Imágenes de páginas

most power, and most to the prejudice of mankind? Surely, if this were the condition of men living under government, forests would be more safe than cities; and 'twere better for every man to stand in his own defence, than to enter into societies. He that lives alone, might encounter such as should assault him upon equal terms, and stand or fall, according to the measure of his courage and strength; but no valour can defend him, if the malice of his enemy be upheld by a public power.

No wise man ever asked by what authority Thrasibulus, Harmodius, Aristogiton, Pelopidas, Epaminondas, Dion, Timoleon, Lucius Brutus, Publicola, Horatius, Valerius, Marcus Brutus, C. Cassius, and the like, delivered their countries from tyrants. Their actions carried in themselves their own justification, and their virtues will never be forgotten, whilst the names of Greece and Rome are remembered in the world. If this be not enough to declare the justice inherent in, and the glory that ought to accompany these works, the examples of Moses, Aaron, Othniel, Ehud, Baruch, Gideon, Samuel, Jephtha, David, Jehu, Jehoida, the Maccabees, and other holy men raised up by God for the deliverance of his people from their oppressors, decide the question. These have perpetually led the people, by extraordinary ways, to recover their liberties, and avenge the injuries received from foreign or domestic tyrants.

[merged small][ocr errors]


THE Scriptures declare the necessity of setting bounds to those who are placed in the highest dignities. Moses seems to have had as great abilities as any man that ever lived in the world; but he alone was not able to bear the weight of the government, and therefore God appointed seventy chosen men to be his assistants. was a perpetual law to Israel; and as no king was to have more power than Moses, or more abilities to perform the duties of his office, none could be exempted from the necessity of wanting the like helps. When God, by Moses, gave liberty to his people to make a king, he did it under these conditions: He must be one of their brethren; they must choose him; he must not multiply gold, silver,* wives, or horses: he must not lift up his heart above his brethren, Deut. xvii. ; and Josephus, paraphrasing upon the place, says, He shall do nothing without the advice of the sanhedrin; or,

* It has been properly enough remarked by one of our legislators, that it is the duty of the nation to supply every just and necessary want of the sovereign, beyond which, he can have no occasion for money, no means for its consumption. At all events, an accumulation of private property, by the monarch of a free country, may be productive of the greatest danger to the people. What then shall we say to the extraordinary fact of a bill being brought into Parliament by a late minister, sanctioning the appointment of three commissioners, at salaries of £3000 per annum, each!! to take care of the King's private property, and how great must have been the multiplication of gold, silver, &c. in this instance, when such an enormous sum as £9000 a year can be afforded barely for the trouble of looking after it!

if he do, they shall oppose him. This agrees with the confession of Zedekiah to the princes (which was the sanhedrin) The king can do nothing without you, Jer. xxxviii. and seems to have been in pursuance of the law of the kingdom, which was written in a book, and laid up before the Lord; and could not but agree with that of Moses, unless they spake by different spirits, or that the spirit by which they did speak, was subject to error or change: and the whole series of God's law shews, that the pride, magnificence, pomp, and glory, usurped by their kings, was utterly contrary to the will of God.


ARISTOTLE seems to think, that the first monarchs, having been chosen for their virtue, were little restrained in the exercise of their power; but, that they, or their children, falling into corruption and pride, grew odious; and that nations did on that account, either abolish their authority, or create senates, and other magistrates, who, having part of the power, might keep them in order.


THE institution of a kingdom, is the act of a free nation; and whoever denies them to be free, denies that there can be any thing of right in what they set up. That which was true in the beginning is so, and must be so for ever. This is so

[ocr errors]

far acknowledged by the highest monarchs, that in a treatise published in the year 1667, by authority of the King of France, to justify his pretensions to some part of the Low Countries, notwithstanding all the acts of himself and the King of Spain, to extinguish them, it is said, That kings are under the happy inability to do any thing against the laws of their country. And though, perhaps, he may do things contrary to law, yet he grounds his power upon the law; and the most able and most trusted of his ministers declare the same.


"TIS not the king that makes the law, but the law that makes the king. It gives the rule for succession, making kingdoms sometimes hereditary, and sometimes elective, and (more often than either simply) hereditary under condition. In some places, males only are capable of inheriting, in others females are admitted. Where the monarchy is regular, as in Germany, England, &c. the kings can neither make nor change laws : they are under the law, and the law is not under them; their letters or commands are not to be regarded in the administration of justice, the question is not what pleases them, but what the law declares to be right, which must have its course, whether the king be busy or at leisure, whether he will or not. The king, who never dies, is always present in the supreme courts,

and neither knows nor regards the pleasure of the man that wears the crown.

But lest he, by his

riches and power, might have some influence upon judicial proceedings, the great charter, that recapitulates and acknowledges our ancient inherent liberties, obliges him to swear that he will never sell, delay, nor deny justice to any man, according to the laws of the land: which were ridiculous and absurd, if those laws were only the signification of his pleasure, or any way depended upon his will. This charter having been confirmed by more than thirty parliaments, all succeeding kings are under the obligation of the same oath, or must renounce the benefit they receive from our laws, which if they do, they will be found to be equal to every one of us.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


WE are to consider, that as kings and all other magistrates, whether supreme or subordinate, are constituted only for the good of the people; the people only can be fit to judge whether the end be accomplished. A physician does not exercise his art for himself, but for his patients; and when I am, or think I shall be sick, I send for him of whom I have the best opinion, that he may help me to recover, or preserve my health; but I lay him aside if I find him to be negligent, ignorant, or unfaithful; and it would be ridiculous for him to say, I make myself judge in my own case, for I only, or such as I shall

« AnteriorContinuar »