Robert Molesworth, “The Principles of a Real Whig” (1705)


Robert Molesworth, An Account of Denmark, With Francogallia and Some Considerations for the Promoting of Agriculture and Employing the Poor, Edited and with an Introduction by Justin Champion (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011). </titles/2422>.

For additional information see:

  • Group: 18th Century Commonwealthmen
  •  Timeline on the 18thC Commonwealthmen
  • Caroline Robbins, The Eighteenth-Century Commonwealthman: Studies in the Transmission, Development, and Circumstance of English Liberal Thought from the Restoration of Charles II until the War with the Thirteen Colonies (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004). (not available online).

Editor's Note

Justin Champion notes in his introduction that "Molesworth completed his translation of Hotman's Francogallia (1573) sometime in 1705; it was first published in 1711 by Timothy Goodwin, without the original editorial preface, which was regarded as too incendiary for the times. Subsequently, the complete edition was published in 1721 by another publisher, Edward Valentine, this time with additional material from Pierre Bayle's biographical account of Hotman. The preface—later known under the title The Principles of a Real Whig —became a clarion call for the commonwealth tradition in the eighteenth century." It was republished in various forms throughout the 18th century in 1726, 1768, and 1775.

Molesworth himself called it "a publick Profession of my Political Faith." In it he distinguishes between what he called the "Nominal Whig" and the "Real Whig" or "Commonwealth's-Men" who believed in the following principles:

  1. the government is composed of three separate bodies who rule jointly: "My Notion of a Whig, I mean of a real Whig (for the Nominal are worse than any Sort of Men) is, That he is one who is exactly for keeping up to the Strictness of the true old Gothick Constitution, under the Three Estates of King (or Queen) Lords and Commons; the Legislature being seated in all Three together, the Executive entrusted with the first, but accountable to the whole Body of the People, in Case of Male Administration."
  2. the law applies equally to all: "the Prince" is also (like the people) obliged to obey "this Constitution, and the known Laws"
  3. religious toleration or "Liberty of Mind"
  4. against any religion having a "monopoly": "engrossing Heaven by way of Monopoly to their own Corporation, and managing it by a joint Stock, exclusive of all others (as pernicious in Divinity as in trade, and perhaps more)"
  5. economic liberty and property rights: "The thriving of any one single Person by honest Means, is the thriving of the Commonwealth wherein he resides. And in what Place soever of the World such Encouragement is given, as that in it one may securely and peaceably enjoy Property and Liberty both of Mind and Body; 'tis impossible but that Place must flourish in Riches and in People, which are the truest Riches of any Country."
  6. the holding of "frequent Parliaments" (annual or triannual)
  7. Parliament controls public spending, even over the Prince: "to streighten him, if they saw Occasion; and pare his Nails, if they were convinced he made ill Use of such a Revenue."
  8. spreading the ideals of Whiggism to others: "No Man can be a sincere Lover of Liberty, that is not for increasing and communicating that Blessing to all People; and therefore the giving or restoring it not only to our Brethren of Scotland and Ireland, but even to France it self (were it in our Power) is one of the principal Articles of Whiggism."
  9. open immigration and naturalisation of foreigners: "A Genuine Whig is for promoting a general Naturalization, upon the firm Belief, that whoever comes to be incorporated into us, feels his Share of all our Advantages and Disadvantages, and consequently can have no Interest but that of the Publick; to which he will always be a Support [183] to the best of his Power, by his Person, Substance and Advice."
  10. against standing armies and for militias: "against the raising or keeping up a Standing Army in Time of Peace" and "The arming and training of all the Freeholders of England" - "our Militia well regulated"
  11. the need for government spending on public works: "Lastly, The supporting of Parliamentary Credit, promoting of all publick Buildings and Highways, the making all Rivers Navigable that are capable of it, employing the Poor, suppressing Idlers, restraining Monopolies upon Trade, maintaining the liberty of the Press, the just paying and encouraging of all in the publick Service, especially that best and use-fullest Sort of People the Seamen"

Molesworth concluded by stating that "all these together amount to a Commonwealthsman."


Many Books and Papers have been publish'd since the late Revolution, tending to justify the Proceedings of the People of England at that happy juncture; by setting in a true Light our just Rights and Liberties, together with the solid Foundations of our Constitution: Which, in truth, is not ours only, but that of almost all Europe besides; so wisely restor'd and establish'd (if not introduced) by the Gothsand Franks, whose Descendants we are.

These Books have as constantly had some things, called Answers, written to them, by Persons of different Sentiments; who certainly either never seriously consider'd, that they were thereby endeavouring to destroy their own Happiness, and overthrow her Majesty's Title to the Crown: or (if they knew what they did) presumed upon the Lenity of that Government they decry'd; which (were there no better Reason) ought to have recommended it to their Approbation, since it could patiently bear with such, as were doing all they could to undermine it.

Not to mention the Railing, Virulency, or personal false Reflections in many of those Answers, (which were4 always the Signs of a weak Cause, [172] or a feeble Champion) some of them asserted the Divine Right of an Hereditary Monarch, and the Impiety of Resistance upon any Terms whatever, notwithstanding any Authorities to the contrary.

