than strength can keep it, yet compact upon that Conquest, gives a title to the Conquerour, and engageth submission from the other party to those rules resolved on at, or given out according to that agreement.
Tiberius from whom indeed both Claudius and Nero had their government, did not only for a great part of his time, do all he did by the advise of the Senate, but would (at least seemingly) be chosen by the Senate, as not contented secretly to step into a government either by the earnest engagement of his mother, or by the fond adoption of Augustus, but would have the call and election of the Commonwealth too: now here surely was a lawfull title, if the consent of the people could make it lawfull, although (it may be) not in its first acquisition, yet in its after establishment: and Claudius deriving his title from him, why should not people obey it? Yea, me thinks the Authour of that book intimates a title that Claudius had, where he saith, pag. 3. Claudius being frighted with the news of Caligula’s death, and fearing himself might be enquired for, upon suspicion withdrew. Had not he been the heir apparent to the Empire, what ground of fear, or what cause of withdrawing? Nay, if he had not been looked on as the rightfull successour, why should the souldier primo intuitu salute him by the name of Emperour?
For Nero he descended in a direct line on the mother’s side, from Livia, Augustus his wife, and although Brittanicus was the naturall son of Claudius, yet Nero (by Agrippina’s means) was his adopted son for the Empire, and brought to the Senate, where it was consented unto, that he should have his togam virilem, and be called Prince of youth: it being their usage, as far as I have observed in the story, that an Adoptive title assented to by the Senate, hath commonly been acknowledged, when a lineall succession hath been rejected: yea, the Authour seems to grant a kinde of title to Nero too, where it is said, pag. 3. that the sentence of the souldiers was followed by the consent of the Senate. If the Senate had any share in either constituting or declaring a King, Nero’s title was hereby established.
But what is this to our case? A rightfull or doubtfull heir was brought by souldiers to the Senate, who among themselves were contriving to alter their government.9 This heir was received by the Senate, and upon that submitted unto by the people. But doth the Authour think that if the Senate had declared and acknowledged, yea, promised to preserve the Title of a rightfull Prince, and the souldiers by the advice, counsell, or assistance of some party in this Senate, should imprison or slay their Prince, and take away the Major part of the Senate, only because against their actings, and this minor part relict should alter their government, yea, make themselves without the consent of the people their Rulers, that then the people would or lawfully could have submitted to them as their legall and rightfull governours nay, would not rather have resisted them, as not being those higher powers, whom they ought for conscience’ sake to obey?
Indeed had the King for some reason hid himself (as Claudius) or for other reasons absented himself, and the two Houses of Parliament legally elected, and freely sitting (at such a time esteemed) the higher powers, contrived a way for the altering the government, although I should not have proclaimed their wisdome, yea, should have bewailed their sin, in respect of the many ties and bonds of Declarations and Oaths upon them, I think I should have submitted to their power, yet I would not for my Oath’s sake (had I liked the thing) have acted in it. In which I think I yeeld more than many Anti-malignant men in England will do: yet how far from our case this is, what hath been spoken will testifie.
But 2. Had the instance been of Julius Caesar, who by meer force and violence, without the least pretence of Title acquired the government, which had better suited our businesse, yet I should say, that what submission the people yeelded, and what commands he gave, were in relation to a power which he by force had gotten, and did exercise without any pretence to a legall constituted power, till received and acknowledged by the Senate.
I confesse should these Rulers now in our Kingdom command submission to them, as to a conquering party, and acknowledge they did by power exercise, what by force they had gotten, I should in that sense submit to them, because not able to defend myself against them: but they call themselves the legall Authority, and higher powers of England, under which notion I cannot submit, because positively to obey what is thus commanded, whatsoever secret reservation I may have, I doe and must assert their power as lawful, and their Authority as the legall Authority.
1. What submission was given to the Conquerour, was yeelded as to a forced power, untill by after-compact it was acknowledged and made legall.
2. What was practised by the successors mentioned (besides the acknowledged force in their unrightfull acquisitions, and violent exercise of power) it was only upon difference of Title, which people may not be able to judge of, as the Authour says, pag. 9. But amongst us, here is an alteration of government, where a change only seems to be asserted, no Title at all pretended.
3. What is spoken of Hen. 7. may be enough to answer the argument drawn from him and the rest too.12 Although the Title might be unjust, and the power illegally gotten, yet when the Title was acknowledged, at least, confirmed by Parliament, and the Laws whereby he (or they) should rule, were enacted in a Parliament, that did engage the people to an unquestionable obedience, the constituted higher powers then commanding, to whom the Apostle requires obedience: for although a Parliament (such I mean, which by the known law and continued usage of the Kingdom as a Parliament) should acknowledge or do anything civilly evill (I mean in reference to the State) it is lawfull and just in respect of the people, and engageth obedience, which I think will be a sufficient excuse for people’s yeelding obedience to their laws, not only because then enacted, but since confirmed by the higher powers of our Nation:13 although in the meantime upon the same ground they rest unsatisfied in the lawfullnesse of submission to the present power.
I might adde, that what the whole body of a Nation did, if illegall,doth not engage our practices:14 for we know Papists (and such they were all who submitted to the forementioned Rulers) make no conscience of denying a rightfull Title, nor yeelding to an illegall power, when they may but probably carry on their own design: but what is spoken already will satisfie, and I had rather give a rationall answer, than question the wisdome or honesty of Ancestors, where it may be avoided.
What is urged from the Casuists and Paraeus15 (although I am not bound jurare in verba, being of Dr. Moulin’s his minde,16 rather to like one argument than ten Authours) I shall agree to in that sense, in which I conceive they delivered it, to submit to such power as forced, not to their Authority as legall, unlesse it be such an Authority which by constitution and usage are the higher powers of our Kingdome.
The Authour after the example of others, proceeds now to give some reason of his own, which I shall also endeavour to examine, and so far as they carry strength and truth (at least to me) shall submit: where otherwise, I shall give mine on the contrary.
Indeed how can it be otherwise? For when a person or persons have gotten supream power, and by the same excluded all other from Authority, either that Authority which is thus taken by power must be obeyed, or else all Authority must fall to the ground.17 Persons may indeed get themselves the greatest strength, and in that sense may be submitted to, but they cannot illegally get themselves the legall power, nor can they exclude others from their Authority, although by force they may keep them from the exercise of it. A man may be a man, yea a living man, although by the violence of disease, he may be kept from outward actings. An husband may be a husband still although imprisoned and thereby kept from the exercise of his duty to his wife. A Parliament may be a Parliament still, although by violence kept from sitting and executing their Authority. I am so far from thinking that disobedience to such power will make all Authority and government fall to the ground, that I beleeve submission to such will quickly lay all Authority waste: for by the same reason that we obey this altered government and usurped authority now, we must obey any other suddenly, if another party get more strength, and what an unsetled state and unknown Authority we should then have may easily be judged. Nor do I think the Authour himself would be of the same minde, should the Prince with a potent army get the power into their hands. Surely were this doctrine true, those renowned men shall be rased out of the Calendar for Saints, that opposed the King’s power in Ship-money: nor must such be sequestered who under the King’s power formerly did lend or give whatsoever he required, whether men, money, horse or arms: nor these put out of the Parliament, who obeyed him in sitting at Oxon: nay, nor himself neither put to death for doing what was urged against him, if men in power howsoever they come by it are Rulers ordained by God, and to be obeyed for conscience’ sake.
If Confusion be worse than titular Tyranny,18 I wish that seeing we had no titular tyranny, we had had no confusion neither: and I should be glad that confusion may befall (if any) only such, who in this Kingdome have been the greater introducers of it, either those who acquire and assert, or those who cannot receive or submit to an usurped government: for although the end must not be destroyed for the means,19 yet he that destroys the means in its tendency to the end, will scarcely preserve the end at last.
If a Master’s mate had thrown the Master over-board, and by power would suffer no other to guide the ship but himself, if the mariners will not obey him commanding aright for the safe guiding of the ship, the ship must needs perish, and themselves with it. I doubt here is a fallacy, and this case will not concern our question, for I suppose, although I am not so well skilled in the discipline of marriners, as to know that a Master’s mate hath a kinde of Title to the government of the ship in case of the Master’s miscarriage, which suits not our condition. But suppose him to have no title, or state the question somewhat nearer our case, That if a party of the Sea-men should throw the Master overboard, and assume to themselves the government of the Ship. I shall then answer, That if that Mate or this party having the greater strength, should by power enforce and exact obedience of the rest, these ought for the safety of their own lives, although not to obey the Authority, yet to do the commands of the enforcing party, and if ever they come ashoar, to doe what they can to bring such unworthy persons to condigne punishment, who, besides the murder of the Master, would so basely hazard the ship too. But if that mate or party should command the Sea-men to obey them as the rightfull Master, I think (although with submission to better judgements) they ought not, although for the safety of their lives thus to obey them. It is better to lose a naturall life, than a quiet conscience, and a spirituall soul. The greatest advantage will not warrant the least evil. In such a case it would easily be judged both by God and men, to whose fault the losse of the ship should be imputed, either to them that did unjustly require, or those who dared not unwarrantably to do an unlawfull thing. I know not what the sudden fear of unavoidable death might make such men (de facto) do, and I can easily think what harsh censures their hazarding or losing their lives upon such refusall, may bear from rash and lesse considerate men, as an empty product of meer peevishnesse: but I am confident that a Synod of religious and intelligent Divines would conclude, that (de jure) they ought rather to adventure the losse of all, than call him a lawfull, who is but an usurped master, which they must by yeelding to his or their commands under that notion.
Whereas some speak of a time for settlement, they indeed do rather speak for a time of unsettlement, for they will have an unsettlement first and a settlement after.20 If I mistake not the desires of those who withhold submission to the present power, the Authour of that Book is mistaken in his apprehensions of them. That they desire a settlement (I think) is true, but that they desire an unsettlement first, is besides my thoughts of them; I know it is the grief of their souls, and causeth sad searchings of heart, that ever they were brought into such unsettlements, and thereby put upon such racks of conscience as these are. It is not unsettlement but a deliverance from unsettlement they long for: I scarce see how we can be more unsetled than now we are. Indeed being unsetled, we would use any means for a settlement, although for its procurement our unsettlednesse were more unsettled. If man be at the river’s brink, I would advise him to keep out of the water, but if at once he leap into the middle of the river, I should perswade him to come to the bank, although he wade through much water to come thither. I would counsell a man to prevent distempers, but when the disease is already contracted, I should prescribe some Physick for the safety of his life, although for the present it should more disease him.
What is spoken of the former Scriptures and Casuists in the same Page, I shall refer to what was before answered.
But it is asked: Whether that may not be called a settlement, how soon soever it is, when there is such a way setled, that men may have justice if they will, and may enjoy that main end of Magistracy, to live a peaceable life in godlinesse and honesty?21 To speak of what justice some have had at Westminster, since the unsettlement of our times, or what to be expected, when Colonels appear as parties with their arguments by their sides before Committees, (an argument too often used in the House too, as I beleeve the Gentleman knows), where to engage a bustling daring Colonel is to carry a cause: as also what peaceable lives men live, when the souldiers having put other men in power in the State, put themselves in command in men’s houses: and what godlinesse and honesty may be looked for, when blasphemy must be tolerated, wickednesse must not be punished, when in the meantime godly men (if but of a contrary judgment, a liberty of conscience formerly pleaded for) are made offendors for a word, would be too large a field to walk in, and besides the swelling of this tract, but give too wide an occasion to further contests. But this shall suffice, that the gentleman a little begs the question in calling it justice, for although men may have, or might expect, what he calls justice, viz. things in themselves just, yet if he grant, as I have proved, that Authority illegall by which they act, what they do or is done by any under that Authority, although in itself just, yet is not properly justice. Judgement (for I conceive the Authour means justitiam distributivam22 ) is then only just, when it is exercised by the higher powers, the legall Magistracy of that Kingdome where it is acted. The Hebrews expresse justice by that word, which they likewise use for the usage and custome of that people, that are concerned in it.
Another argument the Authour useth is, because People cannot judge of Titles: when they cannot judge, then an usurped Title is true to them, and will exact obedience: but if this be an Argument, then (for contrariorum eadem est ratio23 ) when Titles are visibly unlawfull, people are disingaged from obedience. This is our case, where there is not any pretence of Title.
But some say, There are Oaths that justifie disobedience to the present government.24 There are indeed severall Oaths that engage us to the continued observance of our formerly established government, and then how far they justifie disobedience to this, let the Authour judge. That Oaths are sacred bonds and reverend obligaments, and where they do not themselves leave or make us free, we are not to cut or break them in peeces. I shall equally assert, and could heartily wish it had been as truly practised in the Kingdome as plainly spoken in the book. But seeing there are indeed, as the Authour affirms concerning these, faults on both hands,25 let us a little examine the faults he mentions, and see whether there are not other faults too, that he speaks not of.
On the one side the sleighting of an Oath, &c. This is a fault indeed. Oaths and Covenants are the strongest engagements, whereby we can binde ourselves either to God or man, if these come once to be sleighted and no longer observed, then they may conduce to the palpable advantage of those that made them, I am afraid that may justly be written upon the door-posts of England, what was set in the front of David’s song, Psa. 12.1, 2.
