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The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, edited with Introduction and Notes by William Talbot Allison (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1911).
Written during the English Revolution, Milton’s pamphlet argues that there exists a voluntary contract between free men and their rulers, and that if a ruler becomes a tyrant then the people have the right to depose him if the ordinary magistrates have not done so.
The text is in the public domain.
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WEIMAR: PRINTED BY R. WAGNER SOHN.
It is not a little surprising, when one considers the amount of attention that has been bestowed on Milton’s poetry, that his prose tracts, with a very few exceptions, have lain so neglected in recent times. The present edition is an attempt to remedy this neglect, so far as one of these treatises is concerned. Others, it is hoped, will follow: indeed, The Ready and Easy Way to establish a Free Commonwealth has already been taken in hand.
A portion of the expense of printing this book has been borne by the Modern Language Club of Yale University, from funds placed at its disposal by the generosity of Mr. George E. Dimock, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, a graduate of Yale in the Class of 1874.
Albert S. Cook.
To George Thomason, bookseller of the Rose and Crown in St. Paul’s Church Yard, friend of Rushworth, Calamy, and Milton, and keen observer of religious and political affairs, we owe the British Museum collection of tracts which bears his name. From 1640 to 1661 Thomason collected each day’s output of tracts, broadsides, newspapers, books, even fly-leaves of doggerel verse, and stored them away for the edification of future ages. Few of the publications relating to the Civil War, the Commonwealth, and the Restoration eluded his vigilance. As the flood of this voluminous period bore in upon him, he carefully noted the exact date of each publication in his catalogue, and often wrote out the full name of the author where the treatise or book gave only the initials. On this account, Thomason is the sole authority for the dates of first and second editions of many books now regarded as classics of English literature.
Among eight publications which came into Thomason’s hands from the presses of London on Feb. 13, 1649, one small quarto, the work of a friend, must have been noted by him with special pleasure. The entry was as follows;—‘The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates: proving that it is Lawfull for any who have the Power to call to account a Tyrant or wicked King and after due conviction to depose, and put him to death. The Author, J. M. [i. e. John Milton.] Printed by Matthew Simmons (13 Feb).’ A year later, on Feb. 15, 1650, he notes the arrival at the Rose and Crown of a copy of the second edition:—‘The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, proving that it is Lawfull to call to account a Tyrant, or wicked King, and put him to death. Published now the second time with some additions. The author J. M. [i. e. John Milton] pp. 60. Printed by Matthew Simmons (15 Feb.).’
We are thus certain of the exact date of publication of this treatise, the first apology for the Commonwealth. Thanks to another contemporary witness, we have most interesting information as to the place of composition, the author’s motive, his political sympathies, and the effect of the publication on his own personal fortunes. Our authority is Milton’s nephew, Edward Philips, who gives a more extended reference to this pamphlet than might have been expected in the brief compass of his charming sketch of the life of the poet. ‘It was not long after the march of Fairfax and Cromwell through the city of London with the whole army, to quell the insurrections, Brown and Massey, now malecontents also, were endeavoring to raise in the city against the armies proceedings, ere he left his great house in Barbican, and betook himself to a smaller in High Holbourn, among those that open backward into Lincolns-Inn Fields. Here he liv’d a private and quiet life, still prosecuting his studies and curious search into knowledge, the grand affair perpetually of his life; till such time as, the war being now at an end, with compleat victory to the Parliament’s side, as the Parliament then stood purg’d of all its dissenting members, and the king after some treaties with the army re infecta, brought to his tryal; the form of government being now chang’d into a free state, he was hereupon oblig’d to write a treatise, call’d The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates.’
‘After which his thoughts were bent upon retiring again to his own private studies, and falling upon such subjects as his proper genius prompted him to write of, among which was the history of our own nation from the beginning till the Norman Conquest, wherein he had made some progress. When (for this his last treatise, reviving the fame of some other things he had formerly published) being more and more taken notice of for the excellency of his stile, and depth of judgement, he was courted into the service of this new Commonwealth, and at last prevail’d with (for he never hunted after preferment, nor affected the tintimar and hurry of publick business) to take upon him the office of Latin secretary to the Counsel of State.’
According to this statement, The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates was written subsequent to the execution of Charles I and the proclamation of the Republic. The book was published, it is true, exactly a fortnight after the king’s death, and a week after the official setting-up of the republican form of government, but Philips is in error as to the date of composition. Milton himself, in an autobiographical passage in the Second Defence, distinctly states that he wrote this pamphlet when the House of Commons was arranging for the trial of the king: ‘On the last species of civil liberty, I said nothing, because I saw that sufficient attention was paid to it by the magistrates; nor did I write anything on the prerogative of the crown, till the king, voted an enemy by the parliament, and vanquished in the field, was summoned before the tribunal which condemned him to lose his head. But when at length, some Presbyterian ministers, who had formerly been the most bitter enemies to Charles, became jealous of the growth of the Independents, and of their ascendancy in the parliament, most tumultuously clamoured against the sentence, and did all in their power to prevent the execution, though they were not angry so much on account of the act itself, as because it was not the act of their party; and when they dared to affirm, that the doctrine of the Protestants, and of all the reformed churches was abhorrent to such an atrocious proceeding against kings, I thought that it became me to oppose such a glaring falsehood; and accordingly, without any immediate or personal application to Charles, I shewed, in an abstract consideration of the question, what might lawfully be done against tyrants: and in support of what I advanced, produced the opinions of the most celebrated divines; while I vehemently inveighed against the egregious ignorance or effrontery of men, who professed better things, and from whom better things might have been expected. That book did not make its appearance till after the death of Charles; and was written rather to reconcile the minds of the people to the event, than to discuss the legitimacy of that particular sentence which concerned the magistrates, and which was already executed’ (Bohn 1. 259). Aside from this direct evidence, a careful reading of the treatise itself might have convinced Philips of his mistake. Milton refers to the trial of the king (5. 12 ff.) as a matter still under discussion: ‘They plead for him, pity him, extoll him, protest against those that talke of bringing him to the tryall of Justice, etc.’ He alludes to those Independents who hesitate to take such a course, who ‘begin to swerve, and almost shiver at the Majesty and grandeur of som noble deed’ (6. 10). The king is spoken of as one still alive (8. 20), ‘the Sword of Justice is above him’ (8. 34), a prisoner, he should not ‘think to scape unquestionable’ (21. 21). He also speaks of ‘the proceedings now in Parlament against the King’ (27. 31). In 38. 16 ff. the Presbyterians are denounced, ‘who now, to the stirring up of new discord, acquitt him: . . . absolve him, unconfound him, though unconverted, unrepentant,’ etc. He speaks of the king’s trial as a future event (40. 16), and of the likelihood of his punishment by the Parliament and Military Council ‘if it appeare thir duty’ (40. 22), while in 42. 8 he refers to ‘what remaines to doe,’ and warns the Presbyterian divines to ‘beware an old and perfet enemy,’ if they put him in his place of old-time power (42. 2 ff.).
Internal evidence, therefore, especially the mention of ‘the proceedings now in Parlament against the King,’ and the reference to those who shivered at the prospect of becoming judges at the trial, make it certain that Milton wrote these pages during the month of January, 1649. On Jan. 1 the Commons appointed commissioners and judges to try the king. The proceedings against him were debated until the passing of the Resolution and Ordinance of Jan. 6. It was also during this momentous week that various members of the House swerved and shivered. Bulstrode Whitelocke, the great lawyer, found it convenient to retire into the country; the clerk of the House, Mr. Elysyng, discovered that his health had suddenly failed him; nearly half of the commissioners failed to attend any of the meetings of the trial court. Lord General Fairfax himself, an arch-leader of the Independents, was at the first meeting on Jan. 8, but never attended a second session. As Milton’s allusion (6. 7 ff.) points to these faint-hearts, the treatise must have been written after Jan. 8. The reference to Prynne’s pamphlet, A Briefe Memento to the PresentUnparliamentary Junto (6. 30), which was published on Jan. 19, would make the date of composition later still, unless the sneer at Prynne was inserted when Milton was revising the first sheets of his manuscript. The pamphlet then must have been written between Jan. 8 and Jan. 27, the date on which sentence was pronounced against the king. If it was written before the trial of Charles, the period of composition would be narrowed to an interval of twelve days, between Jan. 8 and Jan. 20. The former time-limit seems to be the more probable, but even nineteen days was a wonderfully short space of time for the production of such a piece of work.
The historical situation, which forms the background to this hurriedly written book, and with which it deals in the boldest manner, was intensely dramatic. From the serene pages of Philips, with his talk of the prospect of Lincolns-Inn Fields from the High Holborn retreat, and his references to the private life of Milton while he was ‘prosecuting his curious search into knowledge,’ we gain only a partial view of the great writer’s interests. It is true that he still kept up his studies, and this is one of the strange and wellnigh unaccountable things about so many of the scholars, statesmen, and soldiers of that age of commotion and upheavel, that they could turn so easily from the turmoil of events to ‘the still air and quiet of delightful studies,’ and prosecute all kinds of laborious, and what seem to us trivial researches. Considerable material in this pamphlet reveals the ‘private’ scholar, the curious student of ancient laws and historical precedents. We must also remember that in these days of revolution Milton did considerable work towards a history of England. But if there was the studious side to his life, bearing witness to a strength of mind that would not be upset by the storms in the real England at his door, he was also a child of his time, an intensely interested observer of every move in politics and religious controversy. He sat there in his study at High Holborn, but he looked not towards Lincolns-Inn Fields, but towards Westminster, where the House of Commons was hastening to the condemnation of Charles Stuart.
The historical situation at the beginning of the year 1649 can best be depicted by explaining the attitude of various parties in England and Scotland towards King Charles. He was at this time a prisoner in the hands of the English army, whose leaders were Fairfax, Ireton, and Cromwell. As far back as March or April, 1648, the army officers had decided in their famous prayer-meeting at Windsor Castle that the only way in which to promote liberty and to secure peace for England was ‘to call Charles Stuart, that man of blood, to an account for that blood he had shed and mischief he had done to his utmost against the Lord’s Cause and People in these poor Nations.’ Fairfax weakened at the last, as we have seen, but Cromwell, Ireton, and the bulk of the officers and men never receded from their stern prayer-meeting resolve. While other parties treated with the king, they issued manifesto after manifesto, the burden of each and all being a demand for justice on the king. In November the democratic ideals of the regiments found expression in the Grand Army Remonstrance, in which all attempts to treat with the King were denounced, and he himself was declared to be guilty of the highest treason, incapable of penitence or common honesty. On Dec. 1 the army seized Charles as their own prisoner; and on the following day Fairfax led his troops into London, where they closed in upon Parliament, to overawe it into submission with their wishes. Pride’s Purge took place on Dec. 6, by which all opposers of the army, some 143 members of the Commons, were excluded from their places, leaving 78 members to carry out the orders of their masters. Of this number, some 28 withdrew from the house of their own accord, leaving what Prynne called the ‘unparliamentary Junto’ to bring the king to the scaffold.
The second political group, closely allied with the army, was composed of Independents—Puritans who had gradually come to believe in the separation of church and state, and were now willing to grant toleration to all religious freethinkers, except prelatists, papists, and atheists. At the close of the year 1648 this party in parliament and in the nation was divided into two classes—first, the ultra-radicals, who were determined to compass the king’s death, and set up a republic; and, secondly, the great majority, who were willing to visit the king with deposition, but who shrank from the army’s proposed cure for the ills of the nation. Of the large number of Independent divines, only two, so far as is known, expressed approbation of the trial of the king.
A third party, strongest in London, Lancashire, and Scotland, was made up of Presbyterians who were doing their utmost to save the royal prisoner from the army and the Independents. In the earlier years of the great rebellion the Presbyterians had been supreme; they had ruled with a high hand, had established their form of church government in England on the ruins of the prelacy, had passed severe laws against other sectaries, and had prosecuted the war against the king with energy. In spite of their jealous, persecuting zeal, the Independents rapidly increased in numbers and in power. Owing to Cromwell’s tolerance, the army became a hotbed of radicalism in politics and theology, and was regarded as the greatest foe of the Presbyterians. Actuated no doubt by genuine fear of the regimental preachers, and alarmed at the rapid growth of the Independent faction in the House of Commons, and feeling that their one chance to force England to remain Presbyterian lay in the rehabilitation of the king, the followers of the kirk both in Scotland and in England labored from the days of the first imprisonment at Newcastle in Aug., 1646, to the close of Nov., 1648, to negotiate a treaty with Charles which would be satisfactory, at least to themselves. The curious spectacle was now presented of former enemies converted into warm advocates of the king. A party among the Presbyterians of Scotland, headed by the Scottish Commissioners to England and the Hamiltonians, had even entered into a secret engagement with the king, in Jan. 1648, to invade England with a Scotch army, for the purpose of restoring him to his full royalty, on the understanding that he would guarantee the Presbyterian form of church government in England for three years, and suppress the Independents and all other sects and heresies. Although the Hamiltonian party did succeed in leading an army into England in the Second Civil War, it must be remembered that Argyle and other Scotch nobles, the Presbyterian ministers of Scotland, and the vast majority of their congregations, were entirely out of sympathy both with the treaty and the invasion. Yet in spite of the fact that there were two classes among the Presbyterians of the realm, just as there were divisions among the Independents, all the Presbyterians of Scotland and England were averse to the army’s proposal to bring the king to trial. One and all they pitied the fallen monarch, and would have been glad to restore him to his crown and royal dignity at no slight compromise of liberties hardly won in the bloody struggles of the Civil War. Wherefore not a Presbyterian layman sat on the court of trial, not a Presbyterian minister in London approved the course of the army chiefs. Hugh Peters, Cromwell’s chaplain, was sent to discuss the subject amicably with the Westminster Assembly of Divines, but they declared unanimously for the king’s release. Peters was then authorized by the army leaders to invite to a friendly conference several London divines who all along had preached in favor of armed rebellion—Marshall, Calamy, Whitaker, Sedgewick, Ashe, and others prominent in Presbyterian circles. They refused point blank, and, instead of peaceful talk of compromise, assembled in Sion College, and drew up a fiery criticism of Cromwell and his supporters in Parliament, their Serious and Faithfull Representation. The change of policy among the Presbyterians is clearly seen by comparing even the texts of their earlier and later sermons, and perhaps best of all in the change of front shown in the writings of the most voluminous of Presbyterian pamphleteers, William Prynne. It was these inconsistent sermons, protestations, and tracts which excited the contempt of Milton, and partly inspired his treatise.
The last group, numerous but at this time unimportant, was composed of the Royalists or Cavaliers—courtiers, clergymen of the old church deprived of their livings, country squires, nobles and soldiers in exile, a great mass of country people who had to a large extent remained untouched by sectarianism or by the struggle for constitutional rights; all these, deprived of power, looked on helplessly at the ‘royal martyr’ moving to his doom.
Few men in England, and none in Scotland, expected or desired that the leaders of army and parliament would bring the king to the block. Until the last moment thousands refused to believe that Charles would really die upon the scaffold; there was to be the pageantry of an execution, but nothing more. ‘Only some fifty or sixty governing Englishmen, with Oliver Cromwell in the midst of them, were prepared for every reponsibility, and stood inexorably to their task.’ Milton was at one with Cromwell and the other forward spirits in this business. From his careful study of events he had come to the conclusion that Charles was a faithless tyrant, responsible for whole massacres committed on his faithful subjects, guilty of a deluge of innocent blood (9. 3ff.), a malefactor deserving of punishment as a common pest and destroyer of mankind (20.3). Neither Milton nor Cromwell had any superstitious reverence for the divinity that was supposed to hedge a king. ‘What hath a native king to plead,’ he cries, ‘bound by so many covenants, benefits and honours to the welfare of his people, why he through the contempt of all Laws and Parlaments, the onely tie of our obedience to him, for his owne wills sake, and a boasted praerogative unaccountable, after sev’n years warring and destroying of his best subjects, overcom, and yeilded prisoner, should think to scape unquestionable, as a thing divine, in respect of whom so many thousand Christians destroy’d, should lye unaccounted for, polluting with their slaughterd carcasses all the land over, and crying for vengeance against the living that should have righted them’ (21. 14ff.). Entertaining such views of his king, to whom loyalty and obedience would now mean only a base compliance, Milton was very strongly of opinion that the sword of justice above the king ought to do its work. Convinced in his own mind of the king’s guilt and well merited punishment, he ranged himself in the most uncompromising allegiance on the side of Cromwell, Ireton, and Bradshaw, who had long since resolved upon the tyrant’s death.
The main purpose of The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates is therefore very plain. It is a justification of the thoughts and intents of all those in England who hated tyranny, and who held it to be simple justice that a perfidious monarch should, after fair trial, receive due punishment for high crimes and misdemeanors. The long title of this treatise lays down Milton’s thesis ‘that it is lawfull to call to account a Tyrant or wicked King and after due conviction to depose, and put him to death.’ It was not the intention of Milton to disparage monarchy, however, although he combats the theory of divine right, and maintains that the original of power is in the people. He puts the case of the people against a wicked king, with special reference to Charles I, and gives illustrations from past ages of the overthrow and deposition of tyrants. But his purpose was not to glorify the republican form of government, nor to derogate from the fair fame of good kings. In his reference, in the Second Defence, to his motives in writing this treatise, he says, ‘Without any immediate or special application to Charles, I shewed in an abstract consideration of the question, what might lawfully be done against tyrants’ (Bohn I. 260). While this statement must be discounted, for Milton did make immediate and special application to Charles, as we have already pointed out, still it remains true that he had no quarrel with the monarchic principle itself. In later years he was delighted because Queen Christina of Sweden praised his reply to Salmasius. In his panegyric of the Queen of Sheba of the North, he says: ‘When the critical exigencies of my country demanded that I should undertake the arduous and invidious task of impugning the rights of kings, how happy am I that I should meet with so illustrious, so truly a royal evidence to my integrity, and to this truth, that I had not written a word against kings, but only against tyrants, the spots and pests of royalty’ (Bohn 1. 249). Whatever Milton’s honest purpose may have been, his contention that ‘all men naturally are born free,’ his theory of the contractual origin of society and government, his enunciation of the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people, of the derivative character of all kingly rule, of the equality of all persons before the law, and his declaration of the right of ‘any who have the power’ to depose or put to death a wicked king, give the general reader the impression that he was a republican of the most thorough-going kind. Aubrey, one of his earliest biographers, so understood him: ‘Whatever he wrote against monarchie was out of no animositie to the king’s person, or out of any faction or interest, but out of a pure zeale to the Liberty of Mankind, which he thought would be greater under a free state than under a monarchiall government. His being so conversant in Livy and the Roman authors, and the greatnes he saw donne by the Roman commonwealth, and the vertue of their great commanders [captaines] induc’t him to it.’ When he wrote this treatise Milton seems to have been indifferent to the form of government, so long as liberty was insured to the subject. If he welcomed the republic, he did so because it meant to him the dawn of a new day of political and individual freedom in England. In his former writings he had not used a single expression against royalty; on the contrary, he had defended the rights of the crown against the pretensions of the Anglican prelates. In proposing a plan for the reform of the church, his model had been monarchical government. The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates was written, therefore, not as a protest against the institution of royalty, but as a protest against a wicked king and as a defence of resolute upholders of human liberty, not because they were democrats and republicans, but because they were earnest and vigorous in the putting down of tyranny, and in the setting up of a righteous rule in England.
