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know the will of God better than his whole kingdom, whence should he have it? Certainly his court-breeding and his perpetual conversation with flatterers * was but a bad school. To judge of his own rights could not belong to him, who had no right by law in any court to judge of so much as felony or treason, being held a party in both these cases, much more in this; and his rights however should give place to the general good, for which end all his rights were given him.
Lastly, to suppose a clearer insight and discerning of the general good, allotted to his own singular judgment, than to the parliament and all the people, and from that self-opinion of discerning, to deny them that good which they, being all freemen, seek earnestly and call for, is an arrogance, and iniquity beyond imagination rude and unreasonable; they undoubtedly having most authority to judge of the public good, who for that purpose are chosen out and sent by the people
* To declaim against the vices of courtiers, when those brought up among them, and who share their failings, describe and condemn them as the worst of mankind, were a pure waste of indignation, which should be reserved for those on whom contempt cannot fall. The sons of Clarendon, who touched as gingerly as their father on the faults of princes, and even in treating of courtiers seemed to fear the consequences of plain-speaking, dwell, nevertheless, in general terms, upon the base flattery and compliance by which monarchs are too commonly surrounded.
- Suadere principi quod oporteat, magni laboris ; assentatio erga principem quemcunque sine affectu peragitur, was a saying of Tacitus, and one of those that is perpetually verified. For we see, in all times, how compliance and flattery gets the better of honesty and plain-dealing. All men indeed love best those that dispute not with them ; a misfortune, whils: it is among private persons, that is not so much taken notice of; but it becomes remarkable and grows a public calamity, when this uncomely obsequiousness is practised towards great princes, who are apt to mistake it for duty, and to prefer it before such advice as is really good for their service." (Preface to Clarendon's History, i. p. 14.) Here the reader will perceive that “great princes" does not mean princes with great qualities, but who happen to govern great nations ; for, were they truly great, the pitiful creatures that buzz about a court would never, by their “ uncomely obsequiousness,” be able to impose upon their intellects. In the above passage the court glanced at is that of Charles I., of which Warburton says— "Every now and then a story comes out which shows the court to have been exceedingly tyrannical, and abates all our wonder at the rage and malice of those that had been oppressed by it. It is a moot point which did the king most mischief, his court servants, whom he unreasonably indulged, or his country subjects, whom he as unreasonably oppressed Gratitude had not the same influence on the affections of his servants, which thirst of revenge had on those whe had been oppressed by their master.”—ED.
to advise him. And if it may be in him to see oft“ the major part of them not in the right,” had it not been more his modesty, to have doubted their seeing him more often in the wrong?
He passes to another reason of his denials : “ Because of some men's hydropic unsatiableness, and thirst of asking, the more they drank, whom no fountain of regal bounty * was able to overcome.” A comparison more properly bestowed on those that came to guzzle in his wine-cellar, than on a freeborn people that came to claim in parliament their rights and liberties, which a king ought therefore to grant, because of right demanded; not to deny them for fear his bounty should be exhausted, which in these demands (to continue the same metaphor) was not so much as broached; it being his duty, not his bounty, to grant these things. He who thus refuses to give us law, in that refusal gives us another law, which is his will, another name also, and another condition; of freemen to become his vassals.
Putting off the courtier, he now puts on the philosopher, and sententiously disputes to this effect," that reason ought to be used to men, force and terror to beasts; that he deserves to be a slave, who captivates the rational sovereignty of his soul and liberty of his will to compulsion; that he would not forfeit that freedom, which cannot be denied him as a king, because it belongs to him as a man and a Christian, though to preserve his kingdom ; but rather die enjoying the empire of his soul, than live in such a vassalage as not to use his reason and conscience, to like or dislike as a king.” Which words, of themselves, as far as they are sense, good and philosophical, yet in the mouth of him, who, to engross
• This cant about the bounty of despots is sure to be found in the mouth of every advocate for arbitrary power. Hume, speaking of the insurrection of the Norman barons, observes that those foreigners owed everything they possessed to the king's bounty; meaning evidently to tax them with ingratitude. But who put it into the Bastard's power to be bountiful? Or how can that be called bounty which is earned by toil and long services ? It was the valour and fidelity of those barons that had enabled the Conqueror to distribute the wealth of England; and they had a right to share in the distribution. The king, therefore, gave them but their due; and they consequently owed him no obligation, or the obligation was mutual. In fact, the historian himself immediately proceeds to show how the tyrannical conduct of the king had alienated the affections of his companions in arms.
this common liberty to himself would tread down all other men into the condition of slaves and beasts, they quite lose their commendation. He confesses a rational sovereignty of soul and freedom of will in every man, and yet with an implicit repugnancy would have his reason the sovereign of that sovereignty, and would captivate and make useless that natural freedom of will in all other men but himself.