I am loth to misjudge any person, whom I finde so modest, else I should fear that this fault was purposely argued, the more secretly to insinuate another, though not under the name of a fault. It is said, We finde some part of the Covenant to speak of all the days of our lives:26 as if some part had been but of a temporary engagement. But if I mistake not, the Covenant did in every part of it oblige us to a continued observance of it: we did not swear constantly to keep this part, or that clause, but all our lives to keep this Covenant, which is known to comprehend every part of it.
True it is, that the obligation of some things end, because they can no longer be kept, as that of the King’s person &c.27 I grant that the obligation of a people to anything ends, when that thing obliged to, necessarily, and in its own nature ends; but if men shall by violence put an end to the thing, that thereby the obligation may end too, I doubt such will be esteemed by God as Covenant-breakers; I do not think, that he breaks his Covenant, that doth not preserve the King’s person, when he is dead; but I think he is guilty, that did not endeavour to preserve it while he was living. Had the Covenant, in that part, been observed then, for all that I know, it might have obliged now. A woman promiseth to be faithfull to her husband so long as he lives, but if she, out of love to another man, shall lay violent hands on her husband to end his life, that thereby she might marry another, I beleeve she would scarcely be thought to have performed her promise. A Tenant bargains with his Landlord to pay him rent for his house, so long as he lives in it: but if he through malice shall pull down the house, that he cannot live in it, and thereby to extinguish his bargain, it may be easily thought what determination the Law would make in such a case.
What is spoken here of the King’s person, might as well have been spoken of any other part of the Covenant. It is Covenanted to preserve Religion, but if those that made the Covenant should by force extirpate, or by deceit undermine Religion: would the Authour think himself or others disingaged from that part of the Covenant, or rather look upon himself as bound to preserve it, while it hath a being? If this liberty should be given, no man would keep any Oath any longer, than he saw good, if it were in his power to put an end to that thing to which he is obliged. But let’s see what faults are found on the other hand.
But on the other side there are other faults: such are the urging of an Oath or Covenant against enemies, and not against friends in one and the same action. In this I am wholly of his judgement, and could wish that he had instanced in some things, whereby I might have guessed what aim he had taken, and against what he had levelled it. As I would not have any unequally excused, who are equally guilty, so I would not have him free from blame, who imputes guilt to one, when another shall be connived at, or incouraged in the same thing.
In that clause of bringing Delinquents to condigne punishment: If the Covenant engage to bring one to punishment, that raised arms against the Parliament in Kent and Essex, why not another that raised arms against the Parliament in Oxon shire and Berks shire? If according to our Covenant we should preserve the priviledges of Parliament against a malignant party, that would have taken away but Five Members; why not against an Haereticall party that took away above two Hundred?28 If one party be charged as guilty in not obeying Orders of, but offering violence to the Parliament; why should another be excused as faultlesse, whose disobedience was more manifest, and whose violence was more palpable? Or if not altogether so, yet (as the Authour)29 a slight and diminishing charge of it upon one, and a vehement and aggravating charge of it upon the other.
Another fault may be a stiffe insisting on one part, and a neglect or at least silence in another part.30 This is not always a fault, for when there is no occasion given to speak, silence is no evil. One part may be in more danger to be broken than another, when a more violent asserting, and stiffe contending for that part is more necessary. If I had two children, the one at home in safety, the other in imminent danger, that I were more earnest and industrious for the saving and preserving of this, doth not at all argue lesse love or care to the other. But to take it in the best sense, to pretend much care in the keeping of one part, and in the meantime, to neglect another, I think a fault. As when men are seemingly violent against Popery and Prelacy, yet very indulgent to Heresie and profanesse. When men shall plead Covenant in the preservation of the subjects’ liberties, yet forget their Oath for the safety of the King’s person in the preservation of Religion; which in respect of the Covenant are of equall concernment; for although it be pleaded by some, and granted by all that Religion, yea asserted by others, that the subjects’ liberties are of greater concernment than the King’s person, it must be ratione materiae, not ratione juramenti,31 for in that regard, we are equally obliged to one as the other.
As also when by event two parts of it came to be inconsistent, to choose and inforce the keeping of the higher and lesse necessary part, and to give way to the losse and not keeping of the greater.32 Here is to me a falsum suppositum; I think it a sinne in any to enjoin, and wickednesse in any to take a Covenant for the doing of two things that are or may be inconsistent; nor do I know what parts of our Covenant are such; when the Authour makes such appear, I shall bewail my sinne in taking it. If it be by him meant, what is talked by others, (viz.) That the safety of the King’s person, and the preservation of Religion are inconsistent, I must declare my dissent in this; for I am yet convinced, that both the truth and honour of Religion might have better been preserved by the safety of his person, and the continuance of our Government, than hitherto it hath been, or for all I see, like to be, by the altering of the one, or taking away of the other.
There is another, in racking an Oath or Covenant, to make it speak that which it meant not.33 I will adde, there is another fault to stop the mouth of a Covenant, and denying it to speak what it would. Nay, there is yet one more, when men shall put what interpretation upon Covenants they please, or reserve to themselves a power to make any other interpretation upon them, than what the common and naturall sense of the words in which they are taken doe afford. Oathes ought to be their own interpreters; we may deceive men, but God is not mocked.
But to come to what I conceive is the main end of what hath been hitherto asserted about Oathes; To consider whether there be any clause in any Oath or Covenant, which in a fair and common sense forbids obedience to the commands of the present Government and Authority. There is in the solemne League and Covenant, that which engageth to another Government, and then what forbids obedience to this? In one clause we solemnly Covenant to preserve the Person, and not to diminish the just Rights of the King; had his Person and just Rights been perserved, this Government could never have been attempted; but seeing that cord is broken (unhappy blow that strook it asunder!) is there yet no bond will hold us? Yes, we do in the same clause faithfully promise to preserve the Law of the Kingdom, and surely to change the Government is to alter the fundamentall Laws of the Kingdom; if we are bound to preserve our Law, then that Government that is established by Law; nay yet further. In the same place, we doe swear, yea and call the world to witnesse it, that we will not diminish the just Rights and greatnesse of the King. Is not a man’s right as much concerned in his Heirs inheriting, as in his own enjoying what legally belonged to him? Is it not a man’s undoubted right to have his lawfull Heirs succeed him in his lawfull enjoyments? But now by this Government the King’s Heirs are wholly divested of any possession, and absolutely debarred of that right, which by the usage of the Kingdom belongs to them.
Much lesse when no other can be had, (as the Authour)34 I do not yet see impossibility in having another, truly I think, if the Covenant had been strictly observed, we had never had this, and if it were yet carefully performed, we might quietly have another Government, such under which godly people might live with more comfort, and lesse scruple.
If it be said that in the Oath of Allegiance, Allegiance is sworn to the King, his Heirs and Successors. If his Heirs be not his Successours, how doth that Oath binde? Either the word Successours must be superfluous, or else it must bind Successours as well as Heirs, &c.35 If I should grant that the word Successours were superfluous, it would not be the only superfluous word in things of that nature; or that it is an exegeticall expression which is not unusuall in all writings both Divine and profane, the more fully to expresse the same thing by two words: His Heirs and Successours are conjunctive, which must necessarily imply, that his Heirs according to the usage of this Kingdom ought to be his Successours: so that it can binde to no Successours besides the Heir. Indeed should the Line extinguish, then the legall Successour were to be obeyed by that Oath, and yet that too in the continuance of the Government, for he is not properly a Successour, unlesse in the same form of Government; for without asking Lawyers and Learned men,36 he is properly a Successor, that succeeds any man in the place where he was. If the Agitators in the Army should depose the Generall, and order the Army according to their wills, would they be justly called his Successours, when the frame of their Discipline were altered? This seems partly to be acknowledged by the Authour in the same page, where he instanceth only in those for Successours, which succeeded in the same Government, and saith that the word Successour is taken for him that actually succeeds in Government, I conceive it must be meant, when the same form still is continued, else what he asserts, and the instances he names, would hold no proportion.
But there is one engagement to the former Government yet lies upon us in reference to our Oaths, which is mentioned either in that (before named) or in the Oath of Supremacy, That no power on earthshall deter or absolve us from the keeping of it. If so, I would but humbly begge the Authour conscienciously to judge, whether the force or fear of any party, were they stronger than they are, should affright a people into a submission to any other Government, than that to which they have thus sworn.
I may take the same liberty to propose a few short, yet considerable Quaeries, While the Son is in the same posture in which the Father was, how comes this Oath at this time to stand up, and plead for disobedience in regard to the Son, that was asleep and silent in regard of the Father?37 I do not know in what one title this Oath is more urged for the Son, than it might have been, and was for the Father; unlesse that now there is more need of pressing it, because in the Son’s days the Government is altered; in the Father’s, it was (at least) promised to be continued. Those, who were against the irregular actings, the Court-faults, the wicked Counsels of the Father, were for the safety of his person, the preservation of his Rights, and the continuance of his Government. And now the same persons that are for the Rights of the Son, and the continuance of the Government, are as much against the vices and counsels in and about him, as about the Father. Besides it might be said, that the Father was not opposed, untill there was a Parliament, that being the legall means in our Kingdom of resisting Arbitrary and extra-legall power; the King in the intervalls of Parliaments being the chief officer, not to be resisted by private subjects. And certainly I think, were there now a Parliament sitting according to the constitution of England, and the Received to the Crown, should act anything against the known Law, and the kingdom’s safety, those who are now for the reception of the Son, and for the performance of their Oaths, would as truly and conscienciously (according to their Covenant) join with them against the exorbitancies of the Son, as they did against the evil of the Father: only I beleeve they would expect some security, that his Person and rights (parts of the Covenant) should be better preserved and lesse diminished than his Father’s were.
Besides what hath been spoken to the book, I might adde also one finall Quaere about altering the government: Whether in such an alteration there is not necessarily required, either the generall consent of the major part of the people, or at least the major part of their trustees? If so, what right have these men to do, who now act in it, some of them being the Trustees of no people, having no election, others who were legally chosen denied their liberty? May not any number of people (there being no known Law nor constituted rule for this transaction) by the like reason conceive, and (if they have strength) alter it again tomorrow? But if they will (which is but equall) give them liberty of dissenting from their government, whom they deny the liberty of debating or consenting to it, I shall be free.
Whether there be any Scripture example or prudentiall rule unnecessarily to oppresse, and, where it may be avoided, to rack the tender consciences of unquestionably godly men, not only when they are the major part, and most judicious Christians (both of Ministers and People) and most likely to know the truth but when they are the least strong, and most discountenanced, and therefore unlikely to be biassed by any private Interests? Indeed those who side with the strongest party, lie under grounded suspition of having particular ends, who can turn any way, to any party, where they may get the best places, the greatest preferments, and the largest rewards: such many have received, and I beleeve most expect; for it is observable, that for the most part, your only Parliament converts before, are your greatest Parliament Assertors now. But how a poor people despised and opposed by power, who can expect the conferment of nothing but punishment, should design an interest in standing to their principles, when they know (some of them at least being very able and prevalent) they might upon their least turning have as large a share in the rewards of the Kingdom as those who now enjoy the greatest, is to me irrationall and improbable. The Apostle Paul would avoid a lawfull thing rather than offend the scrupling consciences of weak brethren: what then is their fault, who do unlawfull things, and thereto engage the dijudicating consciences of weak Christians?
Whether both in human probability, and religious reason, it were not more likely to conduce to God’s glory, to Religion’s settlement and honour, to Christians’ union and satisfaction, to the Kingdom’s peace, to the prevention of danger, and the safety of all (who have not wickedly out-acted all hopes of safety, and are conscious to themselves that their bucket must sink, whensoever Authoritie’s bucket shall arise) to endeavour ere it be too late, to join Authority and Power, Title and Strength together; that as Power may arm Authority, and render it formidable, so Authority might justifie Power, and make that lawfull? Least when the Title shall be claimed, those who may dislike the vices, and oppose any Tyranny (were they legally authorized) of the claimer, yet should not for conscience’ sake deny his Right; and those who could like well the pretensions of our new Governours (were they justifiably managed) should not adventure for Religion’s sake to assist their usurpation: Whereby, as by our unwise actions, we have too much justified Malignants’ actions, and made them our deriders: we may strengthen their hands, and make them our Masters.
I am confident that if the great managers of our new-work, and the violent assertors of this changed Government would but seriously lay these things to heart, it might make them seasonably retract, what they untimely attempted, and rather finde out ways to settle, than further unsettle the Kingdom, rather to satisfie than disturb the peaceable consciences of religious and unbiassed men (The Lord prevail upon their spirits).
Thus have I endeavoured to answer that with a meek, which was written with a peaceable spirit, where I shall professe (if I mistake not myself) to side rather with truth than with any party.38 What I have hastily spoken I shall submit to the deliberate judgements of more intelligent men. I shall be willing to receive a rebuke wherein I have erred, and ready to yeeld wherein I may receive satisfaction. I hope I have not discovered any turbulency of spirit, but a willingnesse to examine truth. As I would keep my conscience from being wounded by doubtfull pressures, so I would keep my tongue and pen from wounding others by imbittered expressions. I would not willingly give offence, I hope none will be taken. If it be lawfull for one man to propose, it must be lawfull for other to answer arguments, in reference to satisfaction. It would be too great a burthen to true English spirits, to see one man permitted to stand with a drawn weapon daring all that passe by, and he only faulty that takes up the weapons to answer him: either prevent such darings, or else excuse the provoked. It will be my comfort to give, it will be my advantage to receive satisfaction: howsoever, I shall commit myself, the safety of our Kingdom, the establishment of such a government that is most conducible to God’s honour, to that God, who is able to answer scruples, to preserve a people, and to command settlement according to his own will and way.