When we attempt to analyze the ideas set forth in this treatise, and now for the first time applied with astonishing vigor and frankness to a great political crisis in English history, we find that Milton is developing his philosophy of freedom. In his previous writings, all of them timely performances, he had contended for religious and domestic freedom, for a free interpretation of the Bible, for free education, for liberty of investigation, of speech, of the press; in The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates he was to re-emphasize most of these ideas, and to make his first plea for civil liberty, to anticipate modern thought in the statement and defence of great and generous principles. In the compact and weighty pages of this pamphlet, he presents the following leading ideas, which were to command such attention from the whole of Europe in their elaborated form, in the Latin periods of the replies to Salmasius and Morus:—(1) All men naturally were born free (9. 24); (2) as a result of a voluntary compact, kings and magistrates were appointed by the people as deputies and commissioners, repositories of communicated and entrusted power (9. 31 ff.); (3) laws were invented by the people as checks to confine and limit the authority of magistrates (10. 21 ff.); (4) bonds or covenants were also imposed upon rulers to compel them to observe the laws which the people had made (11. 9 ff.); (5) the power of kings and magistrates remains fundamentally in the people as their natural birthright (11. 7 ff.); (6) the king or magistrate may be chosen or rejected, retained or deposed by the people (15. 11 ff.); (7) men should be governed by the authority of reason (1. 1, et passim). Commenting on these political maxims for a new society, Geffroy says: ‘Milton was not a practical statesman, and his plans for a future social fabric were too often pure Utopias, but he loved liberty passionately, he consecrated to her defence his entire life, with an elevation of spirit, a generosity of soul, which distinguished him from all his compatriots and all his contemporaries. He is worthy of being numbered with the precursors of our eighteenth century, and his writings offer to the historian and the philosopher the curious and sublime spectacle of a new society commencing to be born.’
But if Milton’s main purpose in writing this attack on tyranny was to lay down the program of constitutional liberty, his secondary aim was to chastise his former friends the Presbyterians, and to pour out the bitterest vials of his wrath upon their inconsistent divines. The controversial character of his treatise is indeed very marked. Stern calls the acrimonious attack on the Presbyterians the shell of the pamphlet, of which the abstract argument on the origin of government, and the right to depose and punish a tyrant, is the kernel. According to the Second Defence (Bohn 1. 260), it was the inconsistent conduct of the ministers which impelled Milton to write this exposure of their inconstancy and effrontery. Not only as the greatest opponents of his goddess, Liberty, but as his own personal foes, did Milton eagerly embrace the opportunity to reveal their various shortcomings of thought and life. In a sermon preached before the Houses of Parliament in 1644 by the Rev. Herbert Palmer, Milton’s tractate on divorce had been openly called ‘a wicked booke which deserves to be burnt.’ The Westminster Assembly, displeased from the same cause, had the ‘libertine’ summoned before the House of Lords. It was not the nature of the poet to accept these strictures in a spirit of Christian forgiveness; from the date of the publication of his Colasterion, references to the Presbyterians in Milton’s prose and verse are bitter in tone. ‘From that time,’ says Orme, ‘he never failed to abuse the Presbyterians and the Assembly. It is painful to detract from the fair fame of Milton, but even he is not entitled to vilify the character of a large and respectable body of men, to avenge his private quarrel.’ Whether he was actuated by personal reasons or not, whether he loved himself rather than truth, in thus turning upon his former party, as Doctor Johnson avers, it was not necessary for the author of The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates to invent charges against the Presbyterian preachers and writers. No party ever laid itself more helplessly open to attack. And no controversialist ever fell more mercilessly upon a vulnerable enemy than Milton upon the men who were preaching and writing in a vain effort to save ‘the Lord’s anointed.’
In addition to their sermons in the pulpits of London, the Presbyterian divines expressed their new-found loyalty to the king by sending out two tracts from Sion College. The first, which we have already mentioned, was signed by 47 ministers, including Case, Gataker, Gower, Rowborough, and Wallis of the Westminster Assembly, and was addressed to Lord Fairfax and the Council of War, Jan. 18, 1649. A few days later, another pamphlet was issued as a defence against charges of inconsistency. It was entitled, A Vindication of the London Ministers from the unjust Aspersions upon their former Actings for the Parliament, and was signed by 57 ministers. Still a third deliverance came from the Presbyterian ministers of Lancashire, entitled, The Paper called the Agreement of the People taken into Consideration. William Prynne and Clement Walker, for the laymen, issued a Declaration and Protestation, and the former made a very long speech in Parliament on Dec. 4, 1648, and now returned to the subject in his Briefe Memento. In all these writings, the Presbyterians used the most forceful language in denouncing the course of the Army and Independents as utterly opposed to the Solemn League and Covenant, that to depose or to put to death the king would be contrary to all legal precedent, to Scripture, and to the Oaths of Supremacy and Allegiance. It was easy for Milton to throw himself upon this literature, and to compare the sentiments of the present with those of the past, to show that these very men, in sermon and in pamphlet, had formerly cursed the king as a tyrant, as one worse than Nero (5. 25; 8. 7; 38. 10 ff.); that they had commended the war against the king (7. 27 ff.); that they themselves had broken the Oaths of Supremacy and Allegiance (32. 26 ff.), and by making war on the king and denying his authority had absolutely deposed him (32. 34 ff.); and that they had broken the Covenant (34. 30 ff.), and had really taken the life of the king by robbing him of his office and dignity (36. 25 ff.).
It was useless, he held, for the Presbyterians to defend their former actions by appealing to a certain clause in the Covenant. But to understand Milton’s contemptuous reference to the ‘fine clause’ of the ‘riddling Covenant,’ it is necessary to pause for a moment to consider this bone of contention among all parties in the last year of Charles’ reign. The Solemn League and Covenant of August, 1643, was based upon the Scottish National Covenant of 1638, which in its turn had been imported from France. A religious pact between England and Scotland, it was not only a league between two kingdoms to defend their civil liberties, but paved the way for uniformity in church matters, for the abolition of episcopacy, and the establishment of Presbyterianism in England. On its acceptance by the English parliament, copies of the document were signed at Westminster, and in nearly all the parishes of England and Scotland. The text of the Covenant was easy to understand, but it contained one clause which was afterwards to be interpreted according as a man turned to the support of king or parliament. This offending clause read as follows:—‘We shall with the same sincerity, reality and constancy, in our several vocations, endeavour with our estates and lives mutually to preserve the rights and privileges of the Parliaments, and the liberties of the Kingdoms, and to preserve and defend the King’s Majesty’s person and authority, in the preservation and defence of the true Religion and Liberties of the Kingdoms; that the world may bear witness with our consciences of our loyalty, and that we have no thoughts or intentions to diminish his Majesty’s just power and greatness.’ In the first Sion House tract the Presbyterian ministers accused Cromwell’s party of esteeming the Covenant (referring of course to the above clause) no more than ‘an almanack out of date.’ In their second protestation they held that ‘the taking away the life of the King, in the present way of Trial is, not only not agreeable to any word of God, the principles of the Protestant Religion (never yet stained with the least drop of bloud of a King) or the fundamental constitution and government of this Kingdom, but, contrary to them, as also to the Oath of Allegiance, the Protestation of May 5, 1641, and the Solemn League and Covenant: from all, or any of which Engagements, we know not any power on earth, able to absolve us or others.’ The ambiguous clause of the Covenant follows, and the citizens are exhorted to hold to it rather than to commit the sin of perjury, and so draw upon themselves and the kingdom the blood of their sovereign. Prynne also quotes the ‘fine clause’ and thus continues: ‘This Covenant you have all taken yourselves (some of you often) and imposed it on all three Kingdomes: And will it not stare in your faces your consciences, and engage God himselfe, and all three Kingdomes, as one man against you, if you should proceed to depose the King, destroy his person or disinherit his posterity? yea, bring certaine ruine upon you and yours as the greatest Covenant breakers, and most perjured Creatures under Heaven.’ Again he says: ‘Consider that Scotland and Ireland are joynt tenants, at least wise tenants in Common with us in the King, as their lawfull Soveraigne and King, as well as ours: and that the Scots delivered and left his person to our Commissioners at Newcastle, upon this expresse condition: That no violence should be offered to his Person, etc., according to the Covenant.’ The Presbyterians supported their constant quotation of this clause by trying to prove from Scripture that oaths, trusts, and covenants were broken only by sinful men. Yet, however dogmatic the divines and Prynne were on this question, others construed the loyal clause in quite a different sense. John Price reflects this difference of opinion. ‘The Presbyterian,’ he observes, ‘pleads Covenant-engaging conformity (as they urge) with the Church of Scotland: The Parliamenteer pleads Covenant, engaging to preserve the rights and priviledges of Parliament: The Royalist pleads Covenant, engaging to preserve and defend the Kings Majesties Person and Authority: The Armists plead Covenant, engaging to preserve the liberties of the Kingdome, etc. So that you have made the Covenant a meere contradictious thing, like unto one of the Diabolicall Oracles of the Heathens, speaking nothing certaine but ambiguities.’ Another critic, this time a textual expert, complains that the Presbyterians make ‘a stop at Authority,’ ‘And thus our English sentences are read with Scotch comma’s and periods, and the Covenant made to speak what it never meant, and Covenanters to undertake absolutely what they promise but conditionally, by the Scotch Artificers, who make it a nose of wax.’ That Milton was fully justified in heaping contempt upon the Presbyterians for using Scotch commas and periods in their cavilous reading of the ‘unnecessariest clause’ (6. 1; 33. 1; 33. 27; 35. 19; 36. 9; 36. 16), we have it on the evidence of Whitelocke that the Scotch themselves had changed their minds as to its meaning. In Dec., 1645, the Parliament of Scotland voted ‘that the clause in the covenant, for the defence of the king’s person, is to be understood in defence and safety of the kingdom.’ Yet in the very next month they made a declaration to the English Parliament that the king was to remain prisoner with ‘safety to his person.’ On July 27, 1647, the Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland ordered a public fast, for the danger to religion and reformation by sectaries in England, ‘and that the Covenant may be kept.’ In August, 1647, when Fairfax moved on London, and the Independents gained the upper hand in parliament, Whitelocke mentions the increased emphasis with which the pulpits in Scotland urged ‘the necessity of that kingdom to maintain the ends of the covenant against all violation.’ After this brief review of the controversy, the plain reader will agree that Milton’s many criticisms of the riddling Covenant were well founded.
When we turn to his attack on the Presbyterian party, we are also constrained to admit that Queen Truth was on his side. Alluding to their sins in general, he accuses them of intolerance to other sects (41. 19), of rendering assistance to the Royalists whom they themselves had called reprobates and enemies to God and his church (41. 25), and of opposing the Independents, who are, he declares, their best friends and associates (41. 32).
In his criticism of the life and conduct of the Presbyterian divines, however, we realize that Milton is prejudiced and unfair. His severest accusation is that these men, who formerly denounced the prelatists for being pluralists, are guilty of the same offence. He charges that ‘pluralities greas’d them thick and deep’ (7. 26); it would be good if they ‘hated pluralities and all kind of Simony’ (43. 28); they have gorged themselves ‘like Harpy’s on those simonious places and preferments of their outed predecessors, . . . not to pluralitie onely but to multiplicitie’ (51. 18 ff.); they have followed ‘the hot sent of double livings and Pluralities,’ etc. (56. 31 ff.). In his History of England, a work begun at this time, Milton roundly declared that the Presbyterian ministers did not scruple ‘to seize into their hands, or not unwillingly to accept (besides one, sometimes two or more, of the best livings), collegiate masterships in the universities, rich lectures in the city, setting sail to all winds that might blow gain into their covetous bosoms.’ Neal, in his History of the Puritans, is silent on this question, nor does Shaw in the latest and most complete work on the history of the English church during this period mention any instances of Presbyterian pluralism. Marsden resents these charges with asperity. They are, he says, simply the result of Milton’s harsh and vindictive mood, his attempt to avenge himself upon the Westminster Assembly. Masson, while he criticizes Milton for his ‘somewhat ungenerous summary (43. 26 ff.) of the history of the Westminster Assembly,’ adduces several instances where leading Presbyterian divines accepted lectureships at the universities or in the city, but makes no mention of ordinary cases, where two or more benefices were held by Presbyterian ministers. Owing to his prejudices, Milton may have unduly magnified a few cases of this kind, yet, in spite of exaggeration, there was some ground for his repeated accusations. Attached to a proclamation of Sir Thomas Fairfax in 1647, there is a statement that according to ‘the petition of many thousands of the poore sequestered clergie of England and Wales,’ ‘those who are put into our places [Presbyterian divines] labour by all means to stir up the people, and to involve this kingdom in a new war, and are generally men ignorant and unable to instruct the people, and many of them are scandalous in their practices, if impartially examined; and divers of them hold three or four of the best benefices, whilst divers other churches are void and without any constant preachers.’ In a tract published in 1646, Thomas Tookey, M. A., charges Mr. John Yaxley with exacting ‘the worldly sweet of two distinct congregations.’ Yaxley, he says, ‘had peeped into much logic, so that, tho once he could not,’ now ‘he can account both nonresidency and sacred thievery dearly lawful, gainful, hopeful, and needful.’ In another pamphlet, specific instances are not given, but the general charge is boldly made. ‘I could instance in many places,’ says this anonymous foe of the Presbyterian clergy, ‘where superstitious and blind buzzards were put out of their livings, and some of the orthodox men [Presbyterians] put in their roomes, and when they had got good livings were they, or are they contented? Some hold livings in the country, and some in London, hardly ever coming to the flock but to take the fleece. Some hold two or three livings apiece: some leave one and run to another when they can find a greater, nay, they will fight for a better living rather than lose it.’ In view of this contemporary evidence, however prejudiced some of it may be, we must agree that it bears out Milton’s general assertion that the Presbyterian ministers were not altogether free from the pleasant vice of pluralism.
When Milton calls these clergymen ‘mutinous ministers’ (56. 28), ‘dancing divines’ (7. 15), ‘doubling divines’ (9. 17), ‘prevaricating divines’ (35. 27), ‘a covetous and ambitious generation’ (51. 9), ‘disturbers of the civil affairs’ (43. 9), he may also be well within the truth, but when he denounces them as being ‘clov’n tongues of falshood and dissention’ (38. 15), ‘ministers of sedition’ (38. 28) ‘firebrands’ (39. 2), it must be said that he is descending to coarse abuse. In the most scandalous passage of this treatise (43. 8 ff.) he accuses them of meddlesomeness, of neglecting their studies, of laziness, of being tyrants over other men’s consciences, of covetousness, of simony, of pride, of gluttony, of hypocrisy, of being pulpit firebrands. Not content with saying all these things, he returns to the charge in the second edition of his book, repeats his accusation of pluralism (51. 18 ff.) and formulates a new indictment in the amusing passage (55. 7 ff.) in which the ministers are called ‘nimble motionists,’ time-servers, careless of all considerations except their own material advantage. In the year which elapsed between the publication of the first and the second edition, he also happened upon a Presbyterian pamphlet written as far back as 1643, which he used as a postscript text for further abuse of his clerical foes. The title of this tract, Scripture and Reason, is a fitting introduction to our next topic, Milton’s Use of Scripture.
In the seventeenth century, Scripture and reason were the touchstones for Puritan arguments on nearly every subject. It was the common custom to prove anything from the Bible, sometimes with the consent of reason, sometimes in defiance of common sense. The poet Waller, for instance, made a speech in the House of Commons in objection to the bill to enforce the burial of the dead in woollen shrouds, and thought he had proved his case when he cited the evangelist who has recorded that Christ was buried in linen. And if the Bible was used with advantage as an authority on general subjects, it was believed by Milton, and all Puritans, that no one could impose, believe, or obey aught in religion, but from the word of God only. Inasmuch as the subject’s relation to his prince involved questions of conduct, the Bible was regarded as an authority on such themes as the divine right of kings and the legitimacy of armed resistance to tyrants. The translation of the Old Testament by Luther supplied his followers, and the Calvinists also, with an arsenal of arguments on political questions. The stormy history of the Jews afforded precedents to the upholders of divine right, of passive resistance, and of tyrannicide. Needless to say, the teachings of the law and the prophets were regarded as of equal authority with the precepts of Jesus and the apostles. ‘Calvin had set forth in his lectures,’ says Weill, ‘that it would be chimerical to wish to transform all the laws of Moses into laws for modern society. Yet in spite of his objection, the political government of the Hebrews seemed to the religionists of the reformed party a model to copy in all its details; and the example of the monarchy of Israel, so often denounced by the prophets and overthrown by insurrectionists inspired by God himself, fortified their hatred of despotism, and their confidence in ultimate success.’ The Protestants, however, were in two camps, as far as political theory was concerned. Although Luther and Calvin were somewhat ambiguous, the former was more a defender of the theory of the divine right of kings than of civil liberty; the latter advised passive resistance, but by his utterances against tyranny encouraged such disciples as Knox and Goodman in more revolutionary principles. The Lutheran defenders of despotism naturally attached more weight to the teachings of the New Testament, especially the Pauline and Petrine dicta on unreserved submission to magistrates. The Protestant defenders of civil liberty, Knox, Buchanan, and Milton, for example, emphasized the rebellions and cases of tyrannicide in the history of Israel, and did their best to explain away the awkward passages in the New Testament.
Certain texts and instances in both the old and the new Scriptures became loci classici for controversialists. The friends of monarchy advanced the following leading arguments from the Bible:—(1) When David had Saul at his mercy, he refused to kill the Lord’s anointed; (2) God punished Israel because of her revolt against Nebuchadnezzar, her lawful sovereign; (3) when David, in Psalm 51, confessed the murder of Uriah, he did not admit that he had sinned against his subject, but only against God; (4) according to 1 Sam. 8. 11-18, God conferred certain rights upon kings; (5) in the New Testament they relied mainly upon three texts—Rom. 13. 1; 1 Pet. 2. 13, 14; Tit. 3. 1; (6) Luke 20. 25, and the fact that Jesus submitted to Pilate, were also often cited. On the other hand, the opponents of the theory of divine right justified rebellion to tyrannical princes on these Biblical grounds:—(1) Ehud, Jael, Jehu, and Judith killed tyrants, being sent by the Lord as liberators; (2) David did not kill Saul, for their quarrel was a matter of private enmity; but at any rate the Lord approved his armed resistance to the forces of the king; (3) the priestly town of Libnah revolted against Jehoram (Weill says that Libnah was a sort of La Rochelle to the Protestant writers); (4) the tribes of Israel fell away from Rehoboam; (5) the Maccabees repelled the Syrian tyrant.
This searching of the Scriptures for arguments to support political theories had been in full swing for over a century when Milton undertook to review the well-worn citations in this treatise. He dwells upon the rebellion of Jeroboam against Rehoboam (16. 6), the deposition of Samuel (16. 12), and the three cases of tyrannicide—by Ehud (20. 29), by Samuel (22. 33), and by Jehu (23. 6). In all these citations he uses Scripture fairly, but in other places, where the plain sense of the text or incident is against him, he does not hesitate to wrest the Scripture to his purpose as unscrupulously as any of his opponents. When he quotes Deut. 17. 14, ‘I will have a king set over me,’ he interprets these words as referring solely to the people’s right of choice, thus deliberately ignoring the words in the next verse, ‘Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose’ (15. 20). The Royalist argument from Psalm 51, though it seems absurd to the modern mind, was hard to meet with a direct answer, so Milton brushes it aside with the remark that, after all, these are only ‘the patheticall words of a Psalme’ (14. 18). The New Testament texts are also treated with a high degree of ingenuity. He cannot get round the simple words of 1 Pet. 2. 13, 16, where Christians are enjoined to obey superior powers, so he adds the phrase ‘as free men,’ a refinement used by Christopher Goodman in 1558. Paul’s dictum in Rom. 13. 1, ‘For there is no power but of God,’ is explained as referring not to tyrannical, but to just power only. This gloss upon the text had also been used by Goodman. The use which Milton makes of Rev. 13. 2 is an excellent example of how eagerly he strained after any text which might seem to uphold his argument (17. 26). Other New Testament texts quoted by him are also arbitrary, and seem ineffective to present-day readers, but were no doubt regarded as forceful citations by Milton’s contemporaries. The pamphlets of such writers as Prynne, Walker, and Filmer, and indeed all the Stuart controversialists, abound in what seems to us a tiresome and even ludicrous use of Scripture. Compared with these and other pamphleteers, Milton is very sane in his exegesis, and moderate in his citation of texts. A grotesque use of Scripture in this pamphlet should also be mentioned, namely, the allusion to Adonibezek’s sufferings (55. 21), and the story of the priests of Bel (56. 35). These illustrations are characteristic of Milton’s prose.
