SECTION 5
Freemen join together and frame greater or lesser Societies, and give such Forms to them as best please themselves.

THIS being established, I shall leave Filmer to fight against Suarez or Bellarmine; or to turn one of them against the other, without any concernment in the combat, or the success of it. But since he thereupon raises a question, Whether the supreme power be so in the people, that there is but one and the same power in all the people of the world; so that no power can be granted, unless all men upon the earth meet, and agree to chuse a governor:[1] I think it deserves to be answered, and might do it by proposing a question to him; Whether in his opinion, the empire of the whole world doth, by the laws of God and nature, belong to one man, and who that man is? Or, how it came so to be divided, as we have ever known it to have been, without such an injury to the universal monarch, as can never be repaired? But intending to proceed more candidly, and not to trouble myself with Bellarmine or Suarez, I say, that they who place the power in a multitude, understand a multitude composed of freemen, who think it for their convenience to join together, and to establish such laws and rules as they oblige themselves to observe: which multitude, whether it be great or small, has the same right, because ten men are as free as ten millions of men; and tho it may be more prudent in some cases to join with the greater than the smaller number, because there is more strength, it is not so always: But however every man must therein be his own judge, since if he mistake, the hurt is only to himself; and the ten may as justly resolve to live together, frame a civil society, and oblige themselves to laws, as the greatest number of men that ever met together in the world.

Thus we find that a few men assembling together upon the banks of the Tiber, resolved to build a city, and set up a government among themselves: And the multitude that met at Babylon, when their design of building a tower that should reach up to heaven failed, and their language was confounded, divided themselves, as our author says, into seventy two parcels, and by the same right might have divided into more, as their descendants did, into almost an infinite number before the death of their common father Noah. But we cannot find a more perfect picture of freemen, living according to their own will, than in Abraham and Lot; they went together into Canaan, continued together as long as was convenient for them, and parted when their substance did so increase, that they became troublesome to each other. In the like manner Ishmael, Isaac, and Abraham's six sons by Keturah, might have continued together and made one nation; Isaac and Esau, Moab and Ammon might have done so too; or all of them that came of the same stock might have united together; but they did not; and their descendants by the same rule might have subdivided perpetually, if they had thought it expedient for themselves: and if the sons of Jacob did not do the like, 'tis probable they were kept together by the hope of an inheritance promised to them by God, in which we find no shadow of a despotical dominion, affected by one as father or heir to the first father, or reputed to be the heir; but all continued in that fraternal equality, which according to Abraham's words to Lot they ought to do.[2] There was no lord, slave or vassal; no strife was to be among them: They were brethren; they might live together, or separate, as they found it convenient for themselves. By the same law that Abraham and Lot, Moab and Ammon, Ishmael, Isaac, and the sons of Keturah, Jacob, Esau, and their descendants, did divide and set up several governments, every one of their children might have done the like: and the same right remained to their issue, till they had by agreement engaged themselves to each other. But if they had no dependence upon each other, and might live together in that fraternal equality which was between Abraham and Lot; or separate, and continue in that separation, or reunite; they could not but have a right of framing such conditions of their reunion as best pleased themselves. By this means every number of men, agreeing together and framing a society, became a compleat body, having all power in themselves over themselves, subject to no other human law than their own. All those that compose the society, being equally free to enter into it or not, no man could have any prerogative above others, unless it were granted by the consent of the whole; and nothing obliging them to enter into this society, but the consideration of their own good; that good, or the opinion of it, must have been the rule, motive and end of all that they did ordain. 'Tis lawful therefore for any such bodies to set up one, or a few men to govern them, or to retain the power in themselves; and he or they who are set up, having no other power but what is so conferred upon them by that multitude, whether great or small, are truly by them made what they are; and by the law of their own creation, are to exercise those powers according to the proportion, and to the ends for which they were given.

These rights, in several nations and ages, have been variously executed, in the establishment of monarchies, aristocracies, democracies, or mixed governments, according to the variety of circumstances; and the governments have been good or evil, according to the rectitude or pravity of their institution, and the virtue and wisdom, or the folly and vices of those to whom the power was committed: but the end which was ever proposed, being the good of the publick, they only performed their duty, who procured it according to the laws of the society, which were equally valid as to their own magistrates, whether they were few or many.

