The Power of calling and dissolving Parliaments is not simply in the King. The variety of Customs in chusing Parliament men, and the Errors a people may commit, neither prove that Kings are or ought to be Absolute.
THE original of magistratical power, the intention of our ancestors in its creation, and the ways prescribed for the direction and limitation of it may, I presume, sufficiently appear by what has been said. But because our author, taking hold of every twig, pretends that kings may call and dissolve parliaments at their pleasure, and from thence infers the power to be wholly in them; alleges the various customs in several pans of this nation used in the elections of parliament men, to proceed from the king's will; and because a people may commit errors, thinks all power ought to be put into the hands of the king:
I answer, 1. That the power of calling and dissolving parliaments is not simply in kings. They may call parliaments, if there be occasion, at times when the law does not exact it; they are placed as sentinels, and ought vigilantly to observe the motions of the enemy, and give notice of his approach: But if the sentinel fall asleep, neglect his duty, or maliciously endeavour to betray the city, those who are concern'd may make use of all other means to know their danger, and to preserve themselves. The ignorance, incapacity, negligence or luxury of a king, is a great calamity to a nation, and his malice is worse, but not an irreparable ruin. Remedies may be, and often have been found against the worst of their vices. The last French kings of the races of Meroveus and Pepin brought many mischiefs upon the kingdom, but the destruction was prevented. Edward and Richard the Seconds of England were not unlike them, and we know by what means the nation was preserved. The question was not who had the right, or who ought to call parliaments, but how the commonwealth might be saved from ruin. The consuls, or other chief magistrates in Rome, had certainly a right of assembling and dismissing the senate: But when Hannibal was at the gates, or any other imminent danger threatened them with destruction; if that magistrate had been drunk, mad, or gained by the enemy, no wise man can think that formalities were to have been observed. In such cases every man is a magistrate; and he who best knows the danger, and the means of preventing it, has a right of calling the senate or people to an assembly. The people would, and certainly ought to follow him, as they did Brutus and Valerius against Tarquin, or Horatius and Valerius against the decemviri; and whoever should do otherwise, might for sottishness be compared to the courtiers of the two last kings of Spain. The first of these, by name Philip the third, being indisposed in cold weather, a braziero of coals was brought into his chamber, and placed so near to him, that he was cruelly scorched. A nobleman then present said to one who stood by him, the king burns; the other answered, it was true, but the page, whose office it was to bring and remove the braziero, was not there; and before he could be found, his majesty's legs and face were so burnt, that it caus'd an erysipelas, of which he died. Philip the fourth escaped not much better, who being surprised as he was hunting by a violent storm of rain and hail, and no man presuming to lend the king a cloak, he was so wet before the officer could be found who carried his own, that he took a cold, which cast him into a dangerous fever. If kings like the consequences of such a regularity, they may cause it to be observed in their own families; but nations looking in the first place to their own safety, would be guilty of the most extreme stupidity, if they should suffer themselves to be ruined for adhering to such ceremonies.
This is said upon a supposition, that the whole power of calling and dissolving parliaments, is by the law placed in the king: but I utterly deny that it is so; and to prove it, shall give the following reasons.
(1.) That the king can have no such power, unless it be given to him, for every man is originally free; and the same power that makes him king, gives him all that belongs to his being king. 'Tis not therefore an inherent, but a delegated power; and whoever receives it, is accountable to those that gave it; for, as our author is forced to confess, they who give authority by commission, do always retain more than they grant.
(2.) The law for annual parliaments expressly declares it not to be in the king's power, as to the point of their meeting, nor consequently their continuance. For they meet to no purpose if they may not continue to do the work for which they meet; and it were absurd to give them a power of meeting, if they might not continue till it be done: For, as Grotius says, Qui dat finem, dat media ad finem necessaria. The only reason why parliaments do meet, is to provide for the publick good; and they by law ought to meet for that end. They ought not therefore to be dissolved, till it be accomplished. For this reason the opinion given by Tresilian, that kings might dissolve parliaments at their pleasure, was judged to be a principal part of his treason.
(3.) We have already proved, that Saxons, Danes, Normans, &c. who had no title to the crown, were made kings by micklegemotes, witenagemotes, and parliaments; that is, either by the whole people, or their representatives: Others have been by the same authority restrained, brought to order, or deposed. But as it is impossible that such as were not kings, and had no title to be kings, could by virtue of a kingly power call parliaments, when they had none; and absurd to think that such as were in the throne, who had not govern'd according to law, would suffer themselves to be restrain'd, imprisoned, or deposed by parliaments, called and sitting by themselves, and still depending upon their will to be or not to be; 'tis certain that parliaments have in themselves a power of sitting and acting for the publick good.
