That 'tis natural for Nations to govern, or to chuse Governors; and that Virtue only gives a natural preference of one man above another, or reason why one should be chosen rather than another.
IN this chapter our author fights valiantly against Bellarmine and Suarez, seeming to think himself victorious, if he can shew that either of them hath contradicted the other, or himself; but being no way concerned in them, I shall leave their followers to defend their quarrel: My work is to seek after truth; and, tho they may have said some things, in matters not concerning their beloved cause of popery, that are agreeable to reason, law or Scripture, I have little hope of finding it among those who apply themselves chiefly to School-sophistry, as the best means to support idolatry. That which I maintain, is the cause of mankind; which ought not to suffer, tho champions of corrupt principles have weakly defended, or maliciously betrayed it: and therefore not at all relying on their authority, I intend to reject whatsoever they say that agrees not with reason, Scripture, or the approved examples of the best polished nations. He also attacks Plato and Aristotle, upon whose opinions I set a far greater value, in as much as they seem to have penetrated more deeply into the secrets of human nature; and not only to have judged more rightly of the interests of mankind, but also to have comprehended in their writings the wisdom of the Grecians, with all that they had learnt from the Phoenicians, Egyptians and Hebrews; which may lead us to the discovery of the truth we seek. If this be our work, the question is not, whether it be a paradox, or a received opinion, that people naturally govern, or chuse governors, but whether it be true or not; for many paradoxes are true, and the most gross errors have often been most common. Tho I hope to prove, that what he calls a paradox, is not only true; but a truth planted in the hearts of men, and acknowledged so to be by all that have hearkened to the voice of nature, and disapproved by none, but such as through wickedness, stupidity, or baseness of spirit, seem to have degenerated into the worst of beasts, and to have retained nothing of men, but the outward shape, or the ability of doing those mischiefs which they have learnt from their master the Devil.
We have already seen, that the patriarchical power resembles not the regal in principle or practice: that the beginning and continuance of regal power was contrary to, and inconsistent with the patriarchical: that the first fathers of mankind left all their children independent on each other, and in an equal liberty of providing for themselves: that every man continued in this liberty, till the number so increased, that they became troublesome and dangerous to each other; and finding no other remedy to the disorders growing, or like to grow among them, joined many families into one civil body, that they might the better provide for the conveniency, safety, and defence of themselves and their children. This was a collation of every man's private right into a publick stock; and no one having any other right than what was common to all, except it were that of fathers over their children, they were all equally free when their fathers were dead; and nothing could induce them to join, and lessen that natural liberty by joining in societies, but the hopes of a publick advantage.
Such as were wise and valiant procured it, by setting up regular governments, and placing the best men in the administration; whilst the weakest and basest fell under the power of the most boisterous and violent of their neighbours. Those of the first sort had their root in wisdom and justice, and are called lawful kingdoms or commonwealths; and the rules by which they are governed, are known by the name of laws. These governments have ever been the nurses of virtue: The nations living under them have flourished in peace and happiness, or made wars with glory and advantage: whereas the other sort springing from violence and wrong, have ever gone under the odious title of tyrannies; and by fomenting vices, like to those from whence they grew, have brought shame and misery upon those who were subject to them. This appears so plainly in Scripture, that the assertors of liberty want no other patron than God himself; and his word so fully justifies what we contend for, that it were not necessary to make use of human authority, if our adversaries did not oblige us to examine such as are cited by them. This, in our present case, would be an easy work, if our author had rightly marked the passages he would make use of, or had been faithful in his interpretation or explication of such as he truly cites; but failing grossly in both, 'tis hard to trace him.