Others (and those the more judicious) deny'd positively, that sufficient Authorities could be produced to prove, that a free People have a just Power to defend themselves, by opposing their Prince, who endeavours to oppress and enslave them: And alledged, that whatever was said or done tending that way, proceeded from a Spirit of Rebellion, and Antimonarchical Principles.

To confute, or convince this last Sort of Arguers (the first not being worthy to have Notice taken of them) I set about translating the Francogallia of that most Learned and Judicious Civilian, Francis Hotoman; a Grave, Sincere and Unexceptionable Author, even in the Opinion of his Adversaries. This Book gives an Account of the Ancient Free State of above Three Parts in Four of Europe; and has of a long time appeared to me so convincing and instructive in those important Points he handles, that I could not be idle whilst it remain'd unknown, in a manner, to Englishmen: who, of all People living, have the greatest Reason and Need to be thoroughly instructed in what it contains; as having, on the one hand, the most to lose, and on the other, the least Sense of their Right, to that, which hitherto they seem (at least in a great measure) to have preserv'd.

It will be obvious to every Reader, that I have taken no great Pains to write elegantly. What I endeavour at, is as plain a Stile as possible, which on this Occasion I take to be the best: For since the Instruction of Mankind ought to be the principal Drift of all Writers (of History especially); whoever writes to the Capacity of most Readers, in my Opinion most fully answers the End.

I am not ignorant, how tiresome and difficult a Piece of Work it is to translate, nor how little valued in the World. My Experience has convinced me, that 'tis more troublesome and teazing than to write and invent at once. The Idiom of the Language out of which one translates, runs so in the Head, that 'tis next to impossible not to fall frequently into it. And the more bald and incorrect the Stile of the Original is, the more shall that of the Translation be so too. Many of the Quotations in this Book are drawn from Priests, Monks, Friars, and Civil Lawyers, who [173] minded more, in those barbarous Ages, the Substance than the Stile of their Writings: And I hope those Considerations may atone for several Faults, which might be found in my Share of this Work.

But I desire not to be misunderstood, as if (whilst I am craving Favour for my self) I were making any Apology for such a Number of mercenary Scribblers, Animadverters, and Translators, as pester us in this Age; who generally spoil the good Books which fall into their Hands, and hinder others from obliging the Publick, who otherwise would do it to greater Advantage.

I take this Author to be one of those few, that has had the good Luck to escape them; and I make use of this Occasion to declare, that the chief Motive which induces me to send abroad this small Treatise, is a sincere desire of instructing the only Possessors of true Liberty in the World, what Right and Title they have to that Liberty; of what a great Value it is; what Misery follows the Loss of it; how easily, if Care be taken in time, it may be preserv'd: And if this either opens the Eyes, or confirms the honourable Resolutions of any of my worthy Countrymen, I have gained a glorious End; and done that in my Study, which I should have promoted any other way, had I been called to it. I hope to die with the Comfort of believing, that Old England will continue to be a free Country, and know itself to be such; that my Friends, Relations and Children, with their Posterity, will inherit their Share of this inestimable Blessing, and that I have contributed my Part to it.

But there is one very great Discouragement under which both I, and all other Writers and Translators of Books tending to the acquiring or preserving the publick Liberty, do lie; and that is, the heavy Calumny thrown upon us, that we are all Commonwealth's-Men: Which (in the ordinary Meaning of the Word) amounts to Haters of Kingly Government; not without broad, malicious Insinuations, that we are no great Friends of the present.

Indeed were the Laity of our Nation (as too many of our Clergy unhappily are) to be guided by the Sense of one of our Universities, solemnly and publickly declared by the burning of Twenty seven Propositions (some of them deserving that Censure, but others being the very Foundation of all our Civil Rights); I, and many like me, would appear to be very much [174] in the wrong.5 But since the Revolution in Eighty-eight, that we stand upon another and a better Bottom, though no other than our own old one, 'tis time that our Notions should be suited to our Constitution. And truly, as Matters stand, I have often wondered, either how so many of our Gentlemen, educated under such Prejudices, should retain any Sense at all of Liberty, for the hardest Lesson is to unlearn; or how an Education so diametrically opposite to our Bill of Rights, should be so long encouraged.6

Methinks a Civil Test might be contrived, and prove very convenient to distinguish those that own the Revolution Principles, from such as Tooth and Nail oppose them; and at the same time do fatally propagate Doctrines, which lay too heavy a Load upon Christianity it self, and make us prove our own Executioners.

7The Names of Whig and Tory will, I am afraid, last as long among us, as those of Guelf and Ghibelline did in Italy. I am sorry for it: but to some they become necessary for Distinction Sake; not so much for the Principles formerly adapted to each Name, as for particular and worse Reasons. For there has been such chopping and changing both of Names and Principles, that we scarce know who is who. I think it therefore necessary, in order to appear in my own Colours, to make a publick Profession of my Political Faith; not doubting but it may agree in several Particulars with that of many worthy Persons, who are as undeservedly aspers'd as I am.

My Notion of a Whig, I mean of a real Whig (for the Nominal are worse than any Sort of Men) is, That he is one who is exactly for keeping up to the Strictness of the true old Gothick Constitution, under the Three Estates of King (or Queen) Lords and Commons; the Legislature being seated in all Three together, the Executive entrusted with the first, but accountable to the whole Body of the People, in Case of Male Administration.


