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I please. I will suppose a prince limited by laws like ours, yet running into a thousand caprices of cruelty, like Nero or Caligula; I will
suppose him to murder his mother and his wife; to commit incest, to ravish matrons, to blow up the senate, and burn his metropolis ; openly to renounce God and Christ, and worship the devil: these and the like exorbitances are in the power of a single person to commit, without the advice of a ministry or assistance of an army. And if such a king as I have described cannot be deposed but by his own consent in parliament, I do not well see how he can be resisted, or what can be meant by a limited monarchy; or what signifies the people's consent in making and repealing laws, if the person who administers has no tie but conscience, and is answerable to none but God. I desire no stronger proof than an opinion must be false than to tind very great absurdities annexed to it, and there cannot be greater than in the present case; for it is not a bare speculation that kings may run into such enormities as are above mentioned : the practice may be proved by examples, not only drawn from the first Cæsars or later emperors, but many modern princes of Europe; such as Peter the Cruel, Philip II. of Spain, John Basilovitz of Muscovy, and in our own nation, king John, Richard III., and Henry VIII. But there cannot be equal absurdities supposed in maintaining the contrary opinion; because it is certain that princes have it in their power to keep a majority on their side, by any tolerable administration, till provoked by continual oppressions; no man indeed can then answer where the madness of the people will stop.
As to the second part of the objection, Whether the people of England, convened by their own authority upon king James's precipitate departure, had power to alter the succession ?
In answer to this, I think it is manifest, from the practice of the wisest nations, and who seem to have had the truest notions of freedom, that, when a prince was laid aside for mal-administration, the nobles and people, if they thought it necessary for the public weal, did resume the administration of the supreme power (the power itself having been always in them), and did not only alter the succession, but often the very form of government too, because they believed there was no natural right in one man to govern another, but that all was by institution, force, or consent. Thus the cities of Greece, when they drove out their tyrannical kings, either chose others from a new family or abolished the kingly government and became free states. Thus the Romans, upon the expulsion of Tarquin, found it inconvenient for them to be subject any longer to the
pride, the lust, the cruelty, and arbitrary will of single persons, and therefore, by general consent, entirely altered the whole frame of their government. Nor do I find the proceedings of either, in this point, to have been condemned by any historian of the succeeding ages. But a great deal has been already said by other writers upon
this invidious and beaten subject; therefore I shall let it fall, though the point is commonly mistaken, especially by the lawyers, who, of all others, seem least to understand the nature of government in general; like under-workmen, who are expert enough at making a single wheel in a clock, but are utterly ignorant how to adjust the several parts or regulate the movements.
To return, therefore, from this digression : It is a church-of-England man's opinion that the freedom of a nation consists in an absolute unlimited legislative power, wherein the whole body of the people are fairly represented, and in an executive duly limited; because on this side likewise there may be dangerous degrees and a very ill extreme. For, when two parties in a state are pretty equal in power, pretensions, merit and virtue (for these two last
with relation to parties and a court, quite different things), it has been the opinion of the best writers upon government that a prince ought not in any sort to be under the guidance or influence of either; because he declines by this means from his office of presiding over the whole, to be the head of a party; which, besides the indignity, renders him answerable for all public mismanagements, and the consequences of them; and in whatever state this happens, there must either be a weakness in the prince or ministry; or else the former is too much restrained by the nobles or those who represent the people.
To conclude: a church-of-England man may, with prudence and a good conscience, approve the professed principles of one party more than the other, according as he thinks they best promote the good of church and state; but he will never be swayed by passion
interest to advance an opinion merely because it is that of the party he most approves; which one single principle he looks upon as the root of all our civil animosities. To enter into a party, as into an order of friars, with so resigned an obedience to superiors, is very unsuitable both with the civil and religious liberties we so zealously assert. Thus the understandings of a whole senate are often enslaved by three or four leaders on each side, who, instead of intending the public weal, have their hearts wholly set upon
ways and means how to get or to keep employments. But to speak more at large, how has this spirit of faction mingled itself with the mass of the people, changed their nature and manners, and the very genius of the nation? broke all the laws of charity, neighborhood, alliance, and hospitality ? destroyed all ties of friendship, and divided families against themselves ? and no wonder it should be so, when in order to find out the character of a person, instead of inquiring whether he be a man of virtue, honor, piety, wit, good sense, or learning, the modern question is only, whether he be a Whig or a Tory; under which terms all good and ill qualities are included
Now, because it is a point of difficulty to choose an exact middle between two ill extremes, it may be worth inquiring in the present case which of these a wise and good man would rather seem to avoid ; taking therefore their own good and ill characters, with due abatements and allowances for partiality and passion, I should think that, in order to preserve the constitution entire in church and state, whoever has a true value for both would be sure to avoid the extremes of Whig for the sake of the former, and the extremes of Tory on account of the latter.