ROMANES 3.8.And not rather as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm, that we say, Let us do evill that good may come & whose damnation is just.
Whatsoever is not of faith is sinne.
George Lawson, Conscience Puzzle’d
[George Lawson, d. 1678]
Subscribing the New Engagement; in the Solution of this Quaere:
Whether a man that hath taken the
Oaths of Allegiance, and Supremacy, the Protestation and Covenant, may, upon the alteration of the Government from a Monarchy into a Free State, subscribe this ensuing Engagement?
I A. B. declare, and promise to be true and faithfull to the Commonwealth of England, as it is now established without King and House of Lords.
Love no false Oath: for this is a thing that I hate, saith the Lord.
Rom. 14.22, 23.
Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
And he that doubteth, is damned if he eat.
Printed in the Yeer, 1650.
One of the most remarkable tracts published in defense of the Commonwealth and the Engagement is the tract reprinted below. The Engagement, an oath of loyalty to the new government, had been especially crafted to enable individuals to swear to it even if they had reservations about the legitimacy of the regime. Nevertheless it caused great consternation. Until 2 January 1650 the Engagement had only been required of officeholders, barristers, and other specific groups. Thereafter the Engagement was imposed upon the entire male population over the age of eighteen. There is some uncertainty about the date on which this anonymous pamphlet appeared. It is dated 1650, but George Thomason, a contemporary bookseller and preeminent collector of civil war tracts, claimed it appeared on 20 December 1649. In either case, the tract was intended to prepare the public to accept the requirement.
The author of the tract draws upon a whole battery of arguments to persuade his readers that they could take the Engagement without qualms. Among these he includes the notion that all governments are equally lawful. He demonstrates how the language of the Engagement can be interpreted in such a way that any honorable Englishman might take it in good conscience. But what makes the essay so striking is the writer’s unblinking use of conquest theory. He accepts the royalist notion that the English are now a conquered people, then concludes that as such they must obey the conquerer. It is a Hobbesian argument presented a year before the publication of Leviathan. Little wonder the tract was anonymous. It appeared in only a single edition.
A case has been made for the authorship of George Lawson, a minister whose works have begun to attract considerable scholarly attention. Lawson was a staunch supporter of Parliament and served as rector of More in Shropshire during the Commonwealth. We know little about him today, despite the interest in his work. He was a correspondent of Richard Baxter, the influential Presbyterian clergyman and author. Baxter seems to point to Lawson’s authorship of the present tract when he reports that he had seen a manuscript of Lawson’s with arguments in favor of taking the Engagement. Among Lawson’s known works are “Examination of the Political Part of Hobbes’s Leviathan,” published in 1657, and “Politica sacra et civilis,” in defense of resistance, published in 1660 and reprinted in 1689.
I A. B. declare and promise, That I will be true and faithfull to the Common-wealth of ENGLAND, as it is now established without King and House of Lords.
The Question is, Whether a man that hath taken the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy, the Protestation, and Covenant, may upon the alteration of the Government from a Monarchy into a Free State, subscribe this Engagement.
There is no doubt, but unengaged men may: All Governments being of themselves equally lawfull. And, were we upon the point of choosing a Government, we know no reason to compell us to pitch upon a Monarchy more than a Common-wealth. And (whatever may be said in Law for the childe’s virtuall obligation to the Oaths of this nature, wherein his father was personally engaged) we see no reason in Divinity, but our children, who never were engaged by the Oaths, Protestation, and Covenant above-mentioned may (when they shall come to yeers of discretion) oblige themselves either by promise, or oath of fealty unto this Government.
But the Question is concerning Engaged men: (as all, but a very few, of those, who are liable to this Subscription, are).
Answer to this may be made in the affirmative, upon two Concessions.
First, if the words of the Engagement import nothing contrary to those Oaths, Protestation and Covenant.
2ly, If (upon supposition that they do import something contrary to those Oaths, &c.) it may be made good unto us, that the obligation of our former Oaths, &c. doth cease upon this new Establishment.
First, If the words of the Engagement import nothing contrary unto those Oaths, &c., As,
First, If by Common-wealth be meant the whole company of men and women, both of higher and lower rank, contained within the bounds and territories of these Dominions. So we were wont to call the Common-wealth in the time of Monarchy, unlesse when we took it for the Civill State, as contra-distinct unto the Ecclesiasticall. And, if it have that large signification here, and if the words (as it is now established) be to be understood adversativè, and not reduplicativè, and so binde us to be faithfull to the Common-wealth (in this sense) Licet stabilitae, and not quâ stabilitae absque; Domino Regis, &c.1 it will be nothing contrary to our Oaths and Covenants to subscribe thereunto. For unto the Common-wealth (in this sense) we must be faithfull, whatsoever Government it be under. And he that will not be true and faithfull to this Common-wealth, now it is without King and House of Lords, was never (conscientiously) faithfull to it, when it was subject to a King, and House of Lords.
And we are somewhat inclined to think, that this may be the meaning. Because not only all of lower rank, but also all of superior rank (as the Speaker, and the House of Commons, the Lord President, and the Councell of State, the Lord Generall, and Councell of War, &c.) are enjoined to subscribe. If they (or any of them) be the Common-wealth here meant; we somewhat strange at the Injunction. Our Kings were never wont to swear fealty to themselves, or Monarchy. If it may be declared that the words are intended in the sense above specified, we beleeve the Engagement cannot want Subscribers. But,
2ly, If the words (Common-wealth of England) be taken for a certain State of Government, as it stands contra-distinct to Monarchy (as it is generally conceived they are) then (without perjury) engaged men cannot subscribe thereunto, unlesse they fetch some help from the exposition of the words, True and faithfull.
First, If the words (True and faithfull) be to be understood only negatively, and oblige a man only, not to be false, or treacherous to, or turbulent in the Common-wealth: we conceive, that a pre-ingaged man may (with a safe conscience) subscribe to this present Engagement. Insomuch as whatsoever we were formerly engaged unto was to be compassed by all lawfull wayes and means, by every man in his vocation and calling. But for any private man by treachery or turbulency, raising tumults and factions to disquiet the present peace (though it be to the attainment of those ends whereunto he was preingaged) is to do evill that good may come thereby, out of his calling and vocation to act for a publick good, which no man (without an immediate call from heaven) hath warrant to do. So that, if it be declared that no more is intended by the words, than what may be comprehended in the negative sense of them, we shall not refuse to subscribe the Engagement, though it be to a Common-wealth, as it stands contra-distinct to Monarchy.
2ly, If the words (true and faithfull) be to be understood positively (yet in a strict sense) so as to oblige us to submit and yeeld obedience to this State of government in licitis, honestis & necessariis, we may (notwithstanding our former Oaths) subscribe thereunto. For, as for those things that come within the number of necessaria, necessarie duties to be performed to God, we are obliged unto them, though we were never enjoined them by men, whose command puts a tie upon us, as subjects, but such as is of inferior nature to the tie which God’s command puts upon us, as creatures and Christians. And though we obey not the Command (meerly) for the Civil Sanction’s sake; yet we hold ourselves bound to reverence the Civill Sanction so much the more for the Command’s sake. And as for those things which come within the number of licita & honesta, things lawfull and honest, though not necessary, we count ourselves obliged to the performance of them for the Command’s sake (meerly). Uncommanded, we may neglect them, because not necessary: but commanded, we shall not refuse to observe them, because lawfull. “But we trust (in the meanwhile) that none will be so irrationall, as to bring that yoke upon us, which neither we nor our fathers were ever able to bear: viz.: to enslave us to the performance of meer indifferent things, as necessary duties, where the performance of them doth not necessarily argue us good subjects, or good Christians.” But,
3ly, If the words (true and faithfull) be to be understood positively, and in a large sense, so as to oblige us to assist, and defend with our lives and fortunes the present Establishment, against all whatsoever (though it be the Parliament of England itself) that shall (hereafter) endeavour by lawfull means to introduce a Monarchy, or any other State of Government in this Nation; we humbly conceive that (without perjurious forcing of our Consciences) we cannot subscribe hereunto. For this is expresly against the words of our former Obligations, wherein we are bound with our lives, power, and estates, to maintain and defend the power and priviledges of Parliament.2 And this were to pawn our souls to oppose a lawfull Government in doing a lawfull thing.
Secondly, If (upon supposition that the words of the Engagement do import something contrary unto those Oaths, &c.) it may be made good, that the Obligation of our former Oaths and Covenants doth cease upon this new establishment. This is the grand Quere.
First, We do acknowledge, that some things, whereunto we formerly have been obliged, are (by the wonderfull providence of our God) rendered infeazible and impossible to us: viz.: such as concerned the person of our late King, &c. God hath disobliged us from such: and our hands are upon our mouthes, because God hath done it.
2ly, But yet there are other things, that are left by the providence of the same God feazible and possible, as, the exclusion of the Popes and forrain Princes and States’ Supremacy, and intermedling with the affairs of this Kingdom, the extirpation of Popery, Prelacy, superstition, heresie, schisme, profanenesse, &c. as may be seen in the particulars of those Oaths, Covenant, and Protestation. Some of which seem to crosse the very intention of this present Engagement, as that particular of our swearing, to bear faith and true allegiance to the King’s Heirs, and lawfull Successors, &c. Unto such things as these, we are still bound, if there be not sufficient reason alledged for our disobligation to those Oaths, by virtue of the present Establishment.
Now we conceive there may be three grounds, whereupon a people may hold themselves dis-obliged from their Oaths to former governments, upon the succession.
First, If those Oaths were vincula iniquitatis, (i.e.) if they did oblige men unto any Government that is of itself unlawfull, and contrariant to the rule of God’s Word. When Monarchy shall be made good to us to be so, we shall not refuse to engage against it.
2ly, In case the alteration be made by such, who, by the fundamentall Laws of the Land, have the power of making such alteration. Which power, by the Statute of 13 Eliz. is expresly conferred upon the three Estates in Parliament. If this alteration come to us with such an Authority, we hold ourselves disobliged from our Oaths to all former Establishments, and are ready to subscribe.
3ly, In case of Conquest; when an over-ruling power (by force of Arms, or otherwise) shall conquer a Nation, and render, as well the people unable to maintain their former Government, and Governors, as the Governors to defend and protect their people, in the pursuit of their Oaths, Covenants, and Obligations to them; Then we count it lawfull for a people to make the best conditions they can with the Conquerors, to desire protection from them, and promise subjection to them. And the reason is, because all former Obligations either of the Governors to the Governed, or the Governed to the Governors, did extend no farther than the power of the obliged on both parts. Which power, on both parties, being, by a totall Conquest, over-come by a third party; the obligation to the mutuall exercise of that power must needs cease, because the power itself is ceased.
This Case if it be ours, and it be declared, avowed, and owned that we are a conquered Nation; We are readie to make the best conditions we can for ourselves. And the former power (under the shadow whereof we breathed) being vanished, whilest we cry Quarter, and look for protection from the succeeding Power, we declare, and promise that we will be true and faithfull thereunto in all things, whereby we may not draw upon ourselves the guilt of disobedience unto God.
Isaac Penington, The Right, Liberty and Safety of the People
Isaac Penington Jr., 1616-1679
Right, Liberty and Safety
Isaac Penington the younger was the son of Sir Isaac Penington, lord mayor of London and a staunch Puritan. The elder Penington represented London in the Short and Long Parliaments. He served on the council of state in 1648 and sat at the trial of Charles I although he refused to sign the death warrant. Although the younger Penington was well-educated, he did not follow any profession. He seems to have been preoccupied with religion and racked with doubts about his own faith. Most of his published works dealt with religion. He was a Puritan until 1657 when he became a Quaker. During the Interregnum, however, between 1651 and 1653, Isaac junior veered from this religious preoccupation to write several political tracts. “The Right, Liberty and Safety of the People” is one of these.
This intelligent and original piece was published on or about 15 May 1651. The Engagement Controversy was then raging, but Penington addresses himself instead to a different subject matter. He criticizes long-sitting and unrepresentative parliaments such as the Rump and probes the theory of government itself. He is particularly interested in how government should be structured and representatives chosen to promote the liberty and welfare of the people. He sees the people’s well-being as the end of government and supports their right to alter the government as they wish. Anticipating Locke he advocates the separation of powers, a representative legislature, a limited executive, and a separation of church and state. A second edition of Penington’s essay appeared in 1657.
At the Restoration the elder Penington was imprisoned in the Tower where he died. Isaac the younger suffered intermittent terms in prison for his Quaker beliefs, which included a refusal to take any oaths—including the oath of allegiance to Charles II.
The Right, Liberty and Safety of the People lieth chiefly in these three things; in the Choice of their Government and Governors, in the Establishment of that Government and those Governors which they shall chuse, and in the Alteration of either as they find cause. This belongs to every people (though few, if any, are in possession of it), and that people, which enjoyeth these, enjoyeth its Right, is indeed free and safe while it so remaineth.
