Henry Neville: Plato Redivivus (1681)
The Second Dialogue
DOCT. Well, sir, how is it? have you rested well to night? I fear we come too early.
NOBLE VEN. Dear doctor, I find myself very well, thanks to your care and skill; and have been up above these two hours, in expectation of the favour you and this gentleman promised me.
DOCT. Well, then pray let us leave off compliments and repartees (of which we had a great deal too much yesterday) and fall to our business; and be pleased to interrogate this gentleman what you think fit.
NOBLE VEN. Then, sir, my first request to you is, that you will vouchsafe to acquaint me for what reasons this nation, which has ever been esteemed (and very justly) one of the most considerable people of the world; and made the best figure both in peace, treaties, war and trade; is now of so small regard, and signifies so little abroad? Pardon the freedom I take, for I assure you it is not out of disrespect, much less of contempt that I speak it: for since I arrived in England, I find it one of the most flourishing kingdoms in Europe, full of splendid nobility and gentry; the comeliest persons alive, valiant, courteous, knowing, and bountiful; and as well stored with commoners, honest, industrious, fitted for business, merchandise, arts, or arms; as their several educations lead them. Those who apply themselves to study, prodigious for learning, and succeeding to admiration in the perfection of all sciences: all this makes the riddle impossible to be solved; but by some skilful Oedipus, such as you are; whose pains I will yet so far spare, as to acknowledge, that I do in that little time I have spent here, perceive that the immediate cause of all this, is the disunion of the people and the governors; the discontentment of the gentry, and turbulency of the commonalty; although without all violence or tumult, which is miraculous. So that what I now request of you, is, that you will please to deduce particularly to me, the causes of this division; that when they are laid open, I may proceed (if you think fit to permit it) from the disease when known, to enquire after the remedies.
ENG. GENT. Before I come to make you any answer, I must thank you for the worthy and honourable character you give of our nation; and shall add to it, that I do verily believe, that there are not a more loyal and faithful people to their prince in the whole world, than ours are; nor that fear more to fall into that state of confusion, in which we were twenty years since: and that, not only this parliament, which consists of the most eminent men of the kingdom, both for estates and parts; but all the inhabitants of this isle in general; even those (so many of them as have their understandings yet entire) which were of the anti-royal party in our late troubles, have all of them the greatest horror imaginable to think of doing any thing, that may bring this poor country into those dangers and uncertainties, which then did threaten our ruin. And the rather for this consideration: that neither the wisdom of some who were engaged in those affairs, which I must aver to have been very great; nor the success of their contest, which ended in an absolute victory; could prevail so, as to give this kingdom any advantage; nay not so much as any settlement, in satisfaction and requital of all the blood it had lost, money it had spent, and hazard it had run. A clear argument why we must totally exclude a civil war from being any of the remedies, when we come to that point. I must add farther; that as we have as loyal subjects as are anywhere to be found, so we have as gracious and good a prince: I never having yet heard that he did or attempted to do, any the least act of arbitrary power, in any public concern; nor did ever take, or endeavour to take from any particular person the benefit of the law. And for his only brother, (although accidentally he cannot be denied to be a great motive of the people's unquietness,) all men must acknowledge him to be a most glorious and honourable prince: one who has exposed his life several times for the safety and glory of this nation; one who pays justly and punctually his debts, and manages his own fortune discreetly, and yet keeps the best court and equipage of any subject in Christendom; is courteous and affable to all; and in fine, has nothing in his whole conduct to be excepted against, much less dreaded; excepting, that he is believed to be of a religion contrary to the honour of God, and the safety and interest of this people, which gives them just apprehensions of their future condition. But of this matter we shall have occasion to speculate hereafter: in the mean time, since we have such a prince, and such subjects, we must needs want the ordinary cause of distrust and division; and therefore must seek higher, to find out the original of this turbulent posture we are in.
DOCT. Truly you had need seek higher, or lower, to satisfy us; for hitherto you have but enforced the gentleman's question, and made us more admire what the solution will be.
ENG. GENT. Gentlemen, then I shall delay you no longer. The evil counsellors, the pensioner-parliament, the thorough-paced judges, the flattering divines, the busy and designing papists, the French counsels, are not the causes of our misfortunes; they are but the effects, (as our present distractions are) of one primary cause; which is, the breach and ruin of our government: which, having been decaying for near two hundred years, is in our age brought so near to expiration, that it lies agonizing; and can no longer perform the functions of a political life; nor carry on the work of ordering and preserving mankind. So that the shifts that our courtiers have within some years used are but so many tricks, or conclusions which they are trying to hold life and soul together a while longer: and have played handy-dandy with parliaments, (and especially with the house of commons, the only part which is now left entire of the old constitution) by adjourning, and proroguing, and dissolving them; contrary to the true meaning of the law; as well in the reign of our late king, as during his majesty's that now is. Whereas indeed our counsellors (perceiving the decay of the foundation, as they must if they can see but one inch into the politics) ought to have addressed themselves to the king to call a parliament, the true physician, and to lay open the distemper there; and so have endeavoured a cure, before it had been too late: as I fear, it now is; I mean for the piecing and patching up the old government. It is true, as the divine Machiavel says, that diseases in government are like a marasmus in the body natural, which is very hard to be discovered, whilst it is curable; and after it comes to be easy to discern, difficult (if not impossible) to be remedied: yet it is to be supposed that the counsellors are, or ought to be skilful physicians; and to foresee the seeds of state-distempers, time enough to prevent the death of the patient: else they ought in conscience to excuse themselves from that sublime employment, and betake themselves to callings more suitable to their capacities. So that although for this reason, the ministers of state here are inexcusable; and deserve all the fury, which must one time or other be let loose against them; (except they shall suddenly fly from the wrath to come, by finding out in time and advising the true means of setting themselves to rights) yet neither prince nor people are in the mean time to be blamed, for not being able to conduct things better; no more, than the waggoner is to answer for his ill guiding, or the oxen for their ill drawing the waggon; when it is with age and ill usage broken, and the wheels unserviceable; or the pilot and mariners, for not weathering out a storm; when the ship hath sprung a plank. And as in the body of man, sometimes the head and all the members are in good order, nay, the vital parts are sound and entire; yet if there be a considerable putrification in the humours, much more, if the blood (which the scripture calls the life) be impure and corrupted; the patient ceases not to be in great danger, and oftentimes dies without some skilful physician: and in the mean time the head and all the parts suffer, and are unquiet, full as much, as if they were all immediately affected: so it is in every respect with the body politic, or commonwealth, when their foundations are mouldered. And although in both these cases, the patients cannot (though the distemper be in their own bodies) know what they ail, but are forced to send for some artist to tell them; yet they cease not to be extremely uneasy and impatient, and lay hold oftentimes upon unsuitable remedies, and impute their malady to wrong and ridiculous causes. As some people do here, who think that the growth of popery is our only evil; and that if we were secure against that, our peace and settlement were obtained; and that our disease needed no other cure. But of this more when we come to the cure.
NOBLE VEN. Against this discourse, certainly we have nothing to reply: but must grant, that when any government is decayed, it must be mended; or all will ruin. But now we must request you to declare to us, how the government of England is decayed; and how it comes to be so. For I am one of those unskilful persons that cannot discern a state-marasmus, when the danger is so far off.
ENG. GENT. Then no man living can; for your government is this day the only school in the world, that breeds such physicians, and you are esteemed one of the ablest amongst them: and it would be manifest to all the world for truth, although there were no argument for it, but the admirable stability and durableness of your government; which has lasted above twelve hundred years entire and perfect. Whereas all the rest of the countries in Europe, have not only changed masters very frequently in a quarter of that time; but have varied and altered their polities very often. Which manifests that you must needs have ever enjoyed a succession of wise citizens, that have had skill and ability to forewarn you betimes of those rocks against which your excellently-built vessel might in time split.
NOBLE VEN. Sir, you over-value, not only me, but the wisdom of my fellow-citizens; for we have none of these high speculations, nor has scarce any of our body read Aristotle, Plato, or Cicero, or any of those great artists ancient or modern, who teach that great science of the governing and increasing great states and cities: without studying which science no man can be fit to discourse pertinently of these matters; much less to found, or mend a government, or so much as find the defects of it. We only study our own government; and that too chiefly to be fit for advantageous employments, rather than to foresee our dangers. Which yet, I must needs confess, some amongst us are pretty good at; and will in a harangue, made upon passing a law, venture to tell us what will be the consequence of it two hundred years hence. But of these things I shall be very prodigal in my discourse, when you have leisure and patience to command me to say any thing of our polity; in the mean time pray be pleased to go on with your edifying instruction.
ENG. GENT. Before I can tell you how the government of England came to be decayed, I must tell you what that government was; and what it now is. And I should say something too of government in general, but that I am afraid of talking of that subject before you who are so exact a judge of it.
NOBLE VEN. I thought you had been pleased to have done with this discourse. I assure you, sir, if I had more skill in that matter than ever I can pretend to, it would but serve to make me the fitter auditor of what you shall say on that subject.
ENG. GENT. Sir, in the course of my reasoning upon this point, I shall have occasion to insist and expatiate upon many things, which both myself and others have published in former times. For which I will only make this excuse; that the repetition of such matters is the more pardonable, because they will be at least new to you who are a stranger to our affairs and writings. And the rather, because those discourses shall be applied to our present condition, and suited to our present occasions. But I will say no more; but obey you, and proceed. I will not take upon me to say, or so much as conjecture, how and when government began in the world; or what government is most ancient. History must needs be silent in that point: for that government is more ancient than history; and there was never any writer but was bred under some government; which is necessarily supposed to be the parent of all arts and sciences, and to have produced them. And therefore it would be as hard for a man to write an account of the beginning of the laws and polity of any country, except there were memory of it; (which cannot be before the first historiographer:) as it would be to any person, without records, to tell the particular history of his own birth.
DOCT. Sir, I cannot comprehend you: may not historians write a history of matters done before they were born? If it were so, no man could write but of his own times.
ENG. GENT. My meaning is, where there are not stories, or records, extant; for as for oral tradition, it lasts but for one age, and then degenerates into fable: I call any thing in writing, whereby the account of the passages or occurrences of former times is derived to our knowledge, a history; although it be not penned methodically, so as to make the author pass for a wit: and had rather read the authentic records of any country, that is a collection of their laws and letters concerning transactions of state and the like, than the most eloquent and judicious narrative that can be made.
NOBLE VEN. Methinks, sir, your discourse seems to imply, that we have no account extant of the beginning of governments. Pray what do you think of the books of Moses? Which seem to be penned on purpose to inform us how he, by God's command, led that people out of Egypt into another land; and in the way made them a government. Besides, does not Plutarch tell us, how Theseus gathered together the dispersed inhabitants of Attica, brought them into one city, and under one government of his own making? The like did Romulus in Italy, and many others in divers countries.
ENG. GENT. I never said, that we had not sufficient knowledge of the original of particular governments; but it is evident, that these great legislators had seen and lived under other administrations, and had the help of learned law-givers and philosophers; excepting the first, who had the aid of God himself. So that it remains undiscovered yet, how the first regulation of mankind began: and therefore I will take for granted that which all the politicians conclude: which is, that necessity made the first government. For every man by the first law of nature (which is common to us and brutes) had, like beasts in a pasture, right to everything; and there being no property, each individual, if he were the stronger, might seize whatever any other had possessed himself of before, which made a state of perpetual war. To remedy which, and the fear that nothing should be long enjoyed by any particular person, (neither was any man's life in safety,) every man consented to be debarred of that universal right to all things; and confine himself to a quiet and secure enjoyment of such a part, as should be allotted him. Thence came in ownership, or property: to maintain which, it was necessary to consent to laws, and a government; to put them in execution. Which of the governments now extant, or that have been formerly, was first, is not possible now to be known: but I think this must be taken for granted, that whatsoever the frame or constitution was first, it was made by the persuasion and mediation of some wise and virtuous person, and consented to by the whole number. And then, that it was instituted for the good and preservation of the governed; and not for the exaltation and greatness of the person or persons appointed to govern. The reason why I beg this concession is, that it seems very improbable, not to say impossible, that a vast number of people should ever be brought to consent to put themselves under the power of others, but for the ends above-said, and so lose their liberty without advantaging themselves in any thing. And it is full as impossible that any person (or persons so inconsiderable in number as magistrates and rulers are) should by force get an empire to themselves. Though I am not ignorant that a whole people have in imminent dangers, either from the invasion of a powerful enemy, or from civil distractions, put themselves wholly into the hands of one illustrious person for a time; and that with good success, under the best forms of government: but this is nothing to the original of states.
NOBLE VEN. Sir, I wonder how you come to pass over the consideration of paternal government, which is held to have been the beginning of monarchies.
ENG. GENT. Really, I did not think it worth the taking notice of: for though it be not easy to prove a negative, yet I believe if we could trace all foundations of polities that now are, or ever came to our knowledge since the world began; we shall find none of them to have descended from paternal power. We know nothing of Adam's leaving the empire to Cain, or Seth: it was impossible for Noah to retain any jurisdiction over his own three sons; who were dispersed into three parts of the world, if our antiquaries calculate right: and as for Abraham, whilst he lived, as also his son Isaac, they were but ordinary fathers of families, and no question governed their own household as all others do. And when Jacob upon his death-bed did relate to his children the promise almighty God had made his grandfather; to make him a great nation, and give his posterity a fruitful territory; he speaks not one word of the empire of Reuben his first-born, but supposes them all equal. And so they were taken to be by Moses, when he divided the land to them by lot; and by God's command made them a commonwealth. So that I believe this fancy to have been first started, not by the solid judgement of any man, but to flatter some prince; and to assert, for want of better arguments, the divine right of monarchy.
NOBLE VEN. I have been impertinent in interrupting you, but yet now I cannot repent of it, since your answer has given me so much satisfaction; but if it be so as you say, that government was at first instituted for the interest and preservation of mankind, how comes it pass, that there are and have been so many absolute monarchies in the world, in which it seems that nothing is provided for, but the greatness and power of the prince?
ENG. GENT. I have presumed to give you already my reason, why I take for granted, that such a power could never be given by the consent of any people, for a perpetuity: for though the people of Israel did against the will of Samuel, and indeed of God himself, demand and afterwards choose themselves a king; yet he was never such a king as we speak of; for that all the orders of their commonwealth, the sanhedrim, the congregation of the people, the princes of the tribes, &c. did still remain in being: as has been excellently proved by a learned gentleman of our nation, to whom I refer you. It may then be enquired into, how these monarchies at first did arise. History being in this point silent as to the ancient principalities, we will conjecture, that some of them might very well proceed from the corruption of better governments, which must necessarily cause a depravation in manners; (as nothing is more certain than that politic defects breed moral ones, as our nation is a pregnant example) this debauchery of manners might blind the understandings of a great many; destroy the fortunes of others, and make them indigent; infuse into very many a neglect and carelessness of the public good (which in all settled states is very much regarded) so that it might easily come into the ambition of some bold aspiring person, to affect empire; and as easily into his power, (by fair pretences with some, and promises of advantages with others,) to procure followers, and gain a numerous party, either to usurp tyranny over his own country, or to lead men forth to conquer and subdue another. Thus it is supposed that Nimrod got his kingdom: who in scripture is called, a great hunter before God; which expositors interpret, a great tyrant. The modern despotical powers have been acquired by one of these two ways. Either by pretending, by the first founder thereof, that he had a divine mission; and so gaining not only followers, but even easy access in some places without force, to empire, and afterwards dilating their power by great conquests; thus Mohamet and Genghis Khan began, and established the Saracen and Tartarian kingdoms: or by a long series of wisdom in a prince, or chief magistrate of a mixed monarchy, and his council, who by reason of the sleepiness and inadvertency of the people, have been able to extinguish the great nobility, or render them inconsiderable; and so by degrees taking away from the people their protectors, render them slaves. So the monarchies of France, and some other countries, have grown to what they are at this day; there being left but a shadow of the three states in any of these monarchies, and so no bounds remaining to the regal power. But since property remains still to the subjects; these governments may be said to be changed, but not founded or established: for there is no maxim more infallible and holding in any science, than this is in politics; that empire is founded in property. Force or fraud may alter a government; but it is property that must found and eternize it. Upon this undeniable aphorism we are to build most of our subsequent reasoning: in the meantime we may suppose, that hereafter the great power of the king of France may diminish much, when his enraged and oppressed subjects come to be commanded by a prince of less courage, wisdom, and military virtue; when it will be very hard for any such king to govern tyrannically a country, which is not entirely his own.