He cites the 16th chapter of the third book of Aristotle's Politicks, and I do not find there is more than twelve; or tho that wound might be cured, by saying the words are in the twelfth, his fraud in perverting the sense were unpardonable, tho the other mistake be passed over. 'Tis true that Aristotle doth there seem to doubt whether there be any such thing as one man naturally a lord over many citizens, since a city consists of equals: but in the whole scope of that chapter, book, and his other writings, he fully shews his doubt did not arise from an imagination that one man could naturally inherit a right of dominion over many not descended from him; or that they were born under a necessity of being slaves to him (for such fancies can proceed only from distemper'd brains) but that civil societies aiming at the publick good, those who by nature were endowed with such virtues or talents as were most beneficial to them, ought to be preferred. And nothing can be more contrary to the frantick whimsy of our author, who fancies an hereditary prerogative of dominion inherent in a person as father of a people, or heir, or to be reputed heir of the first father, when 'tis certain he is not, but that either he or his predecessor came in by election or usurpation, than to shew that 'tis only wisdom, justice, valour, and other commendable virtues, which are not hereditary, that can give the preference; and that the only reason why it should be given, is, that men so qualified can better than others accomplish the ends for which societies are constituted: For tho, says he, all are equally free, all are not equally endowed with those virtues that render liberty safe, prosperous, and happy. That equality which is just among equals, is just only among equals; but such as are base, ignorant, vicious, slothful, or cowardly, are not equal in natural or acquired virtues, to the generous, wise, valiant, and industrious; nor equally useful to the societies in which they live: they cannot therefore have an equal part in the government of them; they cannot equally provide for the common good; and 'tis not a personal, but a publick benefit that is sought in their constitution and continuance. There may be a hundred thousand men in an army, who are all equally free; but they only are naturally most fit to be commanders or leaders, who most excel in the virtues required for the right performance of those offices; and that, not because 'tis good for them to be raised above their brethren, but because 'tis good for their brethren to be guided by them, as 'tis ever good to be governed by the wisest and the best. If the nature of man be reason, detur digniori, in matters of this kind, is the voice of nature; and it were not only a deviation from reason, but a most desperate and mischievous madness, for a company going to the Indies, to give the guidance of their ship to the son of the best pilot in the world, if he want the skill required to that employment, or to one who was maliciously set to destroy them; and he only can have a right grounded upon the dictates of nature, to be advanced to the helm, who best knows how to govern it, and has given the best testimonies of his integrity and intentions to employ his skill for the good of those that are embarked. But as the work of a magistrate, especially if he be the supreme, is the highest, noblest, and most difficult that can be committed to the charge of a man, a more excellent virtue is required in the person who is to be advanced to it, than for any other; and he that is most excellent in that virtue, is reasonably and naturally to be preferred before any other. Aristotle having this in his view, seems to think, that those who believed it not to be natural for one man to be lord of all the citizens, since a city consists of equals, had not observed that inequality of endowments, virtues and abilities in men, which render some more fit than others, for the performance of their duties, and the work intended; but it will not be found, as I suppose, that he did ever dream of a natural superiority, that any man could ever have in a civil society, unless it be such a superiority in virtue, as most conduces to the publick good.
He confirms this in proceeding to examine the different sorts of governments, according to the different dispositions of nations; and is so bold to say, that a popular government is the best for a people, who are naturally generous and warlike: that the government of a few suits best with those, among whom a few men are found to excel others in those virtues that are profitable to societies; and that the government of one is good, when that one does so far surpass all others in those virtues, that he hath more of them than all the rest of the people together: and for the same reason that induced him to believe that equality is just amongst equals, he concludes inequality of power to be most unjust, unless there be inequality of merit; and equality of power to be so also, when there is inequality of virtue, that being the only rule by which every man's part ought to be regulated.
But if it be neither reasonable nor just that those who are not equal in virtue should be made equal in power, or that such as are equal in virtue should be unequal in power, the most brutal and abominable of all extravagancies is to make one or a few, who in virtue and abilities to perform civil functions are inferior to others, superior to all in power; and the miseries suffered by those nations, who inverting the laws of nature and reason, have placed children, or men of no virtue in the government, when men that excelled in all virtues were not wanting, do so far manifest this truth, that the pains of proving it may be spared.
'Tis not necessary for me to inquire, whether it be possible to find such a man as Aristotle calls naturâ regent, or whether he intended to recommend Alexander to the world, for the man designed by God and nature to be king over all, because no man was equal to him in the virtues that were beneficial to all. For pursuing my position, that virtue only can give a just and natural preference, I ingenuously confess, that when such a man, or race of men as he describes, shall appear in the world, they carry the true marks of sovereignty upon them: We ought to believe, that God has raised them above all, whom he has made to excel all: It were an impious folly to think of reducing him into the ordinary level of mankind, whom God has placed above it. 'Twere better for us to be guided by him, than to follow our own judgment; nay, I could almost say, 'twere better to serve such a master, than to be free. But this will be nothing to the purpose, till such a man, or succession of men do appear; and if our author would persuade us, that all mankind, or every particular, is obliged to a perpetual subjection to one man or family, upon any other condition, he must do it by the credit of those who favour his design more than Aristotle.