1. The Right, Liberty and Safety of the People consists in the Choice of their Government and Governors.
It is their Right: for in Civil Societies Nature hath not cut out the body into form and shape, but hath left it to be done by the will and wisdom of man, having imprinted in him a sense of and desire after the enjoyment of Justice, Order, Love, Peace (and whatsoever else is good and profitable for him) both particularly in himself and in common with others; which desire thoroughly kindled in man, and guided by the true light of Reason, will lead man to chuse that which is properly good both for himself and others. And though man may possibly or probably abuse this, yet that is no sufficient ground for depriving him of his right.
Their Liberty lies in it too. They only are a free People who have their Government of their own choice. Such upon whom others do intrude, or upon whom other Laws or Regents are imposed than what themselves judg meet and necessary, and besides that which they themselves voluntarily and by free consent submit unto for their good and welfare, are so far under slavery and such a miserable subjection as Nature never appointed them unto.
Their Safety likewise lies in it: for to be sure they will chuse nothing but what in probability will conduce to their own good and happiness; whereas others, making Laws for them, or setting Governors over them, may respect their own particular benefit and advantage, and not so much the good of the People, which is the main end why Laws, Governments and Governors are appointed, and to which they should in a direct line be guided.
And upon this ground I conceive it very requisite, that men who are chosen to sit in Parliament to make or alter Laws, to set up or alter Governments or Governors for and in behalf of the People, should, as soon as any, lie open to the force of all the Laws they make, or of anything they do in that kind; that no Law they make should take effect till they be dissolved, and come to lie as liable to it as any, otherwise they will not be sensible enough of the People’s condition, and consequently not fit to stand in their stead, or to act for them in cases that concern them so nearly. The greatest security the People have concerning their Parliaments is that they chuse persons whose condition will keep them from injurying them, for if they prejudice them they prejudice themselves, if they neglect their good they neglect their own good. This security is good while the people chuse them that are of their own rank, and while these make no Laws for them which shall have any life or vertue to do good or hurt till they come also to be exposed to them, but otherwise it is very invalid, if not wholly lost. They who are to govern by Laws should have little or no hand in making the Laws they are to govern by: for Man respects himself in what he does; (The Governor will respect himself, his own ease, advantage and honour in Government, and lay loads upon the people, but make his own burthen light). Therefore things should be so ordered, in the behalf and for the security of the people, that such as are chosen and appointed to act in this kind should lay no load upon the people, but what their own backs may come as soon and as fully, in their degree and station, to bear, as any of the people’s.
2. The Right, Liberty and Safety of the People consists in the Establishment of their Government and Governors. As they have right to chuse, so they have right to confirm what they chuse, to establish that Government and such kind of Governors as they judg or find most convenient and necessary for them. Without this the people can be neither free nor safe no more than without the other, nay without this their right to chuse would be to little purpose, the end of choice in things of this nature being for the duration of its appointed season.
3. Their Right, Liberty and Safety lieth also in enjoining and exercising (as need requires) the Power of altering their Government or Governors: that when they find either burdensom or inconvenient they may lay it aside, and place what else they shall judg lighter, fitter or better in the stead of it. Nature still teacheth everything, as it groweth, to reach further and further towards perfection. No man is bound to that which he chuseth or establisheth further than he findeth it suitable to the end for which he chose and established it. Now several states and conditions of things and persons changing, there must of necessity be an answerable change in Laws, Orders, Governments or Governors also, or man will be instrumental to introduce slavery, misery and tyranny upon himself, which Nature teacheth everything both to abhor, and as much as may be to avoid.
It is the desire of most men both in reference to Church and State (as men commonly speak) to have Laws and Ordinances, after the manner of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be altered: I cannot but approve the desire, since it is written in man’s nature. It is natural to man, and a stamp of the divine Image upon him, to press after unchangeableness both in himself and in the things which appertain unto him. But yet it is not suitable to his present condition which will in no wise admit of it, because it is continually subject to change and alteration. And as it still changeth, so do his needs and desires, as also his experience and wisdom, and so must the Laws and Orders which he prescribes to himself and others, or he will be grievously cruel to himself and others. Ages have their growth as well as particular persons, and must change their garments, their Customs, their courses, &c. for those which are still suitable to their present state and growth. Laws are but temporary; and as they are founded upon Reason, so they are no longer to last than the Reason of them lasteth, to which they ought to give place, and admit of such a succession as it appoints. Only herein hath Nature provided well for the people, if they could fairly come to their Right, and had wisdom to use it (which sense and experience is continually instructing them how to do) in that she doth allot them to make and alter their own clothes, to shape out their own burdens, to form, renew or alter that yoke of Government which is most necessary and convenient for their necks.
All this, or any part of this (either the chusing, establishing or altering Governments, Laws or Governors) the people cannot do in a Body; an whole Nation is too unweildy to act together themselves: therefore Nature hath taught them to do it by Substitutes, whom they themselves chuse to stand in their stead to do any of these things for them as their present condition and need requires, which Body of persons is with us called a Parliament, who are picked out by the whole to be the Representative of the whole, to do that for the whole which they would have to be done, and would do themselves if they were a Body in a capacity to act.
And from this first rise of things may best be discovered the nature, ends, proper use and limits of Parliaments, all which are necessary to be known, both that they may move according to their nature, pursue their ends, be rightly used, keep within their compass, and that the people may clearly discern that they so do, whereby they will come to rest satisfied in their proceedings, and in their expectations of good thereby.
We see here of what kind of persons the Parliament is to consist, viz. of the common people, that they may be fit to represent their burdens and desires.
We see here of what use and for what end they are, viz. to relieve the people, to redress any occasion of grief or burden to them, to make Laws, alter Laws, set Laws in a due way of Administration, set up or alter Governments and Governors, dispose of everything in such a way as the people may freely enjoy their Rights in Peace and Safety.
We see also their bounds in general, viz. the exercising the power of the People in such ways as were proper for the people to exercise it in were they capable of joint and orderly acting.
We see likewise their Nature or Constitution, what they are. They are the ELECTIVE POWER, the CONSTITUTIVE POWER, the ALTERATIVE POWER. What lies confused and unuseful in the people is treasured up in them in order, and in a fitting way for use. Is there a Government wanting? The people cannot orderly or wisely debate or chuse that which is likely to be most commodious and safe. Are there any Laws wanting? The people cannot well set about making Laws. Are there any Laws, Customs, or Encroachments burdensom? The people cannot rightly scan how far they are so, or proceed to a regular alteration of them. So that the whole, Right, Freedom, Welfare and Safety of the People consists in Parliaments rightly and duly called, constituted and ordered towards acting faithfully in the discharge of the Trust reposed in them.
Yea lastly, Here we may see in a direct line the proper course and way of Parliaments, which speaks out itself, and would easily be discerned by us, if our eyes were kept fixed here, and not entangled with other intermixtures, which are apt to seize upon everything, and interweave with everything, hardly anything keeping its own pure nature or proper current. Take it thus, (with a little kind of Circuit for the better illustration of it, yet very briefly).
All Governments (though intended for and directed towards common good) are still declining and contracting private, selfish and corrupt Interests, whereby the people come to feel burdens under them, and find want of fences to guard them from the insolencies and assaults of such as are above them, which are very usual everywhere, for every man (I think I need not add, almost) though he be unwilling to have any tyrannize over him, yet he is too prone to tyrannize over such as are under him. Who would not, when he feels oppression, if he were able, thrust the Oppressor out of his seat? And yet who sees how ready he himself would be, so soon as he hath done it, to seat himself in the same throne of oppression; and that he will as certainly do the one as the other, if he be not hindered by outward force, or (which is better) by an inward principle? Indeed man can by no means come to see this concerning himself, but the people still come too soon to feel it.
Now the People, who wear their Government, finding by experience where it sitteth easie or pincheth, what present loads they groan most under, what future fences they stand in need of to shelter them from the injurious assaults of Powers above them; accordingly chuse persons, who lie under the same sense with them, to represent, consult about, and redress these their grievances, by punishing Offenders for misdemeanors past, by opening the course of Law for time to come, as also by adding thereto, or detracting therefrom, as the condition and need of the people requires, &c.
These persons thus chosen are to come with the sense and desires of the particular Counties, Cities or Boroughs for which they serve, mutually to represent these, and to consult together how all burthens may be taken off, and all desires satisfied in such a way as may stand with the good of the whole.
After full debate had how these things may be done, to come to an agreement of full setling them accordingly in the firmest way that can be, which having done to dissolve, and leave the people experimentally to try and reap the benefit of their care, pains and fidelity, and to return immediately into their former condition, to lie with them sensibly again under the benefit or inconvenience of what they have done.
And this to be done with as much speed, as the motion of such a kind of Body, in Affairs so weighty, can permit; that if they chance to fail in effecting what is desired and expected from them, the people may quiet themselves with the expectation of another remedy in its season approaching. The reason why Parliaments should with all possible speed dispatch their work, is for avoiding of that corruption which standing pools are subject to, and which is most dangerous in them; for what shall rectifie the last remedy, if that be out of order, and grow so corrupt, that it hath more need of a Physician itself, than to act the part of a Physician? All things by degrees gather corruption, the governing Power by degrees declineth from its first purity, and so also doth the rectifying and reforming Power, its deviation is as easie as the others, and of far greater consequence; more destructive, less curable. Therefore better were it for Parliaments to leave part of their work undone, than to sit so long as to contract corruption. It is better to want somewhat of the full application of a remedy, than to have it poisoned. But of this more by and by under a distinct head by itself.
Now the whole Right, Liberty, Welfare and Safety of the People consisting in Parliaments; the right Constitution and orderly motion of them is of the greatest consequence that can be, there being so much embarqued in this Vessel, where, if it miscarry, it is irreparably lost, unless it can be recovered again out of the Sea of Confusion.
Wherefore it becometh every one (both in reference to himself and the whole) to contribute his utmost towards the right steering of this Vessel, towards the preserving of it pure both in its state and motions, lest both the good and welfare of the whole and of every particular miscarry, for want of due care and observation.
Towards which work, the further to incite and provoke others, I cast in this present offering, making mention of those dangers which lie open to my eye in reference to Parliaments, whereby the true and genuine fruit of them may either be hindered from growth, or come to be corrupted, whereby the People at least cannot but miss of the proper use and benefit, which it ought to reap from them.
There are, in reference to Parliaments, six Cases or Considerations, evident to me, whereby the hazard of the people may be very great, which I shall set down distinctly that they may be the better taken notice of, weighed and judged.
1. Want of Parliaments. Parliaments are the proper Remedy to relieve the grieved People from their burdens and oppressions; from any kind or the several kinds of oppressions that may befall them; from the oppressions of any Government, any Governors, any Laws, any Incroachments, &c. (for by several ways, means and instruments the people may be oppressed). Now if Parliaments be wanting, that is to say, be not duly called according to the need of the people (it being their proper engine whereby alone they can duly, orderly and safely act) their Right, Liberty and Safety is much hazarded, and they obnoxious to lie under the burden of oppression without remedy. If diseases grow, and a due course of physique be not to be had, the body cannot but suffer damage and hazard.
There are two things essentially necessary to the health and well-being of a Nation, as well as of other bodies both natural and politique, which are, the cutting off of exuberances, and the supplying of defects, both which in the principal and most weighty part of them, are peculiar to Parliaments; so that where there is want of them, the radical life and vertue of the people must needs be obstructed, languish and decay. This is a very ill disease, however those who never knew or experimented the sweetness of enjoying their Right and Liberty, may not be considerably sensible of it.
2. Want of fair Elections, as thus, If the people be by any means drawn from minding their own good, from bending themselves to chuse persons who may be fit to act for them. How easily may Parliaments warp aside from easing and relieving the people unto further burthening and grieving of them, if such persons be chosen to appear in their behalf, who are friends to their Oppressors, and have a particular advantage of sharing with them in the benefit of that which is the burden and cause of grief to the people? And here is a great danger the people are very obnoxious to: Their burdens commonly arise from the miscarriage of the still present Governors, and these Governors cannot but have great advantages, by their Power over them, to have an influence upon their choice. Therefore if the people be not so much the more wary, that which was intended for their greatest relief may turn to their greatest prejudice. O how miserable is man, whose remedies against multitudes of dangers are so few, and even those few all along so subject to miscarry! A Parliament may be prevented, that it may not be to be had when there is most need of it. A Parliament may be corrupt before it hath a Being, it may be so ill constituted in respect of the materials of it, that it may be a fitter engine of slavery and misery than of freedom and happiness to a poor enthralled people. And yet this is not all the danger that Parliaments are exposed unto, as also the people, in relation to that good they hope for by Parliaments.
3. Short continuance of Parliaments. Suppose the people have Parliaments, have a fair and free choice without being overpowered therein, or swayed aside; nay suppose yet more, that they chuse well for themselves; yet the Power they are to deal with may overbear them, and (if they cannot bend them aside) enforce their dissolution. And hereby the people must needs be deprived of reaping that good they desired and hoped for by their endeavors.
Parliaments are great Bodies, and consequently slow in motion, which is their proper pace and advantage, for they can hardly do anything well but what they do slowly; for motions that require swiftness Nature hath cut out other kind of bodies. Again, Parliaments are to act very warily, (as the things they are to do, are of great concernment, and require much circumspection and consideration), and therefore in both these respects must have time convenient to act accurately in the discharge of so great a Trust, and in the managing of so Weighty Affairs, which if it be not answerably allotted them, they must of necessity be defective in.