2. To the second. The various customs used in elections are nothing to this question. In the counties, which make up the body of the nation, all freeholders have their votes: these are properly cives, members of the commonwealth, in distinction from those who are only incolae, or inhabitants, villains, and such as being under their parents, are not yet sui juris. These in the beginning of the Saxons' reign in England, composed the micklegemotes; and when they grew to be so numerous that one place could not contain them, or so far dispersed, that without trouble and danger they could not leave their habitations, they deputed such as should represent them. When the nation came to be more polished, to inhabit cities and towns, and to set up several arts and trades; those who exercised them were thought to be as useful to the commonwealth, as the freeholders in the country, and to deserve the same privileges. But it not being reasonable that everyone should in this case do what he pleased, it was thought fit that the king with his council (which always consisted of the proceres and magnates regni) should judge what numbers of men, and what places deserved to be made corporations or bodies politick, and to enjoy those privileges, by which he did not confer upon them anything that was his, but according to the trust reposed in him, did dispense out of the publick stock parcels of what he had received from the whole nation: And whether this was to be enjoy'd by all the inhabitants, as in Westminster; by the common hall, as in London; or by the mayor, aldermen, jurats and corporation, as in other places, 'tis the same thing: for in all these cases the king does only distribute, not give, and under the same condition that he might call parliaments, that is, for the publick good. This indeed increases the honor of the person entrusted, and adds weight to the obligation incumbent upon him; but can never change the nature of the thing, so as to make that an inherent, which is only a delegated power. And as parliaments, when occasion required, have been assembled, have refus'd to be dissolved till their work was finished, have severely punished those who went about to persuade kings, that such matters depended absolutely upon their will, and made laws to the contrary: 'tis not to be imagined, that they would not also have interposed their authority in matters of charters, if it had been observed that any king had notoriously abused the trust reposed in him, and turned the power to his private advantage, with which he was entrusted for the publick good.
That which renders this most plain and safe, is, that men chosen in this manner to serve in parliament, do not act by themselves, but in conjunction with others who are sent thither by prescription; nor by a power derived from kings, but from those that chuse them. If it be true therefore that those who delegate powers, do always retain to themselves more than they give, they who send these men, do not give them an absolute power of doing whatsoever they please, but retain to themselves more than they confer upon their deputies: They must therefore be accountable to their principals, contrary to what our author asserts. This continues in force, tho he knows not, that any knights and burgesses have ever been questioned by those that sent them; for it cannot be concluded they ought not, or may not be question'd, because none have been questioned. But in truth they are frequently questioned: The people do perpetually judge of the behaviour of their deputies. Whensoever any of them has the misfortune not to satisfy the major part of those that chose him, he is sure to be rejected with disgrace the next time he shall desire to be chosen. This is not only a sufficient punishment for such faults, as he who is but one of five hundred may probably commit, but as much as the greatest and freest people of the world did ever inflict upon their commanders that brought the greatest losses upon them. Appius Claudius, Pomponius, and Terentius Varro, survived the greatest defeats that ever the Romans suffer'd; and tho they had caused them by their folly and perverseness, were never punished. Yet I think no man doubts that the Romans had as much right over their own officers, as the Athenians and Carthaginians, who frequently put them to death. They thought the mind of a commander would be too much distracted, if at the same time he should stand in fear both of the enemy and his own countrymen: And as they always endeavoured to chuse the best men, they would lay no other necessity upon them of performing their duty, than what was suggested by their own virtue and love to their country. 'Tis not therefore to be thought strange, if the people of England have follow'd the most generous and most prosperous examples. Besides, if anything has been defective in their usual proceedings with their delegates, the inconvenience has been repaired by the modesty of the best and wisest of them that were chosen. Many in all ages, and sometimes the whole body of the commons, have refused to give their opinion in some cases, till they had consulted with those that sent them: The houses have been often adjourned to give them time to do it; and if this were done more frequently, or that the towns, cities and counties, had on some occasions given instructions to their deputies, matters would probably have gone better in parliament than they have often done.