DOCT. Pray, sir, give me leave to ask you by the way, what is the reason that here in our country where the peerage is lessened sufficiently, the king has not got as great an addition of power as accrues to the crown of France?
ENG. GENT. You will understand that, doctor, before I have finished this discourse: but to stay your stomach till then, you may please to know that in France the greatness of the nobility which has been lately taken from them, did not consist in vast riches and revenues; but in great privileges, and jurisdictions, which obliged the people to obey them: whereas our great peers in former times had not only the same great dependencies, but very considerable revenues besides, in demesnes, and otherwise. This vassalage over the people, which the peers of France had, being abolished, the power over those tenants, which before was in their lords, fell naturally and of course into the crown; although the lands and possessions divested of those dependencies did and do still remain to the owners: whereas here in England, though the services are for the most part worn out, and insignificant; yet for want of providence and policy in former kings, who could not forsee the danger afar off, entails have been suffered to be cut off; and so two parts in ten of all those vast estates, as well manors as demesnes, by the luxury and folly of the owners, have been within these two hundred years purchased by the lesser gentry and the commons; which has been so far from advantaging the crown, that it has made the country scarce governable by monarchy. But if you please, I will go on with my discourse about government, and come to this again hereafter.
NOBLE VEN. I beseech you, sir, do.
ENG. GENT. I cannot find by the small reading I have, that there were any other governments in the world anciently than these three: monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. For the first; I have no light out of antiquity to convince me, that there were in old times any other monarchies, but such as were absolutely despotical. All kingdoms then, as well in Greece, (Macedon, Epirus, and the like, where it is said the princes exercised their power moderately) as in Asia, being altogether unlimited by any laws, or any assemblies of nobility or people. Yet I must confess, Aristotle, when he reckons up the corruptions of these three governments, calls tyranny the corruption of the monarchy: by which if he means a change of government, (as it is in the corruptions of the other two;) then it must follow, that the philosopher knew of some other monarchy at the first, which afterwards degenerated into tyranny; that is, into arbitrary power: (for so the word tyranny is most commonly taken, though in modern languages it signifies the ill exercise of power;) for certainly arbitrary government cannot be called tyranny, where the whole property is in the prince, (as we reasonably suppose it to have been in those monarchies); no more than it is tyranny for you to govern your own house and estate as you please. But it is possible Aristotle might not in this speak so according to terms of art, but might mean, that the ill government of a kingdom or family is tyranny. However we have one example, that puzzles politicians: and that is Egypt, where Pharaoh is called king; and yet we see, that till Joseph's time he had not the whole property: for the wisdom of that patriarch taught his master a way to make a new use of that famine, by telling him, that if they would buy their lives, and sell their estates (as they did afterwards, and preserve themselves by the king's bread) they shall serve Pharaoh: which shows that Joseph knew well, that empire was founded in property. But most of the modern writers in polity, are of opinion, that Egypt was not a monarchy till then; though the prince might have the title of king: as the Heraclides had in Sparta, and Romulus and the other kings had in Rome; both which states were instituted commonwealths. They give good conjectures for this their opinion, too many to be here mentioned; only one is, that originally (as they go about to prove) all arts and sciences had their rise in Egypt; which they think very improbable to have been under a monarchy. But this position, that all kings in former times were absolute, is not so essential to the intent I have in this discourse; which is to prove, that in all states, of what kind soever, this aphorism takes place: Dominion is founded in property. So that if there were mixed monarchies, then the king had not all the property; but those who shared with him in the administration of the sovereignty, had their part (whether it were the senate, the people, or both) or if he had no companions in the sovereign power, he had no sharers likewise in the dominion or possession of the land. For that is all we mean by property, in all this discourse; for as for personal estate, the subjects may enjoy it in the largest proportion, without being able to invade the empire: the prince may when he pleases take away their goods by his tenants and vassals, (without an army;) which are his ordinary force, and answers to our county force; but the subjects with their money cannot invade his crown. So that all the description we need make of this kind or form of government, is, that the whole possession of the country, and the whole power lies in the hands and breast of one man; he can make laws, break and repeal them when he pleases, or dispense with them in the meantime when he thinks fit; interpose in all judicatories, in behalf of his favourites; take away any particular man's personal estate, and his life too, without the formality of a criminal process, or trial; send a dagger, or a halter to his chief ministers, and command them to make themselves away; and in fine, do all that his will, or his interest, suggests to him.
DOCT. You have dwelt long here upon an argumentation, that the ancients had no monarchies but what were arbitrary
ENG. GENT. Pray give me leave to save your objections to that point, and to assure you first; that I will not take upon me to be so positive in that; for that I cannot pretend to have read all the historians and antiquaries that ever wrote; nor have I so perfect a memory as to remember, or make use of, in a verbal and transient reasoning, all that I have ever read: and then to assure you again, that I build nothing upon that assertion; and so your objection will be needless, and only take up time.
DOCT. You mistake me; I had no intent to use any argument or example against your opinion in that, but am very willing to believe that it may be so. What I was going to say was this, that you have insisted much upon the point of monarchy, and made a strange description of it; whereas many of the ancients, and almost all the modern writers, magnify it to be the best of governments.
ENG. GENT. I have said nothing to the contrary. I have told you in fact, what it is; which I believe none will deny. The philosopher said it was the best government; but with this restriction, where philosophers reigned: and they had an example of it, in some few Roman emperors: but in the most turbulent times of the commonwealth, and factions between the nobility and the people, Rome was much more full of virtuous and heroic citizens, than ever it was under Aurelius or Antoninus. For the moderns that are of that judgement; they are most of them divines, not politicians: and something may be said in their behalf, when by their good preaching, they can infuse into their imaginary prince, (who seems already to have an image of the power of God), the justice, wisdom, and goodness too of the Deity.
NOBLE VEN. We are well satisfied with the progress you have hitherto made in this matter. Pray go on to the two other forms used amongst the ancients, and their corruptions; that so we may come to the modern governments, and see how England stands; and how it came to decay, and what must rebuild it.
ENG. GENT. You have very good reason to hasten me to that; for indeed, all that has been said yet, is but as it were a preliminary discourse to the knowledge of the government of England, and its decay: when it comes to the cure, I hope you will both help me, for both yourself and the doctor are a thousand times better than I at remedies. But I shall dispatch the other two governments. Aristocracy, or optimacy, is a commonwealth, where the better sort, (that is, the eminent and rich men,) have the chief administration of the government: I say, the chief; because there are very few ancient optimacies, but the people had some share: as in Sparta, where they had power to vote, but not debate; for so the oracle of Apollo, brought by Lycurgus from Delphos, settles it. But the truth is, these people were the natural Spartans: for Lycurgus divided the country or territory of Laconia into 39,000 shares; whereof 9,000 only of these owners were inhabitants of Sparta; the rest lived in the country: so that although Thucydides calls it an aristocracy, and so I follow him, yet it was none of those aristocracies usually described by the politicians; where the lands of the territory were in a great deal fewer hands. But call it what you will, wherever there was an aristocracy, there the property, or very much of the overbalance of it, was in the hands of the Aristoi or governors; be they more or fewer: for if the people have the greatest interest in the property, they will, and must have it in the empire. A notable example of it is Rome, the best and most glorious government that ever the sun saw; where the lands being equally divided amongst the tribes (that is, the people) it was impossible for the patricii to keep them quiet, till they yielded to their desires: not only to have their tribunes, to see that nothing passed into a law without their consent, but also to have it declared, that both the consuls should not only be chosen by the people (as they ever were, and the kings too before them) but that they might be elected too, when the people pleased, out of plebeian families. So that now I am come to democracy. Which you see is a government where the chief part of the sovereign power, and the exercise of it, resides in the people: and where the style is, at the command of the people, by the authority of the senate. And it does consist of three fundamental orders; the senate proposing, the people resolving, and the magistrates executing. This government is much more powerful than aristocracy; because the latter cannot arm the people, for fear they should seize upon the government; and therefore are fain to make use of none but strangers and mercenaries for soldiers: which, as the divine Machiavel says, has hindered your commonwealth of Venice from mounting up to heaven; whither those incomparable orders, and that venerable wisdom used by your citizens in keeping to them, would have carried you; if in all your wars, you had not been ill served.
DOCT. Well, sir, pray let me ask you one thing concerning Venice: how do you make out your empire is founded on property there? Have the gentlemen there, who are the party governing, the possession of the whole territory? does not property remain entire to the gentlemen, and other inhabitants in the several countries of Padua, Brescia, Vicenza, Verona, Bergamo, Cremona, Treviso, and Friuli; as also in the ultramarine provinces and islands? And yet I believe you will not deny, but that the government of Venice is as well founded, and has been of as long continuance, as any that now is or ever was in the world.
ENG. GENT. Doctor, I shall not answer you in this; because I am sure it will be better done by this gentleman, who is a worthy son of that honourable mother.
NOBLE VEN. I thought you had said, sir, that we should have done complimenting; but since you do command me to clear the objection made by our learned doctor, I shall presume to tell you first how our city began. The Goths, Huns, and Lombards coming with all the violence and cruelty imaginable to invade that part of Italy which we now call Terra Firma, [mainland] and where our ancestors did then inhabit; forced them in great numbers to seek a shelter amongst a great many little rocks, or islands, which stood very thick in a vast lake, or rather marsh, which is made by the Adriatic sea; we call it Laguna, [the Lagoon] here they began to build, and getting boats, made themselves provisions of all kinds from the land; from whence innumerable people began to come to them, finding that they could subsist, and that the barbarous people had no boats to attack them, nor that they could be invaded either by horse or foot without them. Our first government, and which lasted for many years, was no more than what was practised in many country parishes in Italy, (and possibly here too,) where the clerk, or any other person, calls together the chief of the inhabitants to consider of parish-business; as choosing of officers, making of rates, and the like. So in Venice, when there was any public provision to be made by way of law, or otherwise, some officers went about to persons of the greatest wealth and credit, to intreat them to meet and consult; from whence our senate is called to this day Consiglio de pregadi, which in our barbarous idiom is as much as Pregati in Tuscan language. Our security increased daily; and so by consequence our number and our riches: for by this time there began to be another inundation of Saracens upon Asia Minor; which forced a great many of the poor people of Greece to fly to us for protection, giving us the possession of some islands, and other places upon the continent. This opened us a trade, and gave a beginning to our greatness: but chiefly made us consider what government was fittest to conserve ourselves, and keep our wealth; (for we did not then much dream of conquests, else without doubt we must have made a popular government.) We pitched upon an aristocracy: by ordering that those who had been called to council for that present year and for four years before, should have the government in their hands; and all their posterity after them forever: which made first the distinction between gentlemen and citizens. The people, who consisted of diverse nations, most of them newly come to inhabit there, and generally seeking nothing but safety and ease, willingly consented to this change; and so this state has continued to this day: though the several orders and councils have been brought in since, by degrees; as our nobility increased, and for other causes. Under this government we have made some conquests in Italy, and Greece: for our city stood like a wall between the two great torrents of Goths and Saracens; and as either of their empires declined, it was easy for us, without being very warlike, to pick up some pieces of each side. As for the government of these conquests: we did not think fit to divide the land among the nobility, for fear of envy, and the effects of it; much less did we think it advisable to plant colonies of our people, which would have given the power into their hands; but we thought it the best way for our government to leave the people their property, tax them what we thought fit, and keep them under by governors and citadels; and so in short make them a province. So that now the doctor's riddle is solved; for I suppose this gentleman did not mean that his maxim should reach to provincial governments.
ENG. GENT. No, sir; so far from that, that it is just contrary. For as in national or domestic government, where a nation is governed, either by its own people or its own prince, there can be no settled government, except they have the rule who possess the country: so in provincial governments, if they be wisely ordered, no man must have any the least share in the managing affairs of state, but strangers; or such as have no share or part in the possessions there; for else they will have a very good opportunity of shaking off their yoke.
DOCT. That is true; and we are so wise here (I mean our ancestors were) as to have made a law, that no native in Ireland can be deputy there. But, sir, being fully satisfied in my demand by this gentleman, I beseech you to go on to what you have to say before you come to England.
ENG. GENT. I shall then offer two things to your observation; the first is, that in all times and places, where any great heroes or legislators have founded a government, (by gathering people together, to build a city, or to invade any country to possess it,) before they came to dividing the conquered lands, they did always very maturely deliberate under what form or model of government they meant to live; and accordingly made the partition of the possessions. Moses, Theseus, and Romulus, founders of democracies, divided the land equally. Lycurgus, who meant an optimacy, made a certain number of shares which he intended to be in the hands of the people of Laconia. Cyrus, and other conquering monarchs before him, took all for themselves and successors: which is observed in those eastern countries to this day; and which has made those countries continue ever since under the same government, though conquered and possessed very often by several nations. This brings me to the second thing to be observed; which is, 'that wherever this apportionment of lands came to be changed in any kind, the government either changed with it, or was wholly in a state of confusion '. And for this reason Lycurgus, the greatest politician that ever founded any government, took a sure way to fix property, by confounding it and bringing all into common: and so the whole number of the natural Spartans, who inhabited the city of Lacedemon, ate and drank in their several convives together: and as long as they continued so to do, they did not only preserve their government entire (and that for a longer time than we can read of any commonwealth, that ever lasted amongst the ancients,) but held as it were the principality of Greece. The Athenians, for want of some constitutions to fix property as Theseus placed it, were in danger of utter ruin; which they had certainly encountered, if the good genius (as they then called it) of that people, had not raised them up a second founder, (more than 600 years after the first,) which was Solon. And because the history of this matter will very much conduce to the illustrating of this aphorism we have laid down, I will presume so much upon your patience as to make a short recital of it; leaving you to see it more at large, in Plutarch, and other authors.
The lands in the territory of Attica, which were in the possession of the common people, (for what reason history is silent) were for debt all mortgaged to the great men of the city of Athens; and the owners having no possibility of redeeming their estates, were treating to compound with their creditors and deliver up their lands to them. Solon (who was one of those state physicians we spoke of,) was much troubled at this, and harangued daily to the nobility and people against it; telling them first, that it was impossible for the Grecians to resist the Medes (who were then growing up to a powerful monarchy) except Athens, the second city of Greece, did countenance a democracy: that it was as impossible the people could keep their empire, except they kept their lands; nothing being more contrary to nature, than that those who possess nothing in a country should pretend to govern it. They were all sensible of his reasons, and of their own danger; but the only remedy (which was, that the great men should forgive the common people their debts) would not at all be digested. So that the whole city (now fully understanding their condition) were continually in an uproar; and the people flocked about Solon, whenever he came abroad, desiring him to take upon him the government and be their prince, and they would make choice of him the next time they assembled. He told them, No, he would never be a tyrant, especially in his own country: meaning, that he who had no more share than other of the nobles, could not govern the rest, without being an usurper or tyrant. But this he did to oblige his citizens; he frankly forgave all the debts that any of the people owed to him, and released their lands immediately: and this amounted to fifteen Attic talents of gold, (a vast sum in those days:) and betook himself to a voluntary exile; in which he visited Thales, and went to the oracle of Delphos, and offered up his prayers to Apollo for the preservation of his city. In return of which (as the people then believed) the hearts of the great ones were so changed and enlarged, that they readily agreed to remit all their debts to the people; upon condition, that Solon would take the pains to make them a new model of government, and laws suitable to a democracy; which he as readily accepted and performed. By virtue of which that city grew and continued long the greatest, the justest, the most virtuous, learned and renowned, of all in that age: drove the Persians afterwards out of Greece; defeated them both by sea and land, with a quarter of their number of ships and men; and produced the greatest wits and philosophers that ever lived upon earth. The city of Athens instituted a solemn feast in commemoration of that great generosity and self-denial of the nobility; who sacrificed their own interest to the preservation of their country: which feast was called the solemnity of the Seisactheia, (which signifies recision or abolition of debts,) and was observed with processions, sacrifices, and games, till the time of the Romans' dominion over them (who encouraged it) and even till the change of religion in Greece, and invasion of the Saracens.