4. Want of Power to Parliaments. Parliaments have a difficult piece of work, viz. to chastise the greatest Oppressors, and to strike at the very root and foundation of oppression in any kind, and unless they have Power answerable they cannot possibly go through with it. Oppositions and interruptions from other Powers they must expect to meet with, which if they be not able to graple with and overcome, they cannot exercise the full Right and Liberty of the People, either in punishing Offenders against the People, or in chusing, establishing or altering Governments, Laws or Governors for the People. This must necessarily much hinder, if not put a stop to their work: for if any fall short of those means which are proper to an end, they cannot possibly attain that end. If the hand which imposeth and would keep burthens upon the back, be stronger than that which would remove them; If the hand which would supply defects, be weaker than that which stands in its way to stop it in its course, vain and fruitless will all its endeavors be. (The Power that relieveth from oppression must of necessity be greater than the Power that oppresseth.) And this was the condition of this present Parliament, there was visibly such a Power over them as they could do nothing to purpose for the good of the People. This doubtless they had great reason to strive to get loose from, and the people had great reason to stick to them in it, as also to expect from them their own freedom after they were made free, the freedom of the people being the end (theirs but the means), and therefore most to be eyed. ’Tis to no purpose at all to have never so free a Parliament, unless we have also a People put into the possession of their freedoms by the Parliament.
5. Over-long duration of Parliaments. This was glanced at before, but yet it will be requisite to consider of it further, because after those many changes which of late we have been much driven and necessitated into,1 we may at present lie more open to the ill influence of this, than of any of the former: and it should be the especial wisdom and care of man to take most heed of that danger which he lieth most open to. Everything hath its appointed seasons, bounds and proper way of operation, within which it is very beautiful and profitable, but beyond it very uncomely and dangerous. Parliaments, in their season, may bring forth a most sweet and excellent kind of fruit, which may vigorously refresh the spirits, and recover the decaying Liberties of a dying Nation; but continuing longer than its season, the Root itself, may easily grow corrupt, and the fruit prove soure, harsh, and deadly, yea may tend to a more bitter death than it was ordained to prevent. Many dangers Parliaments are exposed to by long continuance, whereby their nature and constitution may be depraved, or they induced to act after a different nature, or in other ways than is proper for them, or good for the people. Those dangers which more principally in this respect represent themselves to my eye, I shall here make mention of.
1. Parliaments, by long continuance, will be subject to fall into factions, which is the foundation of so many breaches and divisions in the whole, upon which they cannot but have an influence to conform them unto themselves, the eye of the people being still upon the fountainhead. We have had sufficient experience to evidence the truth of this, for still as the Parliament hath been divided, there have also been divisions throughout the whole Nation. Persons who act jointly and uniformly at first, (having one and the same sense upon their spirits, one and the same end in their eye, one and the same desire in their hearts) may in process of time lose this sense, this desire, this end, and be drawn aside to another sense, desire, end, and differ also in their new choice, which may insensibly creep in upon them; and according to this difference, there will ensue a division among them both in their motions and actions. Now how dangerous this is to have a breach in the Root, to have a seed of division in the heart, working there, springing forth from thence, and diffusing itself throughout the whole body, I think it will be needless to express.
2. Parliament men, by the long continuance of a Parliament, will be exposed to the temptation of seeking themselves, of minding and prosecuting their several particular ends and interests. A Parliament man, as he is chosen to be, so he should set himself to be a publique person, as it were forgetting himself, and giving up himself to be taken up only with the publique good, for the season of this work. This a good Patriot may find somewhat easie to do for awhile, but if the Parliament last long, Self which is very strong in him, and may challenge a right to be looked after, will revive its right, pleading both reason and necessity in its own behalf. That man, that could be content to lay all aside, and bend himself wholly for the publique for a short time, cannot hold out in doing so, but will be enforced to look after himself, his own affairs, his own profit and thriving in the world, &c. And when he comes to manage these and the other together, it will be very difficult for him to avoid making use of that advantage, which both his power and the long continuance of it affords him, towards his own particular benefit. And Self, having thus crept in, will grow more and more upon him, and will be continually, secretly and subtilly drawing him more and more towards himself, and more and more from the publique: and killing those affections in him (which are too apt of themselves to do) which were very lively at first for the publique, and consequently much unfit him for his work.
3. Parliaments by long continuance are in danger of contracting a particular Interest (an Interest distinct from that Interest which they have as a part of and in common with the people) in the publique Government. Every man hath an allowable Interest in common with the whole, so that if it goeth well with the whole, everyone shares in it. This is a good, a profitable Interest, no way prejudicial to any else. But then there is a particular Interest, whereby it may go well with some, though ill with the generality; nay the welfare of some may arise out of the incommodity of the generality. That wind which bloweth ill upon the publique, may blow profit to some. This Interest all Powers doe readily contract to themselves, partly by their own strength, and partly by their advantage to winde into other Powers, the greater still bringing the less into subjection, which must be at its command and use, or be broken by it. This snare which other Powers by their continuation are still running into, the Parliament is to redeem and purge them from; but to take heed lest their own continuance should be so long, as to bring them into the same snare; which may both unfit them for their proper work, which is to be Judges on the behalf of the Commonwealth, which how can they truly execute, who have a particular interest and share of their own (besides that which they have in common with the people) in the present Government, whom as it favours, so they must again favour it? As also it may engage them in an improper work, viz. in becoming Administrators in the present Government, which is no way proper for such as are appointed to be the Judges of Administrators and Administrations.
A Parliament have an interest in the Government with the rest of the people, yea a right and power conferred upon them by the people to order, settle, amend, or (if need be) new-make the Government for themselves and the people; but not to meddle with the administration of it, or to endeavor to bend it aside, in the administration of it, for any particular end or advantage of their own, which their Power may easily do, and which their overlong duration may too much intice them to assay to do.
4. Parliaments, by long continuance, may incur the danger of interrupting, if not of swallowing up the ordinary course of the people’s enjoying their Right in obtaining speedy, free and impartial Justice by the administration and execution of the Laws. The greater doth commonly weaken, if not devour the less. Extraordinary remedies are apt to thrust into the place of the ordinary, especially when by long duration they may seem to challenge to themselves the right of becoming ordinary.
5. (Which is worst of all) Parliaments, by over-long duration, may slip into danger of depriving the people of the proper use and benefit of Parliaments. The proper use of Parliaments is to be a curb to the extravagancy of Power, of the highest standing Power. But if they themselves become the standing Power, how can they be a fit curb for it? A Parliament is to be such a Body as may have the sense of the people upon them, that so they may be led by that sense to ease, relieve and safeguard the people. But if once they become Governors, they will lose that sense, and have a sense of different nature upon them. They will (like other Governors) have a sense of the duty of the people which they owe to their Governors, but lose (by degrees, still more and more) their sense of the burthens and grievances of the People. So that if Parliaments succeed in the place of the supream-administering-power, there will be as much need of somewhat else to stand between the people and them, as there was of them to stand between the people and Kingly Power: for they coming into that place and Authority, the people are in as much danger of them, as they were of the Power of Kings: for it is not the person simply, but the power, wherein the danger or benefit lieth. And this doubtless is the Right and Liberty of the People, and herein lieth their Safety, viz. to have an extraordinary, legislative, alterative, corrective Power above the ordinary standing Power; and this Power, as to consist of the Body of the People, so likewise to be kept altogether free from having any particular hand in Government, (but to keep within the bounds of their own extraordinary work, which is not so much in as about Government), that so they may both have and retain the sense of the people, being engaged by their state and condition to do nothing which may prejudice the people, because in case they do, they themselves will suddenly feel the smart of it.
6. The last danger, which I shall at this time mention in reference to Parliaments, is this. The assuming a Power of a different nature from them, not proper to them; and intermedling with a work which they are not fitted for, entrusted with, or appointed to.
Powers, like other things (and somewhat more advantagiously than other things, having stronger hands) are still gathering in to themselves. The rich man will be gathering riches, the wise man will be gathering wisdom, and the powerful man will be gathering power. And in attracting to himself (especially where he is the sole Judg) it is very difficult for him to be moderate or innocent. He who hath a right power in some things, it is hard for him to keep there, and not to seek after and lay hold on, if he can, that power which he ought not to have, and in those other kind of things wherein he ought not to have power. That a Parliament, as well as other Powers, is subject to this temptation, cannot be denied.
This is dangerous everywhere. (To have things endowed with a different, if not contrary nature, to have things employed about a different, if not a contrary work, to neglect their own work for which they are fit, to which they are appointed, and execute another work for which they are not fit, to which they are not appointed; this, let it be never so carefully and faithfully managed, must needs bring disorder, confusion, nay greater inconveniences). But the greater the power is, the greater is the danger: because as the greatest power may do most good in its own way, so it may do most harm in a wrong way. Powers that are great, bring forth great effects either of Peace or Trouble, Order or Confusion, Salvation or Destruction. No remedy so soveraign, so restorative as a Parliament rightly constituted, rightly applied, and rightly acting. No disease more deadly, more consuming the very heart-life of the Rights and Liberties of a Nation, than a Parliament misconstituted, misapplied, misacting.
But everyone here will be ready to say, What is that Power which is proper to Parliaments? What is their proper work? What is that Power of a different nature, which will be so dangerous for them to assume? And what is that work, which they are not fitted for, entrusted with, or appointed to?
To satisfie the desire of such as may greedily enquire after this, I shall answer somewhat, according to that insight which is afforded me into the nature of things, shewing (from the Principles foregoing) both what their proper Power and Work is, and then what Power and Work is improper for them. And it is a clearer and far safer way, to search out and discover things from their first rise in Nature, than from succeeding Principles or Practises, which may easily decline awry and cover the true knowledg and intent of things.
Now concerning their proper Power and Work, I shall not undertake to define the particular limits of it, it will suffice to my purpose, to express the general nature of it, which to me appeareth thus.
It is a NATURAL (Human or Civil) EXTRAORDINARY, CONSTITUTIVE, CORRECTIVE, ALTERATIVE POWER. I shall speak chiefly of their Power, which will of itself discover their Work, therefore that will not need so particularly to be opened.
First, I say it is NATURAL: such a Power as is sown in man, in the nature of man. Man hath a power over himself, to dispose of himself, according to that wisdom and righteousness which is seated in him, grows up with him (if it be not blasted or kept under), which he further attains to, or is in a further degree bestowed upon him. Of this common kinde is this, with all other earthly Powers.
But this expresseth only the kinde of it, we are yet far from the particular nature, end, or use of it.
Therefore to describe it further, I term it EXTRAORDINARY, which it discovers itself to be, being a thing not for common and constant use, but for extraordinary ends and purposes; and the nature of things must be suited to their end, for thither it is to direct them.
Then more particularly there is expressed what kinde of extraordinary Power it is, namely, CONSTITUTIVE, CORRECTIVE, ALTERATIVE. It is a Power of seting up or establishing Laws, Governments, Governors; of correcting them, of altering them.
This is the nature of their Power, which pointeth out their work so plainly, as it will not need more particularly to be specified in this place.
Now by this there are two sorts of Power cut off from them, one whole kinde of Power, and one main branch of another kinde.
1. Spiritual Power, which claimeth its descent from Christ as theHead of his Church, and is appropriated by its nature, end and use, unto his Body the Church, which is his City or Kingdom, to be governed by him, even by that power of his Spirit which he pleaseth to exercise upon them, whether immediately by himself, or mediately by such as he substituteth under him. This Power, as it is spiritual, so it is fit to be managed only by spiritual hands: Not by Men, but by Christians; nor by every Christian, but by such only as can clear the derivacy of it from Christ to them, such as are fitted and appointed by him to be under him in his own seat and place of Government. Nor are Christians to exercise this Government over other men, but only over Christians, whom alone it is suited to. Nor are they to govern as men; by outward force; but as Christians, by spiritual vertue and efficacy upon the Conscience, the seat of Christ in man, so that it may appear that not they, but the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit in Christ, doth rule and govern. O how sweet would this Government be! How pleaseant to a Christian the strictest execution of the sharpest Laws in it! Christ’s yoke is easie, and his burthen is light, even in the sharpest and weightiest part of it.
But this Power belongeth not to any Nation or People under Heaven, there being not any Nation or People which can evidence the fair and clear derivacy of this Power from Christ to them: (as it was not intended for any Nation or People, save only his own Nation, his own People). Therefore not to any Parliament, who are but the People in a representative Body, in a Body contracted into a narrower compass for the use and service of the People; who as they stand in their stead, so they have only their Power. The People being the stock or root from whence their Power and Authority doth spring, it can rise no higher, nor be of any other nature, than that which is in the People.
2. In Civil Power, the administrative or governing part of it appeareth from hence not to appertain to them.
In Civil Societies, as well as in natural, Nature hath cut out the proportion (in general, though not in particular). There is the Head and the Members, having each their several innate Properties, Motions, Laws and Priviledges, which cannot be transgressed without violence to Nature, or without danger to that Body or Society which breaketh the bounds limited by Nature. In every Society which is orderly, there is the Head and the Members, part to govern, and part to be governed; to each of which appertain their particular Rights: to the one such as they may be advantaged for and in government by, to the other such as they may be advantaged under government by; that the yoke may be gently, orderly, and sweetly managed by the one, and sweetly born by the other.
