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for him, he not for them, and they all in one body inferior to him single; which were a kind of treason against the dignity of mankind to affirm. Thirdly, it follows, that to say kings are accountable to none but God, is the overturning of all law and government. For if they may refuse to give account, then all covenants made with them at coronation, all oaths are in vain, and mere mockeries; all laws which they swear to keep, made to no purpose: for if the king fear not God, (as how many of them do not,) we hold then our lives and estates by the tenure of his mere grace and mercy, as from a god, not a mortal magistrate; a position that none but court parasites or men besotted would maintain !” This position Milton fortifies by references to ancient history, both sacred and profane, and adds:—“It follows, lastly, that since the king or magistrate holds his authority of the people, both originally and naturally for their good, in the first place, and not his own, then may the people, as oft as they shall judge it for the best, either choose him or reject him, retain him or depose him, though no tyrant, merely by the liberty and right of freeborn men to be governed as seems to them best.” This he supports by numerous passages both from the Old and New Testaments. He next shows that the sacred writers, in prescribing the . duty of civil subordination, at the same time define the power to which such obedience is due, namely, those who are a terror only to evil-doers, and a protection and encouragement to those that do well; and adds, “If such only be mentioned here as powers to be obeyed, and our submission to them only required, then doubtless those powers that do the contrary are no powers ordained of God; and by consequence no obligation laid upon us to obey, or not to resist them. And it may be well observed, that both these apostles, whenever they give this precept, express it in terms not concrete, but abstract, as logicians are wont to * Prose Works, vol. ii., pp. 12, 18.
speak; that is, they mention the ordinance, the power, the authority, before the persons that execute it; and what that power is, lest we should be deceived, 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 devil, and by consequence to be resisted.” After fencing this position, as before, with the authority of revelation, he concludes:—“We may from hence with more ease and force of argument determine what a tyrant is, and what the people may do against him. A tyrant, whether by wrong or by right coming to the crown, is he who, regarding neither law nor the common good, reigns only for himself and his faction: thus St. Basil, 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— murders, massacres, rapes, adulteries, desolation, and subversion of cities and whole provinces—look how great a good and happiness a just king is, so great a mischief is a tyrant; as he the public father of his country, so this the common enemy. Against whom what the people lawfully may do, as against a common pest and destroyer of mankind, I suppose no man of clear judgment need go further to be guided than by the very principles of nature in him.”
Milton next shows that there is no such peculiarity in the relation subsisting between a monarch and his subjects, as removes it from the operation of those great moral principles which apply to all the other relations of mankind. “Who knows not,” he says, “that there is a mutual bond of amity and brotherhood between man and man over all the world P 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 do one to another so as hostility could do no worse, what doth the law decree less against them, than
* Prose Works, vol. ii., pp. 17, 18.
open enemies and invaders ? or if the law be not present or too weak, what doth it warrant us to less than single defence or civil war? and from that time forward the law of civil defensive war differs nothing from the law of foreign hostility. Nor is it distance of place that makes enmity, but enmity that makes distance. He, therefore, that keeps peace with me, near or remote, of whatsoever nation, is to me, as far 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 liberty, to him offended, and to the law in his behalf, though born in the same womb, he is no better than a Turk, a Saracen, a heathen."*
This position Milton proceeds to fortify by the Old Testament examples of Ehud, Samuel, and David ; and then, passing from example to precept, descends to the principles of the New Testament dispensation. He comments on the contrast established between the “ princes of the Gentiles" and his servants; and emphatically notices that he speaks of them as “they that seem to rule” (in the common version, “ they which are accounted to rule”), “ either slighting or accounting them no lawful rulers;" adding, “and although he himself were the meekest, and came on earth to be so, yet to a tyrant we hear him not vouchsafe an humble word; but, •Tell that fox, Luke xiii. 32. So far we ought to be from thinking that Christ and his gospel should be made a sanctuary from justice for tyrants, to whom his law before never gave such protection."
Pursuing the course of this argument, from the times of Christ through the history of nominally Christian states, he thus applies it to our own country:—“Gildas, the most ancient of all our historians, speaking of those times wherein the Roman empire decaying, quitted and relinquished what right they had by conquest to this island, and resigned it all into the people's hands, testifies that the people thus
* Prose Works, vol. ii., pp. 17, 18.
reinvested with their own original right, about the year 446, both elected them kings, whom they thought best, (the first Christian British kings that ever reigned here since the Romans,) and by the same right, when they apprehended cause, usually deposed and put them to death. This is the most fundamental and ancient tenure 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 Britons for so doing, the answer is as ready—that he condemns them no more for so doing than he did before for choosing such; for, saith he, “They anointed them kings not of God, but such as were (more bloody than the rest.' Next, he condemns them not at all for deposing or putting them to death, but for doing it over hastily, without trial or well examining the cause, and for electing others worse in their room. Thus we have here both domestic and most ancient examples, that the people of Britain have deposed and put to death their kings 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 their duty than the power of their keys, though without express warrant of Scripture, to bring indifferently both king and peasant under the utmost rigour of their canons and censures ecclesiastical, even to the smiting him with a final excommunion, if he persist impenitent; what hinders but that the temporal law both may and ought, though without a special text or precedent, extend with like indifference to 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 P” After tracing the thread of his argument through more modern history, he closes with his main opponents by citing John Knox, the head of the presbyterian branch of the Reformation, who “maintained openly, at a general assem* Prose Works, vol. ii., pp. 23, 24.
bly, in a dispute against Lethington, the secretary of state, that subjects might and ought to execute God's judgments upon their king; that the fact of Jehu and others against their king, having the ground of God's ordinary command to put such and such offenders to death, was not extraordinary, but to be imitated of all that preferred 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 than any other subject: so that if the king be a murderer, adulterer, or idolater, he should suffer, not as a king, but as an offender; and this position he repeats again and again before them.” This judgment he further shows to be in accordance with the principles of the Reformers generally. “And Knox,” he adds, “being commanded by the nobility to write to Calvin and other learned men for their judgments in that question, refused, alleging that both himself was fully resolved in conscience, and had heard their judgments, 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 again, what should he do but show his own forgetfulness or inconstancy?” To this he adds the embassy of the Scots to Queen Elizabeth, with reference to the deposition of Mary, in which they openly assumed the right of making and deposing monarchs, maintaining that regal power was nothing else but a mutual covenant or stipulation between king and people, and proceeds to prove that the presbyterians had in Parliament acted on this constitutional principle. “There is nothing,” he says, “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 oaths of allegiance and supremacy observed without equivocating, or any mental reservation. Out of doubt, then, when the king shall command things already constituted in church or state,