A true Whig is of Opinion, that the Executive Power has as just a Title to the Allegiance and Obedience of the Subject, according to the Rules of known Laws enacted by the Legislative, as the Subject has to Protection, Liberty and Property: And so on the contrary.

A true Whig is not afraid of the Name of a Commonwealthsman, because so many foolish People, who know not what it means, run it down: The Anarchy and Confusion which these Nations fell into near Sixty Years ago, and which was falsely called a Commonwealth, frightening them out of the true Construction of the Word. But Queen Elizabeth, and many other of our best Princes, were not scrupulous of calling our Government a Commonwealth, even in their solemn Speeches to Parliament. And indeed if it be not one, I cannot tell by what Name properly to call it: For where in the very Frame of the Constitution, the Good of the Whole is taken care of by the Whole (as 'tis in our Case) the having a King or Queen at the Head of it, alters not the Case; and the softening of it by calling it a Limited Monarchy, seems a Kind of Contradiction in Terms, invented to please some weak and doubting Persons.

And because some of our Princes in this last Age, did their utmost Endeavour to destroy this Union and Harmony of the Three Estates, and to be arbitrary or independent, they ought to be looked upon as the Aggressors upon our Constitution.

This drove the other Two Estates (for the Sake of the publick Preservation) into the fatal Necessity of providing for themselves; and when once the Wheel was set a running, 'twas not in the Power of Man to stop it just where it ought to have stopp'd. This is so ordinary in all violent Motions, whether mechanick or political, that no body can wonder at it.

But no wise Men approved of the ill Effects of those violent Motions either way, could they have help'd them. Yet it must be owned they have (as often as used, through an extraordinary Piece of good Fortune) brought us back to our old Constitution again, which else had been lost; for there are numberless Instances in History of a Downfall from a State of Liberty to a Tyranny, but very few of a Recovery of Liberty from Tyranny, if this last have had any Length of Time to fix it self and take Root.

Let all such, who either through Interest or Ignorance are Adorers of absolute Monarchs, say what they please; an English Whig can never be [176] so unjust to his Country, and to right Reason, as not to be of Opinion, that in all Civil Commotions, which side soever is the wrongful Aggressor, is accountable for all the evil Consequences: And through the Course of his reading (though my Lord Clarendon's Books be thrown into the Heap) he finds it very difficult to observe, that ever the People of England took up Arms against their Prince, but when constrain'd to it by a necessary Care of their Liberties and true Constitution.8

'Tis certainly as much a Treason and Rebellion against this Constitution, and the known Laws, in a Prince to endeavour to break through them, as 'tis in the People to rise against him, whilst he keeps within their Bounds, and does his Duty. Our Constitution is a Government of Laws, not of Persons. Allegiance and Protection are Obligations that cannot subsist separately; when one fails, the other falls of Course. The true Etymology of the word Loyalty (which has been so strangely wrested in the late Reigns) is an entire Obedience to the Prince in all his Commands according to Law; that is, to the Laws themselves, to which we owe both an active and passive Obedience.

By the old and true Maxim, that the King can do no Wrong, nobody is so foolish as to conclude, that he has not Strength to murder, to offer Violence to Women, or Power enough to dispossess a Man wrongfully of his Estate, or that whatever he does (how wicked soever) is just: but the Meaning is, he has no lawful Power to do such Things; and our Constitution considers no Power as irresistible, but what is lawful.

And since Religion is become a great and universal Concern, and drawn into our Government, as it affects every single Man's Conscience; though in my private Opinion, they ought not to be mingled, nor to have any thing to do with each other; (I do not speak of our Church Polity, which is a Part of our State, and dependent upon it) some account must be given of that Matter.

Whiggism is not circumscrib'd and confin'd to any one or two of the [177] Religions now profess'd in the World, but diffuses it self among all. We have known Jews, Turks, nay, some Papists, (which I own to be a great Rarity) very great Lovers of the Constitution and Liberty; and were there rational Grounds to expect, that any Numbers of them could be so, I should be against using Severities and Distinctions upon Account of Religion. For a Papist is not dangerous, nor ought to be ill us'd by any body, because he prays to Saints, believes Purgatory, or the real Presence in the Eucharist, and pays Divine Worship to an Image or Picture (which are the common Topicks of our Writers of Controversy against the Papists); but because Popery sets up a foreign Jurisdiction paramount to our Laws. So that a real Papist can neither be a true Governor of a Protestant Country, nor a true Subject, and besides, is the most Priest-Ridden Creature in the World: and (when uppermost) can bear with no body that differs from him in Opinion; little considering, that whosoever is against Liberty of Mind, is, in effect, against Liberty of Body too. And therefore all Penal Acts of Parliament for Opinions purely religious, which have no Influence on the State, are so many Encroachments upon Liberty, whilst those which restrain Vice and Injustice are against Licentiousness.