3. The question is not, whether the parliament be impeccable or infallible, but whether an assembly of nobility, with a house of commons composed of those who are best esteemed by their neighbors in all the towns and counties of England, are more or less subject to error or corruption, than such a man, woman or child, as happens to be next in blood to the last king. Many men do usually see more than one; and if we may believe the wisest king, In the multitude of counsellors, there is safety. Such as are of mature age, good experience, and approved reputation for virtue and wisdom, will probably judge better than children or fools. Men are thought to be more fit for war than women; and those who are bred up in discipline, to understand it better than those who never knew anything of it. If some counties or cities fail to chuse such men as are eminently capable, all will hardly be so mistaken as to chuse those who have no more of wisdom or virtue, than is usually entail'd upon families. But Filmer at a venture admires the profound wisdom of the king; tho besides such as we have known, histories give us too many proofs, that all those who have been possessed of crowns, have not excelled that way. He speaks of kings in general, and makes no difference between Solomon and his foolish son. He distinguishes not our Edward the first from Edward the second; Edward the third from Richard the second; or Henry the fifth from Henry the sixth. And because all of them were kings, all of them, if he deserves credit, must needs have been endow'd with profound wisdom. David was wise as an angel of God; therefore the present kings of France, Spain and Sweden, must have been so also, when they were but five years old: Joan of Castile could not be mad, nor the two Joans of Naples infamous strumpets, or else all his arguments fall to the ground. For tho Solomon's wisdom surpassed that of all the people, yet men could not rely equally upon that of Rehoboam, unless it had been equal. And if they are all equal in wisdom when they come to be equally kings, Perseus of Macedon was as great a captain as Philip or Alexander; Commodus and Heliogabalus were as wise and virtuous as Marcus Aurelius and Antoninus Pius: nay, Christina of Sweden in her infancy was as fit to command an army as her valiant father. If this be most absurd and false, there can be neither reason nor sense in proposing, as our author does, that the power should be in the king, because the parliament is not infallible. It is, says he, for the head to correct, and not to expect the consent of the members or parties peccant to be judges in their own cases; nor is it needful to confine the king, &c. Besides that this is directly contrary to his own fundamental maxim, that no man must be the judge of his own case, in as much as this would put the power into the king's hands, to decide the controversies between himself and the people, in which his own passions, private interest, and the corrupt counsels of ill ministers, will always lead him out of the way of justice, the inconveniences that may arise from a possibility that the parliament or people is not infallible, will be turned to the most certain and destructive mischiefs; as must have fallen out in Spain, if, upon a supposition that the estates of Castile might err, the correction of such errors had been left to the profound wisdom and exquisite judgment of Joan their queen and head, who was stark mad. And the like may be said of many other princes, who through natural or accidental infirmities, want of age, or dotage, have been utterly unable to judge of anything.
The matter will not be much mended, tho I pass from idiots and lunaticks, to such as know well enough how to clothe and feed themselves, and to perform the ordinary functions of life; and yet have been as uncapable of giving a right judgment concerning the weighty matters of government, as the weakest of children, or the most furious of madmen. Good manners forbid me to enumerate the examples of this kind, which Europe has produced even in this age: But I should commit a greater fault, if I did in silence pass over the extravagances of those, who being most weak in judgment, and irregular in their appetites, have been most impatient of any restraint upon their will. The brave Gustavus Adolphus, and his nephew Carolus Gustavus, who was not inferior to him in valour, wisdom, and love to his people, were content with the power that the laws of their country gave to them: But Frederick the fourth of Denmark never rested till he had overthrown the liberty of that nation. Casimir by attempting the like in Poland, lost almost half of that kingdom; and flying from the other, left all to be ravaged by Swedes, Tartars, and Cossacks. The present emperor who passed his time in setting songs in musick with a wretched Italian eunuch, when he ought to have been at the head of a brave army, raised to oppose the Turks in the year 1664, and which under good conduct might have overthown the Ottoman empire, as soon as he was delivered from the fear of that enemy, fell upon his own subjects with such cruelty, that they are now forced to fly to the Turks for protection; the Protestants especially, who find their condition more tolerable under those professed enemies to Christianity, than to be exposed to the pride, avarice, perfidiousness and violence of the Jesuits by whom he is governed. And the qualities of the king of Portugal are so well known, together with the condition to which he would have brought his kingdom if he had not been sent to the Terceiras, that I need not speak particularly of him.
If kings therefore, by virtue of their office, are constituted judges over the body of their people, because the people, or parliaments representing them, are not infallible; those kings who are children, fools, disabled by age, or madmen, are so also; women have the same right where they are admitted to the succession; those men who, tho of ripe age and not superannuated, nor directly fools or madmen, yet absolutely uncapable of judging important affairs, or by their passions, interests, vices, or malice and wickedness of their ministers, servants and favorites, are set to oppress and ruin the people, enjoy the same privilege; than which nothing can be imagined more absurd and abominable, nor more directly tending to the corruption and destruction of the nations under them, for whose good and safety our author confesses they have their power.
 [Patriarcha, ch. 30.]
 [Patriarcha, ch. 30.]
 [Grotius, De jure, bk. 2, ch. 7, sec. 4.]
 [Nobles and great men of the kingdom.]
 [Patriarcha, ch. 30.]
 Prov. 11.14.
 [Patriarcha, ch. 30.]
 [Leopold I, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. Hungarians were the subjects who called on the Turks for aid.]
 [Alfonso VI.]