Page images

the people to new attempts, which it was, no doubt, the clergy's duty to endeavour to prevent; though some of them, for want of knowledge in temporal affairs, and others, perhaps, from a worse principle, proceeded upon a topic, that, Atrictly followed, would enslave all mankind.

Among other theological arguments made use of in those times, in praise of monarchy, and justification of absolute obedience to a prince, there seemed to be one of a singular nature. It was urged, That heaven was governed by a monarch, who had none to control his power, but was absolutely obeyed: then it followed, that earthly governments were the more perfect, the nearer they imitated the government in heaven. All which I look upon as the strongest argument against defpotic power that ever was offered; since no reason can possibly be assigned, why it is best for the world, that God Almighty hath such a power, which doth not directly prove, that no mortal man should ever have the like.

But though a church-of-England man thinks every species of government equally lawful, he does not think them equally expedient; or for every country indifferently. There may be fomething in the climate naturally difpofing men towards one fort of obedience; as it is manifest all over Afia, where we never read of any commonwealth, except fome small ones on the western coasts, established by the Greeks. There may be a great deal in the situation of a country, and


in the present genius of the people. It hath been observed, that the temperate climates usually run into moderate governments, and the extremes into despotic power. It is a remark of Hobbes, that the youth of England are corrupted in their principles of government, by reading the authors of Greece and Rome, who writ under commonwealths. But it might have been more fairly of a fered for the honour of liberty, that, while the rest of the known world was over-run with the arbitrary government of single persons, arts and fciences took their rife, and flourished, only in those few small territories where the people were free. And, though learning may continue after liberty is lost, as it did in Rome, for a while, upon the foundations laid under the commonwealth, and the particular patronage of fome emperors, yet it hardly ever began under a tyranny in any nation : because slavery is, of all things, the greatest clog and obstacle to speculation. And, indeed; arbitrary power is but the first natural step from anarchy, or the favage life; the adjusting power and freedom, being an effect and consequence of maturer thinking: and this is no where so duly regulated as in a limited monarchy; because I believe it may pass for a maxim in ftate, That the administration cannot be placed in too few hands, nor the legislature in too many. Now, in this material point, the constitution of the English government far exceeds all others at this time on the earth; to which the present establishment of


the church doth so happily agree, that, I think, whoever is an enemy to either, must, of necessity, be so to both.

He thinks, as our monarchy is conftituted, an hereditary right is much to be preferred before election ; because the government here, especially by some late amendments, is fo regularly difpofed, in all its parts, that it almost executes itself :: and, therefore, upon the death of a prince among us, the administration goes on without any rub or interruption. For the same reasons, we have. less to apprehend from the weakness or fury of our monarchs, who have such wise councils to guide i the first, and laws to restrain the other. And, therefore, this hereditary right should be kept for sacred, as never to break the succession, unless. where the preserving it may endanger the constitution; which is not from any intrinsic merit or unalienable right in a particular family, but to a. void the consequences that usually attend the am. bition of competitors, to which elective kingdoms are exposed; and which is the only obstacle to hinder them from arriving at the greatest perfection that government can possibly reach. Hence appears the absurdity of that distinction between a king de facto, and one de jure, with respect to us. For every limited monarch is a king de jure; because he governs by the consent of the whole, which is authority sufficient to abolish all precedent right. If a king come in by conqueft, he is no longer a limited monarch ; if he afterwards


withouilte, mille as a mane

consent to limitations, he becomes immediately king de jure, for the same reason.

The great advocates for succession, who affirm it ought not to be violated upon any regard or confideration whatsoever, do insist much upon one argument, that seems to carry little weight. They would have it, that a crown is a prince's birthright, and ought, at least, to be as well secured to him and his posterity, as the inheritance of any private man ; in short, that he has the same title to his kingdom, which every individual has to his property. Now, the consequence of this doctrine must be, that, as a man may find several ways to waste, mispend, or abuse his patri. mony, without being answerable to the laws; fo a king may, in like manner, do what he will with his own; that is, he may squander and misapply his revenues, and even alienate the crown, without being called to an account by his subjects. They allow such a prince to be guilty, indeed, of much folly and wickedness; but for these he is answerable to God, as every private man must be, that is guilty of mismanagement in his own concerns. Now, the folly of this reasoning will best appear, by applying it in a parallel case. Should any man argue, that a phylician is supposed to understand his own art best; that the law protects and encourages bis profession; and, therefore, although he should manifestly prescribe poison to all his patients, whereof they should immediately die, he cannot be justly punished, but is


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

answerable only to God: or should the same be offered in behalf of a divine, who would preach against religion and moral duties; in either of these two cases, every body would find out the sophistry, and presently answer, That although common men are not exactly skilled in the composition or application of medicines, or in prescribing the limits of duty; yet the difference between poisons and remedies is easily known by their effects, and common reason foon distinguishes between virtue and vice : and it must be necessary to forbid both these the further practice of their professions, because their crimes are not purely personal to the physician or the divine, but destructive to the public. All which is infinitely stronger in respect to a prince, in whose good or ill conduct the happiness or misery of a whole nation is included; whereas, it is of small consequence to the public, farther than example, how any private person manageth his property.

But, granting that the right of a lineal succeffor to a crown were upon the same foot with the property of a subject ; ftill it may at any time be transferred by the legislative power, as other properties frequently are. The supreme power in a state can do no wrong; because, whatever that doth, is the action of all: and, when the lawyers apply this maxim to the king, they must understand it only in that sense, as he is administrator of the supreme power; otherwise it is not univerfally true, but may be controlled in several instances, easy to produce.


« PreviousContinue »