Vindicia Contra Tyronas
(A DEFENSE OF LIBERTY AGAINST TYRANTS)
THE THIRD QUESTION (Part 2): Whether it is lawful to resist a ruler who is oppressing or ruining the country, and how far such resistance may be extended; by whom, how, and by what right or law it is permitted.
Whether the king owns all property in the kingdom.
But the king, is he not lord proprietor of the public revenue? We must treat this point in a more exactly manner than we did the former. In the first place, we must consider that the revenue of the public treasury is one thing, and the proper heritage of the prince another. The goods of the emperor, king, or prince are of a different nature than those of Antonius, Henry, or Phillip; those are properly the king's, which he enjoys as king, those are Antonius' his which he possesses, as in the right of Antonius, the former he received from the people, the latter from those of his blood, as inheritor to them.
This distinction is mentioned frequently in the books of the civil law, where there is a difference is always made between the heritage of the empire, and that of the emperor. That is, the treasury of Caesar is one thing, and the exchequer of the commonwealth another, and both the one and the other have their own procurers, there being different dispensers of the sacred and public distributions, and of the particular and private expenses, insomuch as he who as emperor is preferred before a private man in a grant by deed or charter, may also sometime as Antonius give place to a lower person.
In like manner in the empire of Germany, the revenue of Ferdinand of Austria is one thing, and the revenue of the Emperor Ferdinand is another: the empire and the emperor each have their own treasures, as there is a also a difference between the inheritances which the princes derive from the houses of their ancestors, and those which are connected with being a ruler. Even among the Turks, Selimus, his gardens and inherited lands, are distinguished from those of the public, the one serving for the provision of the Sultan's table, the other used only for the Turkish affairs of state. There is, notwithstanding, kingdoms as the French and English, and others in which the king has no particular heritage, but only the public which he has received from the people -- there this former distinction has no place. For the goods which belong to the prince as a private person there is no question; he is absolute owner of them as other particular persons are, and may by the civil law sell, engage, or dispose of them at his discretion. But for the goods of the kingdom, which in some places are commonly called the demesnes, the kings may not be considered, in any way whatsoever, absolute proprietors of them.
For what if a man, for the sake of the flock, have made you shepherd, does it follow that you have liberty to slay, shear, sell, and transport the sheep at your pleasure? Although the people have established you judge or governor of a city, or of some province, do you therefore have power to alienate, sell, or fritter away that city or province? And seeing that in alienating or passing away a province, the people also are sold, have they raised you to that authority to the end that you should separate them from the rest, or that you should prostitute and make them slaves to whom you please? Furthermore, I demand to know whether the royal dignity is an heritage, or an office? If it's an office, what community has it with any propriety? If it's an heritage, is it not such a one that at least the primary ownership remains still in the people who were the donors? Briefly, if the revenue of the exchequer, or the demesnes of the kingdom, is called the dowry of the commonwealth, and by good right, and such a dowry whose dismembering or wasting brings with it the ruin of the public state, the kingdom and the king, by what law shall it be lawful to alienate this dowry? Let the emperor Wencislaus be infatuated, the French King Charles the Sixth, lunatic, and give or sell the kingdom, or part of it, to the English, let Malcolm, King of the Scots, lavishly dissipate the demesnes and consume the public treasury, what follows from all this? Those who choose the king to withstand the invasions of foreign enemies, shall they through his madness and negligence be made the slaves of strangers? And those means and wealth, which would have secured them in the fruition of their own estates and fortunes, shall they, by the election of such a king, be exposed to the prey and rapine of all comers? And that which particular persons have saved from their own necessities, and from those under their tutorship and government (as it happened in Scotland) to endue the commonwealth with it, shall it be devoured by some panderer or broker, for unclean pleasures?
But if, as we have often said, that kings were established for the people's use, what shall that use be, if it be perverted into abuse? What good can so much mischief and inconvenience bring, what profit can come of such eminent and irreparable damages and dangers? If in seeking to purchase my own liberty and welfare, I sell myself into absolute slavery and willingly subject myself to another's yoke, and become a fettered slave to another man's unruly desires, therefore, as it is imprinted in all of us by nature, so also has it by a long custom been approved by all nations, that it is not lawful for the king by the counsel of his own fancy and pleasure, to diminish or waste the public revenue; and those who have run a contrary course, have even lost that happy name of a king, and stood branded with the infamous title of a tyrant.
I confess that when kings were instituted, there was of necessity means to be assigned for them, as well to maintain their royal dignity, as to furnish the expense of their retinue and officers. Civility, and the welfare of the public state, seem to require it, for it was the duty of a king to establish judges in all places, who should receive no presents, nor sell justice: and also to have power ready to assist the execution of their ordinances, and to secure the ways from dangers, that commerce might be open, and free, etc. If there were likelihood of wars, to fortify and put garrisons into the frontier places, and to hold an army in the field, and to keep his magazines well stored with ammunition. It is commonly said that peace cannot be well maintained without provision for wars, nor wars managed without men, nor men kept in discipline without pay, nor money got without subsidies and tributes.
To discharge therefore the burden of the state in time of peace was the demesne appointed, and in time of wars the tributes and imports, yet so as if any extraordinary necessity required it, money might be raised by subsidies or other fitting means. The main intention of these was ever the public utility, in so much as he who converts any of these public revenues to his own private purposes, much more he who misspends them in any unworthy or loose occasions, no way merits the name of a king, for the ruler, says the apostle Paul, is the minister of God for the good of the people; and for that cause is tribute paid to them. This is the true original cause of the customs and taxes of the Romans, that those rich merchandises which were brought from the Indies, Arabia, Ethiopia, might be secured in their passage by land from thieves and robbers, and in their transportation by sea from pirates, insomuch as for their security, the commonwealth maintained a navy at sea. In this rank we must put the custom which was paid in the Red Sea, and other tolls of gates, bridges, and passages, for the securing of the great roadways (therefore called the Pretorian Consular, and the king's highways) from the spoil of thieves and free-booters. The repair and maintenance of bridges was referred to commissaries deputed by the king, as appears by the ordinance of Lewis the Courteous, concerning the twelve bridges over the river Seine, commanding also boats to be in readiness, to ferry over passengers, etc. For the tax laid upon salt there was none in use in those times, the most of the salt-pits being enjoyed by private persons, because it seemed that that which nature out of her own bounty gave to men, ought no more to be enhanced by sale than either the light, the air, or the water. As a certain king called Lycurgus in the lesser Asia, began to lay some impositions upon the salt-pits there, nature, as it were, impatiently bearing such a restraint of her liberality, the springs are said to have dried up suddenly. Yet certain of the court would persuade us at this day (as Juvenal complained in his time) that the sea affords nothing of worth, or good, which falls not within the compass of the king's prerogative.
He who first brought this taxation into Rome, was the Censor Livius, who therefore gained the surname of Salter; neither was it done but in the commonwealth's extreme necessity. And in France King Philip the Long, for the same reason obtained of the estates the imposition upon salt for five years only. What turmoils and troubles it's continuance has bred, every man knows. To be brief, all tributes were imposed and continued for the provision of means and stipends for the men of war: so as to make a province stipendiary or tributary, was esteemed the same with military.
Solomon exacted tributes to fortify the towns, and to erect and furnish a public storehouse. When it was accomplished, the people naturally required of Rehoboam to be freed from that burden. The Turks call the tribute of the provinces, the sacred blood of the people, and account it a most wicked crime to employ it in anything but the defence of the people. Therefore, by the same reason, all that which the king conquers in war belongs to the people, and not to the king, because the people bore the charges of the war, as that which is gained by a factor accrues to the account of his master. Yea, and what advantage he gains by marriage, if it belongs simply and absolutely to his wife, that is acquired also to the Kingdom, for so much as it is to be presumed that he gained not that preferment in marriage in quality of Philip or Charles, but as he was king. On the contrary, in like manner, the queens have interest of endowment in the estates which their husbands gained and enjoyed before they attained the crown, and have no title to that which is gotten after they are created kings, because that is judged to be belonging to the common purse, and has no proper reference to the king's private estate, which was so determined in France, between Philip of Valoys, and his wife Jean of Burgundy. But to the end that there be no money drawn from the people to be employed in private designs, and for particular ends and purposes, the emperor swears not to impose any taxes or tributes whatsoever, but by the authority of the estates of the empire. The kings of Poland, Hungary, and Denmark make similiar promises. The English in like manner enjoy the same to this day, by the laws of Henry the Third, and Edward the First.
The French kings in former times imposed no taxes but in the assemblies, and with the consent of the three estates. From there came the law of Philip of Valoys, that the people should not have any tribute laid on them but in urgent necessity, and with the consent of the estates. Even in old times, after these monies were collected, they were locked in coffers through every diocese and recommended to the special care of selected men (who are the same who at this day are called esleus), to the end that they should pay the soldiers enrolled within the towns of their dioceses: the which was in use in other countries, as namely in Flanders and other neighbouring provinces. At this day, though many corruptions have crept in, yet without the consent and confirmation of the parliament, no exactions may be collected; notwithstanding, there be some provinces which are not bound to anything without the approbation of the estates of the country, as Languedoke, Brittany, Province, Daulphiny, and some others. Finally, all the provinces of the low countries have the same privileges, lest the exchequer devour all, like the spleen which exhales the spirits from the other members of the body. In all places they have confined the exchequer within its proper bounds and limits.
Seeing then it is most certain that what has been ordinarily and extraordinarily assigned to kings, that is, tributes, taxes, and all the demesnes which encompasses all customs, both importations and exportations, forfeitures, amercements, royal escheats, confiscations, and other dues of the same nature, were consigned into their hands for the maintenance and defence of the people and the state of the kingdom, insomuch as if the sinews be cut, the people must fall to decay, and in demolishing these foundations, the kingdom will come to utter ruin. It necessarily follows, that he who lays impositions on the people only to oppress them, and by the public detriment seeks private profit, and with their own sword kills his subjects, he truly is unworthy the name of a king. Whereas contrarily, a true king, if he is a careful manager of the public affairs, so is he a ready protector of the common welfare, and not a lord in propriety of the commonwealth, having as little authority to sell or waste the demesnes or public revenue, as the kingdom itself. And if he misgovern the state, seeing it imports the Commonwealth that every one make use of his own talent, it is much more requisite for the public good, that he who has the managing of it, carry himself as he ought.
And therefore, if a prodigal lord, by the authority of justice, be committed to the custodyof his kinsmen and friends, and compelled to allow his revenues and means to be ordered and disposed of by others; by much more reason may those who have interest in the affairs of state (and whose duty obliges them to have one), take all the administration and government of the state out of the hands of him who either negligently executes his duties, or ruins the commonwealth, if after admonition he endeavours not to perform his duty. And for so much as it is easily to be proved, without searching into those elder times, that in all lawful dominions the king cannot be held lord in propriety of the demesnes; whereof we have an apt representation in the person of Ephron king of the Hittites, who dare not sell the field to Abraham without the consent of the people. This right is at this day practiced in public states: the emperor of Germany, before his coronation, solemnly swears that he will neither alienate, dismember, nor engage any of the rights or members of the empire. And, if he recover, or conquer anything with the arms and means of the public, it shall be gained to the empire, and not to himself. This is why, when Charles the Fourth promised each of the electors a hundred thousand crowns to choose his son Wencislaus emperor, and, having not ready money to deliver them, he mortgaged customs, taxes, tributes, and certain towns to them, which were the proper appurtenances of the empire, there followed much and vehement protest, most men holding this engagement void. And questionless it had been so declared, but for the profit that those reaped thereby, who ought principally to have maintained and held entire the rights and dignities of the empire. And it followed also, that Wencislaus was justly held incapable of the government of the empire, chiefly because he permitted the rights of the empire over the duchy of Milan to be wrested from him.
There is a very ancient law in the kingdom of Poland which prohibits the alienating of any of the kingdom's lands, which was renewed by King Lewis in the year 1375. In Hungary in A.D. 1221 there was a complaint made to Pope Honorius, that King Andrew had engaged the crown lands contrary to his oath. In England was the same by the law of King Edward in the year 1298. Likewise in Spain by the ordinance made under Alphonsus, and renewed in the year 1560, in the assembly of the estates at Toledo. These laws were then ratified, although it was a long time before custom had obtained the vigor and effect of law.