Before discussing the special sources of Milton’s political doctrines, it will be necessary to pass in review several of the main ideas which he inherited from the theorists of the sixteenth century, and which had their roots in the writings of the Middle Ages. The contractual origin of society and government, the sovereignty of the people, the authority of reason, the divine right of kings—all these topics had engaged the argumentative powers of sixteenth century pamphleteers. Certain great movements of thought had contributed to the furtherance of civil and religious liberty in that age—(1) the struggle between the papacy and the rising power of kings, (2) the Protestant Reformation, with its appeal to the Bible and reason as the sole authorities of life and conduct, (3) the influence of the Renascence in resurrecting the classics of Greece and Rome, with their republicanism, their passion for liberty, and their approval of tyrannicide, (4) the increased study of Roman law, and (5) the rise of the historical spirit, and of the modern historical method. All these currents of thought converge in The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates.
It is one of the remarkable facts of history that the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people came from the bosom of the Roman Catholic Church, the archfoe of modernism, and the determined obstructer of civil and religious liberty. Upholders of this church, however, both in the Middle Ages and in the sixteenth century, emphasized the power of the people, in order to check the growing independence of the king. They were not actuated by any desire to promote democracy, but simply and solely to belittle the dangerous rivals of the pope. ‘Civil power,’ so wrote Pope Gregory VII to Bishop Hermann of Metz, ‘was the invention of worldly men, ignorant of God and prompted by the devil; it needed not only the assistance, but the authorization, of the church.’ In conformity with this teaching, Marsiglius of Padua declared that the king might be restrained or deposed if he overpassed his prescribed bounds. In order to exalt the church, this pioneer of political theory recognized the people as the origin of all power in the state. From the time of Augustine, the origin of civil government had been ascribed to Adam’s fall, and Cain and Nimrod were asserted to be its first founders. ‘The church was therefore ready to admit any form of civil government that would listen to her claims. Theoretically she had no preference for monarchical institutions; rather, it should seem, she was inclined to promote a democratic sentiment.’ This principle, then, that the people is supreme, so wellknown in the Middle Ages, was eagerly seized upon by the opponents of the Reformation, which was itself furthered and protected by the princes of Germany and the kings of England and Sweden. A school of Jesuit writers arose to battle for the theory that mankind is naturally at liberty to choose its form of government. Towards the close of the sixteenth century, they had even become defenders of tyrannicide, and argued that it was not a sin to depose or put to death a heretical monarch—for the church held that it was a fundamental law of all countries that a sovereign must be a Roman Catholic. Mariana, the Spanish Jesuit, openly approved the assassination of Protestant rulers. In his able exposition of the political teachings of the Jesuits, Figgis sums up this doctrine as follows:—‘Power is in the people, for nature made all men free and equal, and there is no reason why one should have one jurisdiction rather than another. The whole community, then, is the immediate depositary of political power. But it cannot exercise it directly. It must delegate its power to a king or ruling body, under such conditions as shall please it.’
In opposition to this purely utilitarian and secular theory of the state advanced by the defenders of the papacy, the early Protestant reformers set up the theory of the divine right of kings. This also is one of the anomalies of history, that those great religious leaders, who put in motion all the forces of modern liberty, should have been at the outset the upholders of despotism. It was owing to the force of circumstances, however, that Luther, Calvin, Bucer, and others became supporters of the regal power. Kings were their sole protectors against the persecuting rage of the papacy, and it was but natural and reasonable that they should magnify kingly authority, in order to combat the claims of the church to absolute sovereignty. Luther, therefore, and his successors searched the Scriptures for divine sanction to the rule and right of kings. As we have seen, they found many texts to support their views; hence the dogma, which was destined to become such a weapon of tyranny in the hands of the Stuarts, that the king is appointed directly by God, that he is solutus legibus, that he is responsible to God alone, and that the perpetual duty of the subject is obedience. But Luther’s followers, such men as Knox, Gilby, and Poynet, learned that divine right was a doctrine that could mean hindrance and oppression, instead of progress and liberty, and that the Bible also authorized resistance to idolaters and tyrants. In the seventeenth century, Protestant teachers agreed with the Jesuits in asserting the sovereignty of the people. We should remember, however, that when Milton says the power of kings is derivative and transferred (12. 8); when the author of the Case of the Army Truly Stated (Oct. 15, 1647) says, ‘All power is originally and essentially in the whole body of the people of this nation’; or when, in January, 1649, the committee of the House of Commons, ultra-Protestant and Rome-hating as it was, voted ‘that the people, under God, are the original of all just power; that the Commons of England have the supreme authority of this nation,’ they were each and all indebted to Hildebrand, and an army of Romanist writers, for such a theory of civil liberty. We can understand, therefore, that there was a substratum of truth in the declarations of the Royalists that the revolutionary opinions of Cromwell’s soldiers were the result of the propaganda of Jesuit priests, who entered the ranks of the army on purpose to sow their anti-monarchical opinions. The Jesuits were not there in the flesh, but the writings of Molina, Mariana, and Bellarmine had come to full flower in The Grand Army Remonstrance, in the fierce democracy of the Levelers, and in The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates.
The chief buttress of the theory of popular sovereignty is the idea of the social contract, the contention that the origin of kingship is to be traced to the remote occasion when the multitude, of their own accord, transferred to one of their own number the rights and powers of the magistrate. In this treatise, Milton states this opinion, not as a theory, but as a commonly accepted fact (9.31). Although this notion of the contractual origin of society and government was an inheritance from Epicurus, Polybius, and others, it was adopted by the mediæval upholders of the papacy as a valuable argument for their purposes. Manegold, a priest of Lutterbach in Alsatia, who wrote in defence of Hildebrand, clearly states the famous theory: ‘Since no one can create himself emperor or king, the people elevates a certain one person over itself to this end that he govern and rule it according to the principle of righteous government; but if in any wise he transgresses the contract by virtue of which he is chosen, he absolves the people from the obligation of submission, because he has first broken faith with it.’ This plain statement was accepted by almost all the political theorists of the sixteenth century, but the defenders of monarchy argued that by this agreement the people surrendered their power to the ruler and his heirs. Towards the close of the century, after the question had become very thoroughly discussed, we find the contractual idea imbedded in the maxims of the Three Estates in 1584: ‘La royauté est un office, non un héritage.—C’est le peuple souverain qui dans l’origine créa les rois.—L’État est la chose du peuple; la souveraineté n’appartient pas aux princes, qui n’existent que par le peuple.—Un fait ne prend force de loi que par la sanction des États, rien n’est saint ni solide sans leur aveu.’ Milton is therefore following closely in the footsteps of a long line of thinkers in founding royalty on a primitive contract, the conditions of which were dictated by the people. And, like others who had gone before him, he finds a sanction for such a league in the covenants of the chosen people, and, in later history, in coronation oaths and pledges. On this theory he bases his arguments (1) that titles of ‘Sovran Lord, natural Lord, and the like, are either arrogancies or flatteries’ (12. 17), (2) that the king has not a hereditary right to his crown and dignity (12. 27), (3) that kings are accountable, not only to God, but to the people (13. 11), (4) that the people may choose or reject, retain or depose the king, as they see fit (15. 11).
Out of these doctrines proceeds his outspoken declaration that the people may take up arms against a tyrant, ‘as against a common pest, and destroyer of mankind, that it is lawful and has been so through all ages, for any who have the power to convict, depose, and put him to death.’ Because this is his thesis, The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates occupies a unique place in English literature, for it contains the first attempt in our language to trace even partially the history of tyrannicide, and it might also be added that until the present no later writer in English has supplemented the material gathered in this treatise and in the First Defence of the English People. Although Milton was indebted to Buchanan’s dialogue, De Jure Regni apud Scotos (1579), for some references on this topic, and possibly to Bodin’s De Republica (1576), he did research-work on his own account, and has cited here, and elsewhere in his writings, principally in his First Defence, many quotations from the ancients on the subject of tyranny.
In this pamphlet, Milton pays most attention to instances of tyrannicide from Jewish history, but he draws one important quotation from Seneca (22. 17) and makes a general statement concerning the practice among the Greeks and Romans (20. 10). His definition of a tyrant shows his knowledge of Aristotle’s opinions on the subject (12. 13). He also cites Euripides (14. 22), Dio Cassius (14. 29), Livy (16. 20), and St. Basil (19. 27). In the second edition he added a formidable array of quotations from the Protestant theologians.
This pamphlet, however, was written hurriedly, and he did not have time to make an exhaustive study of the subject. In the days when he toiled over the pages of the First Defence he was able to go into the question more deeply, and perhaps nothing in Milton’s prose reveals the vast extent of his reading more than his citations on this theme. He quotes Aristotle (Bohn 1. 37, 38, 46), Sallust (ib. 1. 38, 39), Cicero (ib. 1. 39), M. Aurelius (ib. 1. 49); he refers to Tiberius as ‘a very great tyrant’ (ib. 1. 49); the senate and people of Rome would have been justified in proceeding against Domitian ‘according to the custom of their ancestors,’ and in giving judgment of death against him, as they did once against Nero’ (ib. 1. 81); he calls attention to Cicero’s praise of Brutus as a saviour and preserver of the Commonwealth (ib. 1. 90). ‘All men’ he says, ‘blame Domitian, who put to death Epaphroditus, because he had helped Nero to kill himself’ (ib. 1. 93). He points out that Valentinian was slain by Maximus (ib. 1. 105), Avitus was deposed by the Roman senate (ib.), Gratian was killed by the soldiers (ib.). Diodorus and Herodotus are quoted as authorities for the stories of the deposition of Egyptian tyrants, and the former also yields examples from Persian and Ethiopian history (ib. 1. 121 ff.). Plato, Aristotle, Xenophon, Cicero, and Polybius are all cited in rapid succession (ib. 1. 125). Of the poets, he quotes Æschylus (ib. 1, 126), Euripides, and Sophocles (ib. 1. 127). In a review of the Roman historians, he cites Sallust (ib.), Cicero, Livy, Tacitus, Dio Cassius (ib. 1. 128), Pliny (ib. 1. 131), and Capitolinus (ib. 1. 133). After quoting Seneca, he continues: ‘By what has been said it is evident, that the best of the Romans did not only kill tyrants as oft as they could, and howsoever they could; but that they thought it a commendable and a praiseworthy action so to do, as the Grecians had done before them’ (ib. 1. 132). In the Second Defence he declares that the Greeks and Romans ‘are the objects of our admiration because of their resistance to tyrants and their treatment of tyrannicides, whose brows they bound with wreaths of laurel and consigned their memories to immortal fame’ (ib. 1. 217). The poets are also eulogized; for ‘I know that the most of them, from the earliest times to those of Buchanan, have been the strenuous enemies of despotism’ (ib. 1. 241).
Although he uses Protestant opinions, he was obliged to pass by the sixteenth century Roman Catholic writers on this subject, for citations from their pages would have been offensive to his readers. Indeed, he takes care to abuse the Jesuit doctrine in favor of tyrannicide, in these words: ‘And let him ask the Jesuits about him [Ormond], whether it be not their known doctrine and also practice, not by fair and due process of justice to punish kings and magistrates, which we disavow not, but to murder them in the basest and most assassinous manner, if their church interest so require.’ But this criticism of the Jesuits comes with bad grace from the eulogist of Harmodius, Brutus, and the other glorified assassins of Greece and Rome.
Turning now to the special sources of The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, we find that Milton’s chief debt is to George Buchanan, author of the celebrated revolutionary treatise, De Jure Regni apud Scotos, which was published in Edinburgh in 1579. Buchanan and Knox were students at St. Andrews, and imbibed their passion for popular rights and hatred of tyranny from their teacher, John Muir, who held that kings derived their power from the people, could be controlled by them, and, if tyrannical, might be deposed. Knox expressed these views in his argument against Lethington, to which Milton refers (28. 21); in his famous interview with Mary, Queen of Scots; and in the treatise which gave such offence to Queen Elizabeth, The Monstrous Regiment of Women. Milton was familiar with the opinions of Knox. but he found them systematized in the dialogue of Buchanan. We have indicated in the notes the parallels between Milton’s treatise and that of his Scottish mentor, and the reader will observe what a large number of passages have been paraphrased. Leading ideas, and, indeed, many facts, quotations, and illustrations, were appropriated by the English apologist for the Commonwealth. Buchanan clearly owes more inspiration to the ancient republicans than to the Bible, but he draws his arguments from both sources, and in this respect was followed by Milton. In his dialogue he gives the origin of the name tyrant, summarizes various definitions of tyranny, refers to the fears which beset tyrants, and to their punishment, and praises the tyrannicides of antiquity. He bases his argument for the sovereignty of the people on the social contract. Buchanan also lays great stress upon the appeal to reason, as does Milton. this treatise on the rights of the crown, dedicated, perhaps ironically, to the young James IV of Scotland, Buchanan’s royal pupil, was destined to have a profound influence on English politics. The hatred which it inspired in royalists, and the popular conception of its close connection with The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, were amply expressed in 1683, when both works were publicly burned by the ever loyal prelates of the University of Oxford.
The second source of Milton’s first work in political theory is to be found in his own youthful compilation of quotations, his Commonplace Book. When he came to write his protest against Charles and other tyrants, he turned to this storehouse for illustrations and authorities. This book is, in fact, not only a guide to his early reading, but shows the political theory which he had already formulated. Gooch remarks that Milton’s earliest political views were merely those of a liberal constitutionalism, and that the Commonplace Book reveals his conception of the state as an organism, his comprehensive view of rational well-being, his aristocratical tendencies, his reverence for the thinkers of antiquity, and, in short, the whole spirit of his political thinking. There are in this remarkable book the names of upwards of eighty authors read by the young scholar—English, French, Italian, Latin, and Greek. Along with the instances and conclusions drawn from the original authors, we have a few original observations on political theory. He wrote the facts and quotations in English, French, Italian, or Latin, as the humor seized him. In those earlier years he read the following authors, whose names he mentions, and whose thought he was afterwards to incorporate in his first apology for the Commonwealth: ancient writers—Aristotle, Tertullian, Basil, Chrysostom; French—De Thou, Bodin, Girard, Gilles, Seysell; English—Holinshed, Camden, Gildas, Stow, Speed, Fynes Morison, Raleigh, Sir Thomas Smith, Selden; Scotch—Buchanan; German—Sleidan; theologians—Luther, Calvin, Peter Martyr, proceedings of the Council of Trent; jurists—the Justinian and Byzantine codes. This long array of authors proves that the Commonplace Book lay at Milton’s elbow when he wrote The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates. This treatise is more heavily indebted to that learned scrap-book than any other prose work of Milton, the History of England, however, being a close second. In our notes the reader will observe how many seed-thoughts, quotations, and illustrations were transferred from one book to the other by our provident writer, and what embellishment they received in the process. A comparison of the Commonplace Book with The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates is a most interesting study in literary evolution. Milton’s prose masterpiece, The First Defence, shows the completion of the process. If the Commonplace Book is the blade, The Tenure is the ear, and the First Defence is the full corn in the ear.
In discussing the subject of tyrannicide, we have already indicated some of Milton’s indebtedness to ancient authorities. It was in reality owing to the influence of the Renascence that he was enabled to bring into this work citations from Aristotle and Euripides, from Cicero and Livy, from Seneca and Dio, from Trajan and Theodosius; the new learning also made it possible for him to support his argument with quotations from the Justinian and Byzantine codes of law.
It is to the French historians of the sixteenth century, however, that we trace perhaps the most novel feature of Milton’s contribution to the cause of civil liberty. Francis Hotman has the distinction of being the first modern historian to search the annals of his own land in an endeavor to discover in the practices of earlier generations proofs that the people had set up and deposed kings at pleasure, and had instituted parliament to be a bridle to monarchs. On this account, his Franco-Gallia was an epoch-making book. Milton’s debt to Hotman is seen in his statements regarding the coronation and election of early French, German, Scottish and Arragonian kings, the origin and meaning of parliaments, which were intended to be bridles to the kings, instances of the deposition of Frankish kings, his assertion that the people is the original of power, and that the titles of dukes, peers, and great officers of the crown were at first not hereditary, but purely complimentary. Milton also drew considerable material for this treatise from the French historians, Claude de Seysell, Bernard Girard, sometimes called Seigneur du Haillan, and J. A. de Thou (Thuanus). Girard’s Histoire des Rois de France is often quoted in the Commonplace Book. The great Latin tomes of Thuanus also afforded Milton a comprehensive knowledge of the histories of Denmark, Scotland, Belgium, France, and Germany during the sixteenth century. It was these tremendous folios, the Historia sui Temporis, that Dr. Johnson regretted he had never translated, and that Froude, Milton’s modern disciple in thorough-going hatred of clericalism, read with unflagging interest. The Latin folio of Sleidan’s History of the Reformation was a source, not only for Milton’s knowledge of German history, but also for his citations from the writings of Luther, and his references to the connection of the reformer with the Peasants’ Revolt. Pastor Peter Gilles’ simple, yet touching recital, of the sufferings of the Piedmontese Protestants was also read by Milton in those industrious youthful days, and lies behind the great sonnet and the references in this tract to the persecutions and struggles of the Waldenses.
Another work of the sixteenth century, whole pages of which are transcribed in the Commonplace Book, and to which we have already referred in our sketch of the literature on tyrannicide, was Jean Bodin’s De Republica. This treatise on government became a classic almost as soon as it was published, and its author was mentioned as one of a triumvirate, the other members of which were Aristotle and Macchiavelli. We cannot be certain that Milton borrowed any specific statements for this treatise from Bodin, but we know that he had read his pages devoutly, and it cannot be doubted that the De Republica helped to form the mental background of the Miltonic argument for constitutional monarchy.
Somewhere about three years after the appearance of Bodin’s book, there came forth from a secret press a work over the significant pseudonym of Junius Brutus, the real authorship of which is still in doubt, a book which was to be the authority of all radicals and tyrant-haters for centuries. Six editions of the Vindiciæ contra Tyrannos appeared between 1579 and 1599, and six between 1600 and 1648; in the latter year it was translated into English, and in this form was read by Milton, for he refers to it as The Defence against Tyranny, and says it is commonly ascribed to Beza. At the Oxford inquisition party in 1683, this notable work was burned with the political works of Buchanan and Milton. As we have already mentioned the place of this book in the history of tyrannicide, and have made many references in the notes to Milton’s use of it for a source of political theory, we shall add nothing here except to point out that he follows it particularly in his method of appeal to sacred history against tyranny.
For the facts of English history, Milton turned to early authorities, whom he had already been consulting for his proposed History of England. He applies to the history of bis own land the method of Hotman, examines coronation oaths and ceremonies, cases of deposition of kings, and of punishment meted out to tyrants, and tries to deduce therefrom that the sovereign power is in the people. The weakness in Milton’s argument respecting the deposition of Richard II, for example, lay in the fact that it was in the nature of a palace-revolution rather than a concerted movement on the part of the people. Among English historians cited by Milton in this treatise are Gildas, Matthew Paris, Sir Thomas Smith, Camden, Holinshed, Stow, Speed, and Rushworth. His debt to them is indicated in the notes. For the history of Scotland he consulted Buchanan, Knox, and de Thou.
Like all Puritan scholars, Milton was well versed in the church fathers and councils, in the commentaries and treatises of the Protestant reformers, and in those of subsequent expositors and pamphleteers. Owing to his disparagement of the patristic writers, he refers only to Tertullian, Chrysostom, and Basil in this treatise, but his list of Protestant authors is lengthy, including Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Bucer, Martyr, Paræus, Cochlæus, Cartwright, Fenner, Gilby, Goodman, Knox, and Whittingham. His use of the names of Luther and Calvin in support of his argument in favor of deposing tyrants is scarcely honest. His misuse of Luther’s words out of their connection is particularly open to criticism. He also wrests Calvin to his purpose, for that stern theologian was far from being an upholder of popular government. On the contrary, he advocated submission to the worst tyrant. ‘Let no man here deceive himself,’ says he, ‘since he cannot resist the magistrate without resisting God. We must be subject not only to good princes, by whatever means they have so become, although there is nothing they less perform than the duty of princes.’ Milton must have read these words, yet he was unscrupulous enough to try to induce his readers to believe that Calvin was on his side of the controversy. In quoting other Protestant writers, Milton often suppresses a word or phrase, as will be seen by comparing the text with that given in the notes. In general, it may be said that while the early Protestant theologians uttered brave words in condemnation of wicked princes, their counsel was passive obedience; at a later period they stipulated that, if the people were to take action against the powers, they should act through the inferior magistrates, and avoid individual or disorderly uprisings.