I profess my self to have always been a Member of the Church of England and am for supporting it in all its Honours, Privileges and Revenues: but as a Christian and a Whig, I must have Charity for those that differ from me in religious Opinions, whether Pagans, Turks, Jews, Papists, Quakers, Socinians, Presbyterians, or others. I look upon Bigotry to have always been the very Bane of human Society, and the Offspring of Interest and Ignorance, which has occasion'd most of the great Mischiefs that have afflicted Mankind. We ought no more to expect to be all of one Opinion, as to the Worship of the Deity, than to be all of one Colour or Stature. To stretch or narrow any Man's Conscience to the Standard of our own, is no less a Piece of Cruelty than that of Procrustes the Tyrant of Attica, who used to fit his Guests to the Length of his own Iron Bedsted, either by cutting them shorter, or racking them longer. What just Reason can I have to be angry with, to endeavour to curb the natural Liberty, or to retrench the Civil Advantages of an honest Man (who follows the golden Rule, of doing to others, as he would have others do to him, and is willing and able to serve the Publick) only because he thinks his Way to [178] Heaven surer or shorter than mine? No body can tell which of us is mistaken, till the Day of Judgment, or whether any of us be so (for there may be different Ways to the same End, and I am not for circumscribing God Almighty's Mercy). This I am sure of, one shall meet with the same Positiveness in Opinion, in some of the Priests of all these Sects; The same Want of Charity, engrossing Heaven by way of Monopoly to their own Corporation, and managing it by a joint Stock, exclusive of all others (as pernicious in Divinity as in trade, and perhaps more). The same Pretences to Miracles, Martyrs, Inspirations, Merits, Mortifications, Revelations, Austerity, Antiquity, etc. (as all Persons conversant with History, or that travel, know to be true) and this cui bono?9 I think it the Honour of the Reformed Part of the Christian Profession, and the Church of England in particular, that it pretends to fewer of these unusual and extraordinary Things, than any other Religion we know of in the World; being convinced, that these are not the distinguishing Marks of the Truth of any Religion (I mean, the assuming obstinate Pretences to them are not); and it were not amiss, if we farther enlarg'd our Charity, when we can do it with Safety, or Advantage to the State.

Let us but consider, how hard and how impolitick it is to condemn all People, but such as think of the Divinity just as we do. May not the Tables of Persecution be turn'd upon us? A Mahometan in Turkey is in the right, and I (if I carry my own Religion thither) am in the Wrong. They will have it so. If the Mahometan comes with me to Christendom, I am in the right, and he in the wrong; and hate each other heartily for differing in Speculations, which ought to have no Influence on Moral Honesty. Nay, the Mahometan is the more charitable of the two, and does not push his Zeal so far; for the Christians have been more cruel and severe in this Point than all the World besides. Surely Reprizals may be made upon us; as Calvin burnt Servetus at Geneva, Queen Mary burnt Cranmer at London. I am sorry I cannot readily find a more exact Parallel. The Sword cuts with both Edges. Why, I pray you, may we not all be Fellow-Citizens of the World? And provided it be not the Principle of one or more Religions to extirpate all others, and to turn Persecutors when they get Power (for [179] such are not to be endured) I say, why should we offer to hinder any Man from doing with his own Soul what he thinks fitting? Why should we not make use of his Body, Estate, and Understanding, for the publick Good? Let a Man's Life, Substance, and Liberty be under the Protection of the Laws; and I dare answer for him (whilst his Stake is among us) he will never be in a different Interest, nor willing to quit this Protection, or to exchange it for Poverty, Slavery, and Misery.

The thriving of any one single Person by honest Means, is the thriving of the Commonwealth wherein he resides. And in what Place soever of the World such Encouragement is given, as that in it one may securely and peaceably enjoy Property and Liberty both of Mind and Body; 'tis impossible but that Place must flourish in Riches and in People, which are the truest Riches of any Country.

But as, on the one hand, a true Whig thinks that all Opinions purely spiritual and notional ought to be indulg'd; so on the other, he is for severely punishing all Immoralities, Breach of Laws, Violence and Injustice. A Minister's Tythes are as much his Right, as any Layman's Estate can be his; and no Pretence of Religion or Conscience can warrant the subtracting of them, whilst the Law is in being which makes them payable: For a Whig is far from the Opinion, that they are due by any other Title. It would make a Man's Ears tingle, to hear the Divine Right insisted upon for any human Institutions; and to find God Almighty brought in as a Principal there, where there is no Necessity for it. To affirm, that Monarchy, Episcopacy, Synods, Tythes, the Hereditary Succession to the Crown, etc. are Jure Divino;10 is to cram them down a Man's Throat; and tell him in plain Terms, that he must submit to any of them under all Inconveniencies, whether the Laws of his Country are for it or against it. Every Whig owns Submission to Government to be an Ordinance of God. Submit your selves to every Ordinance of Man, for the Lord's Sake, says the Apostle. Where (by the way) pray take notice, he calls them Ordinances of Man; and gives you the true Notion, how far any thing can be said to be Jure Divino: which is far short of what your high-flown Assertors of the Jus Divinum would carry it, and proves as strongly for a Republican [180] Government as a Monarchical; though in truth it affects neither, where the very Ends of Government are destroyed.

A right Whig looks upon frequent Parliaments as such a fundamental Part of the Constitution, that even no Parliament can part with this Right. High Whiggism is for Annual Parliaments, and Low Whiggism for Triennial, with annual Meetings. I leave it to every Man's Judgment, which of these would be the truest Representative; would soonest ease the House of that Number of Members that have Offices and Employments, or take Pensions from the Court; is least liable to Corruption; would prevent exorbitant Expence, and soonest destroy the pernicious Practice of drinking and bribing for Elections, or is most conformable to ancient Custom. The Law that lately pass'd with so much Struggle for Triennial Parliaments shall content me, till the Legislative shall think fit to make them Annual.