Now, for the kingdom of France where I longer confine myself, because she may in a sort pass as a pattern to the rest, this right has ever remained there inviolable. It is one of the most ancient laws of the kingdom, and a right born with the kingdom itself, that the demesne may not be alienated, which in A.D. 1566 (although but ill-deserved) was renewed. There are only two cases excepted, the portions or appanages of the children and brothers of the king, yet with this reservation, that the right of vassalage remains always to the crown in like manner if the condition of war require necessarily an alienation, yet it must be ever with power of redemption. Anciently neither the one nor the other were of validity, but by the commandment of the states: at this day since the parliament has been made stationary, the parliament of Paris which is the court of the peers, and the chamber of accounts, and of the treasury, must first approve it: as the edicts of Charles the Sixth and Ninth do testify. This is a thing so certain, that if the ancient kings themselves would endow a church (although that was a work much favored in those days), they were, notwithstanding, bound to have an allowance of the estates: witness King Childebert, who might not endow the Abbey of Saint Vincent at Paris before he had the French and Neustrians' consent. Clovis the Second, and other kings have observed the same. They might neither remit the regalities by granting enfranchisements, nor the nomination of prelates to any church. And if any of them have done it, as Lewis the Second, Philip the Fourth, and Philip surnamed Augustus, did in favor of the churches of Senis Auxera, and Nevers, the parliament declared it void. When the king is anointed at Rheims, he swears to observe this law: and if he infringe it, that act has as much validity with it as if he contracted to sell the empires of the Great Turk, or Sophia of Persia. From this spring the constitutions or ordinances of Philip the Sixth, of John the Second, of Charles Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth, by which they revoke all alienations made by their predecessors.
In the assembly of the estates at Tours, where King Charles the Eighth was in person, various alienations made by Lewis the Second were repealed and voided, and there was taken away from the heirs of Tancred of Chastel his great minion, various places which he had given him by his proper authority. This was finally ratified in the last assembly of the estates held at Orleans. Thus much concerning the kingdom's demesne. But to the end that we may yet more clearly perceive that the kingdom is preferred before the king, and that he cannot by his own proper authority diminish the majesty he has received from the people, nor enfranchise or release from his dominion any one of his subjects; nor quit or relinquish the sovereignty of the least part of his kingdom. Charlemagne in former times endeavored to subject the kingdom of France to the German empire, which the French did courageously oppose by the mouth of a prince of Glascony; and if Charlemagne had proceeded in that business, there would have been war. In like manner, when any portion of the kingdom was granted to the English, the sovereignty was almost always reserved. And if sometimes they obtained it by force, as at the treaty of Bretigny, by the which King John quitted the sovereignty of Glascony and Poytou, that agreement was not kept, neither was he more bound to do it, than a tutor or guardian is being prisoner (as he was then), which for his own deliverance should engage the estate of his pupils.
By the power of the same law the parliament of Paris made void the treaty of Conflans, by which Duke Charles of Burgundy had drawn from the king Amiens and other towns of Picardy. In our days, the same parliament declared void the agreement made at Madrid, between Francis the First, then prisoner, and Charles the Fifth, concerning the Duchy of Burgundy. But the domain made by Charles the Sixth to Henry King of England, of the kingdom of France, after his decease, is a sufficient testimony for this matter, and of his madness, if there had been no other proof. But to leave off producing any further testimonies, examples, or reasons, by what right can the king give or sell away the kingdom, or any part of it: seeing it consists of people, and not of earth or walls? And freemen can't be sold, nor trafficked; even the patrons themselves cannot compel the enfranchised servants to make their habitations in places other than they like. Particularlly so in that subjects are neither slaves nor enfranchised servants, but brothers: and not only the king's brethren taken one by one, but also considered in one body, they ought to be esteemed absolute lords and owners of the kingdom.
Whether the king be the usufructor of the kingdom?
But if the king be not lord in propriety, yet at the least we may esteem him usufructor of the kingdom, and of the demesne; nay, truly we can allow him to have the usufruct for being usufructor, though the propriety remain in the people: yet may he absolutely dispose of the profits, and engage them at his pleasure. Now we have already proved that kings of their own authority cannot engage the revenues of the exchequer, or the demesne of the kingdom. The usufructor may dispose of the profits to whom, how, and when he pleases. Contrarily, the excessive gifts of princes are ever judged void, his unnecessary expenses are not allowed, his superfluous to be cut off, and that which is expended by him in any other occasion, but for the public utility, is justly esteemed to be unjustly extorted, and is no less liable to the law Cincea, than the meanest Roman citizen formerly was. In France, the king's gifts are never of force, until the chamber of accounts have confirmed them. From hence proceed the postils of the ordinary chamber, in giving up of the accounts in the reigns of prodigal kings, Trop donne: soyt repele, which is, excessive gifts must be recalled. The judges of this chamber solemnly swear to pass nothing which may prejudice the kingdom, or the public state, notwithstanding any letters the king shall write unto them; but they are not always so mindful of this oath as were to be desired.
Furthermore, the law takes no care how a usufructor possesses and governs his revenues, but contrarywise, it prescribes unto the king, how and to what use he shall employ his. For the ancient kings of France were bound to divide their royal revenues into four parts. The first was implied in the maintaining of the ministers of the church, and providing for the poor: the second for the king's table: the third for the wages of his officers and household servants; the last in repairing of bridges, castles, and the royal palaces. And what was remaining, was laid up in the treasury, to be bestowed on the necessities of the commonwealth. And histories do at large relate the troubles and tumults which happened about the year 1412 in the assembly of the estates at Paris, because Charles the Sixth had wasted all the money that was raised of the revenues and demesne, in his own and his minion's loose pleasures, and that the expenses of the king's household, which before exceeded not the sum of ninety-four thousand francs, did amount, in that miserable estate of the commonwealth, to five hundred and forty thousand francs. Now as the demesne was employed in the before-mentioned affairs, so the aids were only for the war, and the taxes assigned for the payment of the men at arms and for no other occasion. In other kingdoms the king has no greater authority, and in divers less, especially in the empire of Germany, and in Poland. But we have made choice of the kingdom of France, to the end it be not thought this has any special prerogative above others, because there perhaps, the commonwealth receives the most detriment. Briefly, as I have before said, the name of a king signifies not an inheritance, nor a propriety, nor a usufruct, but a charge, office, and procuration. As a bishop is chosen to look to the welfare of the soul, so is the king established to take care of the body, so far forth as it concerns the public good; the one is dispenser of the heavenly treasure, the other of the secular, and what right the one has in the episcopal revenues, the same has the other, and no greater in the kingdom's demesne. If the bishop alien the goods of the bishopric without the consent of the chapter, this alienation is of no value; if the king alien the demesne without the approbation of the estates, that is also void; one portion of the ecclesiastical goods ought to be employed in the reparation of the churches; the second in relieving of the poor; the third, for the maintenance of the church men, and the fourth for the bishop himself. We have seen before, that the king ought to divide into four parts the revenues of the kingdom's demesne. The abuse of these times cannot infringe or annihilate the right, for, although some part of the bishops steal from the poor that which they profusely cast away on their panders, and ruin and destroy their lands and woods, the calling of the bishops is not for all that altered. Although that some emperors have assumed to themselves an absolute power, that cannot invest them with any further right, because no man can be judge in his own cause. What if some Caracalla vaunt he will not want money whilst the sword remains in his custody? The Emperor Adrian will promise on the contrary, so to discharge his office of principality, that he will always remember that the commonwealth is not his, but the people's; which one thing almost distinguishes a king from a tyrant. Neither can that act of Attalus King of Pergamus designing the Roman people for heirs to his kingdom, nor that of Alexander for Egypt, nor Ptolemy for the Cyrenians, bequeathing their kingdoms to the same people, nor Prasutagus King of the Icenians, who left his to Caesar, draw any good consequence of right to those who usurp that which by no just title belongs to them, nay, by how much the intrusion is more violent, by so much the equity and justice of the cause is more perspicuous: for what the Romans assumed under the colour of right, they would have made no difficulty if that pretext had been wanting to have taken by force. We have seen almost in our days how the Venetians possessed themselves of the kingdom of Cyprus, under presence of an imaginary adoption, which would have proved ridiculous, if it had not been seconded by power and arms. To which also may be not unfitly resembled the pretended donation of Constantine to Pope Silvester, for that straw of the decretist Gratian was long since consumed and turned to ashes; neither is of more validity the grant which Lewis the Courteous made to Pope Paschal of the city of Rome, and part of Italy. Because he gave that which he possessed not, no man opposed it. But when his father Charlemain would have united and subjected the kingdom of France to the German empire, the French did lawfully oppose it: and if he had persisted in his purpose, they were resolved to have hindered him, and defended themselves by arms.
There can be, too, as little advantage alleged that act of Solomon's, whom we read to have delivered twenty towns to Hiram King of Tyre: for he did not give them to him but for the securing of the talents of gold which Hiram had lent him, and they were redeemed at the end of the term, as it appears by the text. Further, the soil was barren, and husbanded by the remaining Canaanites. But Solomon, having redeemed it out of the hands of Hiram, delivered it to the Israelites to be inhabited and tilled. Neither serves it to much more purpose, to allege that in some kingdoms there is no express agreement between the king and the people; for suppose there be no mention made, yet the law of nature teacheth us, that kings were not ordained to ruin, but to govern the commonwealths, and that they may not by their proper authority alter or change the rights of the public state, and although they be lords, yet can they challenge it in no other quality, than as guardians do in the tuition of their pupils; neither can we account him a lawful lord, who deprives the commonwealth of her liberty, and sells her as a slave. Briefly, neither can we also allege, that some kingdoms are the proper acquists of the king himself, insomuch as they were not conquered by their proper means and swords, but by the hands, and with the wealth of the public; and there is nothing more agreeable to reason, than that which was gained with the joint difficulties and common danger of the public, should not be alienated or disposed of, without the consent of the states which represent the commonwealth: and the necessity of this law is such, that it is of force amongst robbers and free-booters themselves. He who follows a contrary course, must needs ruin human society. And although the French conquered by force of arms the countries of Germany and Gaule, yet this before mentioned right remains still entire.
To conclude, we must needs resolve, that kings are neither proprietors nor usufructuaries of the royal patrimony, but only administrators. And being so, they can by no just right attribute to themselves the propriety, use, or profit of private men's estates, nor with as little reason the public revenues, which are in truth only the commonwealth's. But before we pass any further, we must here resolve a doubt. The people of Israel having demanded a king, the Lord said to Samuel: hearken unto the voice of the people, notwithstanding, give them to understand what shall be the manner of the king who shall reign over them: "he will take your fields, your vineyards, your olive trees, to furnish his own occasions, and to enrich his servants," briefly, "he will make the people slaves." One would hardly believe in what estimation the courtiers of our times hold this text, when of all the rest of the Holy Scripture they make but a jest. In this place the almighty and all good God would manifest to the Israelites their levity, when that they had God Himself even present with them, who upon all occasions appointed them holy judges and worthy commanders for the wars, would, notwithstanding, rather subject themselves to the disordered commandments of a vain mutable man, than to the secure protection of the omnipotent and immutable God. He declares, then, unto them in what a slippery estate the king was placed, and how easily unruly authority fell into disordered violence, and kingly power was turned into tyrannous wilfulness. Seeing the king that he gave them would by preposterous violence draw the sword of authority against them, and subject the equity of the laws to his own unjust desires: and this mischief which they wilfully drew on themselves, they would happily repent of when it would not be so easily remedied. Briefly, this text does not describe the rights of kings, but what right they are accustomed to attribute to themselves: not what by the privilege of their places they may justly do; but what power for the satisfying of their own lusts, they unjustly usurp. This will manifestly appear from the seventeenth chapter of Deuteronomy, where God appoints a law for kings. Here says Samuel "the king will use his subjects like slaves." There God forbids the king "to lift his heart above his brethren," to wit, "over his subjects, whom he ought not to insult over, but to cherish as his kinsmen." "He will make chariots, levy horse-men, and take the goods of private men," says Samuel: on the contrary in Deuteronomy, he is exhorted "not to multiply horse-men, nor to heap up gold and silver, nor cause the people to return into Egypt," to wit into bondage. In Samuel we see pictured to the life wicked Ahab, who by pernicious means gets Naboth's vineyard: there, David, who held it not lawful to drink that water which was purchased with the danger of his subjects' lives. Samuel foretells that the king demanded by the Israelites, instead of keeping the laws, would govern all according to his own fancy. On the contrary, God commands that His law should by the priests be delivered into the hands of the king, to copy it out, and to have it continually before his eyes. Therefore Samuel, being high priest, gave to Saul the royal law contained in the seventeenth of Deuteronomy, written into a book, which certainly had been a frivolous act if the king were permitted to break it at his pleasure. Briefly, it is as much as if Samuel had said: You have asked a king after the manner of other nations, the most of whom have tyrants for their governors: you desire a king to distribute justice equally amongst you: but many of them think all things lawful which their own appetites suggest unto them; in the mean season you willingly shake off the Lord, whose only will is equity and justice in the abstract.