Although Milton once confessed that he wrote prose with his left hand, he did not entertain too poor an opinion of his power in that respect. He prided himself upon ‘this just and honest manner of speaking.’ He tells us that he loves ‘the sober, plain, and unaffected style of the Scripture,’ and compares it with the ‘crabbed and abstruse writing, knotty Africanisms, the pampered metaphors, the intricate and involved sentences of the fathers, besides the fantastic and declamatory flashes, the cross-jingling periods, which cannot but distrub, and come athwart a settled devotion, worse than the din of bells and rattles.’ He disliked a ‘coy, flirting style,’ and would not be ‘girded with frumps and curtal gibes, by one who makes sentences by the statute, as if all above three inches long were confiscate.’ He did not, however, approve a style utterly devoid of humor. He would mix, here and there, ‘such a grim laughter, as may appear at the same time in an austere visage,’ but which would avoid levity or insolence, ‘for even this vein of laughing hath ofttimes a strong and sinewy force in teaching and confuting.’ Regarding the use of quotations and authorities, he criticizes an opponent for ‘cutting out large docks and creeks into his text to unlade the foolish frigate of his unreasonable authorities.’ To sum up, Milton holds that a good prose style should be sober, plain, and unaffected, free from foreign idioms, overdrawn metaphors, flashy rhetoric; the periods should be well-sized, but not intricate or involved; humor, an element of force, should be used, so long as it does not shade over into levity; ‘paroxysms of citations’ should be avoided.
Measuring the style of The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates by his own standard, we are of opinion that he fails to uphold it in only two respects: his sentences are frequently intricate and involved, and he uses occasional Latinisms. The modern reader may be inclined to believe that Milton has transgressed the bounds set up for himself in the matter of citations of Scripture, of sentences from the pamphlet Scripture and Reason, and quotations from the Protestant theologians and from the ancients. But one has only to read the First Defence to see how moderate he has been in comparison with himself, and such a work as Dr. Ferne’s Conscience Satisfied, or any of Prynne’s volumes, to receive the impression that Milton has been very sparing in his use of citations in this treatise. It was the fashion of every writer of the seventeenth century to support his claim to learning by much quoting, by long parentheses, and by lugging in ‘scholastical trash,’ as Milton once called it in a moment of loathing of syllogisms. If he seems to indulge somewhat in these sins in this treatise, let us be thankful that, on the whole, even in conducting an argument on a theme which is by nature heavy and abstruse, he contrives to be so easy to understand, and so forceful. For in spite of numerous assertions to the contrary, we agree with Professor Trent that Milton is a writer of lucid prose. The first part of this treatise, where he takes up ‘the original of kings,’ is highly praised by Tulloch as being ‘one of the most clear and consistent arguments in Milton’s controversial writings.’ To clearness Milton has added force in the style of this treatise. Except in his failure to explain in whom the power of the people was legitimately vested, whether in the majority of the members of the House of Commons, or in what Prynne called an ‘unparliamentary junto,’ he has shaped a powerful, even an overwhelming argument against tyrannical rulers, Presbyterian divines, and all opponents of the Independent party. Masson speaks of the ‘hammer-like force’ of this piece of writing, and it is easy to gather that a great deal of this vigor is due to Milton’s power as a maker of striking phrases, such as ‘apostate scar crowes,’ ‘dancing divines,’ ‘barking monitories,’ ‘the spleene of a frustrated faction,’ ‘greas’d them thick and deepe,’ ‘presumptuous Sion,’ and scores of others of equal merit. The freshness of his metaphors appeals to us on nearly every page, and his style is loaded with color in all passages of personal description, and in those which deal with the events of history. There are no purple patches in this treatise, no ‘fits of eloquence,’ but plenty of pen-portraits, often thumb-nail sketches, (‘apostate scar crowes,’ for example), of his enemies, and numerous fits of indignation. Milton’s satire, although sharp enough, is less objectionable in this pamphlet than in the majority of his prose pieces. What more delightful specimen of his mordant humor, the grim humor in an austere visage, as he would himself describe it, can be found than his description of the postures and motions of the Presbyterian drill-company of divines? If we find in his prose ‘the real Milton,’ as Seeley declares —his fire, his sympathy with heroism, his ardor of spirit, his enthusiasm for liberty, and his uncompromising courage—these personal qualities are all fused in the forceful style of this pamphlet. But we find no tenderness in the midst of his strictures, and of his revilings of tyrants on the throne and in the pulpit, no sensible appreciation of the fact that there was some merit in the arguments of his adversaries, and some goodness in their hearts. For this reason, his style in this prose work lacks grace, the tolerant grace of Comus, of L’Allegro, and Il Penseroso; and surely the real Milton was also sending forth his soul in those lovely poems. Iron vigor he shows in abundance in this first apology for the Commonwealth, a noble passion for freedom, a splendid courage, and vast learning, but, alas, a spirit of cruel disdain for fellow-Christians and fellow-countrymen, who also had souls, and who also loved England.
Francis Peck was the first critic to remark the singularity of Milton’s spelling. He notes that he used bee, hee, shee, mee, wee, livlyhood, then for than, ther for there, thir for their, vertue for virtue, yeild for yield, ancient for antient. Milton lived in what is called the early modern period of English literature, when the language was being reorganized. In spelling, as in sentence-building and paragraphing, each writer was a law unto himself. But just as Milton had decided ideas as to the proper length of sentences, so he tried to spell by rule in a day when there was no rule. In the system which he devised, and to which he was generally faithful, the main purpose seems to have been simplicity. There is an approach to the modern practice of phonetic spelling in dropping the weak final e, as hear for heare, soon for soone, son for sonne. He often omits a mute e, as cov’nant, spok’n, ev’n, alleg’d, certainly for certainely, or a useless consonantal termination, as general for generall, equal for equall, gospel for gospell, stil for still, especial for especiall. The suffix ate he shortens to at, as subordinat, privat, prelat. The spelling of preterites and past participles is unsettled in Milton’s writings, as is that of words ending in y and ie. He often changed the final d into t after the dropping of e in verbs ending in a surd consonant, as stopt, profest, banisht, punisht.
In this treatise we find that the spelling of the personal pronouns varies. There is such individual orthography as vertue for virtue, thir for their, meer for meere, onely for only, then for than, goverment for government, ly for lie, furder for further, and sent for scent. The present text of The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates possesses special interest for the student of Milton’s system of orthography. It is a copy of the actual spelling of the first edition, collated with the second edition, and including the numerous additions made in the new issue of the pamphlet in 1650. By comparing the text of the first with that of the second edition, we find many alterations in the spelling. Nearly all these changes tend toward simplicity, and are in accord with the principles explained above, and with the spelling in his earlier divorce pamphlet, Colasterion, published in 1645. We are of opinion, therefore, that Milton was too much occupied with personal affairs, or with current events, to correct the proof-sheets of the first edition. The first copy may have been the work of an amanuensis, or the compositor may have set at naught this finical advocate of spelling reform; at any rate, the first edition was not satisfactory to the author. In his careful revision of the spelling for the later issue, we discover Milton’s carefulness in the details of the writer’s art, and his devotion to his own way of doing things. The following table shows some of the more important changes made in the spelling of the second edition:
|First Edition.||Second Edition.|
So far as is known, there is only one contemporary criticism of The Tenure of Kings Magistrates. It is from the pen of a Presbyterian parliamentarian and pamphleteer, Clement Walker, a literary partner of William Prynne; and therefore one who resented Milton’s gibes at apostate scarecrows and inconsistent divines. As Walker’s book is not accessible to the general reader, we reproduce his diatribe. It reads as follows: ‘There is lately come forth a book of John Meltons (a Libertine, that thinketh his Wife a Manacle, and his very Garters to be Shackles and Fetters to him: one that (after the Independent fashion) will be tied to no obligation to God or man) wherein he undertaketh to prove, That it is lawful for any that have power to call to account, Depose, and put to Death wicked Kings and Tyrants (after due conviction) if the ordinary Magistrate neglect it. I hope then it is lawful to put to death wicked Cromwels, Councels of State, corrupt Factions in Parliament: for I know no prerogative that usurpation can bestow upon them. He likewise asserteth, That those, who of late so much blame Deposing, are the men that did it themselves, (meaning the Presbyterians). I shall invite some man of more leisure and abilities than myself, to Answer these two Paradoxes: But shall first give him these cautions:
1. That for the Polemick part he turn all his Arguments into Syllogismes, and then he will find them to be all Fallacies, the froth of wit and fancy, not the Dictates of true and solid Reason.
2. That for the Historical or narrative part, he would thoroughly examine them, and he will find few of them consonant to the plumbline of truth.
3. That he would consider that from the beginning of this Parliament there were three Parties or Factions in it:
Without further reference to Milton. Walker proceeds to declare that the Independents have been the inconsistent troublers of Israel, and that the Presbyterians have been laboring to deliver them from their errors.
The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates: Proving, That it is Lawfull, and hath been held so through all Ages, for any who have the Power, to call to account a Tyrant, or wicked KING, and after due conviction, to depose and put him to death; if the ordinary MAGISTRATE have neglected or deny’d to doe it. And that they, who of late, so much blame Deposing, are the Men that did it themselves. The Author, J. M. London, Printed by Matthew Simmons, at the Gilded Lyon in Aldersgate Street, 1649.
within themselves would be govern’d by reason, and not generally give up their understanding to a double tyrannie, of Custome from without, and blind affections within, they would discerne better, what it is to favour and uphold the Tyrant of a Nation. , no wonder that they strive so much to have the public State conformably govern’d to the inward vitious rule, by which they govern themselves. For indeed heartilie, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but licence; which never hath more scope or more indulgence then under Tyrants. Hence is it, that , nor stand much in doubt of bad men, as being all naturally servile; but in whom vertue and true worth most is eminent, , as by right their Masters, against them lies all thir hatred and suspicion. Consequentlie neither doe bad men hate Tirants, but have been alwaies readiest with the falsifi’d names of Loyalty and Obedience, to colour over their base compliances. And although sometimes for shame, and when it comes to their owne grievances, of purse especially, they would seeme good patriots, and side with the better cause, yet when for the deliverance of their Countrie, endu’d with fortitude and Heroick vertue to feare nothing but writt’n against those That doe the work of the Lord negligently, would goe on to remove, not onely the calamities and thraldomes of a people, but the roots and causes whence they spring, streight , and sure helpers at need, as if they hated onely the miseries but not the mischiefes, after they have , and borne armes against their King, devested him, disanointed him, nay, curs’d him all over in their pulpits , sincere and reall men, beyond what is possible or honest to retreat from, not onely turne revolters from those principles, which onely could at first move them, but lay the staine of disloyaltie, and worse, on those proceedings, which are the necessarie consequences of their owne former actions; nor dislik’d by themselves, were they manag’d ; not considering the while that he toward whom they boasted new fidelitie, ; and by which they so impotently brandish against others, would have doom’d them to a traytors death, for what they have done alreadie. ‘Tis true, that most men are apt anough to civill Wars and commotions as a noveltie, and ; but through sloth or either fainting ere their owne pretences, though never so just, be halfe attain’d, or through an inbred falshood and wickednesse, betray oft times to destruction with themselves, men of noblest temper join’d with them for causes, which they in their rash undertakings were not capable of. If God and a good cause give them Victory, the prosecution whereof for the most part, inevitably drawes after it the , change of Goverment, downfall of princes with their Families; then comes the task to those Worthies which are the soule of that Enterprize, to bee swett and labour’d out amidst men. Some contesting for privileges, , formes, and old intanglement of iniquitie, , though the badge of thir ancient slavery. Others who have beene fiercest against their Prince, under the notion of a Tyrant, and no meane incendiaries of the Warre against him, when God out of his Providence and high disposall hath deliver’d him into the hand of brethren, on a suddaine and in a new garbe of Allegiance, which their doings have long since cancell’d; , that talke of bringing him to the tryall of Justice, which is the Sword of God, superiour to all mortall things, in whose hand soever by apparent signes his testified wil is to put it. But certainely, if we consider who and what they are, on a suddaine grown so pitifull, wee may conclude, their pitty can be no true and Christian commiseration, but either levitie and shallownesse of minde, or else a carnall admiring of that worldly pompe and greatness, from whence they see him fall’n; or rather lastly a dissembl’d and seditious pity, fain’d to beget new commotions. As for mercy, if it bee to a Tyrant, under which name so oft in the hearing of God, of Angels, and the holy Church assembl’d, and there charg’d him with the spilling of more innocent blood by farre, then ever did, undoubtedly the mercy which they pretend, is the mercy of wicked men; and , wee read, are cruelties; hazarding the welfare of a whole Nation, to have sav’d one, whom so oft they have tearm’d ; and the blood of ; insisting with much on the unnecessariest ; wherein the feare of change, and the absurd contradiction of a flattering hostilitie had hamperd them, to give away for complements, to an implacable revenge, the heads of many thousand Christians more.
, who comming in the course of these affairs, to have thir share in great actions, above the forme of Law or Custome, at least to give thir voice and approbation, begin to swerve, and almost shiver at the Majesty and grandeur of som noble deed, as if they were newly enter’d into a great sin; disputing , formes and circumstances, when the Commonwealth nigh perishes for want of deeds in substance, don with just and faithfull expedition. To these I wish better instruction, and vertue equall to their calling; the former of which, that is to say, Instruction, I shall endeavour, as my dutie is, to bestow on them; and exhort them not the just and pious resolution of adhering with all their assistance to the present Parlament and Army, wherein Justice and Victorie hath set them; the onely warrants, through all ages, next under immediate Revelation, to exercise supreame power in those proceedings, which hitherto appeare equall to what hath been don in any age or Nation heretofore justly or magnanimouslie. Nor let them be discourag’d or deterr’d by , who under show of giving counsell, send out , emptie of ought else but . For how can that pretended counsell bee either sound or faithfull, when they that give it, see not for madnesse and vexation of their ends lost, that against , would by sentence of the common adversarie fall first and heaviest upon their owne heads. Neither let milde and tender dispositions be foolishly softn’d from their dutie and perseverance with , sent as a friendly Letter of advice, for fashion-sake in private, and forthwith publish’t by the Sender himselfe, that wee may know how much of friend there was in it, to cast an odious envie upon them, to whom it was pretended to be sent in charitie. Nor let any man be deluded by either the ignorance or the notorious hypocrisie and , who have the conscience and the boldnesse to come with Scripture in their mouthes, with a double contradictory sense, transforming the sacred veritie of God to an Idol with two faces, looking at once two several ways; and with the same quotations to charge others, which in the same case they made serve to justifie themselves For while the hope to bee made led them on, , to the shame and scandall of Religion, more then all the Sects and Heresies they exclaime against, then to fight against the Kings person, and no lesse a Party of his Lords and Commons, or to put force upon both the Houses, was good, was lawfull, was no resisting of Superiour powers; they onely were powers not to be resisted, who countenanc’d the good and punish’t the evill. But now that thir is not suffer’d to be universall, , to be no more, though provided, and the , and they so good at taking them; yet now impeach’t Members, to bring without exemption to a faire Tribunall by the common Nationall Law against murder, is now to be no lesse then . He who but erewhile in the pulpits was , an enemie to God and Saints, laden with all the innocent blood spilt in three Kingdomes, and so to bee fought against, is now, from his first principles, , . As if this onely were obedience, to preserve the meere uselesse bulke of his person, and that onely in prison, not in the field, and to disobey his commands, denie him his dignitie and office, every where to resist his power but where they thinke it onely surviving in thir owne faction.
But who in particular is a Tyrant cannot be determind in a generall discourse, otherwise then by supposition; , and the sufficient proofe of it must determine that: which I leave to Magistrates, at least to the uprighter sort of them, and of , in whom faction least hath prevaild above the Law of nature and right reason, to judge as they finde cause. But this I dare owne as part of my faith, that , by whose Commission on , as the hire of those whom he had sollicited to come in and destroy whole Cities and Countries; be hee King, or Tyrant, or Emperour, ; in whose hand soever is found sufficient power to avenge the effusion, and . , not accidentally but intendedly, the wrath of God upon evill doers without exception, be of God; then that power, whether ordinary, so executing that intent of God, is lawfull, and not to be resisted. , though with all expedient brevity, I shall here set downe from first beginning, the originall of Kings; how and wherefore exalted to that dignitie above thir Brethren; and from thence shall prove, that turning to tyranny they may bee as lawfully deposd and punished, as they were at first elected: This I shall doe by autorities and reasons, , as our doubling Divines are ready to calumniate, but fetch’d out of the midst of choicest and most learning, and , nor many Heathen, but Mosaical, Christian, , and which must needs be more convincing to our Adversaries, Presbyterial.
No man who knows ought, can be so stupid to deny that , being himselfe, and were , borne to command and not to obey: and that they livd so, till from , falling among themselves to doe wrong and violence, and foreseeing that such courses must needs tend to the destruction of them all, to bind each other from mutual injury, and joyntly to defend themselves against any that gave disturbance or opposition to such agreement. Hence came Citties, Townes and Common-wealths. And because no faith in all was found sufficiently binding, they saw it needfull to ordaine some authoritie, that might restraine by force and punishment what was violated against peace and common right. This autoritie and power of self-defence and preservation being originally and naturally in every one of them, and unitedly in them all, for ease, for order, and least each man should be , they either to one, whom they chose above the rest, or to more then one whom they thought of equal deserving: the first was calld a King; the other . (though afterward those names in som places were giv’n voluntarily to such as had bin authors of inestimable good to the people) but, to be thir Deputies and Commissioners, to execute, by vertue of thir intrusted power, that justice which else every man by the bond of nature and of Cov’nant must have executed for himselfe, and for one another. And to him that shall consider well why among free persons, one man by civill right should beare autority and jurisdiction over another, no other end or reason can be imaginable. These for a while governd well, and with much equitie decided all things at thir owne : till the temptation of such a power left absolute in thir hands, perverted them at length to injustice and partialitie. Then did they, who now by tryall had found the danger and inconveniences of committing arbitrary power to any, either fram’d, or consented to by all, that should confine and limit the autority of whom they chose to govern them: that so man of whose failing they had proof, might no more rule over them, but law and reason abstracted as much as might be from personal errors and frailties. When this would not serve but that the Law was either not executed, or misapply’d they were constraind from that time, the onely remedy left them, to put conditions and take Oaths from all Kings and Magistrates at thir first to doe impartial justice by Law: who , receav’d Allegeance from the people, that is to say, to obey them in execution of . And this oft times with express warning, that if the King or Magistrate prov’d unfaithfull to his trust, the people would be disingag’d. They added also , , but with him or without him, at set times, or all times, when any danger threatn’d to have care of the public safety. Therefore saith , a French Statesman, The Parlament was set as a bridle to the King; which I instance rather , because that Monarchy is granted by all to be farre more absolute then ours. That this and the rest of what hath hitherto been spok’n is most true, might be copiously made appeare throughout all Stories, Heathen and Christian; eev’n of those Nations where Kings and Emperours have sought meanes to abolish all ancient memory of the peoples right by their encroachments and usurpations. But I spare long insertions , appealing to the , , Italian, , English, and not the least the Scottish histories: Not forgetting this onely by the way, that , though a Conqueror, and not unsworne at his Coronation, was compelld a second time to take oath at S. Albanes, ere the people would be brought to yeild obedience.