This might suffice to answer our author's question; but he endeavours further to perplex it, by a fiction of his own brain, That God gave this power to the whole multitude met, and not to every particular assembly of men: And expects a proof, That the whole multitude met, and divided this power which God gave them in gross, by breaking it into parcels, and by appointing a distinct power to each commonwealth. He also fathers it upon the assertors of liberty; and does not see, as he says, how there can be an election of a magistrate by any commonwealth, that is not an usurpation upon the privilege of the whole world, unless all mankind had met together, and divided the power into parcels which God had given them in gross.[3] But before I put myself to the trouble of answering that which is but an appendix to a whimsy of his own, I may justly ask, what hurt he finds in usurpation, who asserts, that the same obedience is due to all monarchs, whether they come in by inheritance, election or usurpation? If usurpation can give a right to a monarch, why does it not confer the same upon a people? Or rather, if God did in gross confer such a right upon all mankind, and they neither did, nor can meet together by consent to dispose of it for the good of the whole; why should not those who can, and do consent to meet together, agree upon that which seems most expedient to them for the government of themselves? Did God create man under the necessity of wanting government, and all the good that proceeds from it; because at the first all did not, and afterwards all could not meet to agree upon rules? Or did he ever declare, that unless they should use the first opportunity of dividing themselves into such parcels as were to remain unalterable, the right of reigning over everyone shall fall to the first villain that should dare to attempt it? Is it not more consonant to the wisdom and goodness of God, to leave to every nation a liberty of repairing the mischiefs fallen upon them through the omission of their first parents, by setting up governments among themselves, than to lay them under a necessity of submitting to any that should insolently aspire to a domination over them? Is it not more just and reasonable to believe, that the universal right not being executed, devolves upon particular nations, as members of the great body, than that it should become the reward of violence or fraud? Or is it possible that any one man can make himself lord of a people, or parcel of that body, to whom God had given the liberty of governing themselves, by any other means than violence or fraud, unless they did willingly submit to him? If this right be not devolved upon any one man, is not the invasion of it the most outrageous injury that can be done to all mankind, and most particularly to the nation that is enslaved by it? Or if the justice of every government depends necessarily upon an original grant, and a succession certainly deduced from our first fathers, does not he by his own principles condemn all the monarchies of the world, as the most detestable usurpations, since not one of them that we know do any way pretend to it? Or, tho I, who deny any power to be just that is not founded upon consent, may boldly blame usurpation, is it not an absurd and unpardonable impudence in Filmer, to condemn usurpation in a people, when he has declared that the right and power of a father may be gained by usurpation; and that nations in their obedience are to regard the power, not the means by which it was gained? But not to lose more time upon a most frivolous fiction, I affirm, that the liberty which we contend for is granted by God to every man in his own person, in such a manner as may be useful to him and his posterity, and as it was exercised by Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, &c. and their children, as has been proved, and not to the vast body of all mankind, which never did meet together since the first age after the Flood, and never could meet to receive any benefit by it.

His next question deserves scorn and hatred, with all the effects of either, if it proceed from malice; tho perhaps he may deserve compassion, if his crime proceed from ignorance: Was a general meeting of a whole kingdom, says he, ever known for the election of a prince?[4] But if there never was any general meetings of whole nations, or of such as they did delegate and entrust with the power of the whole, how did any man that was elected come to have a power over the whole? Why may not a people meet to chuse a prince, as well as any other magistrate? Why might not the Athenians, Romans, or Carthaginians, have chosen princes as well as archons, consuls, dictators or suffetes, if it had pleased them? Who chose all the Roman kings, except Tarquin the Proud, if the people did not; since their histories testify, that he was the first who took upon him to reign sine jussu populi?[5] Who ever heard of a king of the Goths in Spain, that was not chosen by the nobility and people? Or, how could they chuse him, if they did not meet in their persons, or by their deputies, which is the same thing, when a people has agreed it should be so? How did the kings of Sweden come by their power, unless by the like election, till the crown was made hereditary, in the time of Gustavus the First, as a reward of his virtue and service, in delivering that country from the tyranny of the Danes? How did Charles Gustavus come to be king, unless it was by the election of the nobility? He acknowledged by the act of his election, and upon all occasions, that he had no other right to the crown than what they had conferred on him. Did not the like custom prevail in Hungary and Bohemia, till those countries fell under the power of the House of Austria? and in Denmark till the year 1660? Do not the kings of Poland derive their authority from this popular election, which he derides? Does not the style of the oath of allegiance used in the kingdom of Aragon, as it is related by Antonio Perez secretary of state to Philip 2d, shew, that their kings were of their own making? Could they say, We who are as good as you, make you our king, on condition that you keep and observe our privileges and liberties; and if not, not;[6] if he did not come in by their election? Were not the Roman emperors in disorderly times chosen by the soldiers; and in such as were more regular, by the senate, with the consent of the people?