Now this is most evident, that the People are the Body, the People are to be governed; not to be the Head, not to govern. The Legislative Power indeed belongs to them, that their yoke might be the more easie. But the Administrative Power doth in no wise belong to them, but to those who are to govern. And though the People might be flattered and encouraged, from sense of the misuse of this Power, to take it into their own hands, yet it can never thrive there: and though they should set themselves to rest content, nay to please themselves with it; yet you must needs grow weary of it, and that very quickly, the inconveniences will multiply so fast, and grow so unavoidable.
Parliaments are the Body of the People, chosen by the People to stand for them, to represent them, to act in their stead. Answerably, They have that Power which is proper to the People, the Legislative, the Supremely Judicative; but not that Power which belongs not to the People, viz. the Administrative.
In like manner this discovers a double kinde of work improper for them.
The one is, medling with spiritual affairs. The constituting of these, the amending of these, the altering of these is only proper to such as are invested with spiritual Power and Authority. The Laws of Christ were never appointed to be set up by the Power of man, but by the Power of his Spirit in the Conscience. It is accounted profane, and much startled at, to touch that which man hath made holy, which man hath separated and consecrated to divine use; and yet how propense are, almost all persons, to be laying hands on that, which God hath made holy and set a part for himself! How sad an effect we have seen and felt from undertakings in this kinde, cannot but be fresh in our memories; what a sad breach and disunion it hath occasioned throughout the whole Nation, and particularly in the Parliament. Nor can I conceive readily, how it could be otherwise. The closest bond of union mistaken and misapplied must needs become the greatest instrument of division (to let pass God’s interest to blast men, when they will be venturing upon that work which he hath not appointed them unto, but reserved for himself). The wound thus made may prove incurable. Men differing in their judgments, and consequently in their desires; differing in the apprehension of their duties; their motions and endevors must needs run cross and become irreconcilable, while the foundation of this difference remains. While a man is strongly perswaded, that this or this is the way and Will of God, that it is his duty to use the utmost of his abilities, opportunities and advantages for the promoting of it, that this is the main end for which power is put into his hands, the chief thing God expects from him, and will call him to a very strict account about the improving of all his power and interest unto the advancing of this; I say while things stand thus, how can he with the quiet of his Conscience neglect acting accordingly? The Presbyterian is now engaged indissolubly, to use his utmost strength and endevor towards the advancing of Presbytery, which is God’s instituted way of Worship in his eye; and so the Independent of Independency, which is Christ’s Institution in his eye. Now having tasted so much of this, and smarted so much by this, men should be very wary of intermedling in things of this nature, further than their ground is clear.
The other is, The taking upon them the Administration of Government,or intermixing with the administration of Government. This is the most pernicious thing to a Parliament that can be, for it both diverteth them from their own work, and out of their own way, into one of another nature; and so thrusteth them into a necessity of doing disservice, and into an incapacity of doing service. This may make useless, nay may make burthensom, the best constituted Parliament. Suppose a Parliament of never such entire-hearted-honest-men, most studiously bent and applying themselves to publique service; yet if they be over-full of another kind of business than their own, or intermix another kinde of business with their own, they can neither well dispatch that other kinde of business which they are so over-full of, or which they so intermix; nor their own neither. And it is the ready way to turn the hearts of the People from Parliaments: for finding things go so grievously amiss (as by this means they needs must), and in the hands too of such men, as they can hardly hope for better, they will begin to look on a Parliament no longer as a remedy, but as a worse disease, than that which they addressed themselves to it for cure of. O consider your snare, ye who are in danger of it! How prone was the Administrative Power to intrench upon the bounds of the Legislative, and how afflictive did it become thereby! Is not the Legislative Power as prone to intrench upon the Administrative? And in so doing, is it not likely to prove as afflictive?
Look into Nature, See if ever this kinde of Body was cut out, fitted or appointed by it to govern. It hath not a fit form or shape for it; it is unweildy for such a kinde of motion.
Again, Look into the tenor of your Call and Trust. Were ye ever entrusted herewith by the People? Is it, or ever was it, the minde of the People? Did they chuse you for this end? Have ye a Commission from them, I mean not formally, but so much as vertually, intentionally? They called you to rectifie Government, that is clear enough; but did they call you to govern? O remember, remember, when any such motions arise in you, when any such temptations beset you; Ye are not fitted to it by Nature: your motion is slow, but the work and way of Government requires speed and swiftness. And if ye should from a desire, from an apprehension of advantage, from sense of present need, or any other never so good an intent, alter your own slow pace and strive to act swiftly; it will quickly appear how uncomely it is in you, and how unsafe for the People. Remember also, that ye are not called to it by the People: and if ye will yet be venturing upon it, doubtless ye will run the hazard of ruining both yourselves and the People.
These are some of the dangers which Parliaments (and through them the People) are obnoxious to. How far this present Parliament hath been overtaken with any of them, or how far the People hath suffered thereby, I shall not take upon me to determine. Only thus much I cannot but express, That the present state of affairs is (to my eye) much entangled, and that the true foundations of Right and Freedom (so far as I can discern) are not yet laid; and I could earnestly desire and much entreat those in whose power it is, to do the main work, and to do it thoroughly: To let fall all desire of Power or Supremacy (whose sweetness will be tempting the best) to strike at the root of all particular Interests which stand in the way of publique good, and to set upon such ways of publique good, so evidently and directly tending thereto, as might be forcible to convince very enemies to them by their clearness in reason, and by the sweet benefit which they should not be able to avoid tasting and reaping from them. Having such advantage of Power in their hands, what is it which might not be done for publique good, if men had hearts, and were in a right way?
It is commonly said, that a stander by may see more than a gamester: which if it be true, I may assume unto myself some freedom of speech more than ordinary, my condition interessing me in it. For I have been long taken off from being an Actor in any kinde, to become only a Spectator; yea and I think I may say safely, not an engaged but a free Spectator. I have not been interessed in the designs of any party whatsoever, nor so much as in desire to have any party thrive, further than they have been guided by Principles of Reason and Righteousness unto common good. There is not one sort of men upon the face of the Earth, to whom I bear any enmity in my spirit (though in some respect I must confess myself an enemy to every sort of men) but wish, with all my heart, they might all attain and enjoy as much Peace, Prosperity, and Happiness, as their state and condition will bear. There are not any to whom I should envy Government, but, who ever they are, they should have my vote on their behalf, whom I saw fitted for it and called to it. Indeed I am offended, very much offended with most persons and things, and I have a deep Charge against them, which at present I keep secret, not intending to bring it forth till I come upon that stage where I may have fair play. Yet thus much I will say, which toucheth a little upon it. I am offended both with Light and Darkeness, or rather with that which pretends to be Light, and that which is acknowledged to be Darkness. I am offended with that which pretends to be Light, because it doth not more fairly overcome Darkness; but while it blames it for its dark paths of Tyranny, Cruelty and Oppression, itself seeks (not by the pure vertue and power of Light, but) by the same weapons, viz. of dark violence to conquer it; and if it ever prevail this way to do it effectually, I shall be much mistaken. I am also offended with Darkness; because it is not true to itself, not just to itself, not at peace with itself, nor keeps within the sphere of its own dark Principles (even those which it doth acknowledg) in its own motions, or in its opposing either Light or Darkness Christians dishonour themselves and their Principles; They speak indeed of the Light of God, of the Life of God, of the Power of God, of the great Name of God, but are fallen short of the true vertue and glory of all these, both in Religion, and in their course in the World. Men dishonor themselves and their Principles, falling short of that common love, good will and righteousness which very Nature would teach them to observe, notwithstanding its depravation, were their ears open. But I delight neither to complain nor accuse, only I cannot but wish that all cause and occasion of complaint and accusation were taken away from him who doth delight in either. All the liberty I shall now make use of, is only freely to express what I conceive necessary, in the present confused state of things, to reduce them into some certain safe and well-grounded order, according to plain Principles of Reason and Righteousness, without aiming either at the throwing down or setting up of any person or thing: Which, what interpretation soever of weakness, folly or disaffection may be put upon it, I finde not myself very prone to value. This temper hath long attended my spirit, not much to regard, what account either I myself or any else put upon things, but rather to expect what things will then appear to be, when they shall be made manifest by that Light, which doth discover them as they are, and will pass such a judgment upon them as they deserve, and shall not be able to gainsay or avoid.
It is a kinde office and a commendable peece of service to help out of the mire, or to offer so to do, yet can hardly be so esteemed by him who observeth not himself to be in the mire, and consequently hath no sense of any need of help. He will rather entertain it with disdain than acceptation, it implying him to be in such a condition as he is unwilling to own or acknowledg. But however, as I have on the one hand expressed my sence (though very sparingly) of our present entangled condition, wherein we finde ourselves at a loss in our very remedy: so I shall on the other hand offer what help my Reason and Judgment presents to me as proper and necessary to dis-involve us and bring us into a right course.
To come then to what I drive at, first I shall speak a word in general towards setling, and then propound more particularly, what things are needful (considering our present state) towards the setling of affairs in order, justice and safety, both to dis-engage us from fundamental miscarriages and dangers (which it is very easie to slip into, and very hard to wade out of, especially after our so long treading in such an unusual track, as of late we have been much driven into) and to set us straight.
Towards setling in general I should say three things.
First, That we should look well to our setling, look well how we settle.
Secondly, That we should be careful of avoiding Arbitrariness of Government in our setling.
Thirdly, That we should have regard to the Rights of the People, and especially to their rectifying Right, that it have its free current.
1. We should look well to our setling. Shakings generally tend to setling; and setlings frequently make way for future shakings. Shakings are sudden and violent most commonly, not flowing so much from deliberation as from force: but setlings require great wariness and circumspection, lest that corruption which caused our disturbance (and should be shaken out) put on a new guise, and settle again on our new foundation; whereby there are not only new seed-plots strown of fresh ensuing miseries, but also preparation made for a new Earthquake. Therefore it behoveth us to look well about us, and to settle warily, that we may settle surely.
2. We should be careful to avoid Arbitrariness of Government in our setling. If Arbitrariness of Power, and a Government by Will, not Law, was our burthen, and that which we so strongly desired and endevored to throw off from our backs: then surely they to whom it appertaineth, and who have engaged themselves to free us from it, ought to be exceeding careful and watchful against involving us again in it. If it hath already miscarried in one hand, it may also do in another. However, in reason we are not to be tied to run the venture. It is not the change of the hand, but the change of the Rule, which we expect as our foundation of Safety. He that doth us good in an arbitrary way, and by an arbitrary power today, may by the same way and power do us harm tomorrow.
3. In our setling regard should be had to the Rights of the People, and especially to their rectifying Right, that it have its free current. The Rights of the People were the main thing presented to view in this great conflict, and therefore in equity should be mainly prosecuted: and most principally those which are their most needful and useful Rights. Our Laws are our Rights, and we should be loth to be deprived of any of them (whose reason was both good at first, and remaineth still in force). But there are some Rights and Liberties which are the root and foundation of our Laws, and our ultimate Refuge for succour and safety; and therefore much nearer to us, and more essential to our happiness, than others are. These are especially to be regarded. And this so much the rather, because the people are so fit a Body to be subjected and trampled upon, that it is very hard for those which are great in power, to keep their feet from off their necks. Alas, the people have no way to avoid danger but by running upon the Rocks; they have no way to shun ruine, but by hasting into ruine. Those they chuse to govern them gently, to defend them, may sit hard upon their backs, yea themselves may make a prize of them. And if they can in length of time, through many difficulties, obtain and appoint Trustees to rectifie these miscarriages, yet how many temptations they have to mismanage it, they think not of, and how they will manage it, they know not. Experience doth still shew how difficult it is thoroughly to mind the good of the people. One half of the work is sometimes done (sometimes very often) viz. the crushing of Oppressors: but the other half, viz. the breaking the yoke of oppression, is very rare and hard even for them to do who have prevailed to shake the Oppressors out of their seats.
Thus much in general. Now more particularly, there are four things appear to me as necessary, unto a fair and firm setling.
1. A clear distinction between the administrative or executive Power, and the legislative or judicative: that as they have in themselves, so they may retain in their course, their clear and distinct natures, the one not intermixing or intermedling with the other. That the administrative may not intermingle itself, or meddle with the legislative, but leave it to its own free course; not the legislative with the administrative by any extemporary precepts, directions or injunctions, but only by set and known Laws. Things which are severed in their nature must likewise be severed in their use and application, or else we cannot but fail of reaping those fruits and effects which we desire from them, and which otherwise they might bear, and we enjoy.