In Herodotus there is a history which plainly expresses how apt the royal government is to degenerate into tyranny, whereof Samuel so exactly forewarns the people. Deioces, much renowned for his justice, was first chosen judge amongst the Medes: presently after, to the end he might the better repress those who would oppose justice, he was chosen king, and invested with convenient authority; then he desired a guard, after, a citadel to be built in Ecbatana, the principal city of the kingdom, with colour to secure him from conspiracies and machinations of rebels; which being effected, he presently applied himself to revenge the least displeasures which were offered him with the greatest punishments.
Finally, no man might presume to look this king in the face, and to laugh or cough in his presence was punished with grievous torments. So dangerous a thing it is, to put into the hands of a weak mind (as all men's are by nature) unlimited power. Samuel therefore teaches not in that place that the authority of a king is absolute; on the contrary, he discreetly admonishes the people not to enthral their liberty under the unnecessary yoke of a weak and unruly master; he does not absolutely exclude the royal authority, but would have it restrained within its own limits; he does not amplify the king's right with an unbridled and licentious liberty; but rather tacitly persuades to put a bit into his mouth. It seems that this advice of Samuel's was very beneficial to the Israelites, for that they circumspectly moderated the power of their kings, the which, most nations grown wise, either by the experience of their own, or their neighbour's harms, have carefully looked unto, as will plainly appear by that which follows.
We have shewed already, that in the establishing of the king, there were two alliances or covenants contracted: the first between God, the king, and the people, of which we have formerly treated; the second, between the king and the people, of which we must now say somewhat. After that Saul was established king, the royal law was given him, according to which he ought to govern. David made a covenant in Hebron before the Lord, that is to say, taking God for witness, with all the ancients of Israel, who represented the whole body of the people, and even then he was made king. Joas also by the mouth of Johoiada the high priest, entered into covenant with the whole people of the land in the house of the Lord. And when the crown was set on his head, together with it was the law of the testimony put into his hand, which most expounds to be the law of God; likewise Josias promises to observe and keep the commandments, testimonies, and statutes comprised in the book of the covenant: under which words are contained all which belongs to the duties both of the first and second table of the law of God. In all the before-remembered places of the holy story, it is ever said, "that a covenant was made with all the people, with all the multitude, with all the elders, with all the men of Judah": to the end that we might know, as it is also fully expressed, that not only the principals of the tribes, but also all the milleniers, centurions, and subaltern magistrates should meet together, each of them in the name, and for their towns and communalties, to covenant and contract with the king. In this assembly was the creating of the king determined of, for it was the people who made the king, and not the king the people.
It is certain, then, that the people by way of stipulation, require a performance of covenants. The king promises it Now the condition of a stipulator is in terms of law more worthy than of a promiser. The people ask the king, whether he will govern justly and according to the laws? He promises he will. Then the people answer, and not before, that whilst he governs uprightly, they will obey faithfully. The king therefore promises simply and absolutely, the people upon condition: the which failing to be accomplished, the people rest according to equity and reason, quit from their promise.
In the first covenant or contract there is only an obligation to piety: in the second, to justice. In that the king promises to serve God religiously: in this, to rule the people justly. By the one he is obliged with the utmost of his endeavours to procure the glory of God: by the other, the profit of the people. In the first, there is a condition expressed, "if thou keep my commandments": in the second, "if thou distribute justice equally to every man." God is the proper revenger of deficiency in the former, and the whole people the lawful punisher of delinquency in the latter, or the estates, the representative body thereof, who have assumed to themselves the protection of the people. This has been always practiced in all well-governed estates. Amongst the Persians, after the due performance of holy rites, they contracted with Cyrus in manner following:
"Thou, O Cyrus ! in the first place shalt promise, that if any make war against the Persians, or seek to infringe the liberty of the laws, thou wilt with the utmost of thy power defend and protect this country." Which, having promised, they presently add, "And we Persians promise to be aiding to keep all men in obedience, whilst thou defendest the country." Xenophon calls this agreement, "A Confederation," as also Isocrates calls that which he wrote of the duties of subjects towards their princes, "A Discourse of Confederation." The alliance or confederation was renewed every month between the kings and Ephores of Sparta, although those kings were descended from the line of Hercules. And as these kings did solemnly swear to govern according to the laws, so did the Ephores also to maintain them in their authority, whilst they performed their promise. Likewise in the Roman kingdom, there was an agreement between Romulus, the senate, and the people, in this manner: " That the people should make laws, and the king look they were kept: the people should decree war, and the king should manage it." Now, although many emperors, rather by force and ambition, than by any lawful right, were seized of the Roman empire, and by that which they call a royal law, attributed to themselves an absolute authority, notwithstanding, by the fragments which remain both in books and in Roman inscriptions of that law, it plainly appears, that power and authority were granted them to preserve and govern the commonwealth, not to ruin and oppress it by tyranny. Nay, all good emperors have ever professed, that they held themselves tied to the laws, and received the empire from the senate, to whose determination they always referred the most important affairs, and esteemed it a great error, without their advice, to resolve on the occasions of the public state.
If we take into our consideration the condition of the empires, kingdoms, and states of times, there is not any of them worthy of those names, where there is not some such covenant or confederacy between the people and the prince. It is not long since, that in the empire of Germany, the king of the Romans being ready to be crowned emperor, was bound to do homage, and make oath of fealty to the empire, no more nor less than as the vassal is bound to do to his lord when he is invested with his fee. Although the form of the words which he is to swear have been somewhat altered by the popes, yet, notwithstanding, the substance still remains the same. According to which we know that Charles the Fifth, of the house of Austria, was under certain conditions chosen emperor, as in the same manner his successors were, the sum of which was, that he should keep the laws already made, and make no new ones without the consent of the electors, that he should govern the public affairs by the advice of the general estates, nor engage anything that belongs to the empire, and other matters which are particularly recited by the historians. When the emperor is crowned at Aquisgrave, the Archbishop of Cologne requires of him in the first place: If he will maintain the church, if he will distribute justice, if he will defend the empire, and protect widows, orphans, and all others worthy of compassion. The which, after he has solemnly sworn before the altar, the princes also who represent the empire, are asked if they will not promise the same; neither is the emperor anointed, nor receives the other ornaments of the empire, before he has first taken that solemn oath. Whereupon it follows, that the emperor is tied absolutely, and the princes of the empire, under condition. That the same is observed in the kingdom of Polonia, no man will make question, who had but seen or heard of the ceremonies and rites wherewith Henry of Anjou was lately chosen and crowned king of that country, and especially then when the condition of maintaining of the two religions, the reformed and the Roman, was demanded, the which the lords of the kingdom in express terms required of him three several times, and he as often made promise to perform. The same is observed in the kingdoms of Bohemia, Hungary, and others; the which we omit to relate particularly, to avoid prolixity.
Now this manner of stipulation is not only received in those kingdoms where the right of election is yet entirely observed; but even in those also which are esteemed to be simply hereditary. When the king of France is crowned, the bishops of Laon and Beauvois, ecclesiastical peers, ask all the people there present, whether they desire and command, that he who is there before them, shall be their king? Whereupon he is said even then in the style of the inauguration, to be chosen by the people: and when they have given the sign of consenting, then the king swears that he will maintain all the rights, privileges, and laws of France universally, that he will not alien the demesne, and the other articles, which have been yet so changed and accommodated to bad intentions, as they differ greatly from that copy which remains in the library of the chapter of Beauvois, according to which it is recorded, that King Philip, the first of that name, took his oath at his coronation; yet, notwithstanding, they are not unfitly expressed. Neither is he girded with the sword, nor anointed, nor crowned by the peers (who at that time wore coronets on their heads), nor receives the sceptre and rod of justice, nor is proclaimed king, before first the people have commanded it: neither do the peers take their oaths of allegiance before he has first solemnly sworn to keep the laws carefully. And those be, that he shall not waste the public revenue, that he shall not, of his own proper authority, impose any taxes, customs, or tributes, that he shall not make peace or war, nor determine of state affairs, without the advice of the council of state. Briefly, that he should leave to the parliament, to the states, and to the officers of the kingdom, their authority entire, and all things else which have been usually observed in the kingdom of France. And when he first enters any city or province, he is bound to confirm their privileges, and swears to maintain their laws and customs. This is straightly observed in the cities of Tholouse and Rochel, and in the countries of Daulpiny, Province and Brittany. The which towns and provinces have their particular and express covenants and agreements with the kings, which must needs be void, if the condition expressed in the contract be not of force, nor the kings tied to the performance.
There is the form of the oath of the ancient kings of Burgundy, yet extant in these words: "I will protect all men in their rights, according to law and justice."
In England, Scotland, Sweden, and Denmark, there is almost the same custom as in France; but in no place there is used a more discreet care in their manner of proceeding, than in Spain. For in the kingdom of Arragon, after the finishing of many ceremonies, which are used between him, which represents the Justitia Major of Arragon, which comprehends the majesty of the commonwealth, seated in a higher seat, and the king, which is to be crowned, who swears fealty, and does his homage; and having read the laws and conditions, to the accomplishment whereof he is sworn. Finally, the lords of the kingdom use to the king these words in the vulgar language, as is before expressed, "We who are as much worth as you, and have more power than you, choose you king upon these and these conditions, and there is one between you and us, who commands over you." But, lest the king should think he swore only for fashion's sake, and to observe an old custom, every third year in full assembly of the estates, the very same words, and in the same manner are repeated unto him. And, if under pretext of his royal dignity he become insolent, violating the laws, and neglect his public faith and promise given, then, by the privilege of the kingdom, he is judged, excommunicated, as execrable as Julian the apostate was by the primitive church: which excommunication is esteemed of that validity, that instead of praying for the king in their public orations, they pray against him, and the subjects are by the same right acquit from their oath of allegiance: as the vassal is exempted from obedience and obligation by oath to his lord who stands excommunicated; the which hath been determined and confirmed both by act of council and decree of state in the kingdom of Arragon.
In like manner, in the kingdom of Castile in full assembly of the estates, the king, being ready to be crowned, is first in the presence of all advertised of his duty: and even then are read the articles discreetly composed for the good of the commonwealth; the king swears he will observe and keep them carefully and faithfully, which, being done, then the constable takes his oath of allegiance, after the princes and deputies for the towns swear each of them in their order; and the same is observed in the kingdoms of Portugal, Leon, and the rest of Spain. The lesser principalities have their institution grounded on the same right. The contracts which the Brabancers and the rest of the Netherlanders, together with those of Austria, Carinthia, and others, had with their princes, were always conditional. But especially the Brabancers, to take away all occasion of dispute, have this express condition: which is that in the receiving of their duke, there is read in his presence the ancient articles, wherein is comprised that which is requisite for the public good, and thereunto is also added, that if he do not exactly and precisely observe them, they may choose what other lord it shall seem good unto them; the which they do in express words protest unto him. He having allowed and accepted of these articles, does in that public assembly promise and solemnly swear to keep them. The which was observed in the reception of Philip the Second, king of Spain. Briefly, there is not any man can deny, but that there is a contract mutually obligatory between the king and the subjects, which requires the people to obey faithfully, and the king to govern lawfully, for the performance whereof the king swears first, and after the people.
