All just Magistratical Power is from the People.

HAVING proved that the right of a father proceeds from the generation and education of his children: That no man can have that right over those, whom he hath not begotten and educated: That every man hath it over those, who owe their birth and education to him: That all the sons of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and others, did equally inherit it: That by the same reasons, it doth forever belong to every man that begets children; it plainly appears, that no father can have a right over others, unless it be by them granted to him, and that he receive his right from those who granted it. But our author, with an admirable sagacity peculiar to himself, discovers, and with equal confidence tells us, that that which is from the people, or the chief heads of them, is not from the people: He that is so elected, says he, claims not his right from the people as a donative, but from God.[1] That is, if I mistake not, Romulus was not made king of the Romans by that people, but by God: Those men being newly gathered together, had two fathers, tho neither of them had any children; and no man knew who was their father, nor which of them was the elder: But Romulus by the slaughter of his brother decided all questions, and purchased to himself a royal charter from God; and the act of the people which conferred the power on him, was the act of God. We had formerly learnt, that whatsoever was done by monarchs, was to be imputed to God; and that whosoever murdered the father of a people, acquired the same right to himself: but now it seems, that nations also have the same privilege, and that God doth, what they do. Now I understand why it was said of old, vox populi est vox Dei:[2] But if it was so in regard of Romulus, the same must be confessed of Tullus Hostilius, Ancus Marcius, Tarquinius Priscus, and Servius Tullius; who being all strangers to each other, and most of them aliens also, were successively advanced by the same people, without any respect to the children, relations or heirs of their predecessors. And I cannot comprehend, why the act of the same people should not have the same virtue, and be equally attributed to God, when they gave the same or more power to consuls, military tribunes, decemviri, or dictators; or why the same divine character should not be in the same manner conferred upon any magistracies, that by any people have been, are, or shall be at any time erected for the same ends.

Upon the same grounds we may conclude, that no privilege is peculiarly annexed to any form of government; but that all magistrates are equally the ministers of God, who perform the work for which they were instituted; and that the people which institutes them, may proportion, regulate and terminate their power, as to time, measure, and number of persons, as seems most convenient to themselves, which can be no other than their own good. For it cannot be imagined that a multitude of people should send for Numa, or any other person to whom they owed nothing, to reign over them, that he might live in glory and pleasure; or for any other reason, than that it might be good for them and their posterity. This shews the work of all magistrates to be always and everywhere the same, even the doing of justice, and procuring the welfare of those that create them. This we learn from common sense: Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and the best human authors lay it as an unmoveable foundation, upon which they build their arguments relating to matters of that nature: And the Apostle from better authority declares, That rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil: Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shah have praise of the same; for he is the minister of God unto thee for good: But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil.[3] And the reason he gives for praying for kings, and all that are in authority, is, that we may live a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.[4] But if this be the work of the magistrate, and the glorious name of God's minister be given to him for the performance of it, we may easily see to whom that title belongs. His children and servants ye are, whose works ye do. He therefore, and he only, is the servant of God, who does the work of God; who is a terror to those that do evil, and a praise to those that do well; who beareth the sword for the punishment of wickedness and vice, and so governs, that the people may live quietly in all godliness and honesty. The order of his institution is inverted, and the institution vacated, if the power be turned to the praise of those that do evil, and becomes a terror to such as do well; and that none who live honestly and justly can be quiet under it. If God be the fountain of justice, mercy and truth, and those his servants who walk in them, no exercise of violence, fraud, cruelty, pride, or avarice, is patronized by him: and they who are the authors of those villainies, cannot but be the ministers of him, who sets himself up against God; because 'tis impossible that truth and falsehood, mercy and cruelty, justice and the most violent oppression can proceed from the same root. It was a folly and a lie in those Jews, to call themselves the children of Abraham, who did not the works of Abraham; and Christ declared them to be the children of the Devil, whose works they did:[5] which words proceeding from the eternal truth, do as well indicate to us, whose child and servant every man is to be accounted, as to those who first heard them.

If our author's former assertions were void of judgment and truth, his next clause shews a great defect in his memory, and contradicts the former: The judgments of God, says he, who hath power to give and take away kingdoms, are most just; yet the ministry of men, who execute God's judgments without commission, is sinful and damnable.[6] If it be true, as he says, that we are to look at the power, not the ways by which it is gained; and that he who hath it, whether it be by usurpation, conquest, or any other means, is to be accounted as father, or right heir to the father of the people, to which title the most sublime and divine privileges are annexed, a man, who by the most wicked and unjust actions advances himself to the power, becomes immediately the father of the people, and the minister of God; which I take to be a piece of divinity worthy our author and his disciples.

It may be doubted what he means by a commission from God; for we know of none but what is outwardly by his word, or inwardly by his spirit; and I am apt to think, that neither he nor his abettors allowing of either, as to the point in question, he doth fouly prevaricate, in alleging that which he thinks cannot be of any effect. If any man should say, that the word of God to Moses, Joshua, Ehud, Gideon, Samuel, Jeroboam and Jehu, or any others, are, in the like cases, rules to be observed by all; because that which was from God was good; that which was good, is good; and he that does good, is justified by it: He would probably tell us, that what was good in them, is not good in others; and that the word of God doth justify those only to whom it is spoken: That is to say, no man can execute the just judgments of God, to the benefit of mankind, according to the example of those servants of God, without damnable sin, unless he have a precise word particularly directed to him for it, as Moses had. But if any man should pretend that such a word was come to him, he would be accounted an enthusiast, and obtain no credit. So that, which way soever the clause be taken, it appears to be full of fraud, confessing only in the theory, that which he thinks can never be brought into practice; that his beloved villainies may be thereby secured, and that the glorious examples of the most heroick actions, performed by the best and wisest men that ever were in the world for the benefit of mankind, may never be imitated.