But them that yield him this obedience he so well rewards, as to pronounce them worthy to be slaves. They who have lost all to be his subjects, may stoop and take up
the reward. What that freedom is, which “ cannot be denied him as a king, because it belongs to him as a man and a Christian," I understand not. If it be his negative voice, it concludes all men, who have not such a negative as his against a whole parliament, to be neither men nor Christians: and what was he himself then, all this while that we denied it him as a king? Will he say, that he enjoyed within himself the less freedom for that ? Might noi he, both as a man and as a Christian, have reigned within himself in full sovereignty of soul, no man repining, but that his outward and imperious will must invade the civil liberties of a nation ?* Did we therefore not permit him to use his reason or his conscience, not permitting him to bereave us the use of ours ? And might not he have enjoyed both as a king, governing us as freemen by what laws we ourselves would be governed ? It was not the inward use of his reason and of his conscience, that would content him, but to use them both as a law over all his subjects, “ in whatever he declared as a king to like or dislike.” Which use of reason, most reasonless and unconscionable, is the utmost that any tyrant ever pretended over his vassals.
In all wise nations the legislative power, and the judicial execution of that power, have been most commonly distinct, and in several hands; but yet the former supreme,
the other subordinate. If then the king be only set to execute the law, which is indeed the highest of his office, he ought no
* In the midst of his declaination on the pretended felicity of the country, Clarendon admits the wickedness of the court, and the violation of the constitution; and, while ostensibly reprehending the discontents of the people, shows they were a necessary consequence, springing from the proLigate tyranny of their rulers.
“ 'The court,” he says,
was full of excess, idieness, and luxury; and the country, in consequence, full of pride, mutiny, and discontent.” Strange picture of a happy people Ed.
more to niake or forbid the making of any law, agreed upon in parliament, than other inferior judges, who are his deputies. Neither can he more reject a law offered him by the commons, than he can new make a law, which they reject. And yet the more to credit and uphold his cause, he would seem to have philosophy on his side; straining her wise dictates to unphilosophical purposes. But when kings come so low, as to fawn upon philosophy, which before they neither valued nor understood, it is a sign that fails not, they are then put to their last trump. And philosophy as well requites them, by not suffering her golden sayings either to become their lips, or to be used as masks and colours of injurious and violent deeds. So that what they presume to borrow from her sage and virtuous rules, like the riddle of the Sphinx not understood, breaks the neck of their own
But now again to politics : “ He cannot think the majesty of the crown of England to be bound by any coronation oath in a blind and brutish formality, * to consent to whatever its subjects in parliament shall require.” What tyrant could presume to say more, when he meant to kick down all law, government, and bond of oath? But why he so desires to absolve himself the oath of his coronation would be worth the knowing. It cannot but be yielded, that the oath, which binds him to the performance of his trust, ought in reason to contain the sum of what his chief trust and office is. But if it neither do enjoin, nor mention to him, as a part of his duty, the making or the marring of any law, or scrap of law, but requires only his assent to those laws which the people have already chosen, or shall choose ; (for so both the Latin of that oath, and the old English ; and all reason admits, that the people should not lose under a new king what freedom they had before ;) then that negative voice so contended for, to deny the passing
law which the commons choose, is both against the oath of his coronation, and his kingly office.
Despots in all ages have made very free with oaths. With them perjury is among the arts of state.
“ Nam, si violandum est jus, regnandi gratiâ
Cicero, Off. iii, 21.-ED.
And if the king may deny to pass what the parliament hath chosen to be a law, then doth the king make himself superior to his whole kingdom; which not only the general maxims of policy gainsay, but even our own standing laws, as hath been cited to him in remonstrances heretofore, that “the king hath two superiors, the law, and his court of parliament. But this he counts to be a blind and brutish formality, whether it be law, or oath, or his duty, and thinks to turn it off with wholesome words and phrases, which he then first learnt of the honest people, when they were so often compelled to use them against those more truly blind and brutish formalities thrust upon us by his own command, not in civil matters only, but in spiritual. And if his oath to perform what the people require, when they crown him, be in his esteem a brutish formality, then doubtless those other oaths of allegiance and supremacy, taken absolute on our part, may most justly appear to us in all respects as brutish and as formal ; and so by his own sentence no more binding to us, than his oath to him.
As for his instance, in case “he and the house of peers attempted to enjoin the house of commons,” it bears no equality ; for he and the peers represent but themselves, the commons are the whole kingdom. Thus he concludes “ his oath to be fully discharged in governing by laws already made,” as being not bound to pass any new, “if his reason bids him deny. .” And so may infinite mischiefs grow,
and he with a pernicious negative may deny us all things good, or just, or safe, whereof our ancestors, in times much differing from ours, had either no foresight, or no occasion to foresee; while our general good and safety shall depend upon the private and overweening reason of one obstinate man, who against all the kingdom, if he list, will interpret both the law and his oath of coronation by the tenor of his own will. Which he himself confesses to be an arbitrary power, yet doubts not in his argument to imply, as if he thought it more fit the parliament should be subject to his will, than he to their advice; a man neither by nature nor by nurture wise. How is it possible, that he, in whom such principles as these were so deep rooted, could ever, though restored again, have reigned otherwise than tyrannically?
He objects, “ That force was but a slavish method to disa