I would ask here, wherefore a man does swear, if it be not to declare that what he delivers he sincerely intends from his heart? Can anything be judged more near to the law of nature, than to observe that which we approve? Furthermore, what is the reason the king swears first, and at the instance, and required by the people, but to accept a condition either tacit or expressed? Wherefore is there a condition opposed to the contract, if it be not that in failing to perform the condition, the contract, according to law, remains void? And if for want of satisfying the condition by right, the contract is of no force, who shall dare to call that people perjured, which refuses to obey a king who makes no account of his promise, which he might and ought to have kept, and wilfully breaks those laws which he did swear to observe? On the contrary, may we not rather esteem such a king perfidious, perjured, and unworthy of his place? For if the law free the vassal from his lord, who dealt feloniously with him, although that to speak properly, the lord swears not fealty to his vassal, but he to him: if the law of the twelve tables cloth detest and hold in execration the protector who defrauds him that is under his tuition if the civil law permit an enfranchised servant to bring his action against his patron, for any grievous usage: if in such cases the same law delivers the slave from the power of his master, although the obligation be natural only, and not civil: is it not much more reasonable that the people be loosed from that oath of allegiance which they have taken, if the king (who may be not unfitly resembled by an attorney sworn to look to his client's cause) first break his oath solemnly taken? And what if all these ceremonies, solemn oaths, nay, sacramental promises, had never been taken? Does not nature herself sufficiently teach that kings were on this condition ordained by the people, that they should govern well; judges, that they should distribute justice uprightly; captains in the war, that they should lead their armies against their enemies? If, on the contrary, they themselves forage and spoil their subjects, and instead of governors become enemies, as they leave indeed the true and essential qualities of a king, so neither ought the people to acknowledge them for lawful princes. But what if a people (you will reply) subdued by force, be compelled by the king to take an oath of servitude? And what if a robber, pirate, or tyrant (I will answer) with whom no bond of human society can be effectual, holding his dagger to your throat, constrain you presently to become bound in a great sum of money? Is it not an unquestionable maxim in law, that a promise exacted by violence cannot bind, especially if anything be promised against common reason, or the law of nature? Is there anything more repugnant to nature and reason, than that a people should manacle and fetter themselves; and to be obliged by promise to the prince, with their own hands and weapons to be their own executioners? There is, therefore a mutual obligation between the king and the people, which, whether it be civil or natural only, whether tacit or expressed in words, it cannot by any means be annihilated, or by any law be abrogated, much less by force made void. And this obligation is of such power that the prince who wilfully violates it, is a tyrant. And the people who purposely break it, may be justly termed seditious.
Hitherto we have treated of a king. It now rests we do somewhat more fully describe a tyrant. We have shewed that he is a king who lawfully governs a kingdom, either derived to him by succession, or committed to him by election. It follows, therefore, that he is reputed a tyrant, which, as opposite to a king, either gains a kingdom by violence or indirect means, or being invested therewith by lawful election or succession, governs it not according to law and equity, or neglects those contracts and agreements, to the observation whereof he was strictly obliged at his reception. All which may very well occur in one and the same person. The first is commonly called a tyrant without title: the second a tyrant by practice. Now, it may well so come to pass, that he who possesses himself of a kingdom by force, to govern justly, and he on whom it descends by a lawful title, to rule unjustly. But for so much as a kingdom is rather a right than an inheritance, and an office than a possession, he seems rather worthy the name of a tyrant, who unworthily acquits himself of his charge, than he who entered into his place by a wrong door. In the same sense is the pope called an intruder who entered by indirect means into the papacy: and he an abuser who governs ill in it.
Pythagoras says "that a worthy stranger is to be preferred before an unworthy citizen, yea, though he be a kinsman." Let it be lawful also for us to say, that a prince who gained his principality by indirect courses, provided he govern according to law, and administer justice equally, is much to be preferred before him, who carries himself tyrannously, although he were legally invested into his government with all the ceremonies and rites hereunto appertaining. For seeing that kings were instituted to feed, to judge, to cure the diseases of the people: Certainly I had rather that a thief should feed me, than a shepherd devour me: I had rather receive justice from a robber, than outrage from a judge: I had better be healed by an empiric, than poisoned by a doctor in physic. It were much more profitable for me to have my estate carefully managed by an intruding guardian, than to have it wasted and dissipated by one legally appointed.
And although it may be that ambition was his first solicitor to enter violently into the government, yet may it perhaps appear he affected it rather to give testimony of his equity and moderation in governing; witness Cyrus, Alexander, and the Romans, who ordinarily accorded to those people their subdued, permission to govern themselves according to their own laws, customs, and privileges, yea, sometimes incorporated them into the body of their own state: on the contrary, the tyrant by practice seems to extend the privilege of his legal succession, the better to execute violence and extortion, as may be seen in these days, not only by the examples of the Turks and Muscovites, but also in divers Christian princes. Therefore the act of one who at the first was ill, is in some reasonable time rectified by justice: whereas the other like an inveterate disease, the older it grows, the worse it affects the patient.
Now, if according to the saying of Saint Augustine, "those kingdoms where justice hath no place, are but a rhapsody of free-booters," they are in that, both the tyrant without title, and he by practice alike, for that they are both thieves, both robbers, and both unjust possessors, as he certainly is no less an unjust detainer who takes another man's goods against the owner's will, than he who employs it ill when it was taken before. But the fault is without comparison, much more greater of him who possesses an estate for to ruin it, than of the other who made himself master of it to preserve it.
Briefly, the tyrant by practice vainly colouring his unjust extortions with the justice of his title, is much more blameable than the tyrant without title, who recompenses the violence of his first intrusion in a continued course of a legal and upright government. But to proceed, there may be observed some difference amongst tyrants without title: for there are some who ambitiously invade their neighbour's countries to enlarge their Own, as Nimrod, Minus, and the Canaanites have done. Although such are termed kings by their own people, yet to those on whose confines they have encroached without any just right or occasion, they will be accounted tyrants. There be others, who having attained to the government of an elective kingdom, that endeavour by deceitful means, by corruption, by presents, and other bad practices, to make it become hereditary. For witness whereof, we need not make search into older times; these are worse than the former, for so much as secret fraud, as Cicero says, " is ever more odious than open force."
There be also others who are so horribly wicked, that they seek to enthral their own native country like the viperous brood which gnaws through the entrails of their mother: as be those generals of armies created by the people, who afterwards, by the means of those forces, make themselves masters of the stage, as Caesar at Rome under presence of the dictatorship, and divers princes of Italy. There be women also who intrude themselves into the government of those kingdoms which the laws only permit to the males, and make themselves queens and regents, as Athalia did in Judah, Semiramis in Assyria, Agrippina in the Roman empire in the reign of her son Nero, Mammea in the time of Alexander Severus, Semiamira in Heliogabalus's; and certain Bruniehildes in the kingdom of France, who so educated their sons (as the queens of the house of Medicis in these latter times) during their minority, that attaining to more maturity, their only care was to glut themselves in pleasures and delights, so that the whole management of affairs remained in the hands of their mothers, or of their minions, servants and officers. Those also are tyrants without title, who, taking advantage of the sloth, weakness, and dissolute courses of those princes who are otherwise lawfully instituted, and seeking to enwrap them in a sleepy dream of voluptuous idleness (as under the French kings, especially those of the Merovingian line, some of the mayors of the palace have been advanced to that dignity for such egregious services), transferring into their own command all the royal authority, and leaving the king only the bare name. All which tyrants are certainly of this condition, that if for the manner of their government they are not blameable. Yet for so much as they entered into that jurisdiction by tyrannous intrusion, they may justly be termed tyrants without title.
Concerning tyrants by practice, it is not so easy to describe them as true kings. For reason rules the one, and selfwill the other: the first prescribes bounds to his affections, the second confines his desires within no limits. What is the proper rights of kings may be easily declared, but the outrageous insolences of tyrants cannot without much difficulty be expressed. And as a right angle is uniform, and like to itself one and the same, so an oblique diversifies itself into various and sundry species. In like manner is justice and equity simple, and may be deciphered in few words: but injustice and injury are divers, and for their sundry accidents not to be so easily defined; but that more will be omitted than expressed. Now, although there be certain rules by which these tyrants may be represented (though not absolutely to the life), yet, notwithstanding, there is not any more certain rude than by conferring and comparing a tyrant's fraudulent slights with a king's virtuous actions.
A tyrant lops off those ears which grow higher than the rest of the corn, especially where virtue makes them most conspicuously eminent; oppresses by calumnies and fraudulent practices the principal officers of the state; gives out reports of intended conspiracies against himself, that he might have some colourable pretext to cut them off; witness Tiberius, Maximinius, and others, who spared not their own kinsmen, cousins, and brothers. The king, on the contrary, does not only acknowledge his brothers to be as it were consorts unto him in the empire, but also holds in the place of brothers all the principal officers of the kingdom, and is not ashamed to confess that of them (in quality as deputed from the general estates) he holds the crown. The tyrant advances above and in opposition to the ancient and worthy nobility, mean and unworthy persons; to the end that these base fellows, being absolutely his creatures, might applaud and apply themselves to the fulfilling of all his loose and unruly desires. The king maintains every man in his rank, honours and respects the grandees as the kingdom's friends, desiring their good as well as his own. The tyrant hates and suspects discreet and wise men, and fears no opposition more than virtue, as being conscious of his own vicious courses, and esteeming his own security to consist principally in a general corruption of all estates, introduces multiplicity of taverns, gaming houses, masks, stage plays, brothel houses, and all other licentious superfluities that might effeminate and bastardise noble spirits, as Cyrus did, to weaken and subdue the Sardiens. The king on the contrary, allures from all places honest and able men and encourages them by pensions and honours; and for seminaries of virtue, erects schools and universities in all convenient places. A tyrant as much as in him lies, prohibits or avoids all public assemblies, fears parliaments, diets and meetings of the general estates, flies the light, affecting (like the bat) to converse only in darkness; yea he is jealous of the very gesture, countenance, and discourse of his subjects. The king, because he converses always as in the presence of men and angels, glories in the multitude and sufficiency of his counsellors, esteeming nothing well done which is ordered without their advice, and is so far from doubting or distasting the public meeting of the general estates, as he honours and respects those assemblies with much favour and affection.
A tyrant nourishes and feeds factions and dissensions amongst his subjects, ruins one by the help of another, that he may the easier vanquish the remainder, advantaging himself by this division, like those dishonest surgeons who lengthen out their cures. Briefly, after the manner of that abominable Vitellius, he is not ashamed to say that the carcass of a dead enemy, especially a subject's, yields a good savour. On the contrary, a good king endeavours always to keep peace amongst his subjects, as a father amongst his children, choke the seeds of troubles, and quickly heals the scar; the execution, even of justice upon rebels, drawing tears from his compassionate eyes; yea, those whom a good king maintains and defends against a foreign enemy, a tyrant (the enemy of nature) compels them to turn the points of their swords into their own proper entrails. A tyrant fills his garrisons with strange soldiers, builds citadels against his subjects, disarms the people, throws down their forts, makes himself formidable with guards of strangers, or men only fit for pillage and spoil, gives pensions out of the public treasury to spies and calumniating informers, dispersed through all cities and provinces. Contrariwise, a king reposes more his safety in the love of his subjects than in the strength of his fortresses against his enemies, taking no care to enroll soldiers, but accounts every subject as a man-at-arms to guard him, and builds forts to restrain the irruptions of foreign enemies, and not to constrain his subjects to obedience, in whose fidelity he puts his greatest confidence. Therefore, it is that tyrants, although they have such numberless guards about them to drive off throngs of people from approaching them, yet cannot all those numbers secure them from doubts, jealousies and distrusts, which continually afflict and terrify their timorous consciences: yea, in the midst of their greatest strength, the tyrannizer of tyrants, fear, makes prize of their souls, and there triumphs in their affliction.