The next clause shews, that I did our author no wrong in saying, that he gave a right to usurpation; for he plainly says, That whether the prince be the supreme father of his people, or the true heir of such a father; or whether he come to the crown by usurpation, or election of the nobles or people, or by any other way whatsoever, &c. it is the only right and authority of the natural father.[7] In the 3d chap. sect. 8. It skills not which way the king comes by his power, whether by election, donation, succession, or by any other means.[8] And in another place, That we are to regard the power, not the means by which it is gained. To which I need say no more, than that I cannot sufficiently admire the ingeniously invented title of father by usurpation; and confess, that since there is such a thing in the world, to which not only private men, but whole nations owe obedience, whatsoever has been said anciently (as was thought to express the highest excess of fury and injustice), as, jus datum sceleri; jus omne in ferro est situm; jus licet in jugulos nostros sibi fecerit ense Sylla potens Mariusque; ferox & Cinna cruentus, Caesareaeque domus series,[9] were solid truths, good law and divinity; which did not only signify the actual exercise of the power, but induced a conscientious obligation of obeying it. The powers so gained, did carry in themselves the most sacred and inviolable rights; and the actors of the most detestable villainies thereby became the ministers of God, and the fathers of their subdued people. Or if this be not true, it cannot be denied, that Filmer and his followers, in the most impudent and outrageous blasphemy, have surpassed all that have gone before them.

To confirm his assertions, he gives us a wonderful explanation of the fifth commandment; which, he says, enjoins obedience to princes, under the terms of, Honour thy father and thy mother; drawing this inference, That as all power is in the father, the prince who hath it, cannot be restrained by any law; which being grounded upon the perfect likeness between kings and fathers, no man can deny it to be true. But if Claudius was the father of the Roman people, I suppose the chaste Messalina was the mother, and to be honoured by virtue of the same commandment: But then I fear that such as met her in the most obscene places, were not only guilty of adultery, but of incest. The same honour must needs belong to Nero and his virtuous Poppaea, unless it were transferred to his new-made woman Sporus; or perhaps he himself was the mother, and the glorious title of pater patriae belonged to the rascal, who married him as a woman. The like may be said of Agathocles, Dionysius, Phalaris, Busiris, Machanidas, Peter the Cruel of Castile, Christian of Denmark, the last princes of the house of Valois in France, and Philip the Second of Spain. Those actions of theirs, which men have ever esteemed most detestable, and the whole course of their abominable government, did not proceed from pride, avarice, cruelty, madness and lust, but from the tender care of most pious fathers. Tacitus sadly describes the state of his country, urbs incendiis vastata, consumptis antiquissimis delubris, ipso Capitolio civium manibus incenso; pollutae ceremoniae; magna adulteria; plenum exiliis mare; infecti caedibus scopuli; atrocius in urbe saevitum; nobilitas, opes, omissi vel gesti honores pro crimine, & ob virtutes certissimum exitium;[10] but he was to blame: All this proceeded from the ardency of a paternal affection. When Nero, by the death of Helvidius Priscus and Thrasea, endeavoured to cut up virtue by the roots, ipsam exscindere virtutem,[11] he did it, because he knew it was good for the world that there should be no virtuous man in it. When he fired the city, and when Caligula wished the people had but one neck, that he might strike it off at one blow, they did it through a prudent care of their children's good, knowing that it would be for their advantage to be destroyed; and that the empty desolated world would be no more troubled with popular seditions. By the same rule Pharaoh, Eglon, Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus, Herod, and the like, were fathers of the Hebrews. And without looking far backward, or depending upon the faith of history, we may enumerate many princes, who in a paternal care of their people, have not yielded to Nero or Caligula. It our author say true, all those actions of theirs, which we have ever attributed to the utmost excess of pride, cruelty, avarice and perfidiousness, proceeded from their princely wisdom and fatherly kindness to the nations under them: and we are beholden to him for the discovery of so great a mystery which hath been hid from mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day; if not, we may still look upon them as children of the Devil; and continue to believe, that princes as well as other magistrates were set up by the people for the publick good; that the praises given to such as are wise, just and good, are purely personal, and can belong only to those, who by a due exercise of their power do deserve it, and to no others.

[1] [Patriarcha, ch. 6.]

[2] []

[3] Rom. 13.

[4] 1 Tim. 2.

[5] John 8.39.

[6] [Patriarcha, ch. 6.]

[7] [Ibid.]

[8] [Sidney used 1680 edition of Patriarcha, which had three chapters subdivided into 46 numbered sections.]

[9] Lucan, &c. [Lucan, Pharsalia, bk. 4, li. 821.]

[10] [Tacitus, Histories, bk. 1, ch. 2]

[11] [Tacitus, Annals, bk. 16, ch. 21.]