The Romans, having omitted in their institution to provide for the fixing of property, and so the nobility (called patricii) beginning to take to themselves a greater share in the conquered lands than had been usual (for in the first times of the commonwealth under Romulus, and ever after, it was always practised to divide the lands equally amongst the tribes), this innovation stirred up Licinius Stolo, then tribune of the people, to propose a law (which, although it met with much difficulty, yet at last was consented to) by which it was provided, that no Roman citizen, of what degree soever, should possess above five hundred acres of land; and for the remaining part of the lands which should be conquered, it was ordered to be equally divided, as formerly, amongst the tribes. This found admittance (after much opposition) because it did provide but for the future; no man at that time being owner of more lands, than what was lawful for him to possess: and if this law had been strictly observed to the last, that glorious commonwealth might have subsisted to this day, for aught we know.
DOCT. Some other cause would have been the ruin of it: what think you of a foreign conquest?
ENG. GENT. Oh doctor, if they had kept their poverty, they had kept their government and their virtue too; and then it had not been an easy matter to subdue them: Whom Jupiter wishes to destroy, he makes mad. Breach of rules and order causes division; and division, when it comes to be incurable, exposes a nation, almost as much as a tyrannical government does. The Goths and Vandals, had they invaded in those days, had met with the same success which befell the Cymbri and the Teutons. I must confess, a foreign invasion is a formidable thing, when a commonwealth is weak in territory and inhabitants, and that the invader is numerous and warlike; and so we see the Romans were in danger of utter ruin, when they were first attacked by the Gauls under Brennus. The like hazard may be feared, when a commonwealth is assaulted by another of equal virtue, and a commander of equal address and valour to any of themselves; thus the Romans ran the risk of their liberty and empire, in the war of Hannibal: but their power and their virtue grew to that height in that contest, that when it was ended, I believe that if they had preserved the foundation of their government entire, they had been invincible. And if I were alone of this opinion, I might be ashamed; but I am backed by the judgement of your incomparable countryman Machiavel: and no man will condemn either of us of rashness, if he first considers what small states, that have stood upon right bottoms, have done to defend their liberty against great monarchs. As is to be seen in the example of the little commonwealth of Athens; which destroyed the fleet of Xerxes, consisting of a thousand vessels, in the straits of Salamis: and before, the land-army of Darius, of three hundred thousand, in the plains of Marathon, and drove them out of Greece: for though the whole confederates were present at the battle of Plataea, yet the Athenian army singly under their general Miltiades gained that renowned battle of Marathon.
NOBLE VEN. I beseech you, sir, how was it possible, or practicable, that the Romans conquering so many and so remote provinces, should yet have been able to preserve their Agrarian Law, and divide all those lands equally to their citizens? or if it had been possible, yet it would have ruined their city, by sending all their inhabitants away; and by taking in strangers in their room, they must necessarily have had people less virtuous and less warlike; and so both their government and their military discipline must have been corrupted: for it is not to be imagined, but that the people would have gone with their families to the place where their lands lay: so that it appears that the Romans did not provide, in the making and framing their first polity, for so great conquests as they afterwards made.
ENG. GENT. Yes, surely they did: from their first beginning they were founded in war, and had neither land nor wives but what they fought for; but yet what you object were very weighty, if there had not been a consideration of that early: for as soon as that great and wise people had subdued the Samnites on the east, and brought their arms as far as the Greek plantations, in that part of Italy which is now called the kingdom of Naples; and westward, had reduced all the Tuscans under their obedience, as far as the river Arnus; they made that, and the river Volturnus, (which runs by the walls of Capua,) the two boundaries of their empire, which was called the abode of empire. These were the uttermost points attained; for what they conquered between these two rivers, was all confiscated and divided amongst the tribes; the rustic tribes being twenty-seven, and the urban tribes nine, which made thirty-six in all. The city tribes were like our companies in London, consisting of tradesmen. The country tribes were divided like shires; and there was scarce any landed man who inhabited in the city, but he was written in that tribe where his estate lay: so that the rustic tribes (though they had all equal voices) were of far more credit and reputation than the urban. Upon the days of the Comitia, which were very well known, as many as thought fit amongst the country tribes came to give their voices; though every tribe was very numerous of inhabitants, that lived in the city. Now the Agrarian did not extend to any lands conquered beyond this precinct, but they were left to the inhabitants; they paying a revenue to the commonwealth: all but those which were thought fit to be set out to maintain a Roman colony; which was a good number of Roman citizens, sent thither, and provided of lands and habitations: which being armed, did serve in the nature of a citadel and garrison to keep the province in obedience; and a Roman praetor, proconsul, or other governor, was sent yearly to head them, and brought forces with him besides.
Now it was ever lawful for any Roman citizen to purchase what lands he pleased in any of these provinces; it not being dangerous to a city to have their people rich, but to have such a power in the governing part of the empire, as should make those who managed the affairs of the commonwealth depend upon them; which came afterwards to be that which ruined their liberty, and which the Gracchi endeavoured to prevent when it was too late. For those illustrious persons, seeing the disorder that was then in the commonwealth, and rightly comprehending the reason, which was the intermission of the Agrarian, and by consequence the great purchases which were made by the men of Rome (who had enriched themselves in Asia and the other provinces) in that part of Italy which was between the two rivers before-mentioned, began to harangue the people, in hopes to persuade them to admit of the right remedy; which was to confirm the Agrarian Law with a retrospect; which although they carried, yet the difficulties in the execution proved so great, that it never took effect: by reason that the common people whose interest it was to have their lands restored, yet having long lived as clients and dependents of the great ones, chose rather to depend still upon their patrons than to hazard all for an imaginary deliverance: by which supineness in them, they were prevailed with rather to join (for the most part) with the oppressors of themselves and their country, and to cut the throats of their redeemers, than to employ their just resentment against the covetous violators of their government and property. So perished the two renowned Gracchi, one soon after the other; not for any crime, but for having endeavoured to preserve and restore their commonwealth: for which (if they had lived in times suitable to such an heroic undertaking, and that the virtue of their ancestors had been yet in any kind remaining) they would have merited and enjoyed a reputation equal to that of Lycurgus, or Solon; whereas as it happened they were sometime after branded with the name of sedition, by certain wits, who prostituted the noble flame of poetry (which before had wont to be employed in magnifying heroic actions) to flatter the lust and ambition of the Roman tyrants.
NOBLE VEN. Sir, I approve what you say in all things; and in confirmation of it, shall further allege the two famous princes of Sparta, Agis and Cleomenes: which I couple together, since Plutarch does so. These (finding the corruption of their commonwealth, and the decay of their ancient virtue, to proceed from the neglect and in-observance of their founder's rules, and a breach of that equality which was first instituted;) endeavoured to restore the laws of Lycurgus, and divide the territory anew; their victory in the Peloponnesian war, and the riches and luxury brought into their city by Lysander, having long before broken all the orders of their commonwealth, and destroyed the proportions of land allotted to each of the natural Spartans. But the first of these two excellent patriots perished by treachery, in the beginning of his enterprise: the other began and went on with incomparable prudence and resolution; but miscarried afterwards, by the iniquity of the times, and baseness and wickedness of the people. So infallibly true it is, that where the policy is corrupted, there must necessarily be also a corruption and depravation of manners; and an utter abolition of all faith, justice, honour, and morality. But I forget myself, and entrench upon your province: there is nothing now remains to keep you from the modern policies, but that you please to shut up this discourse of the ancient governments, with saying something of the corruptions of aristocracy and democracy. For I believe both of us are satisfied that you have abundantly proved your assertion: and that when we have leisure to examine all the states or policies that ever were, we shall find all their changes to have turned upon this hinge of property; and that the fixing of that with good laws in the beginning or first institution of a state, and the holding to those laws afterwards, is the only way to make a commonwealth immortal.
ENG. GENT. I think you are very right: but I shall obey you; and do presume to differ from Aristotle, in thinking that he has not fitly called those extremes (for so I will style them) of aristocracy and democracy, corruptions: for that they do not proceed from the alteration of property, which is the only corruptor of politics. For example, I do not find that oligarchy, or government of a few, which is the extreme of an optimacy, ever did arise from a few men getting into their hands the estates of all the rest of the nobility: for had it begun so, it might have lasted, which I never read of any that did. I will therefore conclude, that they were all tyrannies; for so the Greeks called all usurpations, whether of one or more persons: and all those that I ever read of, as they came in either by craft or violence, (as the thirty tyrants of Athens; the fifteen of Thebes; and the Decemviri of Rome, though these at first came in lawfully:) so they were soon driven out; and ever, were either assassinated, or died by the sword of justice: and therefore I shall say no more of them; not thinking them worth the name of a government. As for the extreme of democracy, which is anarchy, it is not so: for many commonwealths have lasted for a good time under that administration (if I may so call a state so full of confusion.) An anarchy then is when the people not contented with their share in the administration of the government, (which is the right of approving, or disapproving of laws, of leagues, and of making of war and peace, of judging in all causes upon an appeal to them, and choosing all manner of officers) will take upon themselves the office of the senate too, in managing subordinate matters of state, proposing laws originally, and assuming debate in the market-place, making their orators their leaders: nay, not content with this, will take upon them to alter all the orders of the government when they please; as was frequently practised in Athens, and in the modern state of Florence. In both these cities, whenever any great person who could lead the people, had a mind to alter the government, he called them together, and made them vote a change. In Florence they called it: To call the people to a parliament and to reform the government, which is summoning the people into the market-place to resume the government; and did then presently institute a new one, with new orders, new magistracies, and the like.
Now that which originally causes this disorder, is the admitting (in the beginning of a government, or afterwards) the meaner sort of people, who have no share in the territory, into an equal part of ordering the commonwealth: these being less sober, less considering, and less careful of the public concerns; and being commonly the major part; are made the instruments oft-times of the ambition of the great ones, and very apt to kindle into faction. But notwithstanding all the confusion which we see under an anarchy, (where the wisdom of the better sort is made useless by the fury of the people;) yet many cities have subsisted hundreds of years in this condition: and have been more considerable, and performed greater actions, than ever any government of equal extent did; except it were a well-regulated democracy. But it is true, they ruin in the end; and that never by cowardice or baseness, but by too much boldness and temerarious undertakings; as both Athens and Florence did: the first undertaking the invasion of Sicily, when their affairs went ill elsewhere; and the other, by provoking the Spaniard and the pope. But I have done now; and shall pass to say something of the modern policies.
NOBLE VEN. Before you come to that, sir, pray satisfy me in a point, which I should have moved before but that I was unwilling to interrupt your rational discourse. How came you to take it for granted, that Moses, Theseus, and Romulus were founders of popular governments? As for Moses, we have his story written by an infallible pen. Theseus was ever called king of Athens, though he lived so long since that what is written of him is justly esteemed fabulous: but Romulus certainly was a king; and that government continued a monarchy, though elective, under seven princes.
ENG. GENT. I will be very short in my answer; and say nothing of Theseus, for the reason you are pleased to allege: but for Moses, you may read in holy writ, that when, by God's command he had brought the Israelites out of Egypt, he did at first manage them by acquainting the people with the estate of their government; which people were called together with the sound of a trumpet, and are termed in scripture the Congregation of the Lord. This government he thought might serve their turn in their passage; and that it would be time enough to make them a better, when they were in possession of the land of Canaan: especially having made them judges and magistrates at the insistence of his father-in-law Jethro; which are called in authors, Jethronic magistracy. But finding that this provision was not sufficient, he complained to God, of the difficulty he had to make that state of affairs hold together. God was pleased to order him, to let seventy elders be appointed for a senate; but yet the Congregation of the Lord continued still and acted: and by the several soundings of the trumpets, either the senate, or popular assembly were called together, or both. So that this government was the same with all other democracies; consisting of a principal magistrate, a senate, and a people assembled together: not by representation, but in a body. Now for Romulus: it is very plain, that he was no more than the first officer of the commonwealth (whatever he was called,) and that he was chosen (as your Doge is,) for life. And when the last of those seven kings usurped the place; that is, did reign without the people's command and exercise the government tyrannically; the people drove him out, (as all people in the world that have property will do in the like case, except some extraordinary qualifications in the prince preserve him for one age) and afterwards appointed in his room two magistrates, and made them annual; which two had the same command as well in their armies, as in their cities; and did not make the least alteration besides; excepting that they chose an officer that was to perform the king's function, in certain sacrifices which Numa appointed to be performed by the king; lest the people should think their religion was changed: this officer was called high priest. If you are satisfied; I will go on to the consideration of our modern states.
NOBLE VEN. I am fully answered; and besides am clearly of opinion, that no government, whether mixed monarchy or commonwealth, can subsist without a senate: as well from the turbulent state of the Israelites under Moses, till the Sanhedrim was instituted; as from a certain kingdom of the Vandals in Africa; where, after their conquest of the natives, they appointed a government consisting of a prince and a popular assembly; which latter, within half a year, beat the king's brains out; he having no bulwark of nobility, or senate, to defend him from them. But I will divert you no longer.
ENG. GENT. Sir, you are very right; and we should have spoken something of that before, if it had been the business of this meeting to discourse of the particular models of government: but intending only to say so much of the ancient policy as to show what Government in general is, and upon what basis it stands; I think I have done it sufficiently to make way for the understanding of our own; at least, when I have said something of the policies which are now extant; and that, with your favour, I will do. I shall need say little now of those commonwealths, which however they came by their liberty, either by arms or purchase, are now much-what under the same kind of policy as the ancients were. In Germany, the free towns, and many princes, make up the body of a commonwealth, called the empire; of which the emperor is head. This general union has its diets or parliaments, where they are all represented; and where all things concerning the safety and interest of Germany in general, or that belong to peace and war, are transacted. These diets never intermeddle with the particular concerns or policies of those princes or states that make it up, leaving to them their particular sovereignties. The several imperial cities, or commonwealths, are divided into two kinds; Lübeck's Law, and Cologne's Law: which being the same exactly with the ancient democracies and optimacies, I will say no more of them. The governments of Switzerland, and the seven provinces of the Low-Countries, were made up in haste; to unite them against persecution and oppression, and to help to defend themselves the better: which they both have done very gallantly and successfully. They seem to have taken their pattern from the Grecians; who, when their greatness began to decline, and the several tyrants who succeeded Alexander began to press hard upon them, were forced to league themselves (yet in several confederacies, as that of the Aetolians, that of the Achaeans, &c.) for their mutual defence. The Swiss consist of thirteen sovereignties; some cities, which are most aristocratical; and some provinces, which have but a village for their head township. These are all democracies; and are governed all, by the owners of land: who assemble, as our freeholders do, at the county-court. They have their general diets, as in Germany.
The government of the United Provinces has for its foundation the Union of Utrecht; made in the beginning of their standing upon their guard against the cruelty and oppression of the Spaniard, and patched up in haste; and seeming to be composed only for necessity as a state of war, has made modern statesmen conjecture, that it will not be very practicable in time of peace and security. At their general diet (which is called the States General) do intervene the deputies of the seven provinces, in what number their principals please: but all of them have but one vote, which are by consequence seven; and every one of the seven has a negative: so that nothing can pass without the concurrence of the whole seven. Every one of these provinces have a council or assembly of their own, called the States Provincial, who send and instruct their deputies to the states general; and perform other offices belonging to the peace and quiet of the province. These deputies to the states provincial, are sent by the several cities of which every province consists, and by the nobility of the province, which has one voice only. The basis of the government lies in these cities; which are each of them a distinct sovereignty: neither can the states of the province, much less the states general, entrench in the least upon their rights, nor so much as intermeddle with the government of their cities, or administration of justice; but only treat of what concerns their mutual defence, and their payments towards it. Every one of these cities is a sovereignty; governed by an optimacy, consisting of the chief citizens: which upon death are supplied by new ones elected by themselves. These are called the Urnuscaperie, or Herne; which council has continued to govern those towns, time out of mind: even in the times of their princes, who were then the sovereigns: for without the consent of him, or his deputy, called stadtholder, nothing could be concluded in those days. Since, they have instituted an artificial minister of their own, whom they still call stadtholder; and make choice of him in their provincial assemblies, and for form sake defer something to him, as the approbation of their Skepen and other magistrates, and some other matters. This has been continued in the province of Holland, which is the chief province, in the succession of the princes of Orange; and in the most of the others too: the rest have likewise chosen some other of the house of Nassau. This government (so oddly set together, and so composed of a state intended for a monarchy; and which as almanacs calculated for one meridian are made in some sort to serve for another, is by them continued in these several aristocracies) may last for a time: till peace and security, together with the abuse which is like to happen in the choice of the Herne, when they shall elect persons of small note into their body upon vacancies, for kindred or relation, rather than such as are of estate and eminency, or that otherwise abuse their power in the execution of it: and then it is believed, and reasonably enough, that those people (great in wealth, and very acute in the knowledge of their own interest) will find out a better form of government; or make themselves a prey to some great neighbour-prince in the attempting it: and this in case they in the meantime escape conquest from this great and powerful king of France, who at this time gives law to Christendom. I have nothing now left to keep me from the modern monarchies, but the most famous commonwealth of Venice; of which it would be presumption for me to say anything, whilst you are present.