But methinks (and this I write with great Submission and Deference) that (since the passing that Act) it seems inconsistent with the Reason of the thing, and preposterous, for the first Parliament after any Prince's Accession to the Crown, to give the publick Revenue arising by Taxes, for a longer time than that Parliament's own Duration. I cannot see why the Members of the first Parliament should (as the Case now stands) engross to themselves all the Power of giving, as well as all the Merit and Rewards due to such a Gift: and why succeeding Parliaments should not, in their turn, have it in their Power to oblige the Prince, or to streighten him, if they saw Occasion; and pare his Nails, if they were convinced he made ill Use of such a Revenue. I am sure we have had Instances of this Kind; and a wise Body of Senators ought always to provide against the worst that might happen. The Honey-Moon of Government is a dangerous Season; the Rights and Liberties of the People run a greater Risk at that time, through their own Representatives Compliments and Compliances, than they are ever likely to do during that Reign: and 'tis safer to break this Practice, when we have the Prospect of a good and gracious Prince upon the Throne, than when we have an inflexible Person, who thinks every Offer an Affront, which comes not up to the Height of what his Predecessor had, without considering whether it were well or ill done at first.

The Revenues of our Kings, for many Ages, arose out of their Crown-Lands; [181] Taxes on the Subject were raised only for publick Exigencies. But since we have turn'd the Stream, and been so free of Revenues for Life, arising from Impositions and Taxes, we have given Occasion to our Princes to dispose of their Crown-Lands; and depend for Maintenance of their Families on such a Sort of Income, as is thought unjust and ungodly in most Parts of the World, but in Christendom: for many of the arbitrary Eastern Monarchs think so, and will not eat the Produce of such a Revenue. Now since Matters are brought to this pass, 'tis plain that our Princes must subsist suitable to their high State and Condition, in the best manner we are able to provide for them. And whilst the Calling and Duration of Parliaments was precarious, it might indeed be an Act of Imprudence, though not of Injustice, for any one Parliament to settle such a Sort of Revenue for Life on the Prince: But at present, when all the World knows the utmost Extent of a Parliament's possible Duration, it seems disagreeable to Reason, and an Encroachment upon the Right of succeeding Parliaments (for the future) for any one Parliament to do that which another cannot undo, or has not Power to do in its turn.

An Old Whig is for chusing such Sort of Representatives to serve in Parliament, as have Estates in the Kingdom; and those not fleeting ones, which may be sent beyond Sea by Bills of Exchange by every Pacquet-Boat, but fix'd and permanent. To which end, every Merchant, Banker, or other money'd Man, who is ambitious of serving his Country as a Senator, should have also a competent, visible Land Estate, as a Pledge to his Electors that he intends to abide by them, and has the same Interest with theirs in the publick Taxes, Gains and Losses. I have heard and weigh'd the Arguments of those who, in Opposition to this, urged the Unfitness of such, whose Lands were engaged in Debts and Mortgages, to serve in Parliament, in comparison with the mony'd Man who had no Land: But those Arguments never convinced me.

The Ease and Advantage which would be gain'd by uniting our own Three Kingdoms upon equal Terms (for upon unequal it would be [182] no Union) is so visible, that if we had not the Example of those Masters of the World, the Romans, before our Eyes, one would wonder that our own Experience (in the Instance of uniting Wales to England) should not convince us, that although both Sides would incredibly gain by it, yet the rich and opulent Country, to which such an Addition is made, would be the greater Gainer. 'Tis so much more desirable and secure to govern by Love and common Interest, than by Force; to expect Comfort and Assistance, in Times of Danger, from our next Neighbours, than to find them at such a time a heavy Clog upon the Wheels of our Government, and be in dread lest they should take that Occasion to shake off an uneasy Yoak: or to have as much need of entertaining a standing Army against our Brethren, as against our known and inveterate Enemies; that certainly whoever can oppose so publick and apparent Good, must be esteem'd either ignorant to a strange Degree, or to have other Designs in View, which he would willingly have brought to Light.

I look upon her Majesty's asserting the Liberties and Privileges of the Free Cities in Germany, an Action which will shine in History as bright (at least) as her giving away her first Fruits and Tenths: To the Merit of which last, some have assumingly enough ascribed all the Successes she has hitherto been blessed with; as if one Set of Men were the peculiar Care of Providence and all others (even Kings and Princes) were no otherwise fit to be considered by God Almighty, or Posterity, than according to their Kindness to them. But it has been generally represented so, where Priests are the Historians. From the first Kings in the World down to these Days, many Instances might be given of very wicked Princes, who have been extravagantly commended; and many excellent ones, whose Memories lie overwhelmed with Loads of Curses and Calumny, just as they proved Favourers or Discountenancers of High-Church, without regard to their other Virtues or Vices: for High-Church is to be found in all Religions and Sects, from the Pagan down to the Presbyterian; and is equally detrimental in every one of them.