I know not who that will be, but am confident he will find no help from Plato: for if his principles be examined, by which a grave author's sense is best comprehended, it will appear, that all his books of laws, and of a commonwealth, are chiefly grounded upon this, that magistrates are chosen by societies, seeking their own good; and that the best men ought to be chosen for the attaining of it: whereas his whole design of seeking which is the best form of government, or what laws do most conduce to its perfection and permanency (if one rule were by nature appointed for all, and none could justly transgress it; if God had designed an universal lord over the whole world, or a particular one over every nation, who could be bound by no law), were utterly absurd; and they who write books concerning political matters, and take upon them to instruct nations how to govern themselves, would be found either foolishly to misspend their time, or impiously to incite people to rebel against the ordinance of God. If this can justly be imputed to Plato, he is not the wise man he is supposed to have been; and can less deserve the title of divine, which our author gives him: but if he remain justly free from such censures, it must be confessed, that whilst he seeks what is good for a people, and to convince them by reason that it is so, he takes it for granted, that they have a liberty of chusing that which appears to be the best to them. He first says, that this good consists in the obtaining of justice; but farther explaining himself, he shews that under the name of justice, he comprehends all that tends to their perfection and felicity; in as much as every people, by joining in a civil society, and creating magistrates, doth seek its own good; and 'tis just, that he or they who are created, should, to the utmost of their power, accomplish the end of their creation, and lead the people to justice, without which there is neither perfection nor happiness: That the proper act of justice is to give to everyone his due; to man that which belongs to man, and to God that which is God's. But as no man can be just, or desire to be so, unless he know that justice is good; nor know that it is good, unless he know that original justice and goodness, through which all that is just is just, and all that is good is good, 'tis impossible for any man to perform the part of a good magistrate, unless he have the knowledge of God; or to bring a people to justice, unless he bring them to the knowledge of God, who is the root of all justice and goodness. If Plato therefore deserve credit, he only can duly perform the part of a good magistrate, whose moral virtues are ripened and heightened by a superinduction of divine knowledge. The misery of man proceeds from his being separated from God: This separation is wrought by corruption; his restitution therefore to felicity and integrity, can only be brought about by his reunion to the good from which he is fallen. Plato looks upon this as the only worthy object of man's desire; and in his Laws and Politicks he intends not to teach us how to erect manufactures, and to increase trade or riches; but how magistrates may be helpful to nations in the manner before-mentioned, and consequently what men are fit to be magistrates. If our author therefore would make use of Plato's doctrine to his end, he ought to have proved that there is a family in every nation, to the chief of which, and successively to the next in blood, God does ever reveal and infuse such a knowledge of himself, as may render him a light to others; and failing in this, all that he says is to no purpose.
The weakness in which we are born, renders us unable to attain this good of ourselves: we want help in all things, especially in the greatest. The fierce barbarity of a loose multitude, bound by no law, and regulated by no discipline, is wholly repugnant to it: Whilst every man fears his neighbour, and has no other defence than his own strength, he must live in that perpetual anxiety which is equally contrary to that happiness, and that sedate temper of mind which is required for the search of it. The first step towards the cure of this pestilent evil, is for many to join in one body, that everyone may be protected by the united force of all; and the various talents that men possess, may by good discipline be rendered useful to the whole; as the meanest piece of wood or stone being placed by a wise architect, conduces to the beauty of the most glorious building. But every man bearing in his own breast affections, passions, and vices that are repugnant to this end, and no man owing any submission to his neighbour; none will subject the correction or restriction of themselves to another, unless he also submit to the same rule. They are rough pieces of timber or stone, which 'tis necessary to cleave, saw, or cut: This is the work of a skillful builder, and he only is capable of erecting a great fabrick, who is so: Magistrates are political architects; and they only can perform the work incumbent on them, who excel in political virtues. Nature, in variously framing the minds of men, according to the variety of uses in which they may be employ'd, in order to the institution and preservation of civil societies, must be our guide, in allotting to every one his proper work. And Plato observing this variety, affirms, that the laws of nature cannot be more absurdly violated, than by giving the government of a people to such, as do not excel others in those arts and virtues that tend to the ultimate ends for which governments are instituted. By this means those who are slaves by nature, or rendered so by their vices, are often set above those that God and nature had fitted for the highest commands; and societies which subsist only by order, fall into corruption, when all order is so preposterously inverted, and the most extreme confusion introduced. This is an evil that Solomon detested: Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low