I have now said all that I could think convenient upon so nice a subject, and find I have the ambition common with other reasoners, to wish at least that both parties may think me in the right; which would be of some use to those who have any virtue left, but are blindly drawn into the extravagancies of either, upon false representations, to serve the ambition or malice of designing men, without any prospect of their own. But if that is not to be hoped for, my next wish should be, that both might think me in the wrong;
which I would understand as an ample justification of myself, and a sure ground to believe that I have proceeded at least with impartiality, and perhaps with truth.
AGAINST ENLARGING THE POWER OF BISHOPS IN LETTING
Mihi credite, major hæreditas venit unicuique vestrûm in iisdem bonis a jure et a legibus, quam ab iis a quibus illa ipsa bona relicta sunt. Cicero pro A. Cecina.
October 21, 1723. In handling this subject I shall proceed wholly upon the supposition that those of our party who profess themselves members of the church established, and under the apostolical government of bishops, do desire the continuance and transmission of it to posterity, at least in as good a condition as it is at present; because as this discourse is not calculated for dissenters of any kind, so neither will it suit the talk or sentiments of those persons who, with the denomination of churchmen, are oppressors of the inferior clergy, and perpetually quarrelling at the great incomes of the bishops; which is a traditional cant delivered down from former times, and continued with great reason, although it be near 200 years since almost three parts in four of the church revenues have been taken from the clergy, beside the spoils that have been gradually made ever since of glebes and other land, by the confusion of times, the fraud of encroaching neighbors, or the power of oppressors too great to be encountered.
About the time of the Reformation many popish bishops of this kingdom, knowing they must have been soon ejected if they would not change their religion, made long leases and fee-farms of great part of their lands, reserving very inconsiderable rents, sometimes only a chiefry, by a power they assumed directly contrary to many ancient canons, yet consistent enough with the common law. This trade held on for many years after the bishops became Protestants; and some of their names are still remembered with infamy, on account of enriching their families by such sacrilegious alienations. By these means episcopal revenues were so low reduced that three or four sees were often united to make a tolerable competency. For some remedy to this evil, king James I., by a bounty that became a good Christian prince, bestowed several forfeited lands on the northern bishoprics : but in all other parts of the kingdom the
church continued still in the same distress and poverty; sopie of the sees hardly possessing enough to maintain a country vicar, About the middle of king Charles I.'s reign the legislature here thought fit to put a stop at least to any further alienations; and so a law was enacted prohibiting all bishops and other ecclesiastical corporations from setting their lands for above the term of twentyone years; the rent reserved to be one half of the real value of such lands at the time they were set, without which condition the lease to be void.
Soon after the restoration of king Charles II., the parliament, taking into consideration the miserable estate of the church, certain lands, by way of augmentation, were granted to eight bishops in the act of settlement, and confirmed in the act of explanation; of which bounty, as I remember, three sees were in a great measure defeated; but by what accidents it is not here of any importance to relate.
This at present is the condition of the church in Ireland with regard to episcopal revenues; which I have thus briefly (and perhaps imperfectly) deduced for some information to those whose thoughts do not lead them to such considerations.
By virtue of the statute already mentioned, under king Charles I., limiting ecclesiastical bodies to the term of twenty-one years under the reserved rent of half real value, the bishops have had some share in the gradual rise of lands, without which they could not have been supported with any common decency that might become their station. It is above eighty years since the passing of that act: the see of Meath, one of the best in the kingdom, was then worth about 4007. per annum; the poorer ones in the same proportion. If this were their present condition, I cannot conceive how they would have been able to pay for their patents or buy their robes: but this will certainly be the condition of their successors, if such a bill should pass as they say is now intended, which I will suppose; and of which I believe many persons who may give a vote for it are not aware.
However, this is is the act which is now attempted to be repealed, or at least eluded; some are for giving bishops leave to let feefarms, others would allow them to let leases for their lives; and the most moderate would repeal that clause by which the bishops are bound to let their lands at half value.
The reasons for the rise of value in lands are of two kinds. Of the first kind are long peace and settlement after the devastations of war; plantations, improvements of bad soil, recovery of bogs and