A Genuine Whig is for promoting a general Naturalization, upon the firm Belief, that whoever comes to be incorporated into us, feels his Share of all our Advantages and Disadvantages, and consequently can have no Interest but that of the Publick; to which he will always be a Support [183] to the best of his Power, by his Person, Substance and Advice. And if it be a Truth (which few will make a Doubt of) that we are not one third Part peopled (though we are better so in Proportion than any other Part of Europe, Holland excepted) and that our Stock of Men decreases daily through our Wars, Plantations, and Sea-Voyages; that the ordinary Course of Propagation (even in Times of continued Peace and Health) could not in many Ages supply us with the Numbers we want; that the Security of Civil and Religious Liberty, and of Property, which through God's great Mercy is firmly establish'd among us, will invite new Comers as fast as we can entertain them; that most of the rest of the World groans under the Weight of Tyranny, which will cause all that have Substance, and a Sense of Honour and Liberty, to fly to Places of Shelter; which consequently would thoroughly people us with useful and profitable Hands in a few Years. What should hinder us from an Act of General Naturalization? Especially when we consider, that no private Acts of that Kind are refused; but the Expence is so great, that few attempt to procure them, and the Benefit which the Publick receives thereby is inconsiderable.

Experience has shown us the Folly and Falsity of those plausible Insinuations, that such a Naturalization would take the Bread out of Englishmen's Mouths. We are convinced, that the greater Number of Workmen of one Trade there is in any Town, the more does that Town thrive; the greater will be the Demand of the Manufacture, and the Vent to foreign Parts, and the quicker Circulation of the Coin. The Consumption of the Produce both of Land and Industry increases visibly in Towns full of People; nay, the more shall every particular industrious Person thrive in such a Place; though indeed Drones and Idlers will not find their Account, who would fain support their own and their Families superfluous Expenses at their Neighbour's Cost; who make one or two Day's Labour provide for four Days Extravagancies. And this is the common Calamity of most of our Corporation Towns, whose Inhabitants do all they can to discourage Plenty, Industry and Population; and will not admit of Strangers but upon too hard Terms, through the false Notion, that they themselves, their Children and Apprentices, have the only Right to squander their Town's Revenue, and to get, at their own Rates, all that is to be gotten within their Precincts, or in the Neighbourhood. And [184] therefore such Towns (through the Mischief arising by Combinations and By-Laws) are at best at a Stand; very few in a thriving Condition (and those are where the By-Laws are least restrictive) but most throughout England fall to visible Decay, whilst new Villages not incorporated, or more liberal of their Privileges, grow up in their stead; till, in Process of Time, the first Sort will become almost as desolate as Old Sarum, and will as well deserve to lose their Right of sending Representatives to Parliament. For certainly a Waste or a Desert has no Right to be represented, nor by our original Constitution was ever intended to be: yet I would by no means have those Deputies lost to the Commons, but transferr'd to wiser, more industrious, and better peopled Places, worthy (through their Numbers and Wealth) of being represented.

A Whig is against the raising or keeping up a Standing Army in Time of Peace: but with this Distinction, that if at any time an Army (though even in Time of Peace) should be necessary to the Support of this very Maxim, a Whig is not for being too hasty to destroy that which is to be the Defender of his Liberty. I desire to be well understood. Suppose then, that Persons, whose known Principle and Practice it has been (during the Attempts for arbitrary Government) to plead for and promote such an Army in Time of Peace, as would be subservient to the Will of a Tyrant, and contribute towards the enslaving the Nation; should, under a legal Government (yet before the Ferment of the People was appeas'd) cry down a Standing Army in Time of Peace: I should shrewdly suspect, that the Principles of such Persons are not changed, but that either they like not the Hands that Army is in, or the Cause which it espouses; and look upon it as an Obstruction to another Sort of Army, which they should like even in Time of Peace. I say then, that although the Maxim in general be certainly true, yet a Whig (without the just Imputation of having deserted his Principles) may be for the keeping up such a Standing Army even in Time of Peace, till the Nation have recover'd its Wits again, and chuses Representatives who are against Tyranny in any Hands whatsoever; till the Enemies of our Liberties want the Power of raising another Army of quite different Sentiments: for till that time, a Whiggish Army is the Guardian of our Liberties, and secures to us the Power of disbanding its self, and prevents the raising of another of a different Kidney. As soon [185] as this is done effectually, by my Consent, no such thing as a mercenary Soldier should subsist in England. And therefore;

The arming and training of all the Freeholders of England, as it is our undoubted ancient Constitution, and consequently our Right; so it is the Opinion of most Whigs, that it ought to be put in Practice. This would put us out of all Fear of foreign Invasions, or disappoint any such when attempted: This would soon take away the Necessity of maintaining Standing Armies of Mercenaries in Time of Peace: This would render us a hundred times more formidable to our Neighbours than we are; and secure effectually our Liberties against any King that should have a mind to invade them at home, which perhaps was the Reason some of our late Kings were so averse to it: And whereas, as the Case now stands, Ten Thousand disciplin'd Soldiers (once landed) might march without considerable Opposition from one End of England to the other; were our Militia well regulated, and Fire-Arms substituted in the Place of Bills, Bows, and Arrows (the Weapons in Use when our training Laws were in their Vigour, and for which our Laws are yet in Force) we need not fear a Hundred Thousand Enemies, were it possible to land so many among us. At every Mile's End, at every River and Pass, the Enemy would meet with fresh Armies, consisting of Men as well skill'd in military Discipline as themselves; and more resolv'd to fight, because they do it for Property: And the farther such an Enemy advanced into the Country, the stronger and more resolved he would find us; as Hannibal did the Romans, when he encamped under the Walls of Rome, even after such a Defeat as that at Cannae. And why? Because they were all train'd Soldiers, they were all Freemen that fought pro aris & focis:11 and scorn'd to trust the Preservation of their Lives and Fortunes to Mercenaries or Slaves, though never so able-body'd: They thought Weapons became not the Hands of such as had nothing to lose, and upon that Account were unfit Defenders of their Masters Properties; so that they never tried the Experiment but in the utmost Extremity.