places: I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth. They who understand Solomon's language, will easily see, that the rich, and the princes he means, are such only who are rich in virtue and wisdom, and who ought to be preferred for those qualities: And when he says, a servant that reigneth is one of the three things the earth cannot bear, he can only mean such as deserve to be servants; for when they reign, they do not serve, but are served by others: which perfectly agrees with what we learn from Plato, and plainly shews, that true philosophy is perfectly conformable with what is taught us by those who were divinely inspired. Therefore tho I should allow to our author, that Aristotle, in those words, It seems to some, not to be natural for one man to be lord of all the citizens, since the city consists of equals, did speak the opinion of others rather than his own; and should confess that he and his master Plato, did acknowledge a natural inequality among men, it would be nothing to his purpose: for the inequality, and the rational superiority due to some, or to one, by reason of that inequality, did not proceed from blood or extraction, and had nothing patriarchical in it; but consisted solely in the virtues of the persons, by which they were rendered more able than others to perform their duty, for the good of the society. Therefore if these authors are to be trusted, whatsoever place a man is advanced to in a city, 'tis not for his own sake, but for that of the city; and we are not to ask who was his father, but what are his virtues in relation to it. This induces a necessity of distinguishing between a simple and a relative inequality; for if it were possible for a man to have great virtues, and yet no way beneficial to the society of which he is, or to have some one vice that renders them useless, he could have no pretence to a magistratical power more than any other. They who are equally free, may equally enjoy their freedom; but the powers that can only be executed by such as are endowed with great wisdom, justice and valour, can belong to none, nor be rightly conferred upon any, except such as excel in those virtues. And if no such can be found, all are equally by turns to participate of the honours annexed to magistracy; and law, which is said to be written reason, cannot justly exalt those, whom nature, which is reason, hath depressed, nor depress those whom nature hath exalted. It cannot make kings slaves, nor slaves kings, without introducing that evil, which, if we believe Solomon, and the spirit by which he spoke, the earth cannot bear. This may discover what lawgivers deserve to be reputed wise or just; and what decrees or sanctions ought to be reputed laws. Aristotle proceeding by this rule, rather tells us, who is naturally a king, than where we should find him; and after having given the highest praises to this true natural king and his government, he sticks not to declare that of one man, in virtue equal or inferior to others, to be a mere tyranny, even the worst of all, as it is the corruption of the best (or, as our author calls it, the most divine), and such as can be fit only for those barbarous and stupid nations, which, tho bearing the shape of men, are little different from beasts. Whoever therefore will from Aristotle's words infer, that nature has designed one man, or succession of men, to be lords of every country, must shew that man to be endowed with all the virtues, that render him fit for so great an office, which he does not bear for his own pleasure, glory or profit, but for the good of those that are under him; and if that be not done, he must look after other patrons than Aristotle for his opinion.
Plato does more explicitly say, that the civil or politick man, the shepherd, father, or king of a people, is the same, designed for the same work, enabled to perform it by the excellency of the same virtues, and made perfect by the infusion of the divine wisdom. This is Plato's monarch, and I confess, that wheresoever he does appear in the world, he ought to be accounted as sent from God for the good of that people. His government is the best that can be set up among men; and if assurance can be given, that his children, heirs or successors, shall forever be equal to him in the above-mentioned virtues, it were a folly and a sin to bring him under the government of any other, or to an equality with them, since God had made him to excel them all; and 'tis better for them to be ruled by him, than to follow their own judgment. This is that which gives him the preference: He is wise through the knowledge of the truth, and thereby becomes good, happy, pure, beautiful and perfect. The divine light shining forth in him, is a guide to others; and he is a fit leader of a people to the good that he enjoys.[l2] If this can be expressed by words in fashion, this is his prerogative; this is the royal charter given to him by God; and to him only, who is so adapted for the performance of his office. He that should pretend to the same privileges, without the same abilities to perform the works for which they are granted, would exceed the folly of a child, that takes upon him a burden which can only be borne by a giant; or the madness of one who presumes to give physick, and understands not the art of a physician, thereby drawing guilt upon himself, and death upon his patient. It were as vain to expect that a child should carry the giant's burden, and that an ignorant man should give wholsome physick, as that one who lives void of all knowledge of good, should conduct men to it. Whensoever therefore such a man, as is above-described, does not appear, nature and reason instruct us to seek him or them who are most like to him; and to lay such burdens upon them as are proportionable to their strength; which is as much as to say, to prefer every man according to his merit, and assign to every one such works as he seems able to accomplish.