NOBLE VEN. You may very safely go on if you please: for I believe strangers understand the speculative part of our government better than we do; and the doctrine of the ballot, which is our chief excellency: for I have read many descriptions of our frame, which have taught me something in it which I knew not before; particularly, Donato Gianotti the Florentine, to whom I refer those who are curious to know more of our orders. For we that manage the mechanical part of the government, are like horses who know their track well enough, without considering east or west, or what business they go about. Besides, it would be very tedious, and very needless, to make any relation of our model, with the several councils that make it up; and would be that which you have not done in treating of any other government. What we have said is enough to show what beginning we had; and that serves your turn: for we who are called nobility, and who manage the state, are the descendants of the first inhabitants; and had therefore been a democracy, if a numerous flock of strangers (who are contented to come and live among us as subjects) had not swelled our city, and made the governing party seem but a handful. So that we have the same foundations that all other aristocracies have, who govern but one city; and have no territory, but what they govern provincially. And our people, not knowing where to have better justice, are very well contented to live amongst us; without any share in the managing of affairs. Yet we have power to adopt whom we please into our nobility: and I believe that in the time of the Roman greatness, there were five for one of the inhabitants who were written in no tribe, but looked upon as strangers, and yet that did not vitiate their democracy; no more than our citizens and common people can hurt our optimacy. All the difficulty in our administration, has been to regulate our own nobility, and to bridle their faction and ambition; which can alone breed a disease in the vital part of our government: and this we do, by most severe laws; and a very rigorous execution of them.
DOCT. Sir, I was thinking to interpose concerning the propriety of lands in the territory of Padua; which, I hear, is wholly in the possession of the nobility of Venice.
NOBLE VEN. Our members have very good estates there, yet nothing but what they have paid very well for; no part of that country, or of any other province, having been shared amongst us as in other conquests. 'Tis true, that the Paduans having ever been the most revengeful people of Italy, could not be deterred from those execrable and treacherous murders which were every day committed, but by a severe execution of the laws as well against their lives as estates: and as many of their estates as were confiscated, were (during our necessities in the last war with the Turks) exposed to sale, and sold to them that offered most; without any consideration of the persons purchasing. But it is very true, that most of them came into the hands of our nobility; they offering more than any other; by reason that their sober and frugal living, and their being forbidden all manner of traffic, makes them have no way of employing the money which proceeds from their parsimony; and so they can afford to give more than others, who may employ their advance to better profit elsewhere. But I perceive, doctor, by this question, that you have studied at Padua.
DOCT. No really, sir, the small learning I have was acquired in our university of Oxford; nor was I ever out of this island.
NOBLE VEN. I would you had, sir; for it would have been a great honour to our country to have contributed anything towards so vast a knowledge as you are possessor of: but I wish that it were your country, or at least the place of your habitation, that so we might partake not only of your excellent discourse sometimes, but be the better for your skill; which would make us immortal.
DOCT. I am glad to see you so well that you can make yourself so merry: but I assure you I am very well here. England is a good wholesome climate for a physician. But, pray let our friend go on to his modern monarchies.
ENG. GENT. This is all I have now to do. Those monarchies are two, absolute, and mixed. For the first kind, all that we have knowledge of except the empire of the Turks, differ so little from the ancient monarchies of the Assyrians and Persians; that having given a short description of them before, it will be needless to say any more of the Persian, the Mogul, the king of Burma, China, Prester John; or any other the great men under those princes, as the satraps of old: being made so, only by their being employed and put into great places and governments by the sovereign. But the monarchy of the grand seignior is something different. They both agree in this, that the prince is, in both, absolute proprietor of all the lands, (excepting in the kingdom of Egypt, of which I shall say something anon;) but the diversity lies in the administration of the property: the other emperors as well ancient as modern using to manage the revenue of the several towns and parishes, as our kings or the kings of France do; that is, keep it in their hands, and administer it by officers: and so you may read that Xerxes king of Persia allowed the revenue of so many villages to Themistocles; which assignations are practised at this day, both to public and to private uses, by the present monarchs. But the Turks, when they invaded the broken empire of the Arabians, did not at first make any great alteration in their policy: till the house of Ottoman, the present royal family, did make great conquests in Asia, and afterwards in Greece: whence they might possibly take their present way of dividing their conquered territories; for they took the same course which the Goths and other modern people had used with their conquered lands in Europe, upon which they planted military colonies, by dividing them amongst the soldiers for their pay or maintenance. These shares were called by them timars, which signifies benefices: and differed in this only from the European knights-fees, that these last originally were hereditary, and so property was maintained; whereas amongst the Ottomans, they were merely at will; and they enjoyed their shares whilst they remained the Sultan's soldiers, and no longer; being turned out both of his service, and of their timars, when he pleases. This doubtless had been the best and firmest monarchy in the world, if they could have stayed here, and not had a mercenary army besides; which have often (like the praetorians in the time of the Roman tyrants) made the palace and the seraglio the shambles of their princes; whereas if the timariots, as well spahis (or horse) as foot, had been brought together to guard the prince by courses (as they used to do king David) as well as they are to fight for the empire; this horrid flaw and inconvenience in their government had been wholly avoided. For though these are not planted upon entire property, as David's were; (those being in the nature of trained-bands;) yet the remoteness of their habitations from the court and the factions of the great city, and their desire to repair home and to find all things quiet at their return, would have easily kept them from being infected with that cursed disease of rebellion against their sovereign, upon whose favour they depend for the continuance of their livelihood: whereas the janizaries [infantry] are for life, and are sure to be in the same employment under the next successor: so sure, that no grand seignior can, or dares go about to disband them; the suspicion of intending such a thing having caused the death of more than one of their emperors. But I shall go to the limited monarchies.
DOCT. But pray, before you do so, inform us something of the Roman emperors: had they the whole dominion or property of the lands of Italy?
ENG. GENT. The Roman emperors I reckon amongst the tyrants: for so amongst the Greeks were called those citizens who usurped the government of their commonwealths, and maintained it by force, without endeavouring to found or establish it, by altering the property of lands, as not imagining that their children could ever hold it after them; in which they were not deceived: so that it was plain that the Roman empire was not a natural but a violent government. The reasons why it lasted longer than ordinarily tyrannies do, are many. First, because Augustus the first emperor kept up the senate, and so for his time cajoled them with this bait of imaginary power; which might not have sufficed neither to have kept him from the fate of his uncle, but that there had been so many revolutions and bloody wars between, that all mankind was glad to repose and take breath for a while under any government that could protect them. And he gained the service of these senators the rather, because he suffered none to be so but those who had followed his fortune in the several civil wars; and so were engaged to support him for their own preservation: besides, he confiscated all those who had at any time been proscribed, or sided in any encounter against him; which, considering in how few hands the lands of Italy then were, might be an over-balance of the property in his hands. But this is certain; that whatever he had not in his own possession, he disposed of at his pleasure; taking it away, as also the lives of his people, without any judicial proceedings, when he pleased. That the confiscations were great, we may see by his planting above sixty thousand soldiers upon lands in Lombardy; that is, erecting so many beneficia, or timars: and, if any man's lands lay in the way, he took them in for neighbourhood, without any delinquency. 'Mantua, unfortunately, was much too near Cremona'. And it is very evident, that if these beneficia had not afterwards been made hereditary, that empire might have had a stabler foundation; and so a more quiet and orderly progress than it after had: for the court-guards called the praetorians, did make such havoc of their princes, and change them so often, that this (though it may seem a paradox) is another reason why this tyranny was not ruined sooner. For the people, who had really an interest to endeavour a change of government, were so prevented by seeing the prince whom they designed to supplant, removed to their hand, that they were puzzled what to do; taking in the meantime great recreation to see those wild beasts hunted down themselves, who had so often preyed upon their lives and estates: besides that, most commonly the frequent removes of their masters, made them scarce have time to do any mischief to their oppressed subjects in particular, though they were all slaves in general. This government of the later Romans is a clear example of the truth and efficacy of these politic principles we have been discoursing of. First, that any government (be it the most unlimited and arbitrary monarchy) that is placed upon a right basis of property, is better both for prince and people, than to leave them a seeming property still at his devotion; and then for want of fixing the foundation, expose their lives to those dangers and hazards, with which so many tumults and insurrections, which must necessarily happen, will threaten them daily. And in the next place, that any violent constraining of mankind to a subjection, is not to be called a government; nor does salve either the politic or moral ends, which those eminent legislators amongst the ancients proposed to themselves, when they set rules to preserve the quiet and peace, as well as the plenty, prosperity and greatness of the people; but that the politics, or art of governing, is a science to be learned and studied by counsellors and statesmen be they never so great, or else mankind will have a very sad condition under them, and they themselves a very perplexed and turbulent life, and probably a very destructive and precipitous end of it.
DOCT. I am very glad I gave occasion to make this discourse: now I beseech you, before you go to the mixed monarchies, not to forget Egypt.
ENG. GENT. 'Twas that I was coming to, before you were pleased to interrogate me concerning the Roman empire. The Egyptians are this day, for aught I know, the only people that enjoy property, and are governed as a province, by any of the eastern absolute princes. For whereas Damascus, Aleppo, and most of the other cities and provinces of that empire, whose territory is divided into timars, are governed by a bashaw, who for his guards has some small number of janizaries or soldiers; the bashaw of Egypt, or of Grand Cairo, has ever an army with him: and divers forts are erected; which is the way European princes use in governing their provinces; and must be so where property is left entire, except they plant colonies as the Romans did. The reason why Selim, who broke the empire of the Mamelukes, and conquered Egypt, did not plant timars upon it, was the laziness and cowardliness of the people, and the great fruitfulness of the soil, and deliciousness of the country, which has mollified and rendered effeminate all the nations that ever did inhabit it. So that a resolution was taken to impose upon them, first, the maintaining an army by a tax; and then to pay a full half of all the fruits and product of their lands to the grand seignior, which they are to cultivate and improve. This is well managed by the bashaws and their officers; and comes to an incredible sum: the goods being sold, the money is conveyed in specie to the port, and is the greatest part of that prince's revenue. And it is believed, that if all the lands had been entirely confiscated, and that the grand seignior had managed them by his officers, he would not have made a third part so much of the whole, as he receives now annually for one half: not only because those people are extremely industrious, where their own profit is concerned; but for that it is clear, if they had been totally divested of their estates, they would have left their country; and made that which is now the most populous kingdom of the world, a desert: as is all the rest of the Turkish dominions, except some cities. And if the people had removed as they did elsewhere, there would not only have wanted hands to have cultivated and improved the lands, but mouths to consume the product of it; so that the prince's revenue by the cheapness of victual, and the want of labourers, would have almost fallen to nothing.
NOBLE VEN. Pray God this be not the reason that this king of France leaves property to his subjects; for certainly he has taken example by this province of Egypt: his subjects having a tax (which for the continuance of it, I must call a rent or tribute) imposed upon them, to the value of one full half of their estates; which must ever increase, as the lands improve.
ENG. GENT. I believe, sir, there is another reason; for the property there, being in the nobility and gentry, which are the hands by which he manages his force both at home and abroad, it would not have been easy or safe for him to take away their estates. But I come to the limited monarchies. They were first introduced (as was said before) by the Goths, and other northern people. Whence those great swarms came, as it was unknown to Procopius himself who lived in the time of their invasion, and who was a diligent searcher into all the circumstances of their concernments, so it is very needless for us to make any enquiry into it: thus much being clear, that they came man woman and child, and conquered and possessed all these parts of the world; which were then subject to the Roman empire, and since Christianity came in have been so to the Latin church; till honest John Calvin taught some of us the way how to deliver ourselves from the tyrannical yoke, which neither we nor our forefathers were able to bear. Whence those people had the government they established in these parts after their conquest; that is, whether they brought it from their own country, or made it themselves; must needs be uncertain, since their original is wholly so: but it seems very probable that they had some excellent persons among them, though the ignorance and want of learning in that age has not suffered any thing to remain that may give us any great light; for it is plain, that the government they settled, was both according to the exact rules of politics, and very natural and suitable to that division they made of their several territories. Whenever then these invaders had quieted any province, and that the people were driven out or subdued, they divided the lands: and to the prince they gave usually a tenth part, or thereabouts; to the great men, or comites regis, as it was translated into Latin, every one, as near as they could, an equal share. These were to enjoy an hereditary right in their estates; as the king did in his part, and in the crown. But neither he, nor his peers or companions, were to have the absolute disposal of the lands so allotted them: but were to keep a certain proportion to themselves for their use; and the rest was ordered to be divided amongst the freemen, who came with them to conquer. What they kept to themselves was called demesnes, in English and French; and in Italian, beni allodiali. The other part which they granted to the freemen, was called a feud: and all these estates were held of these lords hereditarily, only the tenants were to pay a small rent annually; and at every death or change an acknowledgement in money, and in some tenures the best beast besides. But the chief condition of the feud or grant, was, that the tenant should perform certain services to the lord; of which one (in all tenures of freemen) was to follow him armed to the wars, for the service of the prince and defence of the land. And upon their admittance to their feuds, they took an oath to be true vassals and tenants to their lords; and to pay their rents, and perform their services; and upon failure to forfeit their estates. And these tenants were divided, according to their habitations, into several manors; in every one of which there was a court kept, twice every year; where they all were to appear, and to be admitted to their several estates, and to take the oath above mentioned. All these peers did likewise hold all their demesnes, as also all their manors, of the prince: to whom they swore allegiance and fealty. There were besides these freemen or franklins, other tenants to every lord, who were called villeins; who were to perform all servile offices, and their estates were all at the lord's disposal when he pleased: these consisted mostly of such of the former inhabitants of these countries, as were not either destroyed or driven out; and possibly of others who were servants amongst them, before they came from their own countries. Perhaps thus much might have been unnecessary to be said; considering that these lords, tenants, and courts, are yet extant in all the kingdoms in Europe: but that to a gentleman of Venice, where there are none of these things, and where the Goths never were, something may be said in excuse for me.
NOBLE VEN. Tis true, sir, we fled from the Goths betimes; but yet in those countries which we recovered since in Terra Firma, we found the footsteps of these lords, and tenures, and their titles of counts: though being now provinces to us, they have no influence upon the government; as, I suppose, you are about to prove they have in these parts.
ENG. GENT. You are right, sir; for the governments of France, Spain, England, and all other countries where these people settled, were framed accordingly. It is not my business to describe particularly the distinct forms of the several governments in Europe, which do derive from these people, (for they may differ in some of their orders and laws, though the foundation be in them all the same) this would be unnecessary, they being all extant and so well known: and besides, little to my purpose; excepting to show where they have declined from their first institution, and admitted of some change. France, and Poland, have not, nor as I can learn, ever had any freemen below the nobility; that is, had no yeomen; but all are either noble, or villeins: therefore the lands must have been originally given, as they now remain, into the hands of these nobles. But I will come to the administration of the government in these countries; and first say wherein they all agree, or did as least in their institution; which is, that the sovereign power is in the states assembled together by the prince, in which he presides; these make laws, levy money, redress grievances, punish great officers, and the like. These states consist in some places of the prince and nobility only, as in Poland; and anciently in France, before certain towns, for the encouraging of trade, procured privileges to send deputies: which deputies are now called the third estate: and in others, consist of the nobility and commonalty; which latter had, and still have the same right to intervene and vote, as the great ones have both in England, Spain, and other kingdoms.