A good king, in the greatest concourse of people, is freest from doubts or fears, nor troubled with solicitous distrusts in his solitary retirements: all places are equally secure unto him, his own conscience being his best guard. If a tyrant wants civil broils to exercise his cruel disposition in, he makes wars abroad; erects idle and needless trophies to continually employ his tributaries, that they might not have leisure to think on other things, as Pharaoh did the Jews, and Policrates the Samians; therefore he always prepares for, or threatens war, or, at least, seems so to do, and so still rather draws mischief on, than puts it further off. A king never makes war, but compelled unto it, and for the preservation of the public, he never desires to purchase advantage by treason; he never enters into any war that exposes the commonwealth to more danger than it affords probable hope of commodity.
A tyrant leaves no design unattempted by which he may fleece his subjects of their substance, and turn it to his proper benefit, that being continually troubled in gaining means to live, they may have no leisure, no hope, how to regain their liberty. On the contrary, the king knows that every good subject's purse will be ready to supply the commonwealth occasion, and therefore believes he is possessed of no small treasure, whilst through his good government his subjects flow in all abundance.
A tyrant extorts unjustly from many to cast prodigally upon two or three minions, and those unworthy; he imposes on all, and exacts from all, to furnish their superfluous and riotous expenses: he builds his own, and followers' fortunes on the ruins of the public: he draws out the people's blood by the veins of their means, and gives it presently to carouse to his court-leeches. But a king cuts off from his ordinary expenses to ease the people's necessities, neglects his private state, and furnishes with all magnificence the public occasions; briefly is prodigal of his own blood, to defend and maintain the people committed to his care.
If a tyrant, as heretofore Tiberius, Nero, Commodus and others, did suffer his subjects to have some breathing time from unreasonable exactions, and like sponges to gather some moisture' it is but to squeeze them out afterwards to his own use: on the contrary, if a king do sometimes open a vein, and draw some blood, it is for the people's good, and not to be expended at his own pleasure in any dissolute courses. And therefore, as the Holy Scripture compares the one to a shepherd, so does it also resemble the other to a roaring lion, to whom, notwithstanding, the fox is oftentimes coupled. For a tyrant, as says Cicero, "is culpable in effect of the greatest injustice that may be imagined, and yet he carries it so cunningly, that when he most deceives, it is then that he makes greatest appearance to deal sincerely." And therefore does he artificially counterfeit religion and devotion, wherein saith Aristotle, "he expresses one of the most absolute subtleties that tyrants can possibly practice: he does so compose his countenance to piety, by that means to terrify the people from conspiring against him; who they may well imagine to be especially favoured of God, expressing in all appearance so reverently to serve Him." He feigns also to be exceedingly affected to the public good; not so much for the love of it, as for fear of his own safety.
Furthermore, he desires much to be esteemed just and loyal in some affairs, purposely to deceive and betray more easily in matters of greater consequence: much like those thieves who maintain themselves by thefts and robberies, yet cannot long subsist in their trade without exercising some parcel of justice in their proceedings. He also counterfeits the merciful, but it is in pardoning of such malefactors, in punishing whereof he might more truly gain the reputation of a pitiful prince.
To speak in a word, that which the true king is, the tyrant would seem to be, and knowing that men are wonderfully attracted with, and enamoured of virtue, he endeavours with much subtlety to make his vices appear yet masked with some shadow of virtue: but let him counterfeit never so cunningly, still the fox will be known by his tail: and although he fawn and flatter like a spaniel, yet his snarling and grinning will ever betray his currish kind.
Furthermore, as a well-ordered monarchy partakes of the principal commodities of all other governments, so, on the contrary, where tyranny prevails, there all the discommodities of confusion are frequent. A monarchy has in this conformity with an aristocracy, that the most able and discreet are called to consultations. Tyranny and oligarchy accord in this, that their councils are composed of the worst and most corrupted. And as in the council royal, there may in a sort seem many kings to have interests in the government, so, in the other, on the contrary, a multitude of tyrants always domineers. The monarchy borrows of the popular government the assemblies of the estates, whither are sent for deputies the most sufficient of cities and provinces, to deliberate on, and determine matters of state: the tyranny takes this of the ochlocracy, that if she be not able to hinder the convocation of the estates, yet will she endeavour by factious subtleties and pernicious practices, that the greatest enemies of order and reformation of the state be sent to those assemblies, the which we have known practiced in our times. In this manner assumes the tyrant the countenance of a king, and tyranny the semblance of a kingdom, and the continuance succeeds commonly according to the dexterity wherewith it is managed; yet, as Aristotle says, "we shall hardly read of any tyranny that has outlasted a hundred years ": briefly, the king principally regards the public utility, and a tyrant's chiefest care is for his private commodity. But, seeing the condition of men is such, that a king is with much difficulty to be found, that in all his actions he only agrees at the public good, and yet cannot long subsist without expression of some special care thereof, we will conclude that where the commonwealth's advantage is most preferred, there is both a lawful king and kingdom; and where particular designs and private ends prevail against the public profit, there questionless is a tyrant and tyranny.
Thus much concerning tyrants by practice, in the examining whereof we have not altogether fixed our discourse on the loose disorders of their wicked and licentious lives, which some say is the character of a bad man, but not always of a bad prince. If therefore, the reader be not satisfied with this description, besides the more exact representations of tyrants which he shall find in histories, he may in these our days behold an absolute model of many living and breathing tyrants whereof Aristotle in his time did much complain. Now, at the last we are come as it were by degrees to the chief and principal point of the question. We have seen how that kings have been chosen by God, either with relation to their families or their persons only, and after installed by the people. In like manner what is the duty of the king, and of the officers of the kingdom, how far the authority, power, and duty both of the one and the other extends, and what and how sacred are the covenants and contracts which are made at the inauguration of kings, and what conditions are intermixed, both tacit and expressed; finally, who is a tyrant without title, and who by practice, seeing it is a thing unquestionable that we are bound to obey a lawful king, which both to God and people carries himself according to those covenants whereunto he stands obliged, as it were to God Himself, seeing in a sort he represents his divine Majesty? It now follows that we treat, how, and by whom a tyrant may be lawfully resisted, and who are the persons who ought to be chiefly actors therein, and what course is to be held, that the action may be managed according to right and reason. We must first speak of him who is commonly called a tyrant without title. Let us suppose then that some Ninus, having neither received outrage nor offence, invades a people over whom he has no colour of pretension: that Caesar seeks to oppress his country, and the Roman commonwealth: that Popiclus endeavours by murders and treasons to make the elective kingdom of Polonia to become hereditary to him and his posterity: or some Bruniehilde draws to herself and her Protadius the absolute government of France, or Ebronius, taking advantage of Theoderick's weakness and idleness, gains the entire administration of the state, and oppresses the people, what shall be our lawful refuge herein?
First, the law of nature teaches and commands us to maintain and defend our lives and liberties, without which life is scant worth the enjoying, against all injury and violence. Nature has imprinted this by instinct in dogs against wolves, in bulls against lions, betwixt pigeons and sparrowhawks, betwixt pullen and kites, and yet much more in man against man himself, if man become a beast: and therefore he who questions the lawfulness of defending oneself, does, as much as in him lies, question the law of nature. To this must be added the law of nations, which distinguishes possessions and dominions, fixes limits, and makes out confines, which every man is bound to defend against all invaders. And, therefore, it is no less lawful to resist Alexander the Great, if without any right or being justly provoked, he invades a country with a mighty navy, as well as Diomedes the pirate who scours the seas in a small vessel. For in this case Alexander's right is no more than Diomedes' but only he has more power to do wrong, and not so easily to be compelled to reason as the other. Briefly, one may as well Oppose Alexander in pillaging a country, as a thief in purloining a cloak; as well him when he seeks to batter down the walls of a city, as a robber who offers to break into a private house.
There is, besides this, the civil law, or municipal laws of several countries which governs the societies of men, by certain rules, some in one manner, some in another; some submit themselves to the government of one man, some to more; others are ruled by a whole commonalty, some absolutely exclude women from the royal throne, others admit them; these here choose their king descended of such a family, those there make election of whom they please, besides other customs practiced amongst several nations. If, therefore, any offer either by fraud or force to violate this law, we are all bound to resist him, because he wrongs that society to which we owe all that we have, and would ruin our country, to the preservation whereof all men by nature, by law and by solemn oath, are strictly obliged: insomuch that fear or negligence, or bad purposes, make us omit this duty, we may justly be accounted breakers of the laws, betrayers of our country, and contemners of religion. Now as the laws of nature, of nations, and the Civil commands us to take arms against such tyrants; so, is there not any manner of reason that should persuade us to the contrary; neither is there any oath, covenant, or obligation, public or private, of power justly to restrain us; therefore the meanest private man may resist and lawfully oppose such an intruding tyrant. The law Julia, which condemns to death those who raise rebellion against their country or prince, has here no place; for he is no prince, who, without any lawful title invades the commonwealth or confines of another; nor he a rebel, who by arms defends his country; but rather to this had relation the oath which all the youth of Athens were accustomed to take in the temple of Aglaura, "I will fight for religion, for the laws, for the altars, and for our possessions, either alone, or with others; and will do the utmost of my endeavour to leave to posterity our country, at the least, in as good estate as I found it." To
as little purpose can the laws made against seditious persons be alleged here; for he is seditious who undertakes to defend the people, in opposition of order and public discipline; but he is no raiser, but a suppressor of sedition, who restrains within the limits of reason the subverter of his country's welfare, and public discipline.
On the contrary, to this has proper relation the law of tyrannicide, which honours the living with great and memorable recompenses, and the dead with worthy epitaphs, and glorious statues, that have been their country's liberators from tyrants; as Harmodius and Aristogitor. at Athens, Brutus and Cassius in Rome, and Aratus of Sycione. To these by a public decree were erected statues, because they delivered their countries from the tyrannies of Pisistratus, of Caesar, and of Nicocles. The which was of such respect amongst the ancients, that Xerxes having made himself master of the city of Athens, caused to be transported into Persia the statues of Harmodius and Aristogiton; afterwards Seleucus caused them to be returned into their former place: and as in their passage they came by Rhodes, those famous citizens entertained them with public and stupendous solemnities, and during their abode there, they placed them in the choicest sacresties of their gods. But the law made against forsakers and traitors, takes absolutely hold on those who are negligent and careless to deliver their country oppressed with tyranny, and condemns them to the same punishment as those cowardly soldiers, who, when they should fight, either counterfeit sickness, or cast off their arms and run away. Every one, therefore, both in general and particular, ought to yield their best assistance unto this: as in a public fire, to bring both hooks, and buckets, and water; we must not ceremoniously expect that the captain of the watch be first called, nor till the governor of the town be come into the streets; but let every man draw water and climb to the house-top; it is necessary for all men that the fire be quenched. For if whilst the Gaules with much silence and vigilancy seek to scale and surprise the capital, the soldiers be drowsy with their former pains, the watch buried in sleep, the dogs fail to bark, then must the geese play the sentinels, and with their cackling noise, give an alarm. And the soldiers and watch shall be degraded, yea, and put to death. The geese for perpetual remembrance of this deliverance, shall be always fed in the capital, and much esteemed.
This, of which we have spoken, is to be understood of a tyranny not yet firmly rooted, to wit, whilst a tyrant conspires, machinates, and lays his plots and practices. But if he be once so possessed of the state, and that the people, being subdued, promise and swear obedience; the commonwealth being oppressed, resign their authority into their hands; and that the kingdom in some formal manner consent to the changing of their laws; for so much certainty as then, he has gained a title which before he wanted and seems to be as well a legal as actual possessor thereof, although this yoke were laid on the people's neck by compulsion, yet must they quietly and peaceably rest in the will of the Almighty, who, at His pleasure transfers kingdoms from one nation to another; otherways there should be no kingdom, whose jurisdiction might not be disputed. And it may well chance, that he who before was a tyrant without title, having obtained the title of a king, may free himself from any tyrannous imputation, by governing those under him with equity and moderation. Therefore then, as the people of Jurie, under the authority of King Ezechias, did lawfully resist the invasion of Senacherib the Assyrian; so, on the contrary was Zedechias and all his subjects worthily punished, because that without any just occasion, after they had done homage and sworn fealty to Nebuchadnezar, they rose in rebellion against him. For, after promise of performance, it is too late to repent. And, as in battles every one ought to give testimony of his velour, but, being taken prisoner, must faithfully observe covenants, so it is requisite, that the people maintain their rights by all possible means; but, if it chance that they be brought into the subjection of another's will, they must then patiently support the dominion of the victor. So did Pompey, Cato, and Cicero and others, perform the parts of good patriots then when they took arms against Caesar, seeking to alter the government of the state; neither can those be justly excused, whose base fear hindered the happy success of Pompey and his partakers' noble designs. Augustus himself is said to have reproved one who railed on Cato, affirming that he carried himself worthily and exceedingly affected to the greatness of his country, in courageously opposing the alteration which his contraries sought to introduce in the government of the state, seeing all innovations of that nature are ever authors of much trouble and confusion.