It being thus manifest that the and Magistrates is nothing else, but what is onely derivative, transferrd and committed to them in trust from the people, to the Common good of them all, yet remaines fundamentally, and cannot be tak’n from them, without a violation of thir natural birthright, and seeing that from hence and the best of Political writers have defin’d a king, him who governs to the good and profit of his people, and not for his owne ends, it follows from necessary causes, that the Titles of , and the like, are either , not admitted by Emperors and Kings of best note, and dislikt by the Church both of Jews, Isai. 26. 13. and ancient Christians, as appears by and others. Although generally the people of Asia, and with them the Jews also, especially since the time they chose a King, and counsel of God, are noted by much inclinable to slavery.
Secondly, that to say, as is usual, the King hath as good right to his crown and dignitie, as any man to his inheritance, is to make the subject no better then the Kings slave, his , or his possession that may be bought and sould, And doubtless, if hereditary title were sufficiently inquir’d, the best foundation of it would be found but either in or . But suppose it to be of right hereditarie, what can be more just and legal, if a subject for certaine crimes be to forfet by Law from himselfe and posterity, all his inheritance to the King, then that a King , should forfet all his title and inheritance to the people: unless the people must be thought created all for him, he not for them, and they all in one body inferior to him single, which were a kinde of treason against the dignitie of mankind to affirm.
Thirdly it followes, that to say to none but God, is the overturning of all Law and goverment. For if they may refuse to give account, then all covnants made with them at Coronation; all Oathes are in vaine, and meer mockeries, all Lawes which they sweare to keep, made to no purpose; for if the King feare not God, ? we hold then our lives and estates, by the tenure of his meer grace and mercy, as from a God, not a mortall Magistrate, a position that none but Court parasites or men besotted would maintain. And no Christian Prince not drunk with high mind, and prouder then , would arrogate so unreasonably above human condition, or derogate so basely from a whole Nation of men his brethren, as if for him onely subsisting, and to serve his glory, valuing them in comparison of his owne brute will and pleasure, no more then so many beasts, or vermine under his feet, not to be reasond with, but to be injurd ; among whom there might be found so many thousand men for wisdome, vertue, nobleness of mind and all other respects, but the fortune of his dignity, farr above him. Yet some would perswade us that this absurd opinion was King Davids; because in the Psalm he cries out to God, Against thee onely have I sinn’d; as if David had imagind that to murder and his Wife, had bin no sinne against his Neighbour, when as that law of Moses was to the king expressly, . not to think so highly of himself above his Brethren. David therefore by those words could mean no other, then either that the depth of his guiltiness was known to God onely, or to so few as had not the will or power to question him, or that the sin against God was greater beyond compare then against Uriah. What ever his meaning were, any wise man will see that the can be no certaine decision to a point that hath abundantly more certaine rules to goe by. How much more rationally spake the Heathen King Demophoon in a Tragedy of then these interpreters would put upon King David, I rule not my people by tyranny, as if they were Barbarians; but am myself liable, ifI doe unjustly, to suffer justly. Not unlike was the speech of , to one whom he made General of his Prætorian Forces. Take this drawne sword, saith he, to use for me, if I reigne well, if not, to use against me. . And not Trajan onely, but , a Christian Emperor and one of the best, causd it to be enacted as a rule undenyable and fit to be acknowledgd by all Kings and Emperors, that a Prince is bound to the Laws; that on the autority of Law the autority of a Prince depends, and to the Laws ought submit. Which Edict of his in . l. 1. tit. 24. as a sacred constitution to all the succeeding Emperors. How then can any King in Europe maintaine and write himselfe accountable to none but God, when Emperors in thir own imperiall Statutes have writt’n and decreed themselves accountable to Law. And indeed where such account is not fear’d, he that bids a man reigne over him above Law, may bid as well a savage beast.
It follows lastly, that since the King or Magistrate holds his autoritie of the people, both originally and naturally for their good in the first place, and not his owne, then may the people as oft as they shall judge it for the best, either choose him or reject him, retaine him or depose him though no Tyrant, meerly by the libertie and right of free born men to be govern’d as seems to them best. This, though it cannot but stand with plaine reason, shall be made good also by Scripture, Deut. 17. 14. When thou artcome into the Land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt say I will set a King over mee, like as all the Nations about mee. , that the right of choosing, yea of changing thir owne government is by the grant of God himself in the people. And therfore when they desir’d a King, though then under another forme of goverment, and though thir changing , yet he that was himself their King, and rejected by them, would not be a hindrance to what they intended, furder then by perswasion, but that they might doe therein as they saw good, 1 Sam. 8. onely he of who should reigne over them. Neither did that exempt the King, as if hee were to God onely accountable, though by his especiall command anointed. Therefore with the elders of Israel, and so was by them anointed King, 1 Chron. 11. And the Priest making Jehoash King, made a Cov’nant between him and the People, 2 Kings 11. 17. Therefore when at his comming to the Crowne, rejected those conditions which the Israelites brought him, heare what they answer him, what portion have we in David, or inheritance in the son of Jesse.See tothine own house David. And for the like conditions not perform’d, all Israel before that time ; not for his own default, but for the misgovement of his Sons. But som will say to both these examples, it was evilly don. I answer, that not the latter, because it was expressely allow’d them in the Law to set up a King if they pleas’d; and God himself joynd with them in the work; though in some sort it was at that time displeasing to him, in respect of old Samuell, who had governd them upringhtly. As praises the Romans, who took occasion from a wicked prince to gaine their libertie, which to have extorted, saith hee, from or any of the good Kings before, had not bin seasonable. Nor was it in the former example don unlawfully; for when Roboam had prepar’d a huge Army to reduce the Israelites, be was forbidd’n by the Prophet, 1 Kings 12. 24. Thus saith the Lord, yee shall not goe up, norfight against your brethren, for this thing is from me. He calls them thir brethren, not Rebels, and forbidds to be proceeded against them, , , but by approbation, and that not onely of the act, as in the former example, but of the fitt season also; he had not otherwise forbidd to molest them. And whom Rehoboam first advis’d with, spake no such thing, as now are wont, stand upon your birth-right, scorne to capitulate, you hold of God, and not of them; for they knew no such matter, ; but gave him politic counsel, as in a civil transaction. , whether supreme or subordinat, is calld a human ordinance, . etc. which we are there taught is the will of God wee should submitt to, so farr as for the punishment of evill doers, and the encouragement of them that doe well. Submitt saith he, as free men.And there is no power butof God, saith Paul, . as much as to say, God put it into mans heart to find out that way at first for common peace and preservation, approving the exercise therof; who calls the same autority an Ordinance of man. It must also be understood of lawfull and just power, in the affaires and Kingdomes of the World permitted to the Devill: for saith he to Christ, Luke, 4. 6. allthis power will I give thee and the glory of them, for it is deliverd to me, and to whomsoever I will,I give it: neither did hee ly, or Christ gainsay what hee affirm’d: for in wee read how the dragon gave to the Beast his power, his seat, and great autority: which beast so autoriz’d most expound to be the tyrannical powers and Kingdomes of the earth. Therfore Saint Paul in the forecited Chapter tells us that such Magistrates hee meanes, as are, but to the evill, such as beare not the sword in vaine, but to punish offenders, and to encourage the good. be mentioned here as powers to be obeyd, and our submission to them onely requird, then doubtless those powers that doe the contrary, are no powers ordaind of God, and by consequence no obligation laid upon us to obey or not to resist them. And it may bee well observd that both these Apostles, whenever they give this precept, express it , as logicians are wont to speake, that is, they mention the ordinance, the power, the autoritie before the persons that execute it, and what that power is, lest we should be deceavd, they describe exactly. So that if the power be not such, or the person execute not such power, neither the one nor the other is of God, but of the Devill and by consequence to bee resisted. From this exposition also , explaining that these words were not writt’n in behalf of a tyrant. And this is verify’d by David, himself a King, and likeliest to bee Author of the Psalm 94. 20. which saith, Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee. And it were worth the knowing, since Kings, and that by Scripture boast the justness of thir title, by holding it , yet cannot show the time when God ever set on the throne them or thir forefathers, but ; why by the same reason, since God ascribes as oft to himself from the throne, it should not be thought as lawful, and as much from God when none are seen to do it but the people, and that for just causes. For it needs must be a sin in them to depose, it may as likely be a sin to have elected. And contrary if the peoples act in election be pleaded by a King, as the act of God, and the most just title to enthrone him, why may not the peoples act of rejection be as well pleaded by the people as the act of God, and the most just reason to depose him? So that we see the title and just right of reigning or deposing in reference to God, is found in Scripture to be all one; visible onely in the people, and depending meerly upon justice and . briefly the power of Kings and Magistrates; how it was, and is originally the peoples, and by them conferrd in trust onely to bee imployd to the common peace and benefit; with libertie therfore and right remaining in them to reassume it to themselves, if by Kings or Magistrates it be abus’d; or to dispose of it by any alteration, as they shall judge most conducing to the public good.
We may from hence with more ease, and force of argument determin what a Tyrant is, and what the people may doe against him. A Tyrant whether by wrong or by right comming to the Crowne, is he who regarding neither Law nor the common good, reigns onely for himself and his faction: among others defines him. And because his power is great, his will boundless and exorbitant, the fulfilling whereof is for the most part accompanied with innumerable wrongs and oppressions of the people, murthers, massacres, rapes, adulteries, desolation, and subversion of Citties and whole provinces, and happiness a just King is, so great a mischeife is a Tyrant; as hee the public Father of his Countrie, so this the common enemie. , as against a common pest, and destroyer of mankind, I suppose no man of cleare judgement need goe furder to be guided then by the very principles of nature in him. But because it is the vulgar folly of men to desert thir owne reason, and shutting thir eyes to think they see best with other mens, I shall shew by such examples as ought to have most waight with us, what hath bin don in this case heretofore, The Greeks and Romans, , held it not onely lawfull, but a glorious and Heroic deed, rewarded publicly with , to kill an infamous Tyrant at any time without tryal; and but reason, that he who trod down all Law, should not bee voutsaf’d the benefit of Law. Insomuch that brings in the grand suppressor of Tyrants, thus speaking,
But of these I name no more lest it bee objected they were Heathen; and come to produce another sort of men that had the knowledge of true Religion. this custome of tyrant-killing was not unusual. First, , a man whom God had raysd to deliver Israel from Eglon King of Moab, who had conquerd and rul’d over them eighteene years, being sent to him as an Ambassador with a present, slew him in his owne house. But hee was a forren Prince, an enemie, and Ehud besides had special warrant from God. To the first I answer, whether forren or native: For no Prince so native but professes to hold by Law; which when he himselfe over-turnes, breaking that gave him title to his dignity, and were the bond and alliance between him and his people, what differs he from , or from an enemie? For look how much right the King of Spaine hath to govern us at all, so much right hath the King of England to govern us tyrannically. If he, though not bound to us by any league, comming from Spaine in person to subdue us or to destroy us, might lawfully by the people of England either bee slaine in fight, or put to death in captivity, what hath a native King to plead, bound by so many Covnants, benefits and honours to the welfare of his people, why he through the , the onely tie of our obedience to him, for his owne wills sake, and , and destroying of his best subjects, , should think to scape unquestionable as a thing divine, so many thousand Christians destroy’d, should lye unaccounted for, polluting with thir slaughterd carcasses all the Land over, and against the living that should have righted them. that there is a mutual bond of amity and brother-hood between man and man over all the World, neither is it the English Sea that can sever us from that duty and relation: a straiter bond yet there is between fellow-subjects, neighbours and friends; but when any of these doe one to another so as hostility could doe no worse, what doth the Law decree less against them, then open enemies and invaders? or if the law be not present, or too weake, what doth it warrant us to less then single defence or civil warr? and from that time forward the Law of civill defensive warr, differs nothing from the Law of forren hostility. Nor is it distance of place that makes enmitie, but enmity that makes distance. He therfore that keeps peace with me, neer or remote of whatsoever Nation, is to mee as farr as all civil and human offices an Englishman and a neighbour: but if an Englishman forgetting all Laws, human, civil and religious offend against life and libertie to him offended and to the Law in his behalf, though born in the same womb, he is no better then a Turk, a Sarasin, a Heathen. This is Gospel, and this was ever Law among equals: how much rather then in force against any King whatsoever , who in respect of the people is confessd inferior and not equal: to distinguish therfore of a Tyrant by outlandish, or domestic is a weak evasion. To the second that he was an enemie, I answer, what Tyrant is not? yet by the Jewes had bin acknowledgd as thir Sovran, they had servd him eighteene yeares, as long almost as wee our , in all which time he could not be so unwise a Statesman but to have tak’n of them by which they made themselves his proper subjects, as thir sent by Ehud testifyd. To the third, that he had special warrant to kill Eglon in that manner, it cannot bee granted, because not expressd; tis plain, that he was , and went on just principles, such as were then and ever held allowable, to deale so by a Tyrant that could no otherwise be dealt with. Neither did Samuell though a Profet, with his owne hand abstain from ; ; but mark the reason , hath made women childless; a cause that by the sentence of Law it selfe nullifies all relations, and as the Law is between Brother and Brother, Father and Son, Maister and Servant, wherfore not between King or rather Tyrant and People? And whereas Jehu had special command to slay , a successive and hereditarie Tyrant, it seemes not the less for that; for where a thing grounded so much on natural reason hath the addition of a command from God, what does it but establish the lawfulness of such an act. Nor is it likely that God who had so many wayes of punishing the house of Ahab would have sent a subject against his Prince, if the fact in it selfe as don to a Tyrant had bin of bad example. And if against the Lords anointed, , but private enmity, and David as a private person had bin his own revenger, not so much the peoples ; but when any tyrant at this day can shew to be the Lords anointed, the onely mention’d reason why David withheld his hand, he may then but not till then presume on the same privilege.
We may pass therfore hence . And first our Saviour himself, how much he favourd Tyrants and how much intended they should be found or honourd among Christians, declares his minde not obscurely; accounting thir absolute autoritie no better then Gentilisme, yea though they flourishd it over with the splendid name of ; charging those that would be his Disciples to usurp no such dominion; but that they who were to bee of most autoritie among them, should esteem themselves Ministers and Servants to the public. Matt. 20. 25. The Princes of the Gentiles exercise Lordship over them, and Mark 10. 42. , saith he, either slighting or accounting them no lawful rulers, but yee shall not be so, butthe greatest among you shall be your Servant. And although hee himself were the meekest, and came on earth to be so, yet to a Tyrant we hear him not voutsafe an humble word: but Tell , Luc. 13. And wherfore did his Mother, the Virgin Mary give such praise to God , that he had now by the comming of Christ, Cutt downfrom the throne, if the Church, when God manifests his power in them to doe so, should rather choose all miserie and vassalage to serve them, and let them still sit on thir potent seats to bee ador’d for doing mischiefe. Surely it is not for nothing that tyrants by a kind of natural instinct none more then and Saints of God, as the most dangerous enemies and ; hath not this bin ? where of no likelier cause can be alleg’d, but that they well discern’d the mind and principles of most devout and zealous men, and indeed , tending to the dissolution of all tyranny. No marvel then, if since the faith of Christ receav’d, in purer or impurer times, to depose a King, and put him to death for tyranny hath bin accounted so just and requisit, that neighbour Kings have both upheld and tak’n part with subjects in the action. And , himself an Emperor, and sonne of , being made Judge, is my author, between King of the Vultzes and his Subjects, who had depos’d him, gave his verdit for the subjects, and for him whom they had chos’n in his room. Note here that the right of electing whom they please is by the impartial testimony of an Emperor in the people. For, said he, A just Prince ought to be prefer’d before an unjust, and the end of government before the prerogative. And , another Emperor in saith, that the end of a King is for the general good, which he not performing is but the counterfet of a King. And to prove that some of our owne Monarchs have acknowledg’d that thir high office exempted them not from punishment, they had the Sword of born before them by an Officer, who was calld , eev’n at the times of thir highest pomp and solemnitie , , the best of our Historians, that if they errd, the Sword had power to restraine them. And what restraint the Sword comes to at length, having both edge and point, if any Sceptic will needs doubt, let him feel. It is also affirm’d from diligent search made in , that the Peers and Barons of England had a legal right to judge the King: which was the cause most likely, for it could be no slight cause, that they were call’d . This however may stand immovable, so long as man hath to deale with no better then man; that if our Law judge all men to the lowest by thir Peers, it should in all equity ascend also, and . And so much I find both in our own and forren Storie, that were , not empty and vain titles, but names of trust and office, and with the office ceasing, as induces me to be of opinion, that every worthy man in , for the word imports no more, might for the public good be thought a fit Peer and judge of the King; without regard had to petty and circumstances, the chief impediment in high affairs, and ever stood upon most by . Whence doubtless with what rights either Nature or ancient Constitution had endowd them, when Oaths both , would not serve, thought it no way illegal to depose and put to death thir tyrannous Kings. Insomuch that the Parlament drew up a charge against , and the Commons requested to have judgement decree’d against him, that the realme might not bee endangerd. And , a divine of formost rank, on the third of Judges approves thir doings. also a Protestant and a Statesman, in his Commonwealth of England putting the question whether it be lawfull to rise against a Tyrant, answers, that according to the event, and the lerned according to the purpose of them that do it. But far before these days, , the most ancient of all our Historians, speaking of those times wherein the Roman Empire decaying quitted and relinquishd what right they had by Conquest to this Iland, and resign’d it all into the peoples hands, testifies that the people thus re-invested with thir own original right, about the year 446, both elected them Kings, whom they thought best (the first Christian British Kings that ever raign’d heer since the Romans) and by the same right, when they apprehended cause, usually depos’d and put them to death. This is the most fundamentall and ancient that any King of England can produce or pretend to; in comparison of which, all other titles and pleas are but of yesterday. If any object that Gildas condemns the Britanes for so doing, the answer is as ready; that he condemns them no more for so doing, then hee did before for choosing such, for, saith he, They anointed them Kings, not of God, but such as were more bloody then the rest. Next hee condemns them not at all for deposing or putting them to death, but for doing it over hastily, without tryal or well examining the cause, and for electing others worse in thir room. Thus we have heer both Domestic and most ancient examples that the people of Britain have in those primitive Christian times. And to couple reason with example, if the Church in all ages, Primitive, Romish, or Protestant held it ever no less thir duty then , though without express warrant of Scripture, to bring indifferently both King and Peasant under the utmost rigor of thir , eev’n to the smiting him with , if he persist impenitent, what hinders but that the temporal Law both may and ought, , extend the civil Sword, to the cutting off without exemption him that capitally offends. Seeing that justice and Religion are from the same God, and works of justice ofttimes more acceptable. Yet because that some lately with the tongues and arguments of have writt’n that the proceedings now in Parlament against the King, are without president from any Protestant State or Kingdom, the examples which follow shall be all Protestant and chiefly Presbyterian.
In the yeare 1546. , and raysd open Warr against thir Emperor, sent him a defiance, toward him, and debated long in Counsell whether they should give him so much as the title of Cæsar. . l. 17. Let all men judge what this wanted of deposing or of killing, but the power to doe it.
In the year 1559. the Scotch Protestants claiming promise of for libertie of conscience, that promises were not to be claim’d of Princes beyond what was commodious for them to grant, told her to her face in the Parlament then at Sterling, that if it were so, they renounc’d thir obedience; and soone after betook them to Armes. Hist. l. 16. certainely when allegeance is renounc’d, that very hour the King or Queen is in effect depos’d.
In the year 1564. a most famous divine and the reformer of Scotland to the Presbyterian discipline, at a generall Assembly in a dispute against the Secretary of State, that Subjects might and ought execute God’s judgements upon thir King; that and others against thir King having the ground of Gods ordinary command to put such and such offenders to death was not extraordinary, but to be imitated of all that preferr’d the honour of God to the affection of flesh and wicked Princes; that Kings, if they offend, have no privilege to be exempted from the punishments of Law more then any other subject; so that if the King be a Murderer, Adulterer, or Idolator, he should suffer not as a King, but as an offender: and this position hee repeates againe and againe before them. was the opinion of another learned Divine, and that Lawes made by the tyranny of Princes, or the negligence of people, thir posterity might abrogate and reform all things according to the original institution of Common-welths . And to Calvin and other learned men for thir judgements in that question, refus’d; alleging that both himselfe was fully resolv’d in conscience, and had heard thir judgements , and had the same opinion under handwriting of many the most godly and most learned that he knew in Europe; that if he should move the question to them againe, what should he doe but shew his owne forgetfulness or inconstancy. All this is farr more largely in l. 4. with many other passages to this effect all the book over; set out with diligence by Scotchmen of best repute among them at the beginning of , as if they labourd to inform us what wee were to doe and what they intended upon the like occasion.