Our author may say, the whole body of these nations did not meet at their elections; tho that is not always true, for in the infancy of Rome, when the whole people dwelt within the walls of a small city, they did meet for the choice of their kings, as afterwards for the choice of other magistrates. Whilst the Goths, Franks, Vandals and Saxons, lived within the precincts of a camp, they frequently met for the election of a king, and raised upon a target the person they had chosen: but finding that to be inconvenient, or rather impossible, when they were vastly increased in number, and dispersed over all the countries they had conquered, no better way was found, than to institute gemotes, parliaments, diets, cortes, assemblies of estates, or the like, to do that which formerly had been performed by themselves; and when a people is, by mutual compact, joined together in a civil society, there is no difference as to right, between that which is done by them all in their own persons, or by some deputed by all, and acting according to the powers received from all.

If our author was ignorant of these things, which are the most common in all histories, he might have spared the pains of writing upon more abstruse points; but 'tis a stupendous folly in him, to presume to raise doctrines depending upon the universal law of God and nature, without examining the only law that ever God did in a publick manner give to man. If he had looked into it, he might have learnt, that all Israel was, by the command of God, assembled at Mizpeh to chuse a king, and did chuse Saul:[7] He being slain, all Judah came to Hebron, and made David their king;[8] after the death of Ishbosheth, all the tribes went to Hebron, and anointed him king over them, and he made a covenant with them before the Lord.[9] When Solomon was dead, all Israel met together in Shechem, and ten tribes disliking the proceedings of Rehoboam, rejected him, and made Jeroboam their king.[10] The same people in the time of the judges, had general assemblies, as often as occasion did require, to set up a judge, make war, or the like: and the several tribes had their assemblies to treat of businesses relating to themselves. The histories of all nations, especially of those that have peopled the best parts of Europe, are so full of examples in this kind, that no man can question them, unless he be brutally ignorant, or maliciously contentious. The great matters among the Germans were transacted omnium consensu. De minoribus consultant principes; de majoribus omnes.[11] The mickelgemote among the Saxons was an assembly of the whole people: The baronagium is truly said to be the same, in as much as it comprehended all the freemen, that is, all the people; for the difference between civis and seruus is irreconcilable; and no man, whilst he is a servant, can be a member of a commonwealth; for he that is not in his own power, cannot have a part in the government of others. All the forementioned northern nations had the like customs among them: The governments they had were so instituted. The utmost that any now remaining pretends to, is, to derive their right from them: If, according to Filmer, these first assemblies could not confer it upon the first, they had none: Such as claim under them, can inherit none from those that had none; and there can be no right in all the governments we so much venerate; and nothing can tend more to their overthrow than the reception of our author's doctrine.

Tho any one instance would be sufficient to overthrow his general negative proposition (for a rule is not generally true, if there be any just exception against it) I have alleged many, and find it so easy to increase the number, that there is no nation, whose original we know, out of whose histories I will not undertake to produce the like: but I have not been solicitous precisely to distinguish, which nations have acted in their own persons, and which have made use of delegates; nor in what times they have changed from one way to the other: for if any have acted by themselves, the thing is possible; and whatsoever is done by delegated powers, must be referred to their principals; for none can give to any a power which they have not in themselves.

He is graciously pleased to confess, That when men are assembled by a human power, that power that doth assemble them, may also limit the manner of the execution of that power, &c. But in assemblies that take their authority from the law of nature, it is not so; for what liberty or freedom is due to any man by the law of nature, no inferior power can alter, limit or diminish: No one man, or multitude of men, can give away the natural right of another, &c.[12] These are strong lines, and such as, if there be any sense in them, utterly overthrow all our author's doctrine; for if any assembly of men did ever take their authority from the law of nature, it must be of such, as remaining in the entire fruition of their natural liberty, and restrained by no contract, meet together to deliberate of such matters as concern themselves; and if they can be restrained by no one man, or number of men, they may dispose of their own affairs as they think fit. But because no one of them is obliged to enter into the society that the rest may constitute, he cannot enjoy the benefit of that society unless he enter into it: He may be gone, and set up for himself, or set up another with such as will agree with him. But if he enter into the society, he is obliged by the laws of it; and if one of those laws be, that all things should be determined by the plurality of voices, his assent is afterwards comprehended in all the resolutions of that plurality. Reuben or Simeon might, according to the laws of nature, have divided themselves from their brethren, as well as Lot from Abraham, or Ishmael and the sons of Keturah from Isaac; but when they, in hopes of having a part in the inheritance promised to their fathers, had joined with their brethren, a few of their descendants could not have a right, by their dissent, to hinder the resolutions of the whole body, or such a part of it as by the first agreement was to pass for an act of the whole. And the Scripture teaches us, that when the lot was fallen upon Saul, they who despised him were styled men of Belial;[13] and the rest, after his victory over the Ammonites, would have slain them if he had permitted. In the like manner, when a number of men met together to build Rome, any man who had disliked the design, might justly have refused to join in it; but when he had entered into the society, he could not by his vote invalidate the acts of the whole, nor destroy the rights of Romulus, Numa, and the others, who by the senate and people were made kings; nor those of the other magistrates, who after their expulsion were legally created.