Furthermore, no man can justly reprehend Brutus, Cassius, and the rest who killed Caesar before his tyrannical authority had taken any firm rooting. And so there were statues of brass erected in honour of them by public decree at Athens, and placed by those of Harmodius and Aristogiton, then when, after the despatching of Caesar, they retired from Rome, to avoid Marc Antonie and Augustus their revenge. But Cinna was certainly guilty of sedition, who, after a legal transferring of the people's power into the hands of Augustus, is said to have conspired against him. Likewise, when the Pepins sought to take the crown of France from the Merovingians; as also when those of the line of Capet endeavoured to supplant the Pepins, any might lawfully resist them without incurring the crime of sedition. But when, by public counsel and the authority of the estates, the kingdom was transferred from one family to another, it was then unlawful to oppose it. The same may be said, if a woman possess herself of the kingdom, which the Salic law absolutely prohibits, or if one seek to make a kingdom merely elective, hereditary to his offspring, while those laws stand in force, and are unrepealed by the authority of the general estates, who represent the body of the people. Neither is it necessary in this respect, to have regard whether faction is the greater, more powerful or more illustrious. Always those are the greater number who are led by passion, than those who are ruled by reason, and therefore tyranny has more servants than the commonwealth. But Rome is there, according to the saying of Pompey, where the senate is, and the senate is where there is obedience to the laws, love of liberty, and studious carefulness for the country's preservation. And therefore, though Brennus may seem to be master of Rome, yet, notwithstanding, is Rome at Veii with Camillus, who prepares to deliver Rome from bondage. It behoves, therefore, all true Romans to repair to Camillus, and assist his enterprise with the utmost of their power and endeavours. Although Themistocles, and all his able and worthiest companions leave Athens, and put to sea with a navy of two hundred galleys, notwithstanding, it cannot be said that any of these men are banished Athens, but rather, as Themistocles answered, "These two hundred galleys are more useful for us, than the greatest city of all Greece; for that they are armed, and prepared for the defence of those who endeavour to maintain and uphold the public state."
But to come to other examples: it follows not that the church of God must needs be always in that place where the ark of the covenant is; for the Philistines may carry the ark into the temples of their idols. It is no good argument, that because we see the Roman eagles waving in ensigns, and hear their legions named, that therefore presently we conclude that the army of the Roman commonwealth is there present; for there is only and properly the power of the state where they are assembled to maintain the liberty of the country against the ravenous oppression of tyrants, to enfranchise the people from servitude, and to suppress the impudency of insulting flatterers, who abuse the prince's weakness by oppressing his subjects for the advantage of their own fortunes, and contain ambitious minds from enlarging their desires beyond the limits of equity and moderation. Thus much concerning tyrants without title.
But for tyrants by practice, whether they at first gained their authority by the sword, or were legally invested therewith by a general consent, it behoves us to examine this point with much wary circumspection. In the first place we must remember that all princes are born men, and therefore reason and passion are as hardly to be separated in them, as the soul is from the body whilst the man lives. We must not then expect princes absolute in perfection, but rather repute ourselves happy if those who govern us be indifferently good. And therefore, although the prince observe not exact mediocrity in state affairs; if sometimes passion overrule his reason, if some careless omission make him neglect the public utility; or if he do not always carefully execute justice with equality, or repulse not with ready velour an invading enemy; he must not therefore be presently declared a tyrant. And certainly, seeing he rules not as a god over men, nor as men over beasts, but is a man composed of the same matter, and of the same nature with the rest: as we would questionless judge that prince unreasonably insolent, who should insult over and abuse his subjects, as if they were brute beasts; so those people are doubtless as much void of reason, who imagine a prince should be complete in perfection, or expect divine abilities in a nature so frail and subject to imperfections. But if a prince purposely ruin the commonwealth, if he presumptuously pervert and resist legal proceedings or lawful rights, if he make no reckoning of faith, covenants, justice nor piety, if he prosecute his subjects as enemies; briefly, if he express all or the chiefest of those wicked practices we have formerly spoken of; then we may certainly declare him a tyrant, who is as much an enemy both to God and men. We do not therefore speak of a prince less good, but of one absolutely bad; not of one less wise, but of one malicious and treacherous; not of one less able judiciously to discuss legal differences, but of one perversely bent to pervert justice and equity; not of an unwarlike, but of one furiously disposed to ruin the people, and ransack the state.
For the wisdom of a senate, the integrity of a judge, the velour of a captain, may peradventure enable a weak prince to govern well. But a tyrant could be content that all the nobility, the counsellors of state, the commanders for the wars, had but one head that he might take it off at one blow: those being the proper objects of his distrust and fear, and by consequence the principal subjects on whom he desires to execute his malice and cruelty. A foolish prince, although (to speak according to right and equity) he ought to be deposed, yet may he perhaps in some sort be borne withal. But a tyrant the more he is tolerated, the more he becomes intolerable.
Furthermore, as the princes pleasure is not always law, so many times it is not expedient that the people do all that which may lawfully be done; for it may oftentimes chance that the medicine proves more dangerous than the disease. Therefore it becomes wise men to try all ways before they come to blows, to use all other remedies before they suffer the sword to decide the controversy. If then, those who represent the body of the people, foresee any innovation or machination against the state, or that it be already embarked into a course of perdition; their duty is, first to admonish the prince, and not to attend, that the disease by accession of time and accidents becomes unrecoverable. For tyranny may be properly resembled unto a fever hectic, the which at the first is easy to be cured, but with much difficulty to be known; but after it is sufficiently known, it becomes incurable. Therefore small beginnings are to be carefully observed, and by those whom it concerns diligently prevented.
If the prince therefore persist in his violent courses, and contemn frequent admonitions, addressing his designs only to that end, that he may oppress at his pleasure, and effect his own desires without fear or restraint; he then doubtless makes himself liable to that detested crime of tyranny: and whatsoever either the law, or lawful authority permits against a tyrant, may be lawfully practiced against him. Tyranny is not only a will, but the chief, and as it were the complement and abstract of vices. A tyrant subverts the state, pillages the people, lays stratagems to entrap their lives, breaks promise with all, scoffs at the sacred obligations of a solemn oath, and therefore is he so much more vile than the vilest of usual malefactors. By how much offences committed against a generality, are worthy of greater punishment than those which concern only particular and private persons. If thieves and those who commit sacrilege be declared infamous; nay, if they justly suffer corporal punishment by death, can we invent any that may be worthily equivalent for so outrageous a crime?
Furthermore, we have already proved, that all kings receive their royal authority from the people, that the whole people considered in one body is above and greater than the king; and that the king and emperor are only the prime and supreme governors and ministers of the kingdom and empire, but the people the absolute lord and owner thereof. It therefore necessarily follows, that a tyrant is in the same manner guilty of rebellion against the majesty of the people, as the lord of a fee, who feloniously transgresses the conditions of his investitures, and is liable to the same punishment, yea, and certainly deserves much more greater than the equity of those laws inflicts on the delinquents. Therefore as Bartolus says, "He may either be deposed by those who are lords in sovereignty over him, or else justly punished according to the law Julia, which condemns those who offer violence to the public." The body of the people must needs be the sovereign of those who represent it, which in some places are the electors, palatines, peers; in other, the assembly of the general estates. And, if the tyranny have gotten such sure footing, as there is no other means but force to remove him, then it is lawful for them to call the people to arms, to enroll and raise forces, and to employ the utmost of their power, and use against him all advantages and stratagems of war, as against the enemy of the commonwealth, and the disturber of the public peace. Briefly, the same sentence may be justly pronounced against him, as was against Manlius Capitolinus at Rome. "Thou west to me, Manlius, when thou didst tumble down the Gaules that scaled the capital: but since thou art now become an enemy, like one of them, thou shalt be precipitated down from the same place from whence thou formerly tumbled those enemies."
The officers of the kingdom cannot for this be rightly taxed of sedition; for in a sedition there must necessarily concur but two parts, or sides, the which peremptorily contest together, so that it is necessary that the one be in the right, and the other in the wrong. That part undoubtedly has the right on their side, which defends the laws, and strives to advance the public profit of the kingdom. And those, on the contrary, are questionless in the wrong, who break the laws, and protect those who violate justice, and oppress the commonwealth. Those are certainly in the right way, as said Bartolus, "who endeavour to suppress tyrannical government, and those in the wrong, who oppose lawful authority." And that must ever be accounted just, which is intended only for the public benefit, and that unjust, which aims chiefly at private commodity. Therefore Thomas Aquinas says, "That a tyrannical rule, having no proper address for the public welfare, but only to satisfy a private will, with increase of particular profit to the ruler, cannot in any reasonable construction be accounted lawful, and therefore the disturbance of such a government cannot be esteemed seditious, much less traitorous"; for that offence has proper relation only to a lawful prince, who, indeed, is an inanimated or speaking law; therefore, seeing that he who employs the utmost of his means and power to annihilate the laws, and quell their virtue and vigour, can no ways be justly intituled therewith. So neither, likewise, can those who oppose and take arms against him, be branded with so notorious a crime. Also this offence is committed against the commonwealth; but for so much as the commonwealth is there only where the laws are in force, and not where a tyrant devours the state at his own pleasure and liking, he certainly is quit of that crime which ruins the majesty of the public state, and those questionless are worthily protectors and preservers of the commonwealth, who, confident in the lawfulness of their authority, and summoned hereunto by their duty, do courageously resist the unjust proceedings of the tyrant.
And in this their action, we must not esteem them as private men and subjects, but as the representative body of the people, yea, and as the sovereignty itself, which demands of his minister an account of his administration. Neither can we in any good reason account the officers of the kingdom disloyal, who in this manner acquit themselves of their charge. There is ever, and in all places, a mutual and reciprocal obligation between the people and the prince; the one promises to be a good and wise prince, the other to obey faithfully, provided he govern justly. The people therefore are obliged to the prince under condition, the prince to the people simply and purely. Therefore, if the prince fail in his promise, the people are exempt from obedience, the contract is made void, the right of obligation of no force. Then the king if he govern unjustly is perjured, and the people likewise forsworn if they obey not his lawful commands. But that people are truly acquit from all perfidiousness, who publicly renounce the unjust dominion of a tyrant, or he, striving unjustly by strong hand to continue the possession, do constantly endeavour to expulse him by force of arms. It is therefore permitted the officers of a kingdom, either all, or some good number of them, to suppress a tyrant; and it is not only lawful for them to do it, but their duty expressly requires it; and, if they do it not, they can by no excuse colour their baseness. For the electors, palatines, peers, and other officers of state, must not think they were established only to make pompous paradoes and shows, when they are at the coronation of the king, habited in their robes of state, as if there were some masque or interlude to be represented; or as if they were that day to act the parts of Roland, Oliver, or Renaldo, and such other personages on a stage, or to counterfeit and revive the memory of the knights of the round table; and after the dismissing of that day's assembly, to suppose they have sufficiently acquitted themselves of their duty, until a recess of the like solemnity Those solemn rites and ceremonies were not instituted for vain ostentation, nor to pass, as in a dumb show, to please the spectators, nor in children's sports, as it is with Horace, to create a king in jest; but those grandees must know, that as well for office and duty, as for honour, they are called to the performance of those rites, and that in them, the commonwealth is committed and recommended to the king, as to her supreme and principal tutor and protector, and to them as co-adjutors and assistants to him: and therefore, as the tutors or guardians (yea, even those who are appointed by way of honour) are chosen to have care of and observe the actions and importments of him who holds the principal rank in the tutorship, and to look how he carries himself in the administration of the goods of his pupil. So likewise are the former ordained to have an eye to the courses of the king, for, with an equivalent authority, as the others for the pupil, so are they to hinder and prevent the damage and detriment of the people, the king being properly reputed as the prime guardian, and they his co-adjutors.