2. A prescription of clear and distinct Rules and Bounds to each. That the Trust, Power, Priviledges and Duty of each, which flow from the common light of man, and are intended for the common good of man, may be made evident to that common light; that the people may know hereby what they are to expect from each, what they are to expect from the Parliament, what they are to expect from their Supream Governor or Governors, and so may be understandingly sensible of good or ill usage. There is nothing (among that nature of things we now treat of) of itself unlimited: and the more clearly the limits of anything are set and known, the greater advantage hath it both to move safely, and to vindicate the integrity and righteousness of its motions. If the limits of Power be not described and made known, it will be left too loose in its actings, and the people also will be left too loose in the interpretation of its actings (neither of them being groundedly able to justifie themselves in either unto the other) neither of which is safe. If the Parliament hath one apprehension of its limits, and the people another, they can neither be satisfied in the other; but the people must needs disrelish the actions of the Parliament, and the Parliament cannot but think themselves injured by the people, which may occasion the laying of a dangerous foundation of discontent and division between them. Yea hereby the Parliament’s best friends may be forced to become its enemies, and it may be forced to deal most sharply with its best friends, and so weaken its best strength, and the best strength of the Nation. Those that are friends to things are not friends to persons, any further than they are subservient to things. It is as hateful to true-bred-spirits to idolize the name of a Parliament any more than of a King: it is righteousness, rightly administered in its own proper way and channel, by persons in place and power, which alone can make them lovely to such as love not men, but righteousness. It was the error of the foregoing governing Power to esteem itself more at liberty, than in right it was; it may also be the error of the present legislative power, yea their condition exposeth them more unto it (their Liberty being larger, or of a larger kind); and therefore they ought the more abundantly to beware of it, and to apply themselves to produce, or cause to be produced, a true and fair discovery of those bounds and limits wherein they are (by the nature of things) circumscribed: for if they do not know them, it will be impossible for them to keep within them; and if the people do not know them, it may be difficult (in many considerable cases) to them to believe that they do keep within them.
3. An unquestionably free and equal Parliament. It is not every cause which will produce a true and genuine effect, but the cause must be rightly tempered to bring forth kindly fruit. It is not every Parliament which can heal or settle a Nation, or that the people have just cause to rest satisfied in; but a Parliament fairly chosen, equally representing the people, and freely acting for the people.
Now every man knoweth force to be opposite to freedom. That which is free is not forced, and that which is forced is not free.
This Parliament hath, visibly to every common eye, been more than once forced;2 and it is not very easie after violence to break forth again into perfect liberty: the sense and remembrance of the former force, together with an inward fear of the like again (if the like occasion shall happen) may be a secret, though not so apparant a bond upon their spirits, which may in some particulars incline them both to do what they would not, and to neglect the doing of what they would.
Besides, it may be considered how far that visible force, which caused so great an alteration in the Parliament, and such a change in affairs, did intrench upon the freedom of Parliament. For though every detention of some or many Members may not disanul the freedom of a Parliament, yet some kind of detention, so and so qualified, necessarily doth. An occasional or accidental detention is not of so great force as an intentional: yet if such an accidental detention of some of the Members should happen, whereby the state and course of the Parliament should be changed, it might well be disputed, whether the rest (still sitting and acting contrary to what was done before those Members were detained) might be accounted a free Parliament, (when such a force was visibly upon some part of it, as changed the whole state of affairs in it). For this were plainly an accidental bending of the Parliament from its intended course, from its free current, and so far as it is bent it is not free. But in the case in hand there was yet more,3 There was an intentional bending of the Parliament, (as was expressly declared by them who were the instruments to bend it) there was a culling out of those who stood in the way of what the Army thought just, safe and necessary to be done. And this was done purposely that the Parliament might be put into another posture, and act other things different from what, as they were then constituted, they could be drawn unto. Now though there should be a violent detention of divers Members of the Parliament from doing that service, which they ought and desire to do according to their Judgments and Consciences; yet if the Parliament be not bent hereby, but go on in the same path it was walking in before, it hath the greater advantage thereby to argue and to make good its freedome. But if by this force it be visibly and apparantly bent, put into another posture, and into contrary ways and motions, the evidencing of its freedom will, in this case, be more difficult.
There might yet be further added the Judgment of the Army concerning this action of their own, who were likely to look favourably upon it being their own, but I purposely wave it: for I do not go about to make the most of these things, but desire only the granting of thus much to me, that this Parliament is not unquestionably free, and so the people, who are sensible thereof, cannot rest fully satisfied in their spirits, that this present engine is their evidently-genuine and proper engine.
And as this present Parliament is not unquestionably free, no more is it an unquestionably equal Representative of the people, neither in respect of the number of the persons, nor in respect of the qualification of the persons.
First, for the number of the persons. Every County, City, Borough, having their stock going, their right and interest concerned in the whole, their particular advantage or disadvantage while Parliaments sit; so they ought to have their proper Substitutes or Representers to appear for them, to stand in their stead, to have an influence in the managing of their particular cases, and their right in the whole, which, as the case now stands, many do want.
Secondly, for the qualification of the persons. For it is not a number of persons (though chosen by the people) simply considered, that do or can represent the people. They are but shadows, not the true Representatives of the People (though designed by the people to that end) unless they be rightly qualified. How is that? Why thus: by understanding the condition and desires of those they stand for, and by representing those desires seasonably in their stead: for they are chosen to be common persons, and therefore ought to have the common sense of the Rights, Liberties, Safeties, Needs, Desires of those they stand for. If a man undertake to appear for me, and doth not know or care to know what I need or desire, he doth me a double injury; both putting me to the loss of that which I might obtain, and depriving me of the means I might otherwise have attained it by.
Now there is a great exception against these present Representers in this respect, the state of things, and consequently burthens being much changed, since they were chosen to represent them. It is a long while since the first sitting of this Parliament, and the change of Power, with other things, may have caused many new burthens, which they, being in power, cannot so fully feel, nor seem so fit to be Judges of. The burthens of the People still arise from the present Power, that power from which they did formerly arise is removed, another hath succeeded. Now they who are the greatest in the succeeding Power seem no way fit to represent the burthens of the people under that power: but such of the common people as lie most under them, and most feel them, are likely to be most fit to represent the sense of them. These indeed might be fit, when they were chosen, to be Judges of former burthens and oppressions, but they seem not now so fit to be Judges concerning present burthens and oppressions. Not that which manageth the power can so fairly, clearly and sensibly judg whether it be easie or grievous, but that which lieth under it.
And here I may not unfitly add one thing concerning the way of managing affairs in Parliament so much in use, viz. by Votes; the necessity whereof in some cases, and the multitude of transactions, may have been an occasion to draw into more common use than is either fit or safe. My ground of excepting against it is this. The actions of the people (and so of the Parliament, who are the collective body of the people) should be very clear and evident to the eye of common sense, so as to bear down all opposition or gainsaying. The people should desire the removal of nothing but what is evidently burthensom, the addition of no Law but what is evidently good, the punishment of none but him who hath evidently been an offender. But the putting things to Vote is an argument against this clearness and evidence, and doth seem to whisper, if not to speak out, that things are doubtful, and that the determination is also doubtful, arising not necessarily from the strength of reason, but perhaps from the number of voices. I confess it is impossible for such a body to manage many affairs without this course: but I cannot conceive that ever Nature cut out such a body for the managing of many affairs. It is a body of the common people, who are not supposed to be skilful in administering Government, nor intended to meddle in managing of affairs, but only to set them in a right posture, and in a fair way of administration. A few, easie, necessary things, such as common sense, reason and experience instructeth the common sort of men in, are the fittest things for them to apply themselves unto. Indeed the people should have no more hand in or rather about Government, than necessity requires for their own preservation, safety and welfare; and dispatch quickly what they have to do (as a few plain things may quickly be done) and so return into subjection unto Government again, whereby alone they will be able to know whether they have done well or ill in what they have done. Again, as it is a Body of the common people, so it is of a great bulk (it cannot be otherwise formed), and therefore not fited for many motions, but only for such as are slow and sure. Yet their slowness of motion (the right order of nature being observed) will be neither burdensom to themselves nor others, being recompenced by the fewness of those things which Nature (I mean the nature of their end, call and trust) hath appointed for them to do.
4. A regular way of Elections: that the people might be put into a fair, clear, understanding way of managing this: that they might not be urged from favour to the present administering power to make their choice according to their desires, but might be left free therein, and might be incited to wariness by being instructed of what concernment their choice is: that if they chuse amiss they contribute towards the laying a foundation of enslaving themselves and the whole Nation. The people have a sense of their own good, as well as a desire to please their Superiors, and if that sense were by suitable means quickened in them at the time or season when they chuse, they would be so much the more careful to make choice of such as were fittest to represent that sense. In such a great and extraordinary Remedy there should be extraordinary care about every step and degree of the framing and constituting of it that we may be sure (as sure as possibly we can) to have it right and fit for its appointed end and use: for one error here is as it were a womb of danger and misery, which hereby it is in a way to bring forth. Now that the people might the better understand the end, work, &c. for which they are chosen, and put themselves, or rather be put (for they can hardly do anything themselves orderly) into such a posture as they might chuse most advantagiously to their own good; and that those whom they chuse might the better apply themselves thereto; that both these might be more commodiously done, I shall propound these three things. (And here I desire free scope in the ballance of everyone’s Judgment, for I propose not these things from any conceit of them, but meerly from the strength of that reason which representeth itself to me in them, having no desire they should take place, so much as in anyone’s mind, any further than the reason in them makes way there for them, and it will be my delight and joy to see them give place to anything which is better or more solid.)
1. That the Counties, Cities or Boroughs meet together (as they were wont to do to chuse their Knights, Citizens or Burgesses) to chuse a convenient number of their Commonalty as a Committee to chuse their Knights, Citizens or Burgesses for them for that one time.
I speak now in general concerning a convenient way of chusing, but if I were to speak concerning a sudden new choice, I should add this. That none should be admitted either to be chosen or to vote in this choice, but such as have been faithful to their Country in the late great defection:4 for which end, that exceptions should be drawn up, and great penalties annexed to them, to be inflicted on such as should venture to give their vote, who are excepted from chusing; or such as shall accept of the choice, who are excepted from being chosen. (Only these exceptions should be so plain, as there may be no cause of doubt or scruple concerning the interpretation of any of them, lest they prove a snare to any to deprive them of the exercise of their just Right and Liberty herein.) It is undeniably just and rational, that the people having fought for their Rights and Liberties, and purchased them with the expence of their blood, should now enjoy them, and not permit such a participation of those among them, who endeavored and fought against them, as may cause a new hazard of the return of that into their hands, which hath been thus difficultly and costily recovered from them.
2. That this Committee immediately upon their being chosen (before or at their first sitting) may have an Oath administered unto them, to this intent, That without partiality, regard to friendship, or any other by-respect, they shall chuse (either from among themselves or elsewhere) him whom they shall judg most fit, both for ability and fidelity, to serve his Country in general, and that County, City, or Borough in particular.
3. That this Committee, immediately after they have finished their choice, consult about and draw up (and that an Oath be administered for this end likewise, or a clause for it inserted in the former Oath) a Copy of what, according to their Consciences, they conceive them to be entrusted with by the people; with what kind of power, in what sphere, and to what end; which might be before them as a Light and Rule unto them, though not absolute, yet it might be very helpful: Whereas otherwise (without some such help) persons called to that employment may be ignorant what their work is, and from this ignorance (and their own modesty together) may join with others in the way they find them in (if a Parliament be sitting) or in the way some, who are most looked upon, may propose; in the meanwhile they themselves not understanding where they are, to what direct end, or upon what ground they act. And I must confess this hath ever made me unwilling to venture upon that employment, not having clear and certain instruction how or what to act therein: and I must confess myself somewhat unsatisfied to undertake a Trust, the nature whereof is not clearly manifested unto me. I am content to serve my Country with all my poor strength, but withall cannot but be shy of such a snare of doing them disservice instead of service, as my own remediless ignorance herein may necessarily expose me to. And perhaps there may be some others who may stand in need of this help as well as I: however, a clear and plain way of knowledg, me thinks, should be burdensom to none.
Such kind of things as these are proper transactions for a Parliament, for there may be errors or defects in this kind which the people cannot come together to consult about and heal, yet it is requisite such things, in this kind amiss, should be healed, who therefore fitter to do it than their Representatives? And what might not be done in this nature, and entertained thankfully by the people, if it were so managed, upon such plain grounds of Reason and principles of Justice, and in such a plain clear way, as might carry conviction, that it was not done from any selfish respects, but for common good. It is a jealousie in the people, that their Substitutes neglect them, and mind themselves, which makes them interpret their actions so ill, which jealousie by this means would easily be rooted out of the people, nay it would fall of itself.
These are the things which to me seem necessary to set us right. And if it were once thus, that Powers were rightly distinguished according to their own natures, rightly bounded within their own spheres, ranks, orders and places; if there were also a Parliament in every respect fairly chosen, set right in its constitution, and rightly acting according to its own nature, end and work within its own bounds, there might be some ground of hope both towards the well setling of things at present, and the easie further amending of what should be found amiss afterwards. But I dare confidently affirm it, that until the true way, course and end of Nature be discovered and observed, let there be never so many other advantages; a Parliament never so wise, never so industrious, never so faithful; a People never so pliable and thankeful, never so quiet and patient, both in submitting unto the pains of their cure, and in continual renewing of their expectations when it will once be; yet the desired end will never be effected by the Parliament, nor enjoyed by the People. If a Parliament will produce such or such effects, it must become such or such a cause as is proper to produce those effects, (and operate like that cause) otherwise it will be impossible.
There is one thing more I desire to mention, of no small importance, (with the same freedom which I have used hitherto) which hath been acted publiquely in the sight of the world, and will one day be examined more publiquely. That which is well done will endure a review; and that which is ill done doth deserve a review, that it might be amended: yea that which is of very great consequence may in equity require a review.