DOCT. But you say nothing of the clergy: I see you are no great friend to them, to leave them out of your politics.
ENG. GENT. The truth is, doctor, I could wish there had never been any: the purity of Christian religion, as also the good and orderly government of the world, had been much better provided for without them; as it was in the apostolical time, when we hear nothing of clergy: but my omitting their reverend lordships was no neglect, for I meant to come to them in order; for you know that the northern people did not bring Christianity into these parts, but found it here, and were in time converted to it; so that there could be no clergy at the first. But if I had said nothing at all of this race, yet I had committed no solecism in the politics: for the bishops and great abbots intervened in the states here, upon the same foundation that the other peers do; viz. for their great possessions, and the dependence their tenants and vassals have upon them: although they being a people of that great sanctity and knowledge, scorn to intermix so much as titles with us profane lay-idiots; and therefore will be called, lords spiritual. But you will have a very venerable opinion of them, if you do but consider how they came by these great possessions, which made them claim a third part of the government. And truly not unjustly, by my rule; for I believe they had no less (at one time) than a third part of the lands, in most of these countries.
NOBLE VEN. Pray, how did they acquire these lands? was it not here by the charitable donation of pious Christians, as it was elsewhere?
ENG. GENT. Yes, certainly, very pious men! some of them might be well-meaning people, but still such as were cheated by these holy men: who told them perpetually, both in public and private, 'that they represented God upon earth, being ordained by authority from him who was his viceroy here; and that what was given to them, was given to God; and he would repay it largely, both in this world, and the next.' This wheedle made our barbarous ancestors, newly instructed in the Christian faith, (if this religion may be called so, and sucking in this foolish doctrine more than the doctrine of Christ) so zealous to these vipers, that they would have plucked out their eyes to serve them; much more bestow, as they did, the fruitfullest and best situate of their possessions upon them. Nay, some they persuaded to take upon them their callings; vow chastity, and give all they had to them; and become one of them; amongst whom, I believe, they found no more sanctity, than they left in the world. But this is nothing to another trick they had: which was to insinuate into the most notorious and execrable villains with which that age abounded; men, who being princes, (and other great men, for such were the tools they worked with) had treacherously poisoned or otherwise murdered their nearest relations, fathers, brothers, wives, to reign or enjoy their estates: these they did persuade into a belief, 'that if they had a desire to be saved notwithstanding their execrable villainies, they need but part with some of those great possessions (which they had acquired by those acts:) to their bishoprics or monasteries, and they would pray for their souls; and they were so holy and acceptable to God, that he would deny them nothing:' which they immediately performed; so great was the ignorance and blindness of that age! And you shall hardly find in the story of those times, any great monastery, abbey or other religious house in any of these countries, (I speak confidently as to what concerns our own Saxons,) that had not its foundation from some such original.
DOCT. A worthy beginning, of a worthy race!
[[ NOBLE VEN. Sir, you maintain a strange position here, that it had been better there had been no clergy. Would you have had no gospel preached, no sacraments, no continuance of Christian religion in the world? Or do you think that these things could have been without a succession of the true priesthood, or (as you call it, of true ministry) by means of ordination? Does not your own church hold the same?
ENG. GENT. You will know more of my church, when I have told you what I find the word church to signify in scripture; which is to me, the only rule of faith, worship, and manners: neither do I seek these additional helps, of fathers, councils, or ecclesiastical history; much less tradition: for since it is said in the word of God itself, 'that Antichrist did begin to work even in those days;' I can easily believe that he had brought his work to some perfection, before the word church was by him applied to the clergy. I shall therefore tell you what I conceive that church, clergy, and ordination, signified in the apostolical times. I find then the word, church, in the New Testament taken but in two senses: the first, for the universal invisible church, called sometimes of the first-born; that is, the whole number of the true followers of Christ in the world, wherever resident, or into what part soever dispersed. The other signification of church, is an assembly; which though it be sometimes used to express any meetings (even unlawful and tumultuous ones) as well in scripture, as profane authors; yet it is more frequently understood of a gathering together to the duties of prayer, preaching, and breaking of bread: and the whole number so congregated is, both in the acts of the apostles and in their holy epistles, called the Church. Nor is there the least colour for appropriating that word to the pastors and deacons; who, since the corruptions of Christian religion, are called clergy. Which word in the Old Testament is used, sometimes for God's whole people, and sometimes for the tribe of Levi, out of which the priests were chosen; for the word signifies a lot; so that tribe is called God's lot, because they had no share allotted them when the land was divided, but were to live upon tithe, and serve in the functions of their religion, and be singers, porters, butchers, bakers, and cooks, for the sacrifices &c. So that this tribe was styled clergy but figuratively; and the allegory passed into the New Testament: where the saints are sometimes called clergy; but never the pastors or deacons: who were far from pretending, in those days, to come in the place of the Aaronical priesthood. The word ordination, in scripture, signifies lifting up of hands; and is used, first, for the giving a suffrage, which in all popular assemblies was done by stretching out the hand (as it is in the common hall of London:) in the next place, it is applied to the order or decree made by the suffrage so given; which was then (and is yet too in all modern languages) called an ordinance; and the suffrage itself ordination: which word proves that the first Christian churches were democratical; that is, that the whole congregation had the choice in this, as well as the sovereign authority in all excommunications, and all other matters whatsoever that could occur: for in all aristocratical commonwealths the word for choice is Keirothesia, or imposition of hands, (for so the election of all magistrates and officers was made,) and not Keirotonia [stretching forth of hands as in voting for M.P.s for example]. These pastors and other officers did not pretend to be, by virtue of such choice, of a peculiar profession different from other men; as their followers have done since Antichrist's reign; but were only called and appointed (by the congregation's approval of their gifts or parts) to instruct or feed the flock; visit the sick; and perform all other offices of a true minister (that is, servant) of the gospel. At other times, they followed the business of their own trades and professions: and the Christians in those times (which none will deny to have been the purest of the church) did never dream that a true pastor ought to pretend to any succession, to qualify him for the ministry of the word; or that the idle and ridiculous ceremonies used in your church, (and still continued in that which you are pleased to call mine,) were any way essential or conducing to capacitate a person to be a true preacher or dispenser of the Christian faith. And I cannot sufficiently admire why our clergy, who very justly refuse to believe the miracle which is pretended to be wrought in transubstantiation; because they see both the wafer and the wine to have the same substance, and the same accidents after the priest has mumbled words over those elements as they had before; yet will believe, that the same kind of spell or charm in ordination can have the efficacy to metamorphose a poor lay-idiot, into a heavenly creature: notwithstanding that we find in them the same human nature, and the same necessities of it, to which they were subject before such transformation; nay, the same debauch, profaneness, ignorance, and disability to preach the gospel.
NOBLE VEN. Sir, this discourse is very new to me. I must confess I am much inclined to join with you in believing, that the power priests exercise over mankind, with the jurisdiction they pretend to over princes and states, may be a usurpation; but that they should not have a divine call to serve at the altar, or that any person can pretend to perform those sacred functions without being duly ordained, seems very strange.
ENG. GENT. I am not now to discourse of religion: it is never very civil to do so in conversation of persons of a different belief; neither can it be of any benefit towards a Roman Catholic; for if his conscience should be never so clearly convinced, he is not yet master of his own faith; having given it up to his church, of whom he must ask leave to be a convert, which he will be sure never to obtain. But if you have the curiosity when you come amongst the learned in your own country (for amongst our ordination-mongers, there is a great scarcity of letters and other good parts) you may please to take the Bible, which you acknowledge to be the word of God as well as we; and intreat some of them to show you any passage, the plain and genuine sense of which can any way evince this succession, this ordination, or this priesthood, we are now speaking of: and when you have done, if you will let your own excellent reason and discourse judge, and not your priest, (who is too much concerned in point of interest) I make no doubt but you will be convinced that the pretence to the dispensing of divine things by virtue of a human constitution, and so ridiculous a one too as the ordination practised by your bishops and ours, (who descend and succeed from one and the same mother) is as little justifiable by scripture and reason, and full as great a cheat and usurpation, as the empire which the ecclesiastics pretend to over the consciences and persons of men, and the exemption from all secular power.
NOBLE VEN. Well, sir, though neither my faith nor my reason can come up to what you hold, yet the novelty and the grace of this argument has delighted me extremely: and if that be a sin, as I fear it is, I must confess it to my priest; but I ask your pardon first, for putting you upon this long deviation.]]
ENG. GENT. Well, this digression is not without its use: for it will shorten our business, (which is grown longer than I thought it would have been;) for I shall mention the clergy no more: but whenever I speak of peerage, pray take notice, that I mean both lords spiritual and temporal; since they stand both upon the same foot of property. But if you please, I will fall immediately to discourse of the government of England; and say no more of those of our neighbours, than what will fall in by the way, or be hinted to me by your demands: for the time runs away, and I know the doctor must be at home by noon, where he gives daily charitable audience to an infinity of poor people; who have need of his help, and who send or come for it, not having the confidence to send for him, since they have nothing to give him: though he be very liberal too of his visits to such, where he has any knowledge of them. But I spare his modesty, which I see is concerned at the just testimony I bear to his charity. The sovereign power of England then is in king, lords, and commons. The parliaments, as they are now constituted (that is, the assigning a choice to such a number of boroughs, as also the manner and form of elections and returns) did come in, as I suppose, in the time of Henry the third; where now our statute-book begins. And I must confess I was inclined to believe, that before that time, our yeomanry or commonalty had not formally assembled in parliament, but been virtually included and represented by the peers, upon whom they depended: but I am fully convinced, that it was otherwise, by the learned discourses lately published by Mr Petyt of the Temple, and Mr Atwood of Grays-Inn; being gentlemen whom I do mention, honoris causa [in order to honour]. And really they deserve to be honoured, that they will spare some time from the mechanical part of their callings (which is to assist clients with counsel, and to plead their causes, which I acknowledge likewise to be honourable) to study the true interest of their country; and to show how ancient the rights of the people in England are: and that in a time, when neither profit nor countenance can be hoped for, from so ingenious an undertaking. But I beg pardon for the deviation.
Of the three branches of sovereign power which politicians mention, which are enacting laws, levying of taxes, and making war and peace, the two first of them are indisputably in the parliament; and when I say parliament, I ever intend, with the king. The last, has been usually exercised by the prince; if he can do it with his own money. Yet because even in that case it may be ruinous to the kingdom, by exposing it to an invasion, many have affirmed that such a power cannot be (by the true and ancient free government of England) supposed to be entrusted in the hands of one man; and therefore we see in divers kings' reigns the parliament has been consulted, and their advice taken in those matters that have either concerned war or leagues; and that if it has been omitted, addresses have been made to the king by parliaments, either to make war, or peace; according to what they thought profitable to the public. So that I will not determine whether that power which draws such consequences after it, be by the genuine sense of our laws in the prince or no; although I know of no statute, or written record, which makes it otherwise. That which is undoubtedly the king's right or prerogative, is to call and dissolve parliaments; to preside in them; to approve of all acts made by them; and to put in execution, as supreme or sovereign magistrate (in the intervals of parliaments, and during their sitting) all laws made by them, as also the common law. For which cause he has the nomination of all inferior officers and ministers under him, excepting such as by law or charter are eligible otherwise; and the power of the sword, to force obedience to the judgements given both in criminal and civil causes.
DOCT. Sir, you have made us a very absolute prince: what have we left us? If the king have all this power, what do our liberties or rights signify, whenever he pleases?
ENG. GENT. This objection, doctor, makes good what I said before, that your skill did not terminate in the body natural, but extended to the politic: for a more pertinent interrogatory could never have been made by Plato or Aristotle. In answer to which, you may please to understand; that when these constitutions were first made, our ancestors were a plain-hearted, well-meaning people, without court-reserves, or tricks; who having made choice of this sort of government, and having power enough in their hands to make it take place, did not foresee or imagine, that any thoughts of invading their rights could enter into the prince's head. Nor do I read that it ever did, till the Norman line came to reign: which coming in by treaty, it was obvious there was no conquest made upon any but Harold; in whose stead William the first came, and would claim no more after his victory, than what Harold enjoyed: excepting, that he might confiscate (as he did) those great men who took part with the wrong title; and Frenchmen were put into their estates. Which though it made in this kingdom a mixture between Normans and Saxons, yet produced no change or innovation in the government; the Norman peers being as tenacious of their liberties, and as active in the recovery of them to the full, as the Saxon families were.
Soon after the death of William, (and possibly, in his time,) there began some invasions upon the rights of the kingdom; which begat grievances, and afterwards complaints and discontents: which grew to that height, that the peers were fain to use their power, that is, arm their vassals to defend the government; whilst the princes of that age, first king John, and then Henry the third, got force together. The barons called in Lewis the dauphin, (whilst the king would have given away the kingdom to the Saracens, as he did to the pope) and armed their own creatures; so that a bloody war ensued, for almost forty years off and on, as may be read in our history. The success was, that the barons or peers obtained, in the close, two charters or laws for the ascertaining their rights; by which, neither their lives, liberties, or estates, could ever be in danger any more from any arbitrary power in the prince: and so the good government of England, which was before this time (like the law of nature) only written in the hearts of men; came to be expressed in parchment and remain a record in writing; though these charters gave us no more, than what was our own before. After these charters were made, there could not choose but happen some encroachment upon them; but so long as the peers kept their greatness, there was no breaches but what were immediately made up in parliament: which whenever they assembled, did in the first place confirm the charters, and made very often interpretations upon them, for the benefit of the people; witness the statute de Tallagio non concedendo, and many others.
But to come nearer the giving the doctor an answer, you may please to understand, that not long after the framing of these forementioned charters, there did arise a grievance not foreseen or provided for by them; and it was such an one that had beaten down the government at once, if it had not been redressed in an orderly way. This was the intermission of parliaments; which could not be called but by the prince; and he not doing of it, they ceased to be assembled for some years. If this had not been speedily remedied, the barons must have put on their armour again: for who can imagine, that such brisk assertors of their rights could have acquiesced in an omission that ruined the foundation of the government? which consisting of king, lords, and commons, and having at that time marched near five hundred years upon three legs, must then have gone on hopping upon one; which could it have gone forward (as was impossible, whilst property continued where it was) yet would have ridden but a little way. Nor can it be wondered at, that our great men made no provision against this grievance in their charters: because it was impossible for them to imagine that their prince, who had so good a share in this government, should go about to destroy it, and to take that burden upon himself; which, by our constitution was undeniably to be divided between him and his subjects. And therefore divers of the great men of those times speaking with that excellent prince king Edward the first about it, he (to take away from his people all fear and apprehension that he intended to change the ancient government,) called speedily a parliament, and in it consented to a declaration of the kingdom's right in that point: without the clearing of which, all our other laws had been useless, and the government itself too; of which the parliament is (at the least) as essential a part as the prince. So that there passed a law in that parliament, that one should be held every year; and oftener, if need be: which like another Magna Charta, was confirmed by a new act made in the time of Edward the third, that glorious prince. Nor were there any sycophants in those days, who durst pretend loyalty by using arguments to prove that it was against the royal prerogative, for the parliament to entrench upon the king's right of calling and dissolving of parliaments: as if there were a prerogative in the crown, to choose whether ever a parliament should assemble, or no. I would desire no more, if I were a prince, to make me grand seignior. Soon after this last act, the king, by reason of his wars with France and Scotland, and other great affairs, was forced sometimes to end his parliaments abruptly, and leave business undone; (and this not out of court-tricks, which were then unknown:) which produced another act not long after, by which it was provided; that no parliament should be dismissed, till all the petitions were answered. That is, in the language of those times, till all the bills (which were then styled petitions) were finished.
DOCT. Pray, sir, give me a little account of this last act you speak of; for I have heard in discourse from many lawyers, that they believe there is no such.