This is as much as is required to establish the natural liberty of mankind in its utmost extent, and cannot be shaken by our author's surmise, That a gap is thereby opened for every seditious multitude to raise a new commonwealth:[14] For till the commonwealth be established, no multitude can be seditious, because they are not subject to any humane law; and sedition implies an unjust and disorderly opposition of that power which is legally established; which cannot be when there is none, nor by him who is not a member of the society that makes it; and when it is made, such as entered into it, are obliged to the laws of it.

This shewing the root and foundation of civil powers, we may judge of the use and extent of them, according to the letter of the law, or the true intentional meaning of it; both which declare them to be purely human ordinances, proceeding from the will of those who seek their own good; and may certainly infer, that since all multitudes are composed of such as are under some contract, or free from all, no man is obliged to enter into those contracts against his own will, nor obliged by any to which he does not assent: Those multitudes that enter into such contracts, and thereupon form civil societies, act according to their own will: Those that are engaged in none, take their authority from the law of nature; their rights cannot be limited or diminished by any one man, or number of men; and consequently whoever does it, or attempts the doing of it, violates the most sacred laws of God and nature.

His cavils concerning proxies, and the way of using them, deserve no answer, as relating only to one sort of men amongst us, and can have no influence upon the laws of nature, or the proceedings of assemblies, acting according to such rules as they set to themselves. In some places they have voted all together in their own persons, as in Athens: In others by tribes, as in Rome: Sometimes by delegates, when the number of the whole people is so great, that no one place can contain them, as in the parliaments, diets, general assemblies of estates, long used in the great kingdoms of Europe. In other parts many cities are joined together in leagues, as anciently the Achaeans, Aetolians, Samnites, Tuscans; and in these times the states of Holland, and cantons of Switzerland: but our author not regarding such matters, in pursuance of his folly, with an ignorance as admirable as his stupidity, repeats his challenge, I ask, says he, but one example out of the history of the whole world; let the commonwealth be named, wherever the multitude, or so much as the major part of it, consented either by voice or procuration to the election of a prince;[15] not observing, that if an answer could not be given, he did overthrow the rights of all the princes that are, or ever have been in the world: for if the liberty of one man cannot be limited or diminished by one, or any number of men, and none can give away the right of another, 'tis plain that the ambition of one man, or of many a faction of citizens, or the mutiny of an army, cannot give a right to any over the liberties of a whole nation. Those who are so set up, have their root in violence or fraud, and are rather to be accounted robbers and pirates, than magistrates. Leo Africanus observing in his history, that since the extinction of Mahomet's race (to whom his countrymen thought God had given the empire of the world) their princes did not come in by the consent of those nations which they governed, says, that they are esteemed thieves; and that on this account, the most honourable men among the Arabians and Moors, scorn to eat, drink, or make alliances with them:[16] and if the case were as general as that author makes it, no better rule could be anywhere followed by honourable and worthy men. But a good cause must not be lost by the fault of an ill advocate; the rights of kings must not perish, because Filmer knows not how to defend, or does maliciously betray them. I have already proved that David, and divers of the judges, were chosen by all Israel; Jeroboam by ten tribes; all the kings of Rome, except Tarquin the Proud, by the whole city. I may add many examples of the Saxons in our own country: Ine and Offa were made kings, omnium consensu:[17] These all are expressed plainly by the words, archiepiscopis, episcopis, abbatibus, senatoribus, ducibus & populo terrae.[18] Egbert and Ethelward came to the crown by the same authority, omnium consensu rex creatur.[19] Ethelwolf the Monk, necessitate cogente factus est rex, & consensus publicus in regem dari petiit. Ethelstan, tho a bastard, electus est magno consensu optimatum, & a populo consalutatus.[20] In the like manner Edwin's government being disliked, they chose Edgar, unanimi omnium conspiratione; Edwino dejecto, eligerunt Deo dictante Edgarum in regem, & annuente populo;[21] And in another place, Edgarus ab omni Anglorum populo electus est.[22] Ironside being dead, Canute was received by the general consent of all; Juraverunt illi, quod eum regem sibi eligere vellent: foedus etiam cum principibus & omni populo ipse, & illi cum ipso percusserunt,[23]