And to let the world know that the whole Church and Protestant State of Scotland in those purest times of reformation, were of the same beleif, three years after, , took her prisoner, yeilding before fight, kept her in prison and the same yeare deposd her. Buchan. Hist. l. 18.
And , the Scots in justification of thir deposing Queen Mary, , and in a writt’n Declaration alleag’d, that they then shee deserv’d; that thir Ancestors had heretofore punishd thir Kings by death or banishment; , made King whom they freely chose, and with the same freedom, un-Kingd him if they saw cause, by right of ancient laws and Ceremonies yet remaining, and in choosing the head of thir Clanns, or Families; all which with many more arguments bore witness that regal power was nothing else but a mutuall Covnant or stipulation between King and people. Buch. Hist. l. 20. These were Scotchmen and Presbyterians; but what measure then have they lately offer’d, to think such liberty less beseeming us then themselves, presuming to put him upon us for a Maister whom thir law scarce allows to be thir own equall? If now then we heare them in another straine then heretofore in the purest times of thir Church, we may be confident it is the voice of speaking in them, not of truth and Reformation.
In the year 1581. , in a general Assembly at the Hague, abjur’d all obedience and subjection to Philip King of Spaine; and in a Declaration justifie thir so doing; for that by his tyrannous goverment against faith so oft’n giv’n and brok’n, he had lost his right to all the Belgic Provinces; that therfore they deposd him and declar’d it lawful to choose another in his stead. . 1. 74. From that time, to this in the World hath equally prosperd: But let them remember not to look with upon thir neighbours walking by the same rule.
But what need these examples to Presbyterians, I mean to those who now of late would seem so much to abhorr deposing, whenas they to all Christendom have giv’n the latest and the liveliest example of doing it themselves. I question not the lawfulness of raising Warr against a Tyrant in defence of Religion, or civil libertie; for no Protestant Church from the first to this day but have don it round, and maintaind it lawfull. But this I doubt not to affirme, that the Presbyterians, who now so much condemn deposing, were the men themselves that deposd the King, and cannot with all thir shifting and relapsing, wash off the guiltiness from thir owne hands. For they themselves, by these thir late doings have made it guiltiness, and turnd thir own warrantable actions into Rebellion.
There is nothing that so actually makes a King of England, as rightful possession and Supremacy in all causes both civil and Ecclesiastical; and nothing that so actually makes a Subject of England, as those two observd without equivocating, or any mental reservation. Out of doubt then when the King shall command things already constituted in Church, or State, obedience is the true essence of a subject, either to doe, if it be lawful, or if he hold the thing unlawful, to submit to that penaltie which the Law imposes, so long as he intends to remaine a subject. Therefore when the people or any part of them shall rise against the King and his autority executing the Law in any thing establishd, civil or ecclesiastical, I doe not say it is rebellion, if the thing commanded, though establishd, be unlawfull, and that they sought first all due means of redress (and no man is furder bound to Law) but I say it is an absolute renouncing both of Supremacy and Allegeance, which in one word is an actual and total deposing of the King, and the setting up of another supreme autority over them. And whether the Presbyterians have not don all this and much more, they will not put mee I suppose, to reck’n up a seven yeares story fresh in the memory of all men. Have they not utterly broke the Oath of Allegeance, rejecting the Kings command and autority sent them from any part of the Kingdom, whether in things lawful or unlawful? Have they not abjur’d the Oath of Supremacy by setting up the Parlament without the King, supreme to all thir obedience, and though thir Vow and Covnant bound them in general to the Parlament, yet somtimes adhering to , as they terme it, and eev’n of them, , ? Have they not declar’d thir meaning, whatever their Oath were, to hold them onely for supreme whom they found at any time most yeilding to what they petitioned? Both these Oaths which were the straitest bond of an English subject in reference to the King, being thus broke and made voide, it follows undeniably that the King from that time was by them in fact absolutely deposd, and they no longer in reality to be thought his subjects, notwithstanding to preserve his person, Crown, and dignitie, set there by som dodging Casuist with more craft then sinceritie to mitigate the matter in case of , and not tak’n I suppose by any honest man, but as a condition subordinate that might more concerne Religion, liberty, or the public peace. yet more plainly that they are the men who have deposd the King, I thus argue. We know that King and Subject are , and relatives have no longer being then in the relation; the relation between King and Subject, can be no other then regal autority and subjection. Hence I inferr , that if the Subject who is one relative, takes away the relation, he takes away also the other relative; but the Presbyterians, who were one relative, that is say subjects, have for this sev’n years tak’n away the relation, that is to say, the Kings autoritie, and thir subjection to it, therfore the Presbyterians for these sev’n yeares have removd and extinguish the other relative, that is to say the King, or to speake more in brief have depos’d him: not onely by depriving him the execution of his autoritie, but by conferring it upon others. If then thir Oathes of subjection brok’n, new Supremacy obey’d, new Oaths and Covnants tak’n, notwithstanding frivolous evasions, have in plaine termes unking’d the King, much more then hath thir sev’n yeares Warr not depos’d him onely, but outlawd him, and defi’d him as an alien, a rebell to Law, and enemie to the State. It must needs be cleare to any man not averse from reason, that hostilitie and subjection are two direct and positive contraries; and can no more in one subject stand together in respect of the same King, then one person at the same time can be in two remote places. Against whom therfore the Subject is in act of hostility we may be confident that to him he is in no subjection: and in whom hostility takes place of subjection, for they can by no meanes consist together, to him the King can bee not onely no King, but an enemie. So that from hence wee shall not need dispute whether they have depos’d him, or what they have defaulted towards him as no King, but shew manifestly how much they have don toward the killing him. Have they not levied all these Warrs against him whether offensive or defensive (for defence in Warr equally offends, and ) and giv’n Commission to slay where they knew his person could not bee exempt from danger? And if chance or flight had not sav’d him, how oft’n had they killd him, directing thir Artillery without blame or prohibition to the very place where they saw him stand? And converted his revenew to other uses, and detain’d from him all meanes of livelyhood, so that for them long since he might have perisht, or have starv’d? Have they not hunted and pursu’d him round about the Kingdom with sword and fire? Have they not formerly , and thir now recanting Ministers preach’d against him, as a reprobate incurable, an enemy to God and his church markt for destruction, and therfore not to bee treated with? Have they not beseig’d him, and to thir power forbid him Water and Fire, save what they shot against him to the hazard of his life? Yet while they thus assaulted and endangerd it with hostile deeds, they swore in words to defend it with his Crown and dignity; not in order, as it seems now, to a firm and lasting peace, or to his repentance after all this blood; but simply without regard, without remorse or any comparable value of all the miseries and calamities suffer’d by the poore people, or to suffer hereafter through his obstinacy or impenitence. No understanding man can be ignorant that Covnants are ever made according to the present state of persons and of things; and have ever the more general laws of nature and of reason included in them, though not express’d. If I make a voluntary Covnant as with a man to doe him good, and hee prove afterward a monster to me, I should conceave a disobligement. If I covnant, not to hurt an enemie, in favor of him and forbearance, and hope of his amendment, and he, after that, shall doe me tenfould injury and mischief to what hee had don when I so Covnanted, and still be plotting what may tend to my destruction, I question not but that his after actions release me; that withholds mee from demanding justice on him. Howbeit, had not thir distrust in a good cause, and , it had bin doubtless better, not to have inserted in a Covnant unnecessary obligations, ; no way advantageous to themselves, had the King prevail’d as to thir cost many would have felt; but full of snare and distraction to our friends, useful onely, as we now find, to , who under such a latitude and shelter of have ever since been plotting and contriving new opportunities to trouble all againe. How much better had it bin, and more becoming an undaunted vertue to have declard op’nly and boldly whom and what power the people were to hold Supreme, as on the like occasion Protestants have don before, and many conscientious men now in these times have more then once besought the parlament to doe, that they might go on upon a sure foundation, and not with in thir mouthes seeming to sweare counter almost in the same breath Allegeance and no Allegeance; which doubtless had drawn off all the minds of sincere men from siding with them, had they not discern’d thir actions farr more deposing him then thir words upholding him; which words made now the subject of cavillous interpretations, stood ever in the Covnant by judgement of the more discerning sort an evidence of thir feare not of thir fidelity. What should I return to speak on, of those attempts for which the King himself hath oft’n charg’d the Presbyterians of seeking his life, whenas in the due estimation of things, they might without a fallacy be sayd to have don the deed outright. Who knows not that the King is a name of dignity and office, not of person: Who therefore kills a King, must kill him while he is a King. Then they certainly who by deposing him have long since tak’n from him the life of a King, his office and his dignity, they in the truest sence may be said to have killd the King: not onely by thir deposing and waging Warr against him, which besides the danger to his personal life, set him in the fardest opposite point from any vital function of a King, but by thir holding him in prison vanquishd and yeilded into thir absolute and despotic power, which brought him to the lowest and incapacity of the regal name. I say not next under God, lest the story of thir ingratitude thereupon carry me from the purpose in hand which is to convince them, that they which I repeat againe, were the men who in the truest sense killd the King, not onely as is provd before, but by depressing him thir King farr below the rank of a subject to the condition of a Captive, without intention to restore him, as the at Newcastle, unless hee granted fully all thir demands, which they knew he never meant. or think of Treating with him, till thir hatred to the Army that deliverd them, not thir love or duty to the King, with men sentencd so oft for Reprobates in thir own mouthes, by whose suttle inspiring . Wheras if the whole of thir actions had not bin against the Kinge himselfe, but against , as they faind, and publishd, wherefore did they not restore him all that while to the true life of a King, his Office, Crown, and Dignity, , and they themselves his neerest Counselers. The truth therefore is, both that they would not, and that indeed they could not without thir owne certaine destruction, having reduc’d him to such a final pass, as was the very death and burial of all in him that was regal, and from whence never King of England yet reviv’d, but by the new re-inforcement of his own party, which was a kind of resurrection to him. Thus having quite extinguisht all that could be in him of a King, and from a total privation clad him over, like another thing, destructive to the former, they left in his person, and all the civil right either of King or Subject the life onely of a Prisner, a Captive and a Malefactor. Whom the equal and impartial hand of justice finding, then another ordinary man; not onely made by a charge more than once drawn up against him, and , but summond and arraignd in the sight of God and his people, curst and devoted to perdition worse then any , or , with exhortation to curse all those in the name of God that made not warr against him, as bitterly as was to be , that went not out against a Canaanitish King, almost in all the Sermons, Prayers, and that have bin utterd this sev’n yeares by those clov’n tongues of falshood and dissention, who now, to the stirring up of new discord, acquitt him; and against thir owne discipline, which they boast to be the throne and scepter of Christ, absolve him, unconfound him, though unconverted, unrepentant, unsensible of all thir pretious Saints and Martyrs whose blood they have so oft layd upon his head: and now againe with a new sovran anointment can wash it all off, as if it were as vile, and no more to be reckn’d for then the blood of so many Dogs in the time of Pestilence: giving the most opprobrious lye to all the acted zeale that for these many years hath filld thir bellies, and fed them fatt upon the foolish people. , not of the Gospell, who while they saw it manifestly tend to civil Warr and bloodshed, never ceasd exasperating the people against him; and now that they see it likely to breed new commotion, against the people that have savd them from him, as if sedition were thir onely aime, whether against him or for him. But God as we have cause to trust, will put other thoughts into the people, and turn them from looking after these firebrands, of whose fury, and fals prophecies we have anough experience; and from the murmurs of new discord will incline them to heark’n rather with to the voice of our supreme Magistracy, calling us to liberty and the flourishing deeds of a reformed Commonwealth; with this hope that as God was heretofore who rejected him and his forme of Goverment to choose a King, so that he will bless us, and be propitious to us who reject a King to make him onely our leader and supreme governour in the conformity as neer as may be of ; if we have at least but so much worth in us to entertaine the sense of our future happiness, and the courage to receave what God voutsafes us: wherin we have the honour to precede who are now labouring to be our followers. For as to this question in hand what the people by thir just right may doe in change of goverment, or of governour, we see it cleerd sufficiently; besides eev’n from the mouths of Princes themselves. And surely shall boast, as we doe, to be a free Nation, and not have in themselves the power to remove, or to abolish any governour supreme, or subordinate with the goverment itself upon urgent causes, may please thir fancy with a ridiculous and painted freedom, fit to coz’n babies; but are indeed under tyranny and servitude; as wanting that power, which is the root and sourse of all liberty, and in the Land which God hath giv’n them, as Maisters of Family in thir own house and free inheritance. Without which natural and essential power of a free Nation, though bearing high thir heads, they can in due esteem be thought no better then slaves and vassals born, in the of another inheriting Lord. Whose goverment, though not illegal, or intolerable, hangs over them as a Lordly scourge, not as free goverment; and therfore to be abrogated. How much more justly then may they fling off tyranny or tyrants? who being once depos’d can be no more then privat men, as subject to the reach of Justice and arraignment as any other transgressors. And certainly if men, not to speak of Heathen, both wise and Religious have don justice upon Tyrants , how much more mild and human then is it to give them faire and op’n tryall? To teach lawless Kings und all that so much adore them, that not mortal man, or his imperious will, but Justice is the onely true sovran and supreme Majesty upon earth. Let men cease therfore out of faction and hypocrisie to make out-crys and horrid things of things so just and honorable. And if the Parlament and Military Councel without president, if it appeare thir duty, it argues the more wisdom, vertue, and magnanimity, that they know themselves able to be a president to others. Who perhaps in future ages if they prove not too degenerat, will look up with honour and aspire toward these exemplary, and matchless deeds of thir Ancestors, as to of thir civil glory and emulation. Which heretofore in the persuance of fame and forren dominion spent it self vain-gloriously abroad; but henceforth may learn a better fortitude to dare execute highest Justice on them that shall by force of Armes endeavour the oppressing and bereaving of Religion and thir liberty at home: that no unbridl’d Potentate or Tyrant, but to his sorrow for the future, may presume such high and irresponsible licence over mankinde and turn upside-down whole Kingdoms of men as though they were no more in respect of his perverse will then a Nation of . As for the party calld Presbyterian, of whom I beleive very many to be good and faithful Christians misled by som of turbulent spirit, I wish them earnestly and calmly not to fall off from thir first principles; nor to affect rigor and superiority over men not under them; not to compell in Religion especially, which if not voluntary, becomes a sin; nor to assist the clamor and malicious of men whom they themselves have judg’d to be the , the obdurat enemies of God and his Church; nor the actions of thir brethren, for want of other argument those wrested Lawes and Scriptures thrown by Prelats and against thir own sides, which though they hurt not otherwise, yet tak’n up by them to the condemnation of thir own doings, give scandal to all men and discover in themselves . Let them not oppose thir best friends and associats who molest them not at all, infringe not the least of thir liberties; unless they call it , but are still seeking to live at peace with them and . Let them beware , who though he hope by sowing discord to make them his instruments, yet cannot forbeare a minute the op’n threatning of his destind revenge upon them, when they have servd his purposes. Let them feare therfore, if they bee wise, rather what they have don already, then what remaines to doe, and be warn’d in time they put no confidence in whom they have provokd, lest they be added to the examples of those that miserably have tasted the event. can inform them how the second, King of Denmark not much above a hundred yeares past, driv’n out by his Subjects, and receavd againe upon new Oaths and conditions, broke through them all to his most bloody revenge; slaying his chief opposers when he saw his time, both them and thir children invited to a feast for that purpose. How dealt with those of Bruges, though by mediation of the German Princes reconcil’d to them by solemn and public writings drawn and seald. How was the effect of which the French Protestants made with Charles the ninth thir king: and that the main visible cause which to this day hath sav’d the Netherlands from utter ruine, was thir finall not beleiving which as a constant maxim of State hath bin us’d by the Spanish Kings on thir Subjects that have tak’n armes and after trusted them; as no later age but can testifie, heretofore in it self, and this very yeare . And to conclude with one past exception, though farr more ancient, David, when once hee had tak’n Armes, never after that trusted Saul, though with tears and much relenting he not to hurt him. These instances, few of many, might admonish them both English and Scotch not to let thir owne ends, and the driving on of a faction betray them blindly into the snare of whose revenge looks on them as the men who first begun, fomented and carri’d on beyond the cure of any sound or safe accomodation all the evil which hath since unavoidably befall’n them and thir king.
I have something also to the Divines, though brief to what were needfull; not to be disturbers of the civil affairs, being in hands better able, and more belonging, to manage them; but to study harder and to attend the , knowing that he whose flock is least among them hath a dreadfull charge, not performd by mounting twise into the chair with a formal preachment at the odd hours of , and watching in season and out of season, from house to house over the soules of whom they have to feed. Which if they ever well considerd, how little leasure would they find to be the most of every popular tumult and Sedition? And all this while are to learne what the true end and reason is of the Gospel which they teach; and what a world it differs from the censorious and supercilious lording over conscience. It would be good also they liv’d so as might perswade the people they hated covetousness, which worse then heresie, is ; hated and all kind of Simony; left rambling from Benefice to Benefice, like rav’nous Wolves, seeking where they may devour the biggest. Of which if som, well and warmely seated from the beginning, be not guilty, twere good they held not conversation with such as are: let them be sorry that being about reforming the Church, , though they had renouncd the name of Priests, for a new setling of thir ; and with spiritual beyond the possible discharge of thir duty. Let them assemble in with thir Elders and Deacons, according to ancient Ecclesiastical rule, to the preserving of Church discipline, each in his several charge, and not a pack of Clergie men by themselves in , or to promote designes, abuse and gull the simple Laity, and stirr up tumult, as the Prelats did, for the maintenance of thir pride and avarice. These things if they observe and waite with patience, no doubt but all things will goe well without their importunities or exclamations: and which they send subscrib’d with the ostentation of great Characters and little moment, would be more considerable then now they are. But if they be the Ministers of Mammon instead of Christ, and scandalize his Church with the filthy love of gaine, aspiring also to sit the closest and , upon the conscience, and fall notoriously into the same sins, whereof so lately and so loud they accus’d the Prelates, as God rooted out those immediately before, so will he root out them thir imitators: and to vindicate his own glory and Religion will uncover thir hypocrisie to the open world; and visit upon thir own heads that curse ye Meroz, the very Motto of thir Pulpits, wherwith so frequently, not as Meroz, but more like Atheists they have mock’d the vengeance of God, and the zeale of his people. And that they be not what they goe for, true Ministers of the Protestant doctrine, taught by , famous and religious men, who first reformd the Church, or by those no less zealous, who withstood corruption and the Bishops heer at home, branded with the name of Puritans and Nonconformists, wee shall abound with testimonies ; that men may yet more fully know the difference between Protestant Divines and these Pulpit-firebrands.
rerum status, etc. Such is the state of things at this day, that men neither can, nor will, nor indeed ought to endure longer the domination of you Princes.
, etc. Neither is Cæsar to make warr as head of Christ’ndom, Protector of the Church, Defender of the Faith; these Titles being fals and Windie, and most Kings being the greatest Enemies to religion. Lib. De bello contra Turcas. apud Sleid. l. 14. What hinders then, but that we may depose or punish them?
These also are recited by in his Miscellanies to be the words of Luther, or some other eminent Divine, then in Germany, when the Protestants there entred into solemn Covenant at Smalcaldia. Ut ora iis obturem, etc. That I may stop thir mouthes, the Pope and Emperor are not born but elected, and may also be depos’d, as hath bin oft’n don. If Luther, or whoever els thought so, ; for the right of birth or succession can be no privilege in nature to let a Tyrant sit irremoveable over a Nation free born, without transforming that Nation from the nature and condition of men born free, into natural, hereditary and successive slaves. Therefore he saith furder; To displace and throw down this Exactor, this , this , is a work well pleasing to God; Namely, for being such a one: which is a moral reason. Shall then so slight a consideration as his happ to be not elective simply, but by birth, which was a meer accident, overthrow that which is moral, and make unpleasing to God that which otherwise had so well pleasd him? Certainly not: for if the matter be rightly argu’d, Election much rather then chance, bindes a man to content himself with what he suffers by his own bad Election. Though indeed neither the one nor other bindes any man, much less any people to a necessary sufferance of those wrongs and evils, which they have abilitie and strength anough giv’n them to remove.