ENG. GENT. Truly, sir, I shall confess to you, that I do not find this law in any of our printed statute-books. But that which first gave me the knowledge of it, was what was said about three years ago in the house of commons, by a worthy and learned gentleman, who undertook to produce the record in the reign of Richard the second: and since, I have questioned many learned counsellors about it, who tell me there is such a one: and one of them, who is counted a prerogative lawyer, said it was so; but that the act was made in factious times. Besides, I think it will be granted, that for some time after, (and particularly in the reigns of Henry the fourth, Henry the fifth, and Henry the sixth) it was usual for a proclamation to be made in Westminster-hall, before the end of every session: That all those that had any matter to present to the parliament, should bring it in before such a day; for otherwise, the parliament at that day should determine. But if there were nothing at all of this, nor any record extant concerning it; yet I must believe that it is so by the fundamental law of this government, which must be lame and imperfect without it. For it is all one to have no parliaments at all but when the prince pleases, and to allow a power in him to dismiss them when he will; that is, when they refuse to do what he will. So that if there be no statute, it is certainly because our wise ancestors thought there needed none, but that by the very essence and constitution of the government it is provided for. And this we may call (if you had rather have it so) the common law; which is of as much value (if not more) than any statute, and of which all our good acts of parliament, and Magna Charta itself, is but declaratory. So that your objection is sufficiently answered in this, that though the king is entrusted with the formal part of summoning and pronouncing the dissolution of parliaments, which is done by his writ; yet the laws (which oblige him as well as us) have determined how and when he shall do it: which is enough to show, that the king's share in the sovereignty, (that is, in the parliament,) is cut out to him by the law, and not left at his disposal. Now I come to the king's part in the intervals of parliament.
NOBLE VEN. Sir, before you do so, pray tell us what other prerogatives the king enjoys in the government; for otherwise, I who am a Venetian, may be apt to think that our Doge, who is called our prince, may have as much power as yours.
ENG. GENT. I am in a fine condition amongst you, with my politics: the doctor tells me, I have made the king absolute; and now you tell me, I have made him a doge of Venice. But when your prince has power to dispose of the public revenue; to name all officers ecclesiastical and civil, that are of trust and profit in the kingdom; and to dispose absolutely of the whole militia, by sea, and land; then we will allow him to be like ours, who has all these powers.
DOCT. Well, you puzzle me extremely! For when you had asserted the king's power to the height, in calling and dissolving parliaments, you gave me such satisfaction, and showed me wherein the law had provided that this vast prerogative could not hurt the people, that I was fully satisfied; and had not a word to say: now you come about again, and place in the crown such a power, which in my judgement is inconsistent with our liberty.
ENG. GENT. Sir, I suppose you mean chiefly the power of the militia; which was, I must confess, doubtful, before a late statute declared it to be in the king. For our government has made no other disposal of the militia, than what was natural; viz. that the peers in their several counties, or jurisdictions, had the power of calling together their vassals: either armed for the wars, or only so as to cause the law to be executed by serving writs; and in case of resistance, giving possession: which lords amongst their own tenants did then perform the two several offices of lord-lieutenant, and sheriff; which latter was but the earl's deputy, as by his title of vice-comes does appear. But this latter being of daily necessity; and justice itself (that is, the lives, liberties and estates of all the people in that county) depending upon it; when the greatness of the peers decayed, (of which we shall have occasion to speak hereafter,) the electing of sheriff was referred to the county-court: where it continued, till it was placed where it now is by a statute. For the other part of the militia; which is, the arming the people for war, it was de facto exercised by commission from the king, to a lord-lieutenant (as an image of the natural lord) and other deputies: and it was tacitly consented to, though it were never settled by statute, (as I said before,) till his majesty's happy Restoration.
But to answer you I shall say, that whatever powers are in the crown, whether by statute or by old prescription, they are, and must be understood to be entrusted in the prince for the preservation of the government, and for the safety and interest of the people: and when either the militia, which is given him for the execution and support of the law, shall be employed by him to subvert it, (as in the case of ship-money it was;) or the treasure shall be misapplied, and made the revenue of courtiers and sycophants, (as in the time of Edward the second;) or worthless or wicked people shall be put into the greatest places, (as in the reign of Richard the second,) in this case, though the prince here cannot be questionable for it, (as the kings were in Sparta, and your doges I believe would be;) yet it is a great violation of the trust reposed in him by the government: and a making that power, which is given him by law, unlawful in the execution. And the frequent examples of justice inflicted in parliament upon the king's ministers, for abusing the royal power, show plainly that such authority is not left in his hands to use as he pleases. Nay, there have befallen sad troubles and dangers to some of these princes themselves, who have abused their power to the prejudice of the subjects; which although they are no way justifiable, yet may serve for an instruction to princes, and an example not to hearken to ruinous counsels: for men when they are enraged do not always consider justice, or religion; passion being as natural to man, as reason and virtue: which was the opinion of divine Machiavel.
To answer you then, I say, that though we do allow such powers in the king; yet since they are given him for edification and not destruction, and cannot be abused without great danger to his ministers, and even to himself: we may hope that they can never be abused but in a broken government. And if ours be so (as we shall see anon), the fault of the ill execution of our laws is not to be imputed either to the prince or his ministers; excepting that the latter may be, as we said before, justly punishable for not advising the prince to consent to the mending the frame: of which we shall talk more hereafter. But in the meantime I will come to the king's other prerogatives: as having all royal mines; the being served first before other creditors where money is due to him; and to have a speedier and easier way than his subjects, to recover his debts and his rents; &c. But to say all in one word, when there arises any doubt whether anything be the king's prerogative or no, this is the way of deciding it: viz. To consider whether it be for the good and protection of the people, that the king have such a power; for the definition of prerogative is a considerable part of the common law, by which power is put into the prince for the preservation of his people. And if it be not for the good of his subjects, it is not prerogative, nor law; for our prince has no authority of his own, but what was first entrusted in him by the government, of which he is head: nor is it to be imagined that they would give him more power than what was necessary to govern them. For example, the power of pardoning criminals condemned, is of such use to the lives and estates of the people, that without it many would be exposed to die unjustly. As lately a poor gentleman, who by means of the harangue of a strepitous [talkative] lawyer was found guilty of murder, for a man he never killed; or if he had, the fact had been but man-slaughter; and he had been inevitably murdered himself, if his majesty had not been graciously pleased to extend his royal mercy to him: as he did likewise vouchsafe to do to a gentleman convicted for speaking words he never uttered; or if he had spoken them, they were but foolishly not maliciously spoken. On the other side, if a controversy should arise, as it did in the beginning of the last parliament, between the house of commons and the prerogative lawyers, about the choice of their speaker; these latter having interested his majesty in the contest, and made him, by consequence, disoblige, at the beginning, a very loyal, and a very worthy parliament: and for what? For a question, which if you will decide it the right way, will be none; for setting aside the precedents, and the history when the crown first pretended to any share in the choice of a speaker, (which argument was very well handled by some of the learned patriots then;) I would have leave to ask, what man can show, and what reason can be alleged, why the protection and welfare of the people should require that a prerogative should be in the prince to choose the mouth of the house of commons; when there is no particular person in his whole dominion that would not think it against his interest if the government had given the king power to nominate his bailiff, his attorney, or his referee in any arbitration? Certainly there can be no advantage either to the sovereign or his subjects, that the person whose office, it is to put their deliberations into fitting words, and express all their requests to his majesty, should not be entirely in their own election and appointment: which there is the more reason for too, because the speakers for many years past have received instructions from the court; and have broken the privileges of the house, by revealing their debates, adjourning them without a vote; and committed many other misdemeanours, by which they have begotten an ill understanding between the king and his house of commons, to the infinite prejudice both of his majesty's affairs and his people. Since I have given this rule to judge prerogative by, I shall say no more of it: for as to what concerns the king's office in the intervals of parliament, it is wholly ministerial; and is barely to put in execution the common law, and the statutes made by the sovereign power (that is, by himself and the parliament) without varying one tittle; or suspending, abrogating, or neglecting the execution of any act whatsoever: and to this he is solemnly sworn at his coronation. And all his power in this behalf is in him by common law; which is reason itself: written as well in the hearts of rational men, as in the lawyers' books.
NOBLE VEN. Sir, I have heard much talk of the king's negative voice in parliaments; which in my opinion is as much as a power to frustrate, when he pleases, all the endeavours and labours of his people, and to prevent any good that might accrue to the kingdom by having the right to meet in parliament: for certainly, if we in Venice had placed any such prerogative in our duke, or in any of our magistracies, we could not call ourselves a free people.
ENG. GENT. Sir, I can answer you, as I did before: that if our kings have such a power, it ought to be used according to the true and genuine intent of the government; that is, for the preservation and interest of the people; and not for the disappointing the counsels of a parliament towards reforming grievances, and making provision for the future execution of the laws. And whenever it is applied to frustrate those ends, it is a violation of right, and infringment of the king's coronation-oath; in which there is this clause, that he shall confirm the laws, (which, in the Latin of those times, is laws which the people shall choose.) I know some critics, who are rather grammarians than lawyers, have made a distinction between elegerim and elegero: and will have it, that the king swears to such laws as the people 'shall have chosen': and not to those they 'shall choose'. But in my opinion, if that clause had been intended only to oblige the king to execute the laws made already, it might have been better expressed by 'preserve the laws' than by 'confirm the laws', (or customs): besides that he is by another clause in the same oath sworn to execute all the laws. But I shall leave this controversy undecided: those who have a desire to see more of it, may look into those quarrelling declarations pro and con about this matter, which preceded our unhappy civil wars. This is certain, that there are not to be found any statutes that have passed, without being presented to his majesty, or to some commissioned by him; but whether such addresses were intended for respect and honour to his majesty, as the speaker of the house of commons and the lord mayor of London are brought to him, I leave to the learned to discourse. Only thus much we may affirm; that there never were yet any parliamentary requests, which did highly concern the public, presented to any king and by him refused, but such denials did produce very dismal effects: as may be seen in our histories ancient and late: it being certain, that both the barons' wars, and our last dismal combustions, proceeded from no other cause than the denial of the princes then reigning to consent to the desires of the states of the kingdom. And such has been the wisdom and goodness of our present gracious prince; that in twenty years, and somewhat more (for which time we have enjoyed him, since his happy Restoration) he has not exercised his negative voice towards more than one public bill; and that too, was to have continued in force (if it had passed into an act) but for six weeks; being for raising the militia for so long time: and as for the private bills, which are matters of mere grace, it is unreasonable his majesty should be refused that right that every Englishman enjoys, which is not to be obliged to dispense his favours but where he pleases. But for this point of the negative vote; it is possible that when we come to discourse of the cure of our political distemper, some of you will propose the clearing and explanation of this matter, and of all others which may concern the king's power and the people's rights.
NOBLE VEN. But pray, sir, have not the house of peers a negative voice in all bills? How come they not to be obliged to use it for the public good?
ENG. GENT. So they are, no doubt; and the commons too: but there is a vast difference between a deliberative vote, which the peers have with their negative; and that in the crown, to blast all without deliberating. The peers are co-ordinate with the commons in presenting and hammering of laws; and may send bills down to them, as well as receive any from them; excepting in matters wherein the people are to be taxed. And in this our government imitates the best and most perfect commonwealths that ever were: where the senate assisted in the making of laws; and by their wisdom and dexterity, polished, filed, and made ready things for the more populous assemblies; and sometimes by their gravity and moderation, reduced the people to a calmer state; and by their authority and credit stemmed the tide, and made the waters quiet, giving the people time to come to themselves. And therefore if we had no such peerage now, upon the old constitution; yet we should be necessitated to make an artificial peerage or senate instead of it. Which may assure our present lords, that though their dependencies and power are gone, yet we cannot be without them: and that they have no need to fear an annihilation by our reformation, as they suffered in the late mad times. But I shall speak a word of the people's rights; and then show how this brave and excellent government of England came to decay.
The people by the fundamental laws, (that is, by the constitution of the government of England) have entire freedom in their lives, properties, and their persons: neither of which can in the least suffer, but according to the laws already made; or to be made hereafter in parliament, and duly published. And to prevent any oppression that might happen in the execution of these good laws, (which are our birthright) all trials must be by twelve men of our equals, and of our neighbourhood. These in all civil causes judge absolutely, and decide the matter of fact, upon which the matter of law depends: but if where matter of law is in question, these twelve men shall refuse to find a special verdict at the direction of the court, the judge cannot control it; but their verdict must be recorded. But of these matters, as also of demurrers, writs of error, and arrests of judgement, &c. I have discoursed to this gentleman (who is a stranger) before now; neither does the understanding of the execution of our municipal laws at all belong to this discourse. Only it is to be noted, that these juries, or twelve men, in all trials or causes which are criminal, have absolute power, both as to matter of law, and fact, (except the party by demurrer confess the matter of fact, and take it out of their hands.) And the first question the officer asks the foreman, when they all come in to deliver their verdict, is this; is he guilty in manner and form as he is indicted, or not guilty? Which shows plainly, that they are to examine and judge, as well whether, and how far the fact committed is criminal, as whether the person charged has committed that fact. But though by the corruption of these times (the infallible consequences of a broken frame of government) this office of the juries and right of Englishmen have been of late questioned, yet it has been strongly and effectually vindicated by a learned author of late, to whom I refer you for more of this matter.
I shall say no more of the rights of the people, but this one thing; that neither the king, nor any by authority from him, has any the least power of jurisdiction over any Englishman, but what the law gives them: and that although all commissions and writs go out in the king's name, yet his majesty has no right to issue out any writ (with advice of his council, or otherwise) excepting what come out of his courts; nor to alter any clause in a writ, or add anything to it. And if any person shall be so wicked as to do any injustice to the life, liberty, or estate of any Englishman, by any private command of the prince, the person aggrieved, or his next of kin (if he be assassinated) shall have the same remedy against the offender, as he ought to have had by the good laws of this land, if there had been no such command given: which would be absolutely void and null, and understood not to proceed from that royal and lawful power which is vested in his majesty, for the execution of justice and the protection of his people.
DOCT. Now I see you have done with all the government of England; pray before you proceed to the decay of it, let me ask you what you think of the Chancery: whether you do not believe it a solecism in the politics to have such a court amongst a free people. What good will Magna Charta, the Petition of Right, or St Edward's laws do us to defend our property, if it must be entirely subjected to the arbitrary disposal of one man, whenever any impertinent or petulant person shall put in a bill against you? How inconsistent is this tribunal with all that has been said in defence of our rights, or can be said? Suppose the prince should, in time to come, so little respect his own honour and the interest of his people, as to place a covetous or revengeful person in that great judicatory; what remedy have we against the corruption of registers, who make what orders they please; or against the whole hierarchy of knavish clerks? Whilst not only the punishing and reforming misdemeanours depend upon him, who may without control be the most guilty himself; but that all the laws of England stand there arraigned before him, and may be condemned when he pleases. Is there, or ever was there any such tribunal in the world before, in any country?
ENG. GENT. Doctor, I find you have had a suit in chancery: but I do not intend to contradict or blame your orthodox zeal in this point. This court is one of those buildings that cannot be repaired, but must be demolished. I could inform you how excellently matters of equity are administered in other countries; and this worthy gentleman could tell you of the venerable Quarantia [court of the forty judges] in his city, where the law as well as the fact, is at the bar, and subject to the judges, and yet no complaint made or grievance suffered. But this is not the place for it, this is but the superstructure: we must settle the foundation first. Everything else is as much out of order as this: trade is gone; suits are endless; and nothing amongst us harmonious. But all will come right when our government is mended; and never before, though our judges were all angels. This is the first question and when you have this, all other things shall be added unto you. When that is done, neither the Chancery (which is grown up to this since our ancestors' time) nor the spiritual courts, nor the cheats in trade, nor any other abuses, no not the giant popery itself, shall ever be able to stand before a parliament; no more than one of us can live, like a salamander, in the fire.
NOBLE VEN. Therefore, sir, pray let us come now to the decay of your government; that we may come the sooner to the happy restoration.