But that Plato and Aristotle may neither be thought unreasonably addicted to monarchy; nor, wholly rejecting it, to have talked in vain of a monarch, that is not to be found; 'tis good to consider that this is not a fiction. Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and others, were such as they define; and were made to be such, by that communion with God which Plato requires: And he in all his writings, intending the institution of such a discipline as should render men happy, wise and good, could take no better way to bring his countrymen to it, than by shewing them that wisdom, virtue, and purity only could make a natural difference among men.
'Tis not my work to justify these opinions of Plato and his scholar Aristotle: They were men, and, tho wise and learned, subject to error. If they erred in these points, it hurts not me, nor the cause I maintain, since I make no other use of their books, than to shew the impudence and prevarication of those, who gather small scraps out of good books, to justify their assertions concerning such kings as are known amongst us; which being examined, are found to be wholly against them; and if they were followed, would destroy their persons and power.
But our author's intention being only to cavil, or to cheat such as are not versed in the writings of the ancients, or at least to cause those who do not make truth their guide, to waver and fluctuate in their discourses, he does in one page say, That without doubt Moses his history of the Creation guided these philosophers in finding out this lineal subjection: And in the next affirms, That the ignorance of the Creation, occasioned several amongst the heathen philosophers to think that men met together as herds of cattle: Whereas they could not have been ignorant of the Creation, if they had read the books that Moses writ; and having that knowledge, they could not think that men met together as herds of cattle. However, I deny that any of them did ever dream of that lineal subjection, derived from the first parents of mankind, or that any such thing was to be learnt from Moses. Tho they did not perhaps justly know the beginning of mankind, they did know the beginnings and progress of the governments under which they lived; and being assured that the first kingdoms had been those, which they called heroum regna, that is, of those who had been most beneficial to mankind; that their descendants in many places degenerating from their virtues, had given nations occasion to set up aristocracies; and they also falling into corruption, to institute democracies, or mixed governments; did rightly conclude, that every nation might justly order their own affairs according to their own pleasure, and could have neither obligation nor reason to set up one man or a few above others, unless it did appear to them that they had more of those virtues, which conduce to the good of civil societies, than the rest of their brethren.
Our author's cavil upon Aristotle's opinion, That those who are wise in mind are by nature fitted to be lords, and those who are strong of body ordained to obey, deserves no answer; for he plainly falsifies the text: Aristotle speaks only of those qualities which are required for every purpose; and means no more, than that such as are eminent in the virtues of the mind deserve to govern, tho they do not excel in bodily strength; and that they who are strong of body, tho of little understanding, and incapable of commanding, may be useful in executing the commands of others: But is so far from denying that one man may excel in all the perfections of mind and body, that he acknowledges him only to be a king by nature who does so, both being required for the full performance of his duty. And if this be not true, I suppose that one who is like Agrippa Posthumus, carporis viribus stolidé ferox, may be fit to govern many nations; and Moses or Samuel, if they naturally wanted bodily strength, or that it decayed by age, might justly be made slaves, which is a discovery worthy our author's invention.
 [Patriarcha, ch. 12.]
 [Patriarcha, ch. 12.]
 [Aristotle, Politics, bk. 3.]
 [Aristotle, Politics, bk. 3.]
 Plato de Leg. & de Republ. [Plato, Laws and Republic.]
 Plato de Leg. [Laws, bk. 4.]
 Eccl. 10.7.
 [Aristotle, Politics, bk. 3.]
 [Proverbs 30:21-22.]
 Plato in Alcib. 1. 1, 2. 
 [Patriarcha, ch. 12.]
 [Patriarcha; Aristotle, Politics, bk. 1.]
 [Tacitus, Annals, bk. 1.]