Whereupon, omnium consensu super totam Angliam Canutus coronatur.[24]Hardicanutus gaudenter ab omnibus suscipitur & electus est.[25] The same author says that Edward the Confessor electus est in regem ab omni populo:[26] And another, omnium electione in Edwardum concordatur.[27] Tho the name of Conqueror be odiously given to William the Norman, he had the same title to the crown with his predecessors, in magna exultatione a clero & populo susceptus, & ab omnibus rex acclamatus.[28] I cannot recite all the examples of this kind, that the history of almost all nations furnishes, unless I should make a volume in bulk not inferior to the book of martyrs: But those which I have mentioned out of the sacred, Roman, and English history, being more than sufficient to answer our author's challenge, I take liberty to add, that tho there could not be one example produced of a prince, or any other magistrate, chosen by the general consent of the people, or by the major part of them, it could be of no advantage to the cause he has undertaken to maintain: For when a people hath either indefinitely, or under certain conditions and limitations, resigned their power into the hands of a certain number of men; or agreed upon rules, according to which persons should, from time to time, be deputed for the management of their affairs, the acts of those persons, if their power be without restrictions, are of the same value as the acts of the whole nation, and the assent of every individual man is comprehended in them. If the power be limited, whatsoever is done according to that limitation, has the same authority. If it do therefore appear (as is testified by the laws and histories of all our northern nations) that the power of every people is either wholly, or to such a degree as is necessary for creating kings, granted to their several gemotes, diets, cortes, assemblies of estates, parliaments, and the like, all the kings that they have anywhere, or at any time chosen, do reign by the same authority, and have the same right, as if every individual man of those nations had assented to their election. But that these gemotes, diets, and other assemblies of state, have everywhere had such powers, and executed them by rejecting or setting up kings; and that the kings now in being among us have received their beginning from such acts, has been fully proved, and is so plain in itself, that none but those who are grossly stupid or impudent can deny it: which is enough to shew that all kings are not set up by violence, deceit, faction of a few powerful men, or the mutinies of armies; but from the consent of such multitudes, as joining together, frame civil societies; and either in their own persons at general assemblies, or by their delegates, confer a just and legal power upon them; which our author rejecting, he does, as far as in him lies, prove them all to be usurpers and tyrants.

[1] [Patriarcha, ch. 13.]

[2] Gen. 13.

[3] [Patriarcha, ch. 13.]

[4] [Ibid.]

[5] T. Liv. 1. 1. [Livy, History of Rome, bk. 1, ch. 49.]

[6] Nos que valemos tanto come vos, os hazemos nuestro Rey, con tal que nos guardeys nuestros fueros y libertades, y sino, no. Relation. de Ant. Perez. [Relationes de Antonio Pérez (Leon, Spain, 1592). Pérez was Secretary of State under King Philip II of Spain.]

[7] 1 Sam. 10.

[8] 2 Sam. 2.

[9] 2 Sam. 5.

[10] 1 King. 12.

[11] C. Tacit, de mor. Germ. [Tacitus, De origine et moribus Germanorum, ch. 11.]

[12] [Patriarcha, ch. 13.]

[13] 1 Sam. 10.

[14] [Patriarcha, ch. 13.]

[15] [Ibid.]

[16] Leonis Afr. hist. Africae. [Johannes Leo, the African, A Geographical History of Africa (orig. in Arabic; trans. London: G. Bishop, 1600).]

[17] Mat. Paris. []

[18] [Sir Henry Spelman, Concilia, decreta, leges, constitutiones, in re ecclesiarum orbis Britannici (London: Warren, 1664), p. 300.]

[19] Guil. Malms. Polid. [William of Malmesbury, Chronicle of the Kings of England, bk. 5.]

[20] Polid. Huntingd. [Henry of Huntingdon, Chronicle.]

[21] [William of Malmesbury, Chronicle, bk. 2, ch. 6.]

[22] Mat. West. [Roger of Wendover, Flowers of History, in Sidney's day ascribed to "Matthew Westminster," vol. 1 (the years 957 and 959).]

[23] Hoveden. Florent. [Roger de Hoveden, Annals, vol. 1.]

[24] Abbas Croyl. Huntingd. [Abbot Ingulf, Chronicle of the Abbey of Croyland (1854).]

[25] [Hoveden, Annals, vol. 1.]

[26] [Ingulf, Chronicle.]

[27] [Ingulf, Chronicle, p. 125.]

[28] [Wendover, Flowers of History, vol. 1.]


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