ENG. GENT. This harmonious government of England being founded as has been said upon property, it was impossible it should be shaken so long as property remained where it was placed: for if, when the ancient owners the Britons fled into the mountains, and left their lands to the invaders (who divided them, as is above related) they had made an Agrarian Law to fix it; then our government, and by consequence our happiness, had been for aught we know immortal. For our constitution, as it was really a mixture of the three, (which are monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, as has been said) so the weight and predominancy remained in the optimacy; who possessed nine parts in ten of the lands, and the prince but about a tenth part. In this I count all the peoples' shares to the peers, and therefore do not trouble myself to enquire what proportion was allotted to them; for although they had an hereditary right in their lands, yet it was so clogged with tenures and services, that they depended, as to public matters, wholly on their lords: who by them could serve the king in his wars; and in time of peace, by leading the people to what they pleased, could keep the royal power within its due bounds; and also hinder and prevent the people, from invading the rights of the crown. So that they were the bulwarks of the government; which in effect was much more an aristocracy, than either a monarchy or democracy: and in all governments, where property is mixed, the administration is so too; and that part which has the greater share in the lands, will have it too in the jurisdiction. And so in commonwealths, the senate or the people have more or less power, as they have more or fewer possessions, as was most visible in Rome, where in the beginning, the patricii could hardly bring the people to any thing; but afterwards, when the Asiatic conquests had enriched the nobility to that degree, that they were able to purchase a great part of the lands in Italy, the people were all their clients, and easily brought even to cut the throats of their redeemers the Gracchi, who had carried a law for restoring them their lands.
But enough of this before. I will not trouble myself, nor you, to search into the particular causes of this change which has been made in the possessions here in England, but it is visible that the fortieth part of the lands which were at the beginning in the hands of the peers and church, is not there now: besides that not only all villainage is long since abolished, but the other tenures are so altered and qualified, that they signify nothing towards making the yeomanry depend upon the lords. The consequence is: that the natural part of our government, which is power, is by means of property in the hands of the people; whilst the artificial part, or the parchment in which the form of government is written, remains the frame. Now art is a very good servant and help to nature, but very weak and inconsiderable, when she opposes her, and fights with her; it would be a very uneven contest between parchment and power. This alone is the cause of all the disorder you heard of, and now see in England; and of which every man gives a reason according to his own fancy, whilst few hit the right cause. Some impute all to the decay of trade; others to the growth of popery: which are both great calamities, but they are effects, and not causes. And if in private families there were the same causes, there would be the same effects: suppose now you had five or six thousand pounds a year, (as it is probable you have,) and keep forty servants; and at length by your neglect, and the industry and thrift of your domestics, you sell one thousand to your steward, another to your clerk of the kitchen, another to your bailiff, till all were gone: can you believe that these servants, when they had so good estates of their own, and you nothing left to give them, would continue to live with you, and to do their service as before?
It is just so with a whole kingdom. In our ancestors' times, most of the members of our house of commons thought it an honour to retain to some great lord, and to wear his blue coat: and when they had made up their lord's train, and waited upon him from his own house to the lords' house, and made a lane for him to enter, and departed to sit themselves in the lower house of parliament, as it was then (and very justly) called; can you think that anything could pass in such a parliament, that was not ordered by the lords? Besides, these lords were the king's great council in the intervals of parliaments, and were called to advise of peace and war; and the latter was seldom made without the consent of the major part: if it were, they would not send their tenants; which was all the militia of England, besides the king's tenth part. Can it be believed, that in those days the commons should dislike anything the lords did in the intervals, or that they would have disputed their right to receive appeals from courts of equity, if they had pretended to it in those days, or to mend money-bills? And what is the reason, but because the lords themselves at that time represented all their tenants (that is, all the people) in some sort? And although the house of commons did assemble to present their grievances, yet all great affairs of high importance concerning the government, were transacted by the lords; and the war which was made to preserve it, was called the barons' wars, not the war of both houses: for although in ancienter times the word baron was taken in a larger sense, and comprehended the franklins or freemen; yet who reads any history of that war, shall not find that any mention is made of the concurrence of any assembly of such men: but that Simon Montford, earl of Leicester, and others of the great ones, did by their power and interest manage that contest.
Now if this property which is gone out of the peerage into the commons, had passed into the king's hands, as it did in Egypt in the time of Joseph; as was before said, the prince had had a very easy and peaceable reign over his own vassals: and might either have refused, justly, to have assembled the parliament any more; or if he had pleased to do it, might have for ever managed it as he thought fit. But our princes have wanted a Joseph: that is, a wise counsellor; and instead of saving their revenue, which was very great and their expenses small; and buying in those purchases, which the vast expenses and luxury of the lords made ready for them; they have alienated their own inheritance. So that now the crown-lands, that is, the public patrimony, is come to make up the interest of the commons: whilst the king must have a precarious revenue out of the peoples' purses; and be beholden to the parliament for his bread in time of peace: whereas the kings their predecessors never asked aid of his subjects, but in time of war and invasion. And this alone (though there were no other decay in government) is enough to make the king depend upon his people: which is no very good condition for a monarchy.
NOBLE VEN. But how comes it to pass that other neighbouring countries are in so settled a state in respect of England? does their property remain the same it was, or is it come into the hands of the prince? You know you were pleased to admit, that we should ask you, in passing, something of other countries.
ENG. GENT. Sir, I thank you for it, and shall endeavour to satisfy you. I shall say nothing of the small princes of Germany; who keep in a great measure their ancient bounds, both of government and property: and if their princes now and then exceed their part; yet it is in time of troubles and war, and things return into their right channel of assembling the several states, which are yet in being everywhere. But Germany lying so exposed to the invasion of the Turks on the one side, and of the French on the other; and having ever had enough to do to defend their several liberties against the encroachments of the house of Austria (in which the imperial dignity is become in some sort hereditary) if there had been something of extraordinary power exercised of late years, I can say in war law is silent: but besides their own particular states, they have the diet of the empire, which never fails to mediate and compose things; if there be any great oppression used by princes to their subjects, or from one prince or state to another. I shall therefore confine myself to the three great kingdoms, France, Spain, and Poland: for as to Denmark and Sweden, the first has lately changed its government, and not only made the monarchy hereditary, which was before elective; but has pulled down the nobility, and given their power to the prince: which how it will succeed, time will show. Sweden remains in point of constitution, and property, exactly as it did anciently; and is a well-governed kingdom. The first of the other three, is France; of which I have spoken before, and shall only add: that though it be very true, that there is property in France, and yet the government is despotical at this present; yet it is one of those violent states, which the Grecians called tyrannies. For if a lawful prince (that is, one who being so by law, and sworn to rule according to it) breaks his oaths and his bonds, and reigns arbitrarily, he becomes a tyrant and an usurper, as to so much as he assumes more than the constitution has given him: and such a government, being as I said violent, and not natural, but contrary to the interest of the people, cannot be lasting when the adventitious props which support it fail; and whilst it does endure, must be very uneasy both to prince and people: the first being necessitated to use continual oppression, and the latter to suffer it.
DOCT. You are pleased to talk of the oppression of the people under the king of France, and for that reason, call it a violent government; when, if I remember, you did once today extol the monarchy of the Turks for well-founded and natural: are not the people in that empire as much oppressed as in France?
ENG. GENT. By no means: unless you will call it oppression for the grand seignior to feed all his people out of the product of his own lands: and though they serve him for it, yet that does not alter the case; for if you set poor men to work and pay them for it, are you a tyrant? Or rather, are not you a good commonwealths-man, by helping those to live who have no other way of doing it but by their labour? But the king of France knowing that his people have, and ought to have property; and that he has no right to their possessions; yet takes what he pleases from them, without their consent, and contrary to law: so that when he sets them on work he pays them what he pleases, and that he levies out of their own estates. I do not affirm that there is no government in the world, but where rule is founded in property; but I say there is no natural fixed government, but where it is so. And when it is otherwise, the people are perpetually complaining, and the king in perpetual anxiety; always in fear of his subjects, and seeking new ways to secure himself: God having been so merciful to mankind, that he has made nothing safe for princes, but what is just and honest.
NOBLE VEN. But you were saying just now, that this present constitution in France will fall when the props fail; we in Italy, who live in perpetual fear of the greatness of that kingdom, would be glad to hear something of the decaying of those props: what are they, I beseech you?
ENG. GENT. The first is the greatness of the present king: whose heroic actions and wisdom has extinguished envy in all his neighbour-princes, and kindled fear; and brought him to be above all possibility of control at home: not only because his subjects fear his courage, but because they have his virtue in admiration; and amidst all their miseries cannot choose but have something of rejoicing, to see how high he has mounted the empire and honour of their nation. The next prop, is the change of their ancient constitution; in the time of Charles the seventh, by consent: for about that time the country being so wasted by the invasion and excursions of the English, the states, then assembled, petitioned the king that he would give them leave to go home, and dispose of affairs himself; and order the government for the future, as he thought fit. Upon this, his successor Lewis the eleventh, being a crafty prince, took an occasion to call the states no more; but to supply them with an assembly of notables: which were certain men of his own nomination, like Barebone's parliament here, but that they were of better quality. These in succeeding reigns, (being the best men of the kingdom,) grew troublesome and intractable; so that for some years the edicts have been verified, (that is, in our language, bills have been passed) in the grand chamber of the parliament at Paris, commonly called the audience chamber: who lately, (and since the imprisonment of president Brouselles, and others, during this king's minority,) have never refused or scrupled any edicts whatsoever. Now whenever this great king dies; and the states of the kingdom are restored; these two great props of arbitrary power are taken away.
Besides these two, the constitution of the government of France itself, is somewhat better fitted than ours, to permit extraordinary power in the prince. For the whole people there possessing lands are gentlemen; (that is, infinitely the greater part;) which was the reason why in their assembly of estates, the deputies of the provinces (which we call here knights of the shire) were chosen by, and out of the gentry: and sat with the peers in the same chamber, as representing the gentry only, called Petite noblesse. Whereas our knights here (whatever their blood is) are chosen by commoners; and are commoners: our laws and government taking no notice of any nobility, but the persons of the peers; whose sons are likewise commoners, even their eldest, whilst their fathers live. Now gentry are ever more tractable by a prince, than a wealthy and numerous commonalty; out of which our gentry (at least those we call so) are raised from time to time: for whenever either a merchant, lawyer, tradesman, grazier, farmer, or any other gets such an estate, as that he or his son can live upon his lands without exercising of any other calling, he becomes a gentleman. I do not say, but that we have men very nobly descended amongst these; but they have no pre-eminence, or distinction, by the laws or government. Besides this, the gentry in France are very needy, and very numerous: the reason of which is, that the elder brother in most parts of that kingdom has no more share in the division of the paternal estate than the cadets or younger brothers; excepting the principal house, with the orchards and gardens about it: which they call Vol de Chappon, as who should say as far as a capon can fly at once. This house gives him the title his father had, who was called seignior, or baron, or count of that place; which if he sells, he parts with his baronship: and for aught I know becomes in time roturier, or ignoble. This practice divides the lands into so many small parcels, that the possessors of them being noble, and having little to maintain their nobility, are fain to seek their fortune; which they can find nowhere so well as at the court; and so become the king's servants and soldiers; for they are generally courageous, bold, and of a good mien. None of these can ever advance themselves but by their desert; which makes them hazard themselves very desperately: by which means great numbers of them are killed; and the rest come in time to be great officers, and live splendidly upon the king's purse: who is likewise very liberal to them; and according to their respective merits, gives them often, in the beginning of a campaign, a considerable sum to furnish out their equipage. These are a great prop to the regal power: it being their interest to support it; lest their gain should cease, and they be reduced to be poor Provinciaux, that is country-gentlemen, again. Whereas if they had such estates as our country-gentry have, they would desire to be at home at their ease; whilst these (having ten times as much from the king as their own estates can yield them, which supply must fail if the king's revenue were reduced) are perpetually engaged to make good all exorbitances.
DOCT. This is a kind of governing by property too: and it puts me in mind of a gentleman of good estate in our country, who took a tenant's son of his to be his servant; whose father not long after dying, left him a living of about ten pound a year. The young man's friends came to him, and asked him why he would serve, now he had an estate of his own able to maintain him? His answer was, that his own lands would yield him but a third part of what his service was worth to him in all: besides, that he lived a pleasant life; wore good clothes; kept good company; and had the conversation of very pretty maids, that were his fellow-servants; which made him very well digest the name of being a servant.
ENG. GENT. This is the very case; but yet service, in both these cases, is no inheritance. And when there comes a peaceable king in France who will let his neighbours be quiet, or one that is covetous; these fine gentlemen will lose their employments, and their king his prop: and the rather, because these gentlemen do not depend (as was said before) in any kind upon the great lords whose standing interest is at court; and so cannot in a change, be by them carried over to advance the court-designs, against their own good and that of their country. And thus much is sufficient to be said concerning France.
As for Spain; I believe there is no country (excepting Sweden) in Christendom, where the property has remained so entirely the same it was at the beginning: and the reason is, the great and strict care that is taken to hinder the lands from passing out of the old owners' hands. For except it be by marriages, no man can acquire another man's estate; nor can any grandee, or titulador, or any other hidalgo there, alienate or engage his paternal or maternal estate, otherwise than for his life; nor can alter tenures, or extinguish services, or dismember manors: for to this the prince's consent must be had, which he never gives till the matter be debated in the council chamber: which is no junta, or secret war council; but one wherein the great men of the kingdom intervene, and wherein the great matters concerning the preservation of the government are transacted, not relating to foreign provinces or governments, but to the kingdom of Castile and Leon; of which only I speak now. It is true, there have been one or two exceptions against this severe rule, since the great calamities of Spain; and two great lordships have been sold, the Marquisate de Monastero to a Genoese contractor, and another to Sebastian Cortiza a Portuguese of the same profession: but both these have bought the entire lordships, without curtailing or altering the condition in which these two great estates were before; and notwithstanding, this has caused so much repining amongst the natural Godos (as the Castilians call themselves still for glory) that I believe this will never be drawn into an example hereafter. Now the property remaining the same, the government does so too; and the king's domestic government, over his natural Spaniards, is very gentle, whatever it be in his conquered provinces: and the kings there have very great advantages of keeping their great men (by whom they govern) in good temper, by reason of the great governments they have to bestow upon them, both in Europe and the Indies; which changing every three years, go in an age through all the grandees, which are not very numerous. Besides, Castile having been in the time of king Roderigo over-run and conquered by the Moors (who governed there despotically, some hundreds of years, before it could be recovered again by the old inhabitants who fled to the mountains;) when they were at length driven out, the count of Castile found a tax set upon all commodities whatsoever by the Moors in their reign, called alcabala; which was an easy matter to get continued, when their old government was restored, by the cortes or assembly of the states: and so it has continued ever since, as the excise has done here; which being imposed by them who drove and kept out the king, does now since his happy Restoration remain a revenue of the crown. This alcabala, or excise, is a very great revenue; and so prevented, for some time, the necessities of the crown, and made the prince have the less need of asking relief of his people, the ordinary cause of disgust: so that the cortes, or assembly of the states, has had little to do of late; though they are duly assembled every year, but seldom contradict what is desired by the prince; for there are no greater idolaters of their monarch in the world than the Castilians are, nor who drink deeper of the cup of loyally. So that in short the government in Spain is, as ours was in queen Elizabeth's time; or in the first year after his now majesty's return; when the parliament for a time complemented the prince, who had by that means both his own power and the peoples': which days I hope to see again, upon a better and more lasting foundation.