The thing is this, that there might be a Revisal of this present Government (whether by this present Parliament, or an ensuing, or by both, I determine not) wherein it might be taken into full consideration (more full perhaps than that present exigence of affairs, when it was first pitched upon, would permit); First, the necessity of a change; and secondly, the commodiousness of this change, or certainty of advantage by this change: for changes are never good but when they are necessary, and when the change is certainly, or at least very probably, for the better. Now as there is at some times need of a change, so there is at other times an itching humour in man after change, when there is no need: yet a man who hath a mind to change, will take it for granted that there is a need of change, and run greedily into it though he suffer loss thereby, changing for that which is ten times worse, even in that very respect, because of which he changeth, only his eye being blinded by his present desire and interest, he cannot discern it.
There ought to be much circumspection in all weighty changes: This, being the most weighty and of most concernment to the people, deserves the greater wariness and the more thorow scanning. It doth not become wise men to take a prejudice against a thing because they have smarted by it, or to conceive well of another thing because it is different from that, or because it appeareth plausible at first view, or because they have not yet had experience of the incommodiousness, evil or danger of it; but narrowly to pierce into the ground and nature of things, and from a clear sight thereof to bottom their change.
In changing either Governments or Governors, it is very incident to man to be unjust. Man ordinarily doth that unjustly which is just to be done. Because of his sense of smart, he is become an enemy (and so far an unfit Judg) to that and them which he smarted by; and can very hardly afford them a fair hearing of what they can say for themselves. Yet this is the due of everything which is laid aside. And for my part, though I shall not plead for the resettlement of Kingly Government (for I am not so far engaged in my affections to it, as it yet hath been) yet I would have a fair and friendly shaking hands with it, and not any blame laid upon it beyond its desert: For doubtless it is both proper, good and useful in its kinde, and hath its advantages above any other Government on the one hand, as it hath also its disadvantages on the other hand.
Now since I have waded thus far herein, I will proceed a little further, propounding what way I should judg most convenient for myself to take, if I were to have an hand in this particular, so as I might discharge it with most Justice in reference to the thing itself, and with most satisfaction in reference to my own spirit. (Every man must be master of what he doth in his own Understanding, or he cannot act justly; and his heart is poor and weak, if it can be satisfied in managing things beyond his strength.)
In the first place (supposing I had Power) I would require such learned Lawyers, as I should judg most fit, to give me a plain and full description of Kingly Government; of the Duty, Power, Prerogatives of it, with all the several bounds of it, according to the Laws of this Land.
Secondly, I would consider, whether any of these were defective; and particularly since the Prerogative part was so encroaching, what bonds might be laid upon it for the future, and how far they might be able to bind it fast from intrenching upon the Rights and Liberties of the People.
Thirdly, I would consider, what security or certainty might be had of a setled course of Parliaments in fitting seasons and with sufficient Power for remedying any grievances which might arise to the People from this Government, or from any Governors which might be employed in it: for in every Government there are (besides the Supreme) Sub-governors, who are usually the greatest Oppressors.
Having done this, fully and fairly, to the satisfaction (not of my will or desire, but) of my understanding unbiassed; I would as fairly propound, to my view, the other Government, which might seem fit to succeed in the stead of this. I would take a full draught of it; the Duty, Power, Prerogatives (for such it ought to have; its work being hard, in equity it should have priviledges to sweeten it) and several limits of it. I would consider again and again, how it could be bound faster than the other: How the Convention and Session of Parliaments in season, with full Power and Freedom, might be more certain under this. And after full and thorow consideration of everything needful to be considered, if it did indeed appear that Errors in the former kind of Government could not safely or easily be amended, nor the dangers thereof well prevented, but might with much more safety and ease be both amended and prevented in the latter; then would I abolish the former, and settle the latter.
This, in my apprehension, would be a fair and just way, and would not expose me to drink in prejudices (which become not a Judg) against the Government which is to be called into question; or to lay that as a particular Objection to it, which other Governments are as liable unto. Neglecting of Duty, grasping of extraordinary Power, enlarging of Priviledges and Prerogatives, trampling upon them that are low, that are as it were the earth under them, riding in pomp upon the backs of the People, &c. these are common to every Government, and will be growing up under every Government further than they are powerfully suppressed. As for that great Objection of the enmity of Kingly Government to Parliaments, any other Government may be as liable to it. No ordinary supreme Power loveth an extraordinary supreme Power; and what Power soever be set up, it will go neer (if much care be not used to prevent it) to have an influence upon the choice of Parliament men, and will be molding the Parliament to itself, which if it cannot do, it will hardly look upon it as its friend. I must confess the changing of the form of Government is not so considerable in my eye, but the fixing of so strong and safe bounds and limits, as a good Governor or Governors may delight to keep within, and a bad or bad ones may not be able to break through: which may be much helped by the frequent use of Parliaments, if they can be kept within their bounds, or else that will be worst of all according to that known Maxim, Corruptio optimi pessima, the best thing being corrupted proveth worst.
When this is done (for I do not look upon it as yet done, till all reviews, which in reason and equity can be desired, are first over) and the supreme Governor or Governors fully agreed upon: then it will be seasonable, just and requisite to restore to them those Rights and Priviledges which belong unto them, and which it is the minde of the People they should have: as particularly his or their consent in making Laws. It is great reason the People should make their own Laws; and it is as agreeable to Reason, that he who is to govern by them should consent unto them. As the People (so far as they understand themselves) cannot but be unwilling to be made slaves by their Governor, to be governed by such Laws as he should make at his pleasure: so neither should they desire to make him a slave, by putting what Laws they please into his hand, requiring him to take care of the observation of them: but a mutual agreement & transaction in things of this nature is fairest and most just. Yea this would be most advantagious to the people, for he who constantly weilds the Scepter is in likelihood best able to give advice concerning Laws, and may put them into a better way (by vertue of his experience) of attaining their ends and desires than they of themselves can light upon. If the chief Governor or Governors shall refuse to assent to such Laws as are evidently good and necessary, a better remedy may be found out than the depriving of him from this Liberty. The true way of curing is difficult, requiring much skill, care and pains; the common way of man is by running out of one extream into another, which he is apt to please himself much in, because he observeth himself at such a distance from that which he found so inconvenient and perhaps so mischievous before. But this is neither just in itself, nor can prove either easie or safe in the issue.
To draw to a conclusion; I shall only mention some few properties of a good Governor, to which the people should have respect in their choice, and to which he who is chosen by the People to that degree and honor, should have respect in his acting.
There are two proprties or proper ways of motion (which contain in them several properties) of a good Governor, which, if he will be furnished unto, will make him very useful and serviceable in his place.
1. To manage his Trust with all care and fidelity. To neglect himself, his own particular ease, pleasure, advantage; and apply himself to the good of the whole. To minister Justice equally, fairly, freely, speedily; and mercy tenderly. To punish meerly for necessity sake, but to relieve from his heart.
2. To settle the Foundations (so far as lies in his way and within his reach) of the People’s Liberty, Peace and Welfare, that it may be in a thriving condition growing still more and more. For the welfare of the People doth not so much consist in a quiet, prosperous, setled state at present, as in a good seed for future growth, whereby alone the Government can come to yeeld the good fruit of a present good setling. It may cost much at present to manure the ground and plant a good Government, the benefit is to be reaped afterwards, which will lie much in the Governor, who may help much to cherish or blast it.
The main thing in a Governor (which will fit him unto both these) is to keep within his bounds: Not to think or undertake to do all the good which is needful to be done, but that good which belongs to his place and office: Not to avoid bonds, but to desire to be bound as fast as may be. He who is indeed unwilling to transgress, to do evil; is willing to be tied up, as fast and close as can be, from all temptations and advantages thereunto. Good honest plain-dealing-hearts are too apt to desire scope, thinking only to improve it for good; and others are too apt to trust them, little suspecting that they will do otherwise, till at length on a sudden so evident snares and temptations overtake them, as give too plain a proof of the contrary. This experience is so deep, that it may well be questioned, Whether it were better to have a bad Governor being fast bound, or a good Governor being at liberty; which would be very difficult to resolve, because on the one hand it is so hard to finde bonds to binde a bad Governor fast enough, and so difficult on the other hand for a good Governor being left at liberty, to act well. He who hath had experience what he is, when he is left at liberty, and what others are when they are left at liberty (how easily his or their Judgment, Will and Affections are perverted) will neither desire to be left at liberty himself, nor to have others left at liberty. A good Governor might do great service in this respect, namely both by a ready compliance with his bonds (for the good and necessary use of them) which is very rare; as also by seeking further bonds, where he can discover starting holes, which is yet more rare.
Man naturally seeketh liberty from bonds, desireth to avoid them: He would binde others, but be without bonds himself. Others need bonds, but he can act well without them, yea he can do more good without them than with them. They may be a fit curb for others, but they will be but a clog to him in the pursuit of the people’s happiness, whereby he shall be hindered from doing that good service which he would and otherwise might. Thus the best men, many times, come to do most hurt, least suspecting themselves, and being least mistrusted by others. (Who would not beleeve his own heart, that if he were in place and Power he would not do thus or thus, but amend this and that and the other thing; and the more scope he had, the better and more swiftly would he do it?) But to seek bonds, to desire to be hedged up from everything that is unlawful or unfit; to seek where one might evade and prepare before-hand strength to resist it, engines to oppose and keep it back, this is as unusual an undertaking in Governors, as needful and profitable for the people.
There would one great advantage from this arrive unto Posterity, besides that which the People themselves might enjoy under it at present: for it would make the fruit of a good GOVERNOR’S Government extend itself to future Generations, in this respect, because by this means there would be bonds prepared to tie up such as should afterwards succeed, who might be more inclinable to break forth into unjust and by-ways, than a present Governor or Governors. There are none who have such advantage to espy starting-holes, as those who are penned up: and if they be careful in espying and faithful in stopping up those holes (by putting the Parliament upon setting such fences of Laws so made about them, as may best secure the People in this respect) the Administration will soon prove both regular and safe, as also in a thriving condition, in so much as that the Liberty, Safety, and sound Prosperity of the People will grow more and more upon them.
[1. ]The declaration referred to is the Declaration of Parliament of March 1648/49 reprinted above.
[2. ]This reference is, of course, to the assertion that the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, Mary’s parents, was incestuous because Catherine had been previously married to Henry’s brother Arthur.
[3. ]Paraeus was a celebrated sixteenth-century Calvinist divine. His Commentary on Romans, cited here, offended James I by its antimonarchical principles.
[1. ]The author’s reference is to Rous, “The Lawfulnes of Obeying the Present Government.” The page references that follow are his references to that tract.
[2. ]See p. 396.
[3. ]See p. 398 of the Declaration, above.
[4. ]See p. 396.
[5. ]See p. 396.
[6. ]See pp. 396 and 397.
[7. ]The argument from what is done to what is right does not prevail.
[8. ]See p. 397.
[9. ]See p. 397.
[10. ]With me as the judge; or, as long as I am the judge.
[11. ]See pp. 397 and 398.
[12. ]See pp. 398 and 399.
[13. ]See p. 399.
[14. ]See p. 399.
[15. ]See pp. 399 and 400.
[16. ]Probably Peter Moulin, an Anglican divine, who sided with the royalists. Among his twenty written works was an anonymous reply to Milton, “Regii Sanguinis Clamor,” written during the Interregnum. His authorship was undetected by the regime, and at the Restoration he was made a chaplain to Charles II.
[17. ]See p. 400.
[18. ]See p. 400.
[19. ]See p. 400.
[20. ]Page 400.
[21. ]Page 401.
[22. ]Distributive justice.
[23. ]The same reasoning pertains to contraries.
[24. ]Page 401.
[25. ]Page 401.
[26. ]Page 401.
[27. ]Page 401.
[28. ]The references are to the five members Charles I intended to arrest when he strode into the Commons accompanied by an escort of armed guards in January 1642 and to the 270 members of the Long Parliament permanently removed from that body by Pride’s Purge in December 1648.
[29. ]See p. 402.
[30. ]Page 402.
[31. ]By reason of the subject matter, not by reason of an oath.
[32. ]Page 402.
[33. ]Page 402.
[34. ]Page 403.
[35. ]Page 403.
[36. ]Page 403.
[37. ]Page 403.
[38. ]See p. 403.
[1. ]Stability is permitted, but without any stability for the Lord and King.
[2. ]The author is referring to the “Protestation of the House of Commons, 3 May 1641,” in which the members protested against the supposed designs of priests and Jesuits to undermine the Protestant religion, subvert the fundamental laws of England and Ireland, and cause dissention between king and people and between Parliament and the army. The protest included an oath to defend the Church of England, the power and privileges of Parliament, and rights and liberties of the subjects. In addition the Engagement seemed to contradict the Solemn League and Covenant of September 1643, which pledged subscribers to preserve the rights and privileges of parliaments and to preserve and defend the king’s person and authority. See Wing E2211.
[1. ]The most significant of those changes were, of course, the trial and execution of Charles I and the abolition of the monarchy and of the House of Lords.
[2. ]Pride’s Purge, which took place in December 1648, was an obvious use of such force in this Parliament.
[3. ]The “case in hand” was Pride’s Purge.
[4. ]The Scots uprising led by Charles II to establish him on the throne of England was still in progress as Penington wrote. This constituted the most recent “defection.”