In like manner, as the faults of the principal tutor who manages the affairs are justly imputed to the coadjoints in the tutorship, if when they ought and might, they did not discover his errors, and cause him to be despoiled, especially failing in the main points of his charge, to wit, in not communicating unto them the affairs of his administration, in dealing unfaithfully in his place, in doing anything to the dishonour or detriment of his pupil, in embezzling of his goods or estate, or if he bean enemy to his pupil: briefly, if either in regard of the worthlessness of his person, or weakness of his judgment, he be unable well to discharge so weighty a charge, so also, are the peers and principal officers of the kingdom accountable for the government thereof, and must both prevent, and if occasion require, suppress the tyranny of the prince, as also supply with their care and diligence, his inability and weakness.
Finally, if a tutor omitting or neglecting to do all that for his pupil, which a discreet father of a family would and might conveniently perform, cannot well be excused, and the better acquitting himself of his charge, has others as concealers and associates, joined with him to oversee his actions; with much more reason may and ought the officers of the crown to restrain the violent irruptions of that prince, who, instead of a father, becomes an enemy to his people; seeing, to speak properly, they are as well accountable for his actions wherein the public has interests, as for their own. Those officers must also remember, that the king holds truly the first place in the administration of the state, but they the second, and so following according to their ranks; not that they should follow his courses, if he transgress the laws of equity and justice; not that if he oppress the commonwealth, they should connive to his wickedness. For the commonwealth was as well committed to their care as to his, so that it is not sufficient for them to discharge their own duty in particular, but it behoves them also to contain the prince within the limits of reason; briefly, they have both jointly and severally promised with solemn oaths, to advance and procure the profit of a commonwealth, although then that he forswore himself; yet may not they imagine that they are quit of their promise, no more than the bishops and patriarchs, if they suffer an heretical pope to ruin the church; yea, they should esteem themselves so much the more obliged to the observing their oath, by how much they find him wilfully disposed to rush on in his perfidious courses. But, if there be collusion betwixt him and them, they are prevaricators; if they dissemble, they may justly be called forsakers and traitors; if they deliver not the commonwealth from tyranny, they may be truly ranked in the number of tyrants; as on the contrary they are protectors, tutors, and in a sort kings, if they keep and maintain the state safe and entire, which is also recommended to their care and custody.
Although these things are sufficiently certain of them selves, yet may they be in some sort confirmed by examples. The kings of Canaan who pressed the people of Israel with a hard, both corporal and spiritual, servitude (prohibiting them all meetings and use of arms) were certainly tyrants by practice, although they had some pretext of title. For Eglon and Jabin had peaceably reigned almost the space of twenty years. God stirred up extraordinarily Ehud, who, by a politic stratagem killed Eglon, and Deborah who overthrew the army of Jabin, and by his service delivered the people from the servitude of tyrants, not that it was unlawful for the ordinary magistrates, the princes of the tribes, and such other officers to have performed it, for Deborah does reprove the sluggish idleness of some, and flatly detests the disloyalty of others, for that they failed to perform their duty herein. But it pleased God, taking commiseration of the distress of his people, in this manner to supply the defects of the ordinary magistrates.
Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, refused to disburden the people of some unnecessary imposts and burdens; and being petitioned by the people in the general assembly of the states, he grew insolent, and relying on the counsel of his minions, arrogantly threatens to lay heavier burdens on them hereafter. No man can doubt, but that according to the tenure of the contract, first passed between the king and the people, the prime and principal officers of the kingdom had authority to repress such insolence. They were only blameable in this, that they did that by faction and division, which should more properly have been done in the general assembly of the states; in like manner, in that they transferred the sceptre from Judah (which was by God only confined to that tribe) into another lineage; and also (as it chances in other affairs) for that they did ill and disorderly manage a just and lawful cause. Profane histories are full of such examples in other kingdoms.
Brutus, general of the soldiers, and Lucretius, governor of the city of Rome, assembled the people against Tarquinius Superbus, and by their authority thrust him from the royal throne: nay, which is more, his goods were confiscated; whereby it appears that if Tarquinius had been apprehended, undoubtedly he should have been according to the public laws, corporally punished. The true causes why Tarquinius was deposed, were because he altered the custom, whereby the king was obliged to advise with the senate on all weighty affairs, that he made war and peace according to his own fancy; that he treated confederacies without demanding counsel and consent from the people or senate; that he violated the laws whereof he was made guardian; briefly that he made no reckoning to observe the contracts agreed between the former kings, and the nobility and people of Rome. For the Roman emperors, I am sure you remember the sentence pronounced by the senate against Nero, wherein he was judged an enemy to the commonwealth, and his body condemned to be ignominiously cast on the dung hill. And that other pronounced against Vitellius, which adjudged him to be shamefully dismembered, and in that miserable estate trailed through the city, and at last put to death. Another against Maximinius, who was despoiled of the empire; and Maximus and Albinus established in his place by the senate. There might also be added many others drawn from unquestionable historians.
The Emperor Trajan held not himself exempt from laws, neither desired he to be spared if he became a tyrant; for in delivering the sword unto the great provost of the empire, he says unto him: "If I command as I should, use this sword for me: but if I do otherways, unsheathe it against me." In like manner the French by the authority of the states, and solicited "hereunto by the officers of the kingdom, deposed Childerick the First, Sigisbert, Theodorick, and Childerick the Third for their tyrannies, and chose others of another family to sit on the royal throne. Yea, they deposed some because of their idleness and want of judgment, who exposed the state in prey to panders, courtesans, flatterers, and such other unworthy mushrooms of the court, who governed all things at their pleasure; taking from such rash phaetons the bridle of government, lest the whole body of the state and people should be consumed through their unadvised folly. Amongst others, Theodoret was degraded because of Ebroinus, Dagobert for Plectude and Thibaud his pander, with some others: the estates esteeming the command of an effeminate prince, as insupportable as that of a woman, and as unwillingly supporting the yoke of tyrannous ministers managing affairs in the name of a loose and unworthy prince, as the burden of a tyrant alone. To be brief, no more suffering themselves to be governed by one possessed by a devil, than they would by the devil himself. It is not very long since the estates compelled Lewis the Eleventh (a prince as subtle and it may be as wilful as any) to receive thirty-six overseers, by whose advice he was bound to govern the affairs of state. The descendants from Charlemaine substituted in the place of the Merovingians for the government of the kingdom, or those of Capet, supplanting the Charlemains by order of the estates, and reigning at this day, have no other nor better right to the crown, than what we have formerly described; and it has ever been according to law permitted the whole body of the people, represented by the council of the kingdom, which are commonly called the assembly of the states, to depose and establish princes, according to the necessities of the commonwealth. According to the same rule we read that Adolph was removed from the Empire of Germany A.D. 1296, because for covetousness without any just occasion, he invaded the kingdom of France, in favour of the English, and Wenceslaus was also deposed in the year of our Lord 1400 Yet were not these princes exceeding bad ones, but of the number of those who are accounted less ill. Isabella, the wife of Edward the Second, King of England, assembled the Parliament against her husband, who was there deposed, both because he tyrannized in general over his subjects; as also for that he cut off the heads of many noble men, without any just or legal proceeding. It is not long since Christian lost the crown of Denmark, Henry that of Sweden, Mary Stuart that of Scotland, for the same or near resembling occasions. And the most worthy histories relate divers alterations and changes which have happened in like manner, in the kingdoms of Polonia, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Bohemia, and others.
But what shall we say of the pope himself? It is generally held that the cardinals, because they do elect him, or if they fail in their duty, the patriarchs who are next in rank to them, may upon certain occasions maugre the pope, call a council, yea, and in it judge him; as when by some notorious offence he scandalizes the universal church. If he be incorrigible, if reformation be as necessary in the head as the members, if contrary to his oath he refuse to call a general council. And we read for certain, that divers popes have been deposed by general councils. But if they obstinately abuse their authority, there must (saith Baldus) first be used verbal admonitions; secondly, herbal medicaments or remedies; thirdly, stones or compulsion; for where virtue and fair means have not power to persuade, there force and terror must be put in use to compel. Now, if according to the opinions of most of the learned, by decrees of councils, and by custom in like occasions, it plainly appears, that the council may depose the pope, who, notwithstanding, vaunts himself to be the king of kings, and as much in dignity above the emperor, as the sun is above the moon, assuming to himself power to depose kings and emperors when he pleases: who will make any doubt or question, that the general assembly of the estates of any kingdom, who are the representative body thereof, may not only degrade and disthronize a tyrant; but also, even disauthorize and depose a king, whose weakness or folly is hurtful or pernicious to the state.
But let us suppose, that in this our ship of state, the pilot is drunk, the most of his associates are asleep, or after large and unreasonable tippling together, they regard their eminent danger in approaching a rock with idle and negligent jollity; the ship in the mean season instead of following her right course, that might serve for the best advantage of the owners' profit, is ready rather to split herself. What should then a master's mate, or some other under officer do, who is vigilant and careful to perform his duty? Shall it be thought sufficient for him to pinch or punch them who are asleep, without daring in the meantime to put his helping hand to preserve the vessel which runs on a course to destruction, lest he should be thought to intermeddle with that which he has no authority nor warrant to do? What mad discretion, nay, rather notorious impiety were this? Seeing then that tyranny, as Plato says, "is a drunken frenzy or frantic drunkenness," if the prince endeavour to ruin the commonwealth, and the principal officers concur with him in his bad purposes, or at the least are lulled in a dull and drowsy dream of security and the people (being indeed the true and absolute owner and lord of the state) be, through the pernicious negligence and fraudulent connivency of those officers, brought to the very brim of danger and destruction, and that there be, notwithstanding, amongst those unworthy ministers of state, some one who does studiously observe the deceitful and dangerous encroachments of tyranny, and from his soul detests it, what opposition do we suppose best befits such a one to make against it? Shall he consent himself to admonish his associates of their duty, who to their utmost ability endeavour the contrary? Besides, that such an advertisement is commonly accompanied with too much danger, and the condition of the times considered, the very soliciting of reformation will be held as a capital crime: so that in so doing he may be not unfitly resembled to one, who, being in the midst of a desert, environed with thieves, should neglect all means of defence, and after he had cast away his arms, in an eloquent and learned discourse commend justice, and extol the worth and dignity of the laws This would be truly according to the proverb, "To run mad with reason." What then? Shall he be dull and deaf to the groans and cries of the people? Shall he stand still and be silent when he sees the thieves enter? Shall he only hold his hands in his bosom, and with a demure countenance, idly bewail the miserable condition of the times? If the laws worthily condemn a soldier, who, for fear of the enemies, counterfeits sickness, because in so doing he expresses both disloyalty and treachery, what punishment can we invent sufficient for him, who either maliciously or basely betrays those whose protection and defence he has absolutely undertaken and sworn? Nay, rather than let such a one cheerfully call one and command the mariners to the performance of their duty: let him carefully and constantly take order that the commonwealth be not endamaged, and if need so require, even in despite of the king, preserve the kingdom, without which the kingly title were idle and frivolous, and if by no other means it can be affected, let him take the king and bind him hand and foot, that so he may be more conveniently cured of his frenzy and madness.
For as we have already said, all the administration of the kingdom is not by the people absolutely resigned into the hands of the king; as neither the bishopric nor care of the universal church, is totally committed to the pope: but also to the care and custody of all the principal officers of the kingdom. Now, for the preserving of peace and concord amongst those who govern, and for the preventing of jealousies, factions, and distrusts amongst men of equal rank and dignity, the king was created prime and principal superintendent in the government of the commonwealth. The king swears that his most special care shall be for the welfare of the kingdom; and the officers of the crown take all the same oath. If then the king, or divers of them falsifying their faith, ruin the commonwealth, or abandon her in her greatest necessity, must the rest also fashion themselves to their base courses, and quit all care of the state's safety; as if the bad example of their companions absolved them from their oath of fidelity? Nay, rather on the contrary, in seeing them neglect their promise, they shall best advantage the commonwealth in carefully observing theirs: chiefly because for this reason they were instituted, as in the steads of ephori, or public controllers, and for that every thing gains the better estimation of just and right in that it is mainly and principally addressed to that end for which it was first ordained.