But before I leave Spain, I must say a word of the kingdom of Aragon; which has not at all times had so quiet a state of their monarchy, as Castile has enjoyed. For after many combustions which happened there concerning their charters and privileges, which are their fundamental laws; the king one day coming to his seat in parliament, and making his demands as was usual, they told him that they had a request to make to him first: and he withdrawing thereupon, (for he had no right of sitting there to hear their debates) they fell into discourse how to make their government subsist against the encroachments of the prince upon them; and went very high in their debates, which could not choose but come to the king's ear, who walked in a gallery in the same palace to expect the issue: and being in great passion, was seen to draw out his dagger very often, and thrust it again into the sheath; and heard to say, 'this will cost blood'! Which coming to the knowledge of the estates, they left off the debate; and sent some of their number to him, to know what blood it should cost, and whether he meant to murder anybody. He drew out his dagger again, and pointing it to his breast, he said, 'the blood of the king' leaving them in doubt, whether he meant that his subjects would kill him, or that he would do it himself. However, that parliament ended very peaceably: and a famous settlement was there and then made, by which a great person was to be chosen every parliament, who should be as it were an umpire between the king and his people; for the execution of the laws, and the preservation of their government, their laws and privileges; which are their courts of justice, and their charters. This officer was called, the Justiciar of Aragon and his duty was to call together the whole power of the kingdom, whenever any of the aforesaid rights were by open force violated or invaded, and to admonish the king whenever he heard of any clandestine counsels among them to that effect. It was likewise made treason, for any person of what quality soever, to refuse to repair upon due summons to any place where this Justiciar should erect his standard; or to withdraw himself without leave; much more, to betray him, or to revolt from him. Besides, in this cortes or parliament, the old oath which at the first foundation of their state was ordered to be taken by the king at his admittance, was again revived; which is in these words: 'We who are as good as you, and more powerful, do choose you our king; upon condition that you preserve our rights and privileges: and otherwise, we do not choose you.' Notwithstanding all this, Philip the second, being both king of Castile and Aragon, picked a quarrel with the latter, by demanding his secretary Antonio Perez, who fled from the king's displeasure thither, being his own country; and they refusing to deliver him (it being expressly contrary to a law of Aragon, that a subject of that kingdom should be against his will carried to be tried elsewhere:) the king took that occasion, to invade them with the forces of his kingdom of Castile, (who had ever been rivals and enemies to the Aragonese;) and they, to defend themselves under their Justiciar, who did his part faithfully and courageously; but the Castilians being old soldiers, and those of Aragon but county-troops, the former prevailed: and so this kingdom, in getting that of Castile by a marriage but an age before, lost its own liberty and government; for it is since made a province and governed by a vice-roy from Madrid, although they keep up the formality of their cortes still.
DOCT. No man living that knew the hatred and hostility that ever was between the English and Scots, could have imagined in the years 1639 and 1640, (when our king was with great armies of English upon the frontiers of Scotland, ready to invade that kingdom) that this nation would not have assisted, to have brought them under; but it proved otherwise.
ENG. GENT. It may be, they feared, when Scotland was reduced to slavery, and the province pacified and forces kept up there, such forces and greater might have been employed here to reduce us into the same condition; an apprehension, which at this time sticks with many of the common people, and helps to fill up the measure of our fears and distractions. But the visible reason, why the English were not at that time very forward to oppress their neighbours, was the consideration that they were to be invaded for refusing to receive from hence certain innovations in matters of religion, and the worship of God, which had not long before been introduced here; and therefore the people of this kingdom were unwilling to perpetuate a mongrel church here, by imposing it upon them. But I do exceedingly admire when I read our history, to see how zealous and eager our nobility and people here were anciently to assert the right of our crown to the kingdom of France; whereas it is visible, that if we had kept France (for we conquered it entirely and fully) to this day, we must have run the fate of Aragon; and been, in time, ruined and oppressed by our own valour and good fortune. A thing that was foreseen by the Macedonians, when their king Alexander had subdued all Persia and the East; who weighing how probable it was, that their prince having the possession of such great and flourishing kingdoms, should change his imperial residence and inhabit in the centre of his dominions, and from thence govern Macedon; by which means the Grecians, who by their virtue and valour had conquered and subdued the barbarians, should in time (even as an effect of their victories) be oppressed and tyrannized over by them: and this precautions foresight in the Greeks (as was fully believed in that age) hastened the fatal catastrophe of that great prince.
DOCT. Well, I hope this consideration will forearm our parliaments, that they will not easily suffer their eyes to be dazzled any more with the false glory of conquering France.
NOBLE VEN. You need no great cautions against conquering France, at this present; and I believe your parliaments need as little admonition against giving of money towards new wars or alliances; that fine wheedle having lately lost them enough already: therefore, pray, let us suffer our friend to go on.
ENG. GENT. I have no more to say of foreign monarchies, but only to tell you; that Poland is both governed and possessed by some very great persons or potentates, called palatines, and under them by a very numerous gentry. For the king is not only elective, but so limited, that he has little or no power but to command their armies in time of war; which makes them often choose foreigners of great fame for military exploits: and as for the commonalty or countrymen, they are absolutely slaves, or villains. This government is extremely confused; by reason of the numerousness of the gentry: who do not always meet by way of representation as in other kingdoms; but sometimes, for the choice of their king and upon other great occasions, collectively in the field; as the tribes did at Rome: which would make things much more turbulent if all this body of gentry did not wholly depend for their estates upon the favour of the palatines their lords, which makes them much more tractable. I have done with our neighbours beyond sea; and should not without your command have made so long a digression in this place: which should indeed have been treated of before we come to speak of England, but that you were pleased to divert me from it before: however, being placed near the portraiture of our own country, it serves better (as contraries set nearby) to illustrate it. But I will not make this deviation longer by apologizing for it; and shall therefore desire you to take notice: that as in England by degrees property came to shift from the few to the many, so the government is grown heavier and more uneasy both to prince and people; the complaints more in parliament; the laws more numerous, and much more tedious and prolix: to meet with the tricks and malice of men, which works in a loose government: for there was no need to make acts verbose, when the great persons could presently force the execution of them. The law of Edward the first for frequent parliaments, had no more words than 'a parliament shall be holden every year;' whereas our act for a triennial parliament, in the time of king Charles the first, contained several sheets of paper: to provide against a failure in the execution of that law. Which if the power had remained in the lords, would have been needless; for some of them, in case of intermission of assembling the parliament, would have made their complaints and address to the king, and have immediately removed the obstruction; which, in those days, had been the natural and easy way: but now that many of the lords, (like the bishops which the popes make at Rome in heathen lands,) are merely grown titular; and purchased for nothing but to get their wives' place; it cannot be wondered at if the king slight their addresses, and the court-parasites deride their honourable undertakings for the safety of their country. Now the commons succeeding, as was said, in the property of the peers, and church; (whose lands, five parts of six, have been alienated; and mostly is come into the same hands, with those of the king and peers;) have inherited likewise, according to the course of nature, their power: but being kept from it by the established government, (which not being changed by any lawful acts of state, remains still in being formally, whereas virtually it is abolished) so that for want of outward orders and provisions, the people are kept from the exercise of that power, which is fallen to them by the law of nature: and those who cannot by that law pretend to the share they had, do yet enjoy it by virtue of that right which is now ceased; as having been but the natural effect of a cause that is no longer in being: and you know, the cause removed, the effect is gone. I cannot say that the greater part of the people do know this their condition, but they find very plainly that they want something which they ought to have; and this makes them lay often the blame of their unsettledness upon wrong causes: but however, are altogether unquiet and restless in the intervals of parliament; and when the king pleases to assemble one, spend all their time in complaints of the inexecution of the law; of the multiplication of an infinity of grievances; of misspending the public monies; of the danger our religion is in by practices to undermine it and the state, by endeavours to bring in arbitrary power; and in questioning great officers of state, as the causes and promoters of all these abuses: in so much, that every parliament seems a perfect state of war; wherein the commons are tugging and contending for their right, very justly and very honourably, yet without coming to a point. So that the court sends them packing; and governs still worse and worse in the vacancies, being necessitated thereunto by their despair of doing any good in parliament; and therefore are forced to use horrid shifts to subsist without it, and to keep it off: without ever considering, that if these counsellors understood their trade, they might bring the prince and people to such an agreement in parliament, as might repair the broken and shipwrecked government of England; and in this secure the peace, quiet and prosperity of the people, the greatness and happiness of the king, and be themselves not only out of present danger, (which no other course can exempt them from,) but be renowned to all posterity.
NOBLE VEN. I beseech you, sir, how comes it to pass, that neither the king, nor any of his counsellors could ever come to find out the truth of what you discourse? for I am fully convinced it is as you say.
ENG. GENT. I cannot resolve you that; but this is certain, they have never endeavoured a cure, though possibly they might know the disease: as fearing that though the effects of a remedy would be, as was said, very advantageous both to king and people, and to themselves; yet possibly, such a reformation might not consist with the merchandize they make of the prince's favour; nor with such bribes, gratuities and fees as they usually take for the dispatch of all matters before them. And therefore our counsellors have been so far from suggesting any such thing to their master, that they have opposed and quashed all attempts of that kind: as they did the worthy proposals made by certain members of that parliament in the beginning of king James's reign, which is yet called the undertaking parliament. These gentlemen considering what we have been discoursing of, viz. that our old government is at an end; had framed certain heads, which, if they had been proposed by that parliament to the king, and by him consented to, would, in their opinion, have healed the breach: and that if the king would perform his part, that house of commons would undertake for the obedience of the people. They did believe that if this should have been moved in parliament before the king was acquainted with it, it would prove abortive; and therefore sent three of their number to his majesty: sir James Croft, grandfather or father to the present bishop of Hereford; Thomas Harley, who was ancestor to the honourable family of that name in Herefordshire; and sir Henry Neville, who had been ambassador from queen Elizabeth to the French king. These were to open the matter at large to the king, and to procure his leave that it might be proposed in parliament: which, after a very long audience and debate, that wise prince consented to; with a promise of secrecy in the meantime, which they humbly begged of his majesty. However, this took vent; and the earl of Northampton, of the house of Howard, (who ruled the roost in that time) having knowledge of it, engaged sir R. Weston, afterwards lord treasurer and earl of Portland, to impeach these undertakers in parliament, before they could move their matters: which he did the very same day; accompanying his charge (which was endeavouring to alter the established government of England) with so eloquent an invective, that if one of them had not risen, and made the house acquainted with the whole series of the affair, they must have been in danger of being impeached by the commons, but however it broke their design, which was all that Northampton and Weston desired; and prevented posterity from knowing any of the particulars of this reformation: for nothing being moved, nothing could remain upon the journal.
So that, you see, our predecessors were not ignorant altogether of our condition; though the troubles which have befallen this poor kingdom since, have made it much more apparent; for since the determination of that parliament, there has not been one called, (either in that king's reign, or his son's, or since,) that has not been dissolved abruptly; whilst the main businesses, and those of most concern to the public, were depending and undecided. And although there has happened in this interim a bloody war, which in the close of it, changed the whole order and foundation of the polity of England; and that it has pleased God to restore it again by his majesty's happy return, so that the old government is alive again: yet it is very visible that its deadly wound is not healed; but that we are to this day tugging with the same difficulties, managing the same debates in parliament, and giving the same disgusts to the court and hopes to the country, which our ancestors did before the year 1640; whilst the king has been forced to apply the same remedy of dissolution to his two first parliaments, that his father used to his four first and king James to his three last, contrary to his own visible interest and that of his people: and this for want of having counsellors about him of abilities and integrity enough to discover to him the disease of his government, and the remedy. Which I hope, when we meet tomorrow morning you will come prepared to enquire into; for the doctor says, he will advise you to go take the air this afternoon in your coach.
NOBLE VEN. I shall think it very long till the morning come: But before you go, pray give me leave to ask you something of your civil war here. I do not mean the history of it, (although the world abroad is very much in the dark as to all your transactions of that time for want of a good one) but the grounds or pretences of it; and how you fell into a war against your king.
ENG. GENT. As for our history, it will not be forgotten. One of those who was in employment from the year '40 to '60, has written the history of those twenty years; a person of good learning and elocution: and though he be now dead, yet his executors are very unwilling to publish it so soon, and to rub a sore that is not yet healed. But the story is writ with great truth and impartiality; although the author was engaged, both in councils and arms, for the parliament's side. But for the rest of your demand, you may please to understand, that our parliament never did, as they pretended, make war against the king: for he by law can do no wrong, and therefore cannot be quarrelled with. The war they declared was undertaken to rescue the king's person out of those men's hands who led him from his parliament, and made use of his name to levy a war against them.
NOBLE VEN. But does your government permit, that in case of a disagreement between the king and his parliament, either of them may raise arms against the other?
ENG. GENT. It is impossible that any government can go farther than to provide for its own safety and preservation whilst it is in being, and therefore it can never direct what shall be done when itself is at an end; there being this difference between our bodies natural and politic, that the first can make a testament to dispose of things after his death, but not the other. This is certain, that wherever any two coordinate powers do differ, and there be no power on earth to reconcile them otherwise, nor any umpire; they will, in fact, fall together by the ears. What can be done in this case justly, look into your own countryman Machiavel, and into Grotius; who in his book De Jure Belli ac Pacis, [Of War and Peace] treated of such matters long before our wars. As for the ancient politicians, they must needs be silent in the point, as having no mixed governments amongst them; and as for me, I will not rest myself in so slippery a place. There are great disputes about it in the parliament's declarations before the war; and something considerable in the king's answer to them; which I shall specify immediately, when I have satisfied you how our war began: which was in this manner.
The Long Parliament, having procured from the king his royal assent for their sitting till they were dissolved by act; and having paid and sent out the Scottish army, and disbanded our own; went on in their debates for the settling and mending our government. The king, being displeased with them for it; and with himself for putting it out of his power to dissolve them, now the business which they pretended for their perpetuation was quite finished; takes an unfortunate resolution to accuse five principal men of the commons house, and one of the peers, of high-treason: which he prosecuted in a new unheard of way, by coming with armed men into the commons house of parliament, to demand their members. But nothing being done, by reason of the absence of the five; and tumults of discontented citizens flocking to Whitehall and Westminster; the king took that occasion to absent himself from his parliament. Which induced the commons house to send commissioners to Hampton Court, to attend his majesty with 'a remonstrance of the state of the kingdom;' and an humble request to return to his parliament, for the redressing those grievances which were specified in that remonstrance. But the king otherwise counselled, goes to Windsor; and thence northwards, till he arrived at York: where he summons in the militia, that is, the trained bands of the county; and besides, all the gentry: of which there was a numerous appearance. The king addressed himself to the latter with complaints against a prevailing party in parliament, which intended to take the crown from his head: that he was come to them, his loving subjects, for protection: and, in short, desired them to assist him with monies to defend himself by arms. Some of these gentlemen petitioned his majesty to return to his parliament; the rest went about the debate of the king's demands; who, in the meantime, went to Hull, to secure the magazine there; but was denied entrance by a gentleman whom the house had sent down to prevent the seizing it: who was immediately declared a traitor, and the king fell to raising of forces. Which coming to the knowledge of the house, they made this vote; 'That the king, seduced by evil counsel, intended to levy war against his parliament and people, to destroy the fundamental laws and liberties of England, and to introduce an arbitrary government; &c.' This was the first time they named the king, and the last. For in all their other papers, and in their declaration to arm for their defence, (which did accompany this vote,) they name nothing but malignant counsellors.
The king's answer to these votes and this declaration, is that which I mentioned: wherein his majesty denies any intention of invading the government; with high imprecations upon himself and posterity, if it were otherwise; and owns, that they have right to maintain their laws and government. This is to be seen in the paper itself, now extant: and this gracious prince never pretended, (as some divines have done for him,) that his power came from God, and that his subjects could not dispute it, nor ought he to give any account of his actions (though he should enslave us all) to any but him. So that our war did not begin upon a point of right; but upon a matter of fact. For without going to lawyers or casuists to be resolved, those of the people who believed that the king did intend to destroy our liberties, joined with the parliament; and those who were of opinion that the prevailing party in parliament did intend to destroy the king or dethrone him, assisted vigorously his majesty with their lives and fortunes. And the question, you were pleased to ask, never came: for both parties pretended and believed they were in the right; and that they did fight for, and defend the government. But I have wearied you out.
NOBLE VEN. No sure, sir! But I am infinitely obliged to you for the great care you have taken and still have used to instruct me; and beg the continuance of it for tomorrow morning.
ENG. GENT. I shall be sure to wait upon you at nine o'clock: but I shall beseech both of you to bethink yourselves what to offer; for I shall come with a design to learn, not to teach: nor will I presume in such a matter to talk all, as you have made me do today; for what I have yet to say in the point of cure is so little, that it will look like the mouse to the mountain of this day's discourse.
DOCT. It is so in all arts; the corollary is short: and in ours, particularly. Those who write of the several diseases incident to human bodies, must make long discourses of the causes, symptoms, signs and prognostics of such distempers; but when they come to treat of the cure, it is dispatched in a few recipes.
ENG. GENT. Well, sir, for this bout, I humbly take my leave of you. Nay, sir, you are not in a condition to use ceremony.
DOCT. Sir, I forbid you this door; pray retire. To stand here, is worse than to be in the open air.
NOBLE VEN. I obey you both.
DOCT. I shall wait on you in the evening.
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