That this is not only practicable but easy, the modern Examples of the [186] Swissers and Swedes is an undeniable Indication. Englishmen have as much Courage, as great Strength of Body, and Capacity of Mind, as any People in the Universe: And if our late Monarchs had the enervating their free Subjects in View, that they might give a Reputation to Mercenaries, who depended only on the Prince for their Pay (as 'tis plain they had) I know no Reason why their Example should be followed in the Days of Liberty, when there is no such Prospect. The Preservation of the Game is but a very slender Pretence for omitting it. I hope no wise Man will put a Hare or a Partridge in Balance with the Safety and Liberties of Englishmen; though after all, 'tis well known to Sportsmen, that Dogs, Snares, Nets, and such silent Methods as are daily put in Practice, destroy the Game ten times more than shooting with Guns.

If the restoring us to our Old Constitution in this Instance were ever necessary, 'tis more eminently so at this time, when our next Neighbours of Scotland are by Law armed just in the manner we desire to be, and the Union between both Kingdoms not perfected. For the Militia, upon the Foot it now stands, will be of little Use to us: 'tis generally compos'd of Servants, and those not always the same, consequently not well train'd; rather such as wink with both Eyes at their own firing a Musket, and scarce know how to keep it clean, or to charge it aright. It consists of People whose Reputation (especially the Officers) has been industriously diminished, and their Persons, as well as their Employment, rendered contemptible on purpose to enhance the Value of those that serve for Pay; insomuch that few Gentlemen of Quality will now a-days debase themselves so much, as to accept of a Company, or a Regiment in the Militia. But for all this, I can never be persuaded that a Red Coat, and Three Pence a Day, infuses more Courage into the poor Swaggering Idler, than the having a Wife and Children, and an Estate to fight for, with good wholesome Fare in his Kitchen, would into a Free-born Subject, provided the Freeman were as well armed and trained as the Mercenary.

I would not have the Officers and Soldiers of our most Brave and Honest Army to mistake me. I am not arguing against them; for I am convinced, as long as there is Work to do abroad, 'tis they (and not our home dwelling Freeholders) are most proper for it. Our War must now be an Offensive War; and what I am pleading for, concerns only the bare Defensive [187] Part. Most of our present Generals and Officers are fill'd with the true Sprit of Liberty (a most rare thing) which demonstrates the Felicity of her Majesty's Reign, and her standing upon a true Bottom, beyond any other Instance that can be given; insomuch, that considering how great and happy we have been under the Government of Queens, I have sometimes doubted, whether an Anti-Salick Law would be to our Disadvantage.

Most of these Officers do expect, nay (so true do I take them to be to their Country's Interest) do wish, whenever it shall please God to send us such a Peace as may be relied upon both at home and abroad, to return to the State of peaceable Citizens again; but 'tis fit they should do so, with such ample Rewards for their Blood and Labours, as shall entirely satisfy them. And when they, or the Survivors of them, shall return full of Honour and Scars home to their Relations, after the Fatigues of so glorious a Service to their Country are ended; 'tis their Country's Duty to make them easy, without laying a Necessity upon them of striving for the Continuance of an Army to avoid starving. The Romans used to content them by a Distribution of their Enemies Lands; and I think their Example so good in every thing, that we could hardly propose a better. Oliver Cromwell did the like in Ireland, to which we owe that Kingdom's being a Protestant Kingdom at this Day, and its continuing subject to the Crown of England; but if it be too late to think of this Method now, some other must be found out by the Wisdom of Parliament, which shall fully answer the End.

These Officers and Soldiers thus settled and reduced to a Civil State, would, in a great measure, compose that invincible Militia I am now forecasting; and by reason of their Skill in military Affairs, would deserve the principal Posts and Commands in their respective Counties: With this advantageous Change of their Condition, that whereas formerly they fought for their Country only as Soldiers of Fortune, now they should defend it as wise and valiant Citizens, as Proprietors of the Estates they fight for; and this will gain them the entire Trust and Confidence of all the good People of England, who, whenever they come to know their own Minds, do heartily hate Slavery. The Manner and Times of assembling, with several other necessary Regulations, are only proper for the Legislative to fix and determine.


A right Whig lays no Stress upon the Illegitimacy of the pretended Prince of Wales; he goes upon another Principle than they, who carry the Right of Succession so far, as (upon that Score), to undo all Mankind. He thinks no Prince fit to govern, whose Principle it must be to ruin the Constitution, as soon as he can acquire unjust Power to do so. He judges it Nonsense for one to be the Head of a Church, or Defender of a Faith, who thinks himself bound in Duty to overthrow it. He never endeavours to justify his taking the Oaths to this Government, or to quiet his Conscience, by supposing the young Gentleman at St. Germains unlawfully begotten; since, 'tis certain, that according to our Law he cannot be looked upon as such. He cannot satisfy himself with any of the foolish Distinctions trump'd up of late Years to reconcile base Interest with a Show of Religion; but deals upon the Square, and plainly owns to the World, that he is not influenc'd by any particular Spleen: but that the Exercise of an Arbitrary, Illegal Power in the Nation, so as to undermine the Constitution, would incapacitate either King James, King William, or any other, from being his King, whenever the Publick has a Power to hinder it.