, etc. When Kings raigne perfidiously, and against the rule of Christ, they may according to the word of God be depos’d.
Mihi ergo compertum non est, etc. I know not how it comes to pass that Kings raigne by succession, unless it be with consent of the whole people. ibid.
Quum vero consensu, etc. But when by suffrage and consent of the whole people, or the better part of them,a Tyrant is depos’d or put to death, . ibid.
Nunc cum tam tepidii sumus, etc. Now that we are so luke warm in upholding public justice, we indure the vices of Tyrants to raigne now a dayes with impunity;justly therfore by them we are trod underfoot, and shall at length with them be punisht. Yet ways are not wanting by which Tyrants may be remoov’d, but there wants public justice. ibid.
Cavete vobis ô tyranni, etc. Beware yee Tyrantsfor now the Gospell of Jesus Christ spreading farr and wide, will renew the lives of many to love innocence and justice; which if yee also shall doe, yee shall be honourd. But if yee shall goe on to rage and doe violence, ye shall be trampl’d on by all men. ibid.
imò quodq; etc. When the Roman Empire or any other shall begin to oppress Religion, and wee negligently suffer it, wee are as much guilty of Religion so violated, as the Oppressors themselves. Idem epist. ad Conrad. Somium.
semper in suis titulis, etc. Now adays Monarchs pretend alwayes in thir Titles, to be Kings by the grace of God: but how many of them to this end onely pretend it, that they may raigne withoutcontroule; for to what purpose is the grace of God mentioned in the Title of Kings, but that they may acknowledge no Superiour? In the meane while God, whose name they use, to support themselves, they willingly would tread under thir feet. It is therfore a meer cheat whenthey boast to raigne by the grace of God.
, etc. Earthly Princes depose themselves while they rise against God, yea they are unworthy to be numberd among men: rather it behooves us to spitt upon thir heads then to obey them.On Dan: c. 6. v. 22.
, etc. If a Sovran Prince endeavour by armes to defend transgressors, to subvert those things which are taught in the word of God, they whoare in autority under him, ought first to disswade him; if they prevaile not, and that he now beares himself not as a Prince, but as an enemie, and seekes to violate privilegesand rights granted to inferior Magistrates or commonalities, it is the part of , imploring first the assistance of God, rather to try all ways and means, then to betray the flock of Christ, to such anenemie of God: for they also are to this end ordain’d, that they may defend the people of God, and maintain those things which are good and just. For to have supreme power less’ns not the evil committed by that power, but makes it the less tolerable, by how much the moregenerally hurtful. Then certainly the less tolerable, the more unpardonably to be punish’d.
Quorum est constituere magistratus, etc. They whosepart it is to set up Magistrates, may restrain them also from outragious deeds, or pull them down; but all Magistrates are set up either by Parlament, or by Electors, or by other Magistrates; they therfore who exalted them, may lawfully degrade and punish them.
Of the Scotch Divines I need not mention others then the famousest among them, , and his fellow Labourers in the reformation of Scotland; on this subject, defend the same Opinion. To cite them sufficiently, were to insert thir whole Books, writt’n purposely on this argument. ; and to the Reader; where he promises in a postscript that the Book which he intended to set forth, call’d, The second blast of the Trumpet, should maintain more at large, that the same men most justly may depose, and punish him whom unadvisedly they have elected, notwithstanding birth, succession, or any Oath of Allegeance. Among our own Divines, and , two of the Lernedest, may in reason satisfy us what was held by the rest. Fenner in his maintaining, That they who have power, that is to say, a Parlament, may either by faire meanes or by force depose a Tyrant, whom he defines to be him, that wilfully breakes all, or the principal conditions made between him and the Common-wealth. Fen. Sac. Theolog. c. 13. and testifies his approbation of the whole Book.
de Obedientia. p. 25. and 105.
Kings have thir autoritie of the people, who may uponoccasion re-assume it to themselves.
The people may kill wicked Princes as monsters and cruel beasts.
become blasphemers of God, oppressers and murderers of thir subjects, they ought no more to be accounted Kings or lawfull Magistrates, but as privat men to be examind, accus’d, condemn’d and punisht by the Law of God, and being convicted and punisht by that Law, it is not mans but Gods doing, c. 10. p. 139.
By , and so prov’d, shall loose the lands and inheritance whereto he is born, because he is not able to use them aright. And especially ought in no case be sufferd to have the government of a whole Nation; But there is no such evil can come to the Common-wealth by fooles and idiots as doth by the rage and fury of ungodly Rulers; Such therfore being without God ought to have no autority over Gods people, who by his Word requireth the contrary. c. 11. p. 143, 144.
by any Law of God from this punishment, be he King, Queene, or Emperor, he must dy the death, for God hath not plac’d them above others, to transgress his laws as they list, but to be subject to them as well as others, and if they be subject to his laws, then to the punishment also, so much the more as thir example is more dangerous. c. 13. p. 184.
, the people are as it were without Magistrates, yea worse, and then God giveth the sword into the peoples hand, and he himself is become immediatly thir head. p. 185.
and keep promise with you, then doe you owe to them all humble obedience: if not, yee are discharg’d, and your study ought to be in this case how ye may depose and punish according to the Law, such Rebels against God and oppressors of thir Country. p. 190.
This Goodman was a Minister of the English Church at Geneva, as Dudley Fenner was at Middleburrough, or some other place in that country. These were the Pastors of those Saints and Confessors who flying from the bloudy persecution of Queen Mary, gather’d up at length thir scatterd members into many Congregations; wherof som in upper, some in lower Germany, part of them settl’d at Geneva, where this Author having preachd on this subject, to the great liking of certain lerned and godly men who heard him, was by them sundry times and with much instance requir’d to write more fully on that point. Who therupon took it in hand, and conferring with the best lerned in those parts ( was then living in the same City) with their special approbation he publisht this treatise, aiming principally, as is testify’d by in the Preface, that his brethren of England the Protestants, might be perswaded in the truth of that Doctrine concerning obedience to Magistrates. Whittingham .
These were the true Protestant Divines of England, our fathers in the faith we hold; this was their sense, who for so many yeares labouring under Prelacy, through all stormes and persecutions kept Religion from extinguishing and deliverd it pure to us, till there arose a covetous and ambitious generation of Divines (for Divines they call themselves) who feining on a sudden to be new converts and Proselytes from Episcopacy, under which they had long temporiz’d, op’nd thir mouthes at length, in shew against Pluralities and Prelacy, but with intent to swallow them down both; gorging themselves like Harpy’s on those simonious places and , as the quarry for which they hunted, not to pluralitie onely but to multiplicitie: for possessing which they had accusd them thir Brethren, and aspiring under another title to the same authoritie and usurpation over the consciences of all men.
Of this faction divers reverend and lerned Divines, as they are stil’d in the Phylactery of thir own Title page, pleading the lawfulness of defensive Armes against this king, in , utterly the deposing of a king; but both the Scripture and the reasons which they use, draw consequences after them, which without their bidding conclude it lawfull. , and by that especially to the Romans, which they most insist upon, Kings, doing that which is contrary to Saint Pauls definition of a Magistrat, may be resisted, they may altogether with as much force of circumstance be depos’d or punishd. And if by reason the unjust autority of Kings may be forfeted in part, and his power be reassum’d in part, either by the Parlament or People, for the case in hazard and the present necessitie, as they affirm, p. 34. there can no Scripture be alleg’d, no imaginable reason giv’n, that necessity continuing, as it may alwayes, and they in all prudence and thir duty may take upon them to foresee it, why in such a case they may not finally with the loss of his Kingdom, of whose amendment they have no hope. And if one wicked action persisted in against Religion, Laws and liberties may warrant us to thus much in part, why may not forty times as many tyrannies, by him committed, warrant us to proceed on restraining him, till the restraint become total. For the ways of justice are exactest proportion; if for one trespass of a king it require so much remedie or satisfaction, then for twenty more as hainous crimes, it requires of him twentyfold; and so proportionably, till it com to what is utmost among men. If in these proceedings against thir king they may not finish by the usual cours of justice what they have begun, they could not lawfully begin at all. For of justice and moralitie, as well as of Arithmetic, out of three termes which they admitt, will as certainly and unavoydably bring out the fourth, as any Probleme that ever , or made good by demonstration.
And if the Parlament, , as is affirm’d, p. 37, 38, might for his whole life, if they saw cause, take all power, authority, and the sword out of his hand, which in effect is to him, why might they not, being then themselves the sole Magistrates in force, proceed to punish him who being lawfully depriv’d of all things that define a Magistrate, can be now no Magistrate to be degraded lower, but an offender to be punisht. Lastly, whom they may defie, and meet in battell, why may they not as well prosecute by justice? For lawfull warr is but the execution of justice against them who refuse Law. Among whom if it be lawfull (as they deny not, p. 19, 20) to slay the king himself comming in front at his own peril, wherfore may not justice doe that intendedly, which the chance of a defensive warr might without blame have don casually, nay purposely, if there it finde him among the rest. They aske p. 19. of Conscience or God, a State is bound to sacrifice Religion, Laws and liberties, rather then a Prince defending such as subvert them, should com in hazard of his life. And I ask by what conscience, or divinity, or Law, or reason, a State is bound to leave all under a perpetual hazard and extremity of danger, rather then cutt off a wicked prince, who sitts plotting day and night to subvert them: They tell us that justifies any man to defend himself, eev’n against the King in Person: let them shew us then why the same Law may not justifie much more a State or whole people, to doe justice upon him, against whom each privat man may lawfully defend himself; seeing all kind of justice don, is a defence to good men, as well as a punishment to bad; and justice don upon a Tyrant is no more but the necessary self-defence of a whole Common wealth. To Warr upon a king, that his instruments may be brought to condigne punishment, and therafter to punish them the instruments, and not to spare onely, but to defend and honour him the Author, is the strangest peece of justice to be call’d Christian and the strangest peece of reason to be call’d human, that by men of reverence and learning, as thir stile imports them, ever yet was vented. They maintain in the third and fourth Section, that , is anointed of God, is his Minister, hath the Sword in his hand, is to be obey’d by , as well as the Supreme, and without difference any where exprest: and yet will have us fight against the Supreme till he remove and punish the inferior Magistrate (for such were greatest Delinquents) when as by Scripture and by reason, there can no more autority be shown to resist the one then the other; and altogether as much, to punish or depose the Supreme himself, as to make Warr upon him, till he punish or deliver up his inferior Magistrates, whom in the same terms we are commanded to obey, and not to resist. Thus while they, here and there , are onely verbal against the pulling down or punishing of Tyrants, all the which they bring, is in every leafe direct and rational to inferr it altogether as lawful, as to resist them. And yet in all thir Sermons, as hath by others bin well noted, they went much further. , if ye observe them, have thir and thir no less expertly, and with no less variety then they that practice in the . Sometimes they seem furiously to march on, and presently march counter; by and by they stand, and then retreat; or if need be can face about, or wheele in a whole body, with that cunning and dexterity as is almost unperceavable; to winde themselves by shifting ground into places of more advantage. And Providence onely must be the drumm, Providence the word of command, that calls them from above, but always to som larger Benefice, or acts them into such or such figures, and promotions. At thir turnes and doublings no men readier; to the right, or to the left; for it is thir turnes which they serve cheifly; heerin onely singular, that with them there is no certain hand right or left; but as thir own commodity thinks best to call it. But if there come a truth to be defended, which to them, and thir interest of this world seemes not so profitable, strait these can finde no eev’n leggs to stand upon: and are no more of use to reformation throughly performd, and not superficially, or to the advancement of Truth (which among mortal men is alwaies in her progress) then if on a sudden they were maime and crippl’d. Which the better to conceale, or the more to countnance by a general conformity to thir own limping, they would have , they would have reason also made to halt with them for company; and would putt us off with , lame and shorter then the premises. they seem to stand with great zeale and confidence on the wall of Sion; but , not like Israelites, or Levites: blinde also as well as lame, they discern not David from ; but cry him up for the Lords anointed, whose thumbs and great toes not long before they had cut off upon thir Pulpit cushions. Therfore he who is our onely King, the root of David, and whose Kingdom is eternal righteousness, with all those that Warr under him, whose happiness and final hopes are laid up in that onely just and rightful kingdom (which we pray incessantly may com soon, and in so praying with hasty ruin and destruction to all Tyrants) eev’n he our immortal King, and all that love him, must of necessity have in abomination these blind and lame Defenders of Jerusalem; , and forbid them entrance into Gods House, and his own. , which I cited first (and with an easie search, for many more might be added) as they there stand, without more in number, being the best and chief of Protestant Divines, we may follow them for faithful Guides, and without doubting may receive them, as Witnesses abundant of what wee heer affirm concerning Tyrants. And indeed I find it generally the cleere and positive determination of them all, (not prelatical, or of this late faction ) who have writt’n on this argument; that to doe justice on a lawless King, is to a privat man unlawful, : or if they were divided in opinion, yet greater then these here alleg’d, or of more autority in the Church, there can be none produc’d. If any one shall goe about by bringing other testimonies to disable these, or by bringing these against themselves in other cited passages of thir Books, he will not onely faile to make good of those mutinous Ministers, that the deposing and punishing of a King or Tyrant, is against the constant Judgement of all Protestant Divines, it being quite the contrary, but will prove rather, what perhaps he intended not, that the judgement of Divines, if it be so various and inconstant to it self, is not considerable, or to be esteem’d at all. Ere which be yielded, as I hope it never will, these ignorant assertors in thir own art will have prov’d themselves more and more, not to be Protestant Divines, whose constant judgement in this point they have so audaciously bely’d, but rather to be a pack of hungrie Church-wolves, who in the steps of thir Father, following the hot of double Livings and Pluralities, , , and , though uncall’d to the Flock of Christ, but by the meer suggestion of thir Bellies, like those , whose pranks Daniel found out; have got possession, or rather seis’d upon the Pulpit, as the strong hold and fortress of thir sedition and rebellion against the civil Magistrate. Whose friendly and victorious hand having rescu’d them from the Bishops, thir insulting Lords, , both in public and in privat, ; onely suffer’d not thir covetousness and fierce ambition, which as the pitt that sent out , hath bin ever bottomless and boundless, to interpose in all things, and over all persons, .
Milton’s contribution to a history of tyrannicide is, as we have said, the most important that has ever been made by any English author. The subject seems to have escaped the notice of later English students of the classics, so that it becomes necessary for the present writer to add several references to those collected by Milton, and to present the material in a more connected form.
In the heroic age the Greeks seem to have been upholders of the doctrine of the divine right of kings, for they believed that the king was the choice of the gods, and to murder him was an act of sacrilege. In the course of time, however, the Spartans instituted a regular tribunal for the trial and punishment of tyrannical kings. Both Pausanius and Agis were deposed by the ephors and the senate. Not alone in Sparta, but throughout Greece, attempts at despotism became common; the isolated districts of a mountainous country, and the isles of the Ægean, saw the rise of numerous small kingdoms governed by tyrants. The fickleness of the Greek, and his natural love of liberty, made the tenure of these petty tyrants exceedingly precarious, and usually short-lived. They were frequently driven into exile by sudden revolutions; in Athens a law of Solon decreed the more merciful punishment of ostracism, instead of death.
It was not until the murder of Hipparchus by Harmodius and Aristogiton that tyrannicide became popular in Greece Although this assassination was inspired by motives of private vengeance, the deed of the two friends became one of the great traditions of Greek liberty, and the murderers of the son of the tyrant Pisistratus were henceforth the subjects of the poet’s song and the sculptor’s chisel. ‘To honor them and their descendants became an article of republican faith.’ Duruy draws up a list of the honors accorded to the two heroes; it includes a vase, a painting, two monetary types, and marble and brazen statues. ‘The Athenians,’ he says, ‘represented the two friends as martyrs of liberty, they erected statues to them, they granted privileges to their descendants, which the latter enjoyed as late as the time of Demosthenes, and on festival days they chanted:
‘I will carry the sword under the myrtle-branch, as did Harmodius and Aristogiton when they slew the tyrant, and established equality in Athens.
‘Most dear Harmodius, thou art not dead; doubtless thou livest in the Islands of the Blessed, where are, they say, Achilleus the swift-footed, and Diomedes, the son of Tydeus.
‘In the myrtle-branch I will hide the sword, like Harmodius and Aristogiton, when at the festival of Athene they slew the tyrant.
‘Thy fame shall for ever endure upon earth, beloved Harmodius, and thine, Aristogiton, because you have slain the tyrant and established equality in Athens.’
Pliny dwells specially on the works of art inspired by this first famous instance of tyrannicide: ‘I do not know whether the first public statues were not erected by the Athenians, and in honor of Harmodius and Aristogiton, who slew the tyrant; an event which took place in the same year in which the kings were expelled from Rome. This custom, from a most praiseworthy emulation, was afterwards adopted by all other nations.’ Praxiteles also executed ‘two figures of Harmodius and Aristogiton, who slew the tyrants.’ Amphicrates made a brazen statue of Leæna. ‘She was a skilful performer on the lyre, and had so become acquainted with Harmodius and Aristogiton, and submitted to be tortured until she expired, rather than betray their plot for the extermination of the tyrants. The Athenians, being desirous of honoring her memory, without at the same time rendering homage to a courtesan, had her represented under the figure of an animal (a lioness), whose name she bore; and, in order to indicate the cause of the honor thus paid her, ordered the artist to represent the animal without a tongue.’
So extravagant was the popular estimation of this murder of the son of Pisistratus that the Athenians gave a dowry to a niece of Aristogiton, who was living in poverty in the isle of Lemnos. Even so distinguished an author as Plato joined in the chorus of approbation: ‘For the interests of rulers require that their subjects should be poor in spirit, and that there should be no strong bond of friendship or society among them, which love, above all other motives, is likely to inspire, as our Athenian tyrants learned by experience; for the love of Aristogiton and the constancy of Harmodius had a strength which undid their power.’ Callisthenes relates that Philotas, the friend of Alexander, asked him one day what person was most honored by the Athenians. He gave the names of Harmodius and Aristogiton, because they had destroyed tyranny by the murder of one of two tyrants. Alexander also declared that Athens would be foremost among Greek cities in receiving the murderer of a tyrant. It afterwards happened that the pretended author of Alexander’s death was publicly honored by a decree passed by the Athenians. A decree passed in the year 403 had already authorized any Athenian to kill the citizen who should aspire to the tyranny, betray the republic, or overthrow the constitution. Even down to the days of the Roman empire the memory of the two friends was honored; for, after the assassination of Julius Cæsar, the Athenians dressed the statues of Brutus and Cassius, and placed them beside those of Harmodius and Aristogiton on the Agora.
The earliest reference in Greek literature to the evils of tyranny is contained in verses written by Solon (circa 638-558):
Another early poet, Theognis of Megara ( 570-548 or 544) was deprived of his property by a tyrant, and forced into exile. The following fragments express his indignation:
Herodotus ( 484-443[?]) was also forced into exile by a cruel tyrant. In Samos he gathered together his fellowexiles, returned to Halicarnassus, his own city, and expelled the tyrant Lygdamis. His writings show his animus against despotism, a good instance being the speech which he puts into the mouth of Miltiades on the eve of Marathon; he represents the general as appealing to the soldiers to emulate Harmodius and Aristogiton.
Xenophon ( 444-357[?]), in the dialogue entitled Hieron, pictures the miseries of a tyrant’s life, and refers to the great honors conferred upon tyrannicides by Greek cities.