Furthermore, if divers have jointly vowed one and the same thing, is the obligation of the one annihilated by the perjury of the other? If many become bound for one and the same sum, can the bankrupting of one of the obligees quit the rest of their engagement? If divers tutors administer ill the goods of their pupil, and that there be one amongst them who makes conscience of his actions, can the bad dealing of his companions acquit him? Nay, rather on the contrary, he cannot free himself from the infamy of perjury, if to the utmost of his power he do not truly discharge his trust, and perform his promise: neither can the others' deficiency be excused, in the bad managing of the tutorship, if they likewise accuse not the rest who were joined with them in the administration, for it is not only the principal tutor who may call to an account those who are suspected to have unjustly or indiscreetly ordered the affairs of their pupil, but even those who were formerly removed may also upon just occasion discharge and remove the delinquents therein. Therefore those who are obliged to serve a whole empire and kingdom, as the constables, marshals, peers and others, or those who have particular obligations to some provinces or cities, which make a part or portion of the kingdom, as dukes, marquises, earls, sheriffs, mayors, and the rest, are bound by the duty of their place, to succour the commonwealth, and to free it from the burden of tyrants, according to the rank and place which they hold of the people next after the king. The first ought to deliver the whole kingdom from tyrannous oppression; the other, as tutors, that part of the kingdom whose protection they have undertaken; the duty of the former is to suppress the tyrant, that of the latter, to drive him from their confines. Wherefore Mattathias, being a principal man in the state, when some basely connived, others perniciously consorted with Antiochus, the tyrannous oppressor of the Jewish kingdom, he courageously opposing the manifest oppression both of church and state, encourages the people to the taking of arms, with these words, "Let us restore the decayed estate of our people, and let us fight for our people, and for the sanctuary." Whereby it plainly appears, that not for religion only, but even for our country and our possessions, we may fight and take arms against a tyrant, as this Antiochus was. For the Machabites are not by any questioned, or reprehended for conquering the kingdom, and expelling the tyrant, but in that they attributed to themselves the royal dignity, which only belongs by God's special appointment, to the tribe of Judah.
Humane histories are frequently stored with examples of this kind. Arbactus, governor of the Medes, killed effeminate Sardanapalus, spinning amongst women, and sportingly distributing all the treasures of the kingdom amongst those his loose companions. Vindex and Galba quit the party of Nero, yea, though the senate connived, and in a sort supported his tyranny, and drew with them Gallia and Spain, being the provinces whereof they were governors. But amongst all, the decree of the senate of Sparta is most notable, and ought to pass as an undeniable maxim amongst all nations. The Spartans being lords of the city Byzantium, sent Olearchus thither for governor and commander for the wars; who took corn from the citizens, and distributed it to his soldiers. In the meantime the families of the citizens died for hunger, Anaxilaus, a principal man of the city, disdaining that tyrannous usage, entered into treaty with Alcibiades to deliver up the town, who shortly after was received into it. Anaxilaus, being accused at Sparta for the delivery of Byzantium, pleaded his cause himself, and was there acquit by the judges; for (said they) "Wars are to be made with families, and not with nature, nothing being more repugnant to nature, than that those who are bound to defend a city, should be more cruel to the inhabitants, than their enemies who besiege them."
This was the opinion of the Lacedemonians, certainly just rulers. Neither can he be accounted a just king, who approves not this sentence of absolution; for those who desire to govern according to the due proportion of equity and reason, take into consideration, as well what the law inflicts on tyrants, as also, what are the proper rights and bounds, both of the patrician and plebeian orders. But we must yet proceed a little further. There is not so mean a mariner, but must be ready to prevent the shipwreck of the vessel, when either the negligence or wilfulness of the pilot casts it into danger. Every magistrate is bound to relieve, and as much as in him lies, to redress the miseries of the commonwealth, if he shall see the prince, or the principal officers of state, his associates, by their weakness or wickedness, to hazard the ruin thereof; briefly, he must either free the whole kingdom, or at least that portion especially recommended to his care, from their imminent and encroaching tyranny. But has this duty proper relation to every one? Shall it be permitted to Hendonius Sabinus, to Ennus Suranus, or to the fencer Spartanus; or to be brief, to a mere private person to present the bonnet to slaves, put arms into the hands of subjects, or to join battle with the prince, although he oppress the people with tyranny? No, certainly, the commonwealth was not given in charge to particular persons, considered one by one; but, on the contrary, particulars even as papists are recommended to the care of the principal officers and magistrates; and therefore they are not bound to defend the commonwealth, which cannot defend themselves. God nor the people have not put the sword into the hands of particular persons; therefore, if without commandment they draw the sword, they are seditious, although the cause seem never so just.
Furthermore, the prince is not established by private and particular persons, but by all in general considered in one entire body; whereupon it follows, that they are bound to attend the commandment of all, to wit, of those who are the representative body of a kingdom, or of a province, or of a city, or at the least of some one of them, before they undertake anything against the prince.
For, as a pupil cannot bring an action, but, being avowed in the name of his tutor, although the pupil be indeed the true proprietor of the estate, and the tutor only owner with reference to the charge committed unto him; so likewise the people may not enterprise actions of such nature, but by the command of those into whose hands they have resigned their power and authority, whether they be ordinary magistrates, or extraordinary, created in the assembly of the estates; whom, if I may so say, for that purpose, they have girded with their sword, and invested with authority, both to govern and defend them, established in the same kind as the pretor at Rome, who determined all differences between masters and their servants, to the end that if any controversy happened between the king and the subjects, they should be judges and preservers of the right, lest the subjects should assume power to themselves to be judges in their own causes. And therefore if they were oppressed with tributes and unreasonable imposts; if anything were attempted contrary to covenant and oath, and no magistrate opposed those unjust proceedings; they must rest quiet, and suppose that many times the best physicians, both to prevent and cure some grievous disease, do appoint both letting blood, evacuation of humours, and lancing of the flesh; and that the affairs of this world are of that nature, that with much difficulty, one evil cannot be remedied without the adventuring, if not the suffering of another; nor any good be achieved without great pains.
They have the example of the people of Israel, who, during the reign of Solomon, refused not to pay those excessive taxes imposed on them, both for the building of the temple, and fortifying of the kingdom, because by a general consent they were granted for the promulgation of the glory of God, and for an ornament and defence of the public state.
They have also the example of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who, though he were King of Kings, notwithstanding, because he conversed in this world in another quality, to wit, of a private and particular man, paid willingly tribute. If the magistrates themselves manifestly favour the tyranny, or at the least do not formally oppose it; let private men remember the saying of Job, "That for the sins of the people God permits hypocrites to reign," whom it is impossible either to convert or subvert, if men repent not of their ways, to walk in obedience to God's commandments; so that there are no other weapons to be used, but bended knees and humble hearts. Briefly, let them bear with bad princes, and pray for better, persuading themselves that an outragious tyranny is to be supported as patiently, as some exceeding damage done by the violence of tempests, or some excessive overflowing waters, or some such natural accidents unto the fruits of the earth, if they like not better to change their habitations, by retiring themselves into some other countries. So David fled into the mountains, and attempted nothing against the tyrant Saul, because the people had not declared him any public magistrate of the kingdom.
Jesus Christ, whose kingdom was not of this world, fled into Egypt, and so freed himself from the paws of the tyrant. Saint Paul, teaching of the duty of particular Christian men, and not of magistrates, teaches that Nero must be obeyed. But if all the principal officers of state, or divers of them, or but one, endeavour to suppress a manifest tyranny, or if a magistrate seek to free that province, or portion of the kingdom from oppression, which is committed to his care and custody, provided under colour of freedom he bring not in a new tyranny, then must all men with joint courage and alacrity run to arms, and take part with him or them, and assist with body and goods, as if God Himself from heaven had proclaimed wars, and meant to join battle against tyrants, and by all ways and means endeavour to deliver their country and commonwealth from their tyrannous oppression. For as God does oftentimes chastise a people by the cruelty of tyrants, so also does He many times punish tyrants by the hands of the people. It being a most true saying, verified in all ages: "For the iniquities, violences, and wickedness of princes, kingdoms are translated from one nation to another; but tyranny was never of any durable continuance."
The centurions and men at arms did freely and courageously execute the commandments of the high priest Jehoiada, in suppressing the tyranny of Athalia. In like manner all the faithful and generous
Israelites took part and joined with the Machabites, as well to re-establish the true service of God, as also to free and deliver the state from the wicked and unjust oppression of Antiochus, and God blessed with happy success their just and commendable enterprise. What then, cannot God when He pleases stir up particular and private persons, to ruin a mighty and powerful tyranny? He that gives power and ability to some even out of the dust, without any title or colourable pretext of lawful authority, to rise to the height of rule and dominion, and in it tyrannize and afflict the people for their transgressions; cannot He also even from the meanest multitude raise a liberator? He who enthralled and subjected the people of Israel to Jabin, and to Eglon, did he not deliver and enfranchise them by the hand of Ehud, Barack and Deborah, whilst the magistrates and officers were dead in a dull and negligent ecstasy of security? What then shall hinder? You may say the same God, who in these days sends us tyrants to correct us, that he may not also extraordinarily send correctors of tyrants to deliver us ? What if Ahab cut off good men, if Jezebel suborn false witnesses against Naboth, may not a Jehu be raised to exterminate the whole line of Ahab, to revenge the death of Naboth, and to cast the body of Jezebel to be torn and devoured of dogs? Certainly, as I have formerly answered, the Almighty is ever mindful of His justice, and maintains it as inviolably as His mercy.
But for as much as in these latter times, those miraculous testimonies by which God was wont to confirm the extraordinary vocation of those famous worthies, are now wanting for the most part: let the people be advised, that in seeking to cross the sea dry foot, they take not some impostor for their guide, who may lead them headlong to destruction (as we may read happened to the Jews); and that in seeking freedom from tyranny, he who was the principal instrument to disenthral them, become not himself a more insupportable tyrant than the former. Briefly, lest endeavouring to advantage the commonwealth, they introduce not a common misery upon all the undertakers participating therein with divers States of Italy, who, seeking to suppress the present evil, added an accession of greater and more intolerable servitude.
Finally, that we may come to some period of this third question; princes are chosen by God, and established by the people. As all particulars considered one by one, are inferior to the prince; so the whole body of the people and officers of state, who represent that body, are the princes' superiors. In the receiving and inauguration of a prince, there are covenants and contracts passed between him and the people, which are tacit and expressed, natural or civil; to wit, to obey him faithfully whilst he commands justly, that he serving the commonwealth, all men shall serve him, that whilst he governs according to law, all shall be submitted to his government, etc. The officers of the kingdom are the guardians and protectors of these covenants and contracts. He who maliciously or willfully violates these conditions, is questionless a tyrant by practice. And therefore the officers of state may judge him according to the laws. And if he support his tyranny by strong hands, their duty binds them, when by no other means it can be effected by force of arms to suppress him. Of these officers there be two kinds, those who have generally undertaken the protection of the kingdom; as the constable, marshals, peers, palatines, and the rest, every one of whom, although all the rest do either connive or consort with the tyranny, are bound to oppose and repress the tyrant; and those who have undertaken the government of any province, city, or part of the kingdom, as dukes, marquesses, earls, consuls, mayors, sheriffs, etc., they may according to right, expel and drive tyranny and tyrants from their cities, confines, and governments. But particular and private persons may not unsheathe the sword against tyrants by practice, because they were not established by particulars, but by the whole body of the people. But for tyrants, who, without title intrude themselves for so much as there is no contract or agreement between them and the people, it is indifferently permitted all to oppose and depose them; and in this rank of tyrants may those be ranged, who, abusing the weakness and sloth of a lawful prince, tyrannously insult over his subjects. Thus much for this, to which for a more full resolution may be added that which has been formerly discoursed in the second question.
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