As a necessary Consequence of this Opinion, a Whig must be against punishing the Iniquity of the Fathers upon the Children, as we do (not only to the Third and Fourth Generation, but) for ever: since our gracious God has declared, that he will no more pursue such severe Methods in his Justice, but that the Soul that sinneth it shall die. 'Tis very unreasonable, that frail Man, who has so often need of Mercy, should pretend to exercise higher Severities upon his Fellow-Creatures, than that Fountain of Justice on his most wicked revolting Slaves. To corrupt the Blood of a whole Family, and send all the Offspring a begging after the Father's Head is taken off, seems a strange Piece of Severity, fit to be redressed in Parliament; especially when we come to consider, for what Crime this has been commonly done. When Subjects take Arms against their Prince, if their Attempt succeeds, 'tis a Revolution; if not, 'tis call'd a Rebellion: 'tis seldom consider'd, whether the first Motives be just or unjust. Now is it not enough, in such Cases, for the prevailing Party to hang or behead the Offenders, if they can catch them, without extending the Punishment to innocent Persons for all Generations to come?


The Sense of this made the late Bill of Treasons (though it reach'd not so far as many would have had it) a Favourite of the Old Whigs; they thought it a very desirable one whenever it could be compass'd, and perhaps if not at that very Juncture, would not have been obtained all: 'twas necessary for Two different Sorts of People to unite in this, in order for a Majority, whose Weight should be sufficient to enforce it. And I think some Whigs were very unjustly reproach'd by their Brethren, as if by voting for this Bill, they wilfully exposed the late King's Person to the wicked Designs of his Enemies.

Lastly, The supporting of Parliamentary Credit, promoting of all publick Buildings and Highways, the making all Rivers Navigable that are capable of it, employing the Poor, suppressing Idlers, restraining Monopolies upon Trade, maintaining the liberty of the Press, the just paying and encouraging of all in the publick Service, especially that best and use-fullest Sort of People the Seamen: These (joined to a firm Opinion, that we ought not to hearken to any Terms of Peace with the French King, till it be quite out of his Power to hurt us, but rather to dye in Defence of our own and the Liberties of Europe) are all of them Articles of my Whiggish Belief, and I hope none of them are heterodox. And if all these together amount to a Commonwealthsman, I shall never be asham'd of the Name, though given with a Design of fixing a Reproach upon me, and such as think as I do.12

Many People complain of the Poverty of the Nation, and the Weight of the Taxes. Some do this without any ill Design, but others hope thereby to become popular; and at the same time to enforce a Peace with France, before that Kingdom be reduced to too low a Pitch: fearing, lest that King should be disabled to accomplish their Scheme of bringing in the Pretender, and assisting him.

Now although 'tis acknowledg'd, that the Taxes lye very heavy, and Money grows scarce; yet let the Importance of our War be considered, together with the Obstinacy, Perfidy, and Strength of our Enemy, can we possibly carry on such a diffusive War without Money in Proportion? [190] Are the Queen's Subjects more burden'd to maintain the publick Liberty, than the French King's are to confirm their own Slavery? Not so much by three Parts in four, God be prais'd: Besides, no true Englishman will grudge to pay Taxes whilst he has a Penny in his Purse, as long as he sees the Publick Money well laid out for the great Ends for which 'tis given. And to the Honour of the Queen and her Ministers it may be justly said, That since England was a Nation, never was the publick Money more frugally managed, or more fitly apply'd. This is a further Mortification to those Gentlemen, who have Designs in View which they dare not own: For whatever may be, the plausible and specious Reasons they give in publick, when they exclaim against the Ministry; the hidden and true one is, that through the present prudent Administration, their so hopefully-laid Project is in Danger of being blown quite up; and they begin to despair that they shall bring in King James the Third by the Means of Queen Anne, as I verily believe they once had the Vanity to imagine.



The Translator's Preface was not included in the 1711 Timothy Goodwin edition. The preface forms the basis of the independent text later known as the Principles of a Real Whig.


The 1775 edition of the Principles has "are."


Molesworth refers here to The judgment and decree of the University of Oxford past in their convocation July 21, 1683, against certain pernicious books and damnable doctrines destructive to the sacred persons of princes, their state and government, and of all humane society rendred into English, and published by command (Oxford: Printed at the Theater, 1683).


Note in margin: "St. Chrysostom."


The 1726 extract reproduced in Ker starts here (p. 191).


Edward Hyde, Lord Clarendon's High Church History of the rebellion, partially composed in the early 1670s, was first published as The history of the rebellion and civil wars in England, begun in the year 1641. With the precedent Passages, and Actions, that contributed thereunto, and the happy End, and Conclusion thereof by the King's blessed Restoration, and Return upon the 29th of May, in the Year 1660 (Oxford, 1702–4).


"To whose benefit" or "to whose profit."


"By divine right."


Literally translated as "for our altars and hearths," but more commonly as "for God and country."


Both Ker's extract and the 1775 edition of The Principles of a Real Whig end here.