Andocides ( 439-399), exiled in 415, was allowed to return to Athens upon the fall of the Thirty Tyrants. In replying to the charge of unlawful participation in the mysteries, he alludes to the exoneration of the tyrannicide by the Athenian law, and gives as a law of Solon the text of an oath which the Athenian was required to take, to the effect that he would himself kill, if able, any one who overthrew the democracy in Athens, or who set himself up for a tyrant, or should aid another to establish tyranny. If another should kill a tyrant, the citizen swore to regard him as one who had killed an enemy of the Athenians. If a citizen should be killed in attempting to destroy a tyrant, or in such an enterprise, he would accord him and his children the same honor as was given to Harmoeius and Aristogiton and their descendants.
Plato ( 428-347) was an unfriendly critic of tyrants, although he lived for a time at the court of Dionysius. He did not go to the extent of openly defending tyrannicide, but his intimate friendship with Dion made him sympathize with the latter in his efforts to expel Dionysius. Plato taught that if a man kills another unjustly, he is wretched; if justly, he is not to be envied. He would evidently consider the murder of a tyrant a righteous act, but would not care to be the assassin. He defines tyranny as ‘the power of doing whatever seems good to you in a state, killing, banishing, doing all things as you like.’ He makes Socrates say that a tyrant has no more real power than a man who runs out into the Agora carrying a dagger. In the ninth book of the Republic, after describing the excesses of a private person, he says: ‘This noxious class and their followers grow numerous and become conscious of their strength; assailed by the infatuation of the people, they choose from among themselves the one who has most of the tyrant in his own soul, and him they create their tyrant.’ Again he says that the tyrant is of all men the most miserable, and, in comparing the tyrant with the legitimate monarch, he asserts that one year of the tyrannical equals only twelve hours of the royal life.
Aristotle ( 384-322) was even more outspoken in his condemnation of tyranny than Plato. His famous definition of tyranny was destined to be quoted by the republican writers of future ages: ‘There is also a third kind of tyranny, which is the most typical form, and is the counterpart of the perfect monarchy. This tyranny is just that arbitrary power of an individual which is responsible to no one, and governs all alike, whether equals or betters, with a view to its own advantage, not to that of its subjects, and therefore against their will. No freeman, if he can escape from it, will endure such a government.’
Demosthenes ( 383-322) quotes the oaths of the Heliasts, which bound them to oppose tyranny. He explains that the descendants of Harmodius and Aristogiton are exempt from certain services demanded from other citizens, refers to the brazen statue erected to their memory, and calls them supreme benefactors, to whose memory the people pour libations, and honor them in songs as the equals of heroes and gods. The great orator feared that tyrannicide might be a political necessity in future ages, when the deed of Harmodius and Aristogiton would have to be repeated. ‘The Syracusans,’ he says, ‘could never have expected that a scribe, Dionysius, would become their tyrant, nor yet that Dion with a few ships would be able to expel him.’
Æschines ( 389-314), the rival of Demosthenes in oratory, was at one with him in denunciation of tyranny, and in praise of the love of Harmodius and Aristogiton.
Polybius ( 204-122) says the following in approval of tyrannicide: ‘To take away the life of a citizen is considered as a most horrid crime, and such as calls for vengeance; yet a man may openly destroy an adulterer or robber, without any fear of being punished for it: and those who rescue their country from a traitor or a tyrant are even thought worthy of the greatest honors.’ Again, he observes that ‘the first conspiracies against tyrants were hat first contrived not by men of obscure or low condition, but by those of noblest birth, and who were the most distinguished by their courage and exalted spirit: for such are at all times most impatient of the insolence of princes.’ Aristomachus, a tyrant of Argos, was put to death in tortures the most cruel and merciless that ever were inflicted upon man; but Polybius was of opinion that ‘the wicked tyranny which he had exercised upon his country might very deservedly have drawn upon him the severest punishment. Because of his great cruelty to others and his perfidy, this tyrant should rather have been led through all the towns of Peloponnesus, exposed to every kind of torture and indignity, and afterwards have been deprived of life.’
Diodorus Siculus (lived during the reign of Augustus) had much to say on the subject of tyranny. He calls Sicily ‘the land of tyranny,’ relates sympathetically the expulsion of Dionysius by Dion, describes the assassination of Alexander of Pharos, of Dion, of Philip by Pausanius, and relates the awful story of how Timoleon killed his brother, who aspired to be a tyrant. In a short chapter which he devotes to the discussion of tyranny, he quotes a saying of Solon to the effect that wealthy men are dangerous to the state, because of their opportunity by means of corruption to set up a tyranny ; in this book we also find a prolix account of the cruelties perpetrated by the tyrant Agathocles. Harmodius and Aristogiton receive the customary honorable mention.
Plutarch ( 50-120) is the connecting link between Greek and Latin literature, so far as this subject is concerned. He was equally at home in denouncing the Pisistratidæ or the Tarquins, in praising Thrasybulus or Brutus. His lives of Solon, Publicola, Timoleon, Cato, Cicero, Dion, Brutus, and Galba breathe his passionate hatred of tyranny. He contended that the mildness of the doctrines of the Epicureans rendered the soul incapable of strong deeds, since this school had never produced a tyrannicide. He praised the philosophical teaching of Plato, however, because it had fortified the souls of patriots; for it was owing to this inspiration that Dion had been able to proceed against Dionysius, and others had dared to murder King Cotys of Thrace. His parallel lives of Dion and Brutus display Plutarch’s uncompromising republicanism, and his declaration that ‘the greatest glory of both men consists in their abhorrence of tyrants and their criminal measures’ is thoroughly characteristic of the whole body of his political opinions.
Lucian ( 120 (?)-190 (?) speaks of the hopes and fears which agitate the breast of the tyrant; simply the name of tyrant is sufficient to create hatred in the hearts of the people. The adorers of tyrants are lovers of power and timeservers, and under the rule of a tyrant the citizen is in greater danger than if he were among a foreign foe. Lucian enters upon a nice discussion as to whether a person who kills the son of a tyrant ought to receive the regular reward of a tyrannicide; he concludes that the law of tyrannicide determines the recompense, i. e., the patriotic deed is its own reward. This author also gives some interesting data as to the lives, customs, and violent deaths of tyrants.
Arrian (flourished in the second century ), besides quoting Callisthenes’ account of the conversation between Philotas and Alexander, relates that Alexander the Great sent back to Athens bronze statues of Harmodius and Aristogiton, which were recovered at Babylon.
Although we have already anticipated the Roman point of view in quoting the republican sentiments of Plutarch, we find that long before the days of the great biographer the Latin writers were interested in this subject. Rome had no Harmodius and Aristogiton to commit a political murder in her early days, but she produced a stern foe to tyranny in Junius Brutus, who, even if he did not kill the Tarquins, at least established a precedent for the deposition of unjust rulers. Strictly speaking, the Roman republic could not boast a single case of tyrannicide, but the ancient Brutus, Servilius Ahala, Marcus Brutus, and Cassius took their places in Latin literature on a footing of equality with Harmodius and Aristogiton. As in other respects the literary fashions of the conquered became those of the conquerors, so the eulogy of tyrannicide became a popular theme with the Roman poets, orators, and historians. The troublous and corrupt days of the empire saw the cutting-off of numerous tyrants. ‘The experience of the Roman world,’ says Egger, ‘shows on a larger scale that which Greece had proved many times, the powerlessness of murder to regenerate the people and to establish good government. The republican tradition, however, obstinately outlived these proofs, for it was perpetuated in the conscience of mankind, in serious literature, and in the sophistry of the schools.’
Cicero ( 106-43), one of the glories of Latin literature, set his seal of approval upon the Greek custom of honoring tyrannicide. ‘The Greeks,’ he says, ‘give the honors of the gods to those men who have slain tyrants. What have I not seen at Athens? What in the other cities of Greece? What divine honors have I not seen paid to such men? What odes, what songs have I not heard in their praise? They are almost consecrated to immortality in the memories and worship of men.’ Two more quotations from the great orator of Rome must suffice to represent his uncompromising views on this topic; both are from his Offices: ‘What can be greater wickedness than to slay, not only a man, but an intimate friend? Has he then involved himself in guilt who slays a tyrant, however intimate? He does not appear so to the Roman people at least, who of all great exploits deem that the most honorable.’ Again he says: ‘Now as to what relates to Phalaris [the tyrant of Agrigentum], the decision is very easy; for we have no society with tyrants, but rather the widest separation from them; nor is it contrary to nature to despoil, if you can, him whom it is a virtue to slay—and this pestilential and impious class ought to be entirely exterminated from the community of mankind. For as certain limbs are amputated, both if they themselves have begun to be destitute of blood, and, as it were, of life, and if they injure the other parts of the body, so the brutality and ferocity of a beast in the figure of a man ought to be cut off from the common body, as it were, of humanity.’
Nepos ( 100-24) narrates the deeds of Thrasybulus, Miltiades, Dion, and Timoleon.
Sallust ( 86- 34) puts a protest against tyranny into the mouth of Caius Memmius.
Livy ( 59- 17) describes the revolution led by Brutus against the Tarquins, and recites the text of the Valerian Law against those aiming at tyranny.
Seneca ( 4 (?)— 65) wrote the verses quoted by Milton in The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (22. 9).
Persius ( 34-62), in his third satire, exclaims: ‘Great father of the gods, be it thy pleasure to inflict no other punishment on the monsters of tyranny, after their nature has been stirred by fierce passion, that has the taint of fiery poison—let them look upon virtue, and pine that they have lost her for ever!’ He refers in the same satire to the dread of Phalaris and Damocles, when they heard a voice whispering to their hearts, ‘We are going, going down the precipice.’
Quintilian ( 35-97 (?) uses as an illustration in his Principles of Oratory the phrase of Cato, ‘Cæsar came sober to destroy the commonwealth.’ He also employs the similitude: ‘As physicians prescribe the amputation of a limb that manifestly tends to mortification, so would it be necessary to cut off all bad citizens.’ The use of all such material in school-exercises reflects the thought of the age; the Roman Senate in the days of Nero and Domitian had become cowardly in its subservience to tyrants, yet the educated classes loved to talk about resistance, even if they had become too effeminate to take up arms against misrule.
Suetonius (during the reign of Trajan) describes the last days and unhappy deaths of Tiberius, Nero, and Galba, and gives a sympathetic account of the revolt of Vindex.
Tacitus ( 65 (?)-119 (?), from the opening words of his Annals, wherein he states that ‘liberty was instituted in the consulship of L. Junius Brutus,’ shows his animus against tyrants. His sketch of the life of Tiberius is one of the most terrible exposures of tyranny ever written. His best-known saying on this topic is contained in his description of the funeral of Junia, the niece of Cato: ‘The busts of twenty most illustrious families were borne in the procession, with the names of Manlius, Quinctius, and others of equal rank. But Cassius and Brutus outshone them all, from the very fact that their likenesses were not to be seen.’
Marcus Aurelius ( 121-180), the republican emperor, was at one with other philosophers of his age in eulogizing Marcus Brutus: ‘From him I received the idea of a polity in which there is the same law for all, a polity administered with regard to equal rights and equal freedom of speech, and the idea of a kingly government which respects most of all the freedom of the governed.’ He seems to have imbibed these views from the rhetoricians of the day, who taught their pupils to declaim against tyrants: ‘From Fronto [the rhetorician],’ he says, ‘I learned to observe what envy and duplicity and hypocrisy are in a tyrant, and that generally those among us who are called patricians are rather deficient in paternal affection.’
Dio Cassius ( 155-?) praises Vindex, who incited the army to rise against Nero, and describes with gusto the latter’s vices, vanities, and miserable death.
Appian (middle of the second century) shows his hatred of tyranny in his relation of the conspiracy of Brutus and Cassius, and their subsequent misfortunes in war.
Marius Maximus (reign of Severus) wrote the lives of three tyrants, Avidius, Albin, and Niger.
Trebellius Pollio (reign of Constantine), in an endeavor to match the roll of the Thirty Tyrants of Greece, whom Thrasybulus overthrew, drew up accounts of the lives of thirty Roman foes of liberty, most of them being military leaders of slight importance.
Capitolinus (a contemporary of Pollio) imitated him by writing the lives of the tyrants, Verus, Pertinax, and the Maximins.
Flavius Vopiscus of Syracuse (flourished circa 300) also produced literature of this kind in his lives of the tyrants, Firmus, Saturninus, Proculus, and Bonosus.
Lucius Florus (reign of Trajan) has a single reference to this subject in his remark: ‘Brutus and Cassius seemed to have cast Cæsar, like another king Tarquin, from the sovereignty.’
Libanius ( 314-393 (?) lived in a century when Christianity had inculcated the duty of passive obedience, but his voluminous writings show all the ardor of Plutarch against tyranny. He quotes Socrates and Theognis as authorities against the prevailing practice of poets in praising tyrants, even those despots who surpass all in madness and wickedness. Alluding to the eulogy of Harmodius and Aristogiton by early poets, he says that he has heard that no slave should be given the name of either hero. In a bold justification of tyrannicide he declares: ‘Whoso kills a tyrant subjects himself to greater dangers, and should receive greater honor, than one who has done equal deeds in war, because the soldier is sustained by the presence of his comrades, while the slayer of a tyrant has to act alone.’ After enumerating the causes of hatred of tyrants, he exclaims: ‘Shall we not love any kind of wickedness before tyranny’? He also treats of the perils of tyrants, their punishment, their infamy, the cruelty of Echetus and Phalaris, the Athenian tyrants, the destruction of the Theban tyrants, and the proper reward of tyrannicide.
Among the schoolmen of the Middle Ages this subject received some attention from John of Salisbury, who approved of tyrannicide, and from St. Thomas Aquinas, who disapproved, although he denounced tyranny. The murder of the Duke of Orleans in 1407 invested the old question with new and living interest. The assassin, Jean sans Peur, gloated over his crime, and contended that the sixth commandment did not include princes in its prohibition. Had this enthusiast stood alone, his strange plea might have been disregarded, but the Duke of Burgandy was charged with being the instigator of the crime, and the learning of the day came to his assistance. Jean Petit, a doctor of the Sorbonne, publicly maintained the thesis that it is lawful for subjects to slay a tyrant, while his associates in the University of Paris drew up rules or maxims on the policy and justice of taking away the life of any tyrannical person, declaring that natural, moral, and divine laws authorize each person to kill, or cause to be killed, a tyrant, and even to do it by wiles or snares. This question was not to be decided, however, without the pronouncement of the church. Jean Gerson was the leader of conservative thought on this subject, and, chiefly owing to his denunciation of tyrannicide, it was condemned by the Council of Constance, which decreed in 1415 that it was heretical to assert ‘that any tyrant may be killed by a vassal or subject of his own, even by treachery, in despite of oaths, and without any judicial sentence being passed against him.’ The Council, for political reasons, refused to condemn the specific opinions of Petit, and, in spite of the decree, Pope Sixtus V subsequently publicly eulogised the assassination of Henri III by Clement, the Dominican.
Throughout the sixteenth century there was a steady development of the theory of the deposing power, and the literature on the question of tyrannicide becomes abundant. The sermons and exegetical works of the Protestant reformers, especially those of the second generation, encouraged resistance to tyrants through the intervention of the Huguenots, and Roman Catholics of France were opposed to the tyrannical monarch, the former invoking the interests of the state, the latter those of religion. But the massacre of St. Bartholomew in 1572 created deeper convictions, and exerted a tremendous effect on thinkers of all shades in politics; the results of that awful event were really most beneficial to the cause of civil and religious liberty. It has been pointed out that within seven years of that seeming calamity were written the most important revolutionary tracts of the century. The following works of that great creative period are especially noteworthy as bearing on the subject of tyranny: Hotman, Franco-Gallia (1573); Bodin, De Republica (1576); Boétie, Discours de la Servitude Volontaire, ou le Contr’un (1576); Languet (or Du Plessis-Mornay) Vindiciæ contra Tyrannos (1579); and Buchanan, De Regni Jure apud Scotos (1579). Of these writers, Bodin seems to have been the first modern to make a search in the writings of Greece and Rome on the subject of tyranny. He draws up a short list of the tyrannicides of antiquity, quotes the law of Solon and the Valerian Law, and admits that if the king be not an absolute sovereign, it is lawful for either the people or the nobility to proceed against a tyrant by way of justice, or even by open force; but if he be an absolute sovereign, as in France, Spain, England, or Scotland, the subjects do not possess even the right to bring him to trial, for they have no jurisdiction over him. ‘But a tyrannical king may by another foreign prince be lawfully slain, as Moses slew the Egyptian, and Hercules destroyed many most horrible monsters, that is to say, tyrants.’ Among the imitators of Hercules he includes Dion, Timoleon, Aratus, Harmodius, and Aristogiton.
The author of Vindiciæ contra Tyrannos refined upon Bodin’s curious distinction between princes, contending that there is the tyrant absque titulo and the tyrant ab exercitio, the former being a usurper, and the latter a legitimate prince, but one who has violated the compact, tacit or expressed, between himself and his people. The private citizen may draw his sword against the usurper, but not against the legitimate prince. The magistrate, however, may be appealed to, and is empowered to compel a lawful king to do his duty.
The formulation of such views had its natural consequence. They were carried to their logical conclusion by the Roman Catholic party. The articles of the League of Paris in 1584 provided for the suppression of heresy and tyranny, and the assassination of Henri III was the result. Henceforth the Jesuit writers regarded any tyrant, and particularly a heretical monarch, as a fitting victim of tyrannicide. The ecclesiastical upholders of political murder taught that there were two kinds of tyrants—usurpers, who might of course be slain, and despots, to be regarded as worthy of death at the hands of the individual citizen, after the whole republic had expressly or tacitly condemned them. This doctrine, to be sure, allowed much latitude for individual judgment. Mariana, the Spanish Jesuit, in his famous chapter, De Tyranno, in De Rege et Regis Institutione (1599), gave the frankest exposition of this teaching, and may be regarded as the leading advocate of tyrannicide among the numerous Roman Catholic pamphleteers. He openly justified the assassination of Henri III, and decided that a tyrant might be killed either publicly or by craft. At certain kinds of poisoning he drew the line, but did not object to the poisoning of a tyrant through his clothes or cushions. With the names of Mariana and Buchanan we have completed the historical circle, and have reverted to the views of the Athenians, who chanted the Scolium to the memory of the murderers of the son of Pisistratus.
1. The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates: Proving, That it is Lawfull, and hath been held so through all Ages, for any who have the Power, to call to account a Tyrant, or wicked KING, and after due conviction, to depose and put him to death; if the ordinary MAGISTRATE have neglected, or deny’d to doe it. And that they who, of late, so much blame Deposing, are the Men that did it themselves. The Author, J. M. London, Printed by Matthew Simons, at the Gilded Lyon in Aldersgate Street, 1649.
2. The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates proving, That it is Lawfull and hath been held so through all Ages, for any who have the Power to call to account a Tyrant, or wicked KING, and after due Conviction, to depose, and put him to Death; if the ordinary MAGISTRATE have neglected, or deny’d to doe it. And that they, who, of late, so much blame Deposing, are the Men that did it themselves. Published now the second Time with some additions, and many Testimonies also added out of the best and learnedest among PROTESTANT Divines asserting the position of this book. The Author J. M. LONDON, Printed by Matthew Simmons, next doore to the Gil-Lyon in Aldersgate Street, 1650.
[Some copies of this edition have the following variation in the title,—‘Printed by Matthew Simmons, at the Gilded Lyon in Aldersgate Street, 1649].
3. The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates. Originally written by the Celebrated John Milton. Now corrected, and republished with Additional Notes and Observations; and particularly recommended, at This Time, to the Perusal of the Men of Ireland. Dublin 1784.
[This reprint, on cheap paper, was issued in the form of a 16mo tract, with a short introduction by the anonymous editor. He makes a plea for the sovereignty of the people, and quotes as authorities Strabo, Tacitus, Hotman, Hoadley, Burnet, Locke, Hutcheson, and ‘the Author of the North Britain.’ The notes are few and of no value].
4. The Rights of Nations to depose Their Kings, an Abridgement of The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates. Ed. William G. Lewis. London, circa 1800.
5. The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, appended to Milton’s History of Britain. Ed. Francis Maseres. London 1818.
[A reprint of Birch’s version of 1753].