Henry Neville: Plato Redivivus (1681)
The Third Dialogue
NOBLE VEN. Gentlemen, you are very welcome: what, you are come both together!
DOCT. I met this gentleman at the door but methinks we sit looking one upon another, as if all of us were afraid to speak.
ENG. GENT. Do you think we have not reason, in such a subject as this is? How can any man, without hesitation, presume to be so confident as to deliver his private opinion in a point, upon which for almost two hundred year (for so long our government has been crazy) no man has ventured? and when parliaments have done anything towards it, there have been animosities, and breaches, and at length civil wars?
NOBLE VEN. Our work today, is to endeavour to show, how all these troubles may be prevented for the future, by taking away the cause of them; which is the want of a good government: and therefore it will not be so much presumption in you, as charity, to declare yourself fully in this matter.
ENG. GENT. The cure will follow naturally, if you are satisfied in the disease and in the cause of the disease. For if you agree that our government is broken; and that it is broken, because it was founded upon property, and that foundation is now shaken: it will be obvious, that you must either bring property back to your old government, and give the king and lords their lands again; or else you must bring the government to the property, as it now stands.
DOCT. I am very well satisfied in your grounds: but because this fundamental truth is little understood amongst our people; and that in all conversations men will be offering their opinions of what the parliament ought to do at their meeting; it will not be amiss to examine some of those expedients they propose: and to see whether some, or all of them, may not be effectual towards the bringing us to some degree of settlement; rather than to venture upon so great a change and alteration, as would be necessary to model our government anew.
ENG. GENT. Sir, I believe there can be no expedients proposed in parliament, that will not take up as much time and trouble; find as much difficulty in passing with the king and lords; and seem as great a change of government, as the true remedy would appear: at least I speak as to what I have to propose. But however, I approve your method: and if you will please to propose any of those things, I shall either willingly embrace them; or endeavour to show reason, why they will be of little fruit in the settling our state.
DOCT. I will reduce them to two heads, (besides the making good laws for keeping out arbitrary power, which is always understood;) the hindering the growth of popery, and consequently the providing against a popish successor; and then declaring the duke of Monmouth's right to the crown, after it has been examined and agreed to in parliament.
ENG. GENT. As for the making new laws, I hold it absolutely needless; those we have already against arbitrary power being abundantly sufficient, if they might be executed: but that being impossible (as I shall show hereafter) till some change shall be made, I shall postpone this point. And for the first of your other two, I shall divide and separate the consideration of the growth of popery, from that of the succession. I am sorry that in the prosecution of this argument, I shall be forced to say something that may not be very pleasing to this worthy gentleman, we being necessitated to discourse with prejudice of that religion which he professes; but it shall be with as little ill breeding as I can, and altogether without passion or invectives.
NOBLE VEN. It would be very hard for me to suspect anything from you that should be disobliging: but pray, sir, go on to your political discourse. For I am not so ignorant myself but to know, that the conservation of the national religion (be it what it will) is essential to the well ordering a state. And though in our city the doctrinals are very different from what are professed here; yet as to the government of the state, I believe you know, that the pope or his priests have as little influence upon it, as your clergy have here, or in any part of the world.
ENG. GENT. I avow it fully, sir; and with the favour you give, will proceed. It cannot be denied but that, in former times, popery has been very innocent here to the government; and that the clergy and the pope were so far from opposing our liberties, that they both sided with the barons to get a declaration of them by means of Magna Charta. It is true also that if we were all papists, and that our state were the same both as to property and empire as it was four hundred years ago, there would be but one inconvenience to have that religion national again in England: which is, that the clergy, since such, had and will have a share in the sovereignty; and inferior courts in their own power called ecclesiastical. This is, and ever will be, a solecism in government; besides a manifest contradiction to the words of Christ our Saviour who tells us his kingdom is not of this world. And the truth is, if you look into the scriptures, you will find that the apostles did not reckon that the religion they planted should be national in any country; and therefore have given no precepts to the magistrate to meddle in matters of faith and the worship of God: but preached, that Christians should yield them obedience in all lawful things. There are many passages in holy writ which plainly declare, that the true believers and saints should be but a handful, and such as God had separated, and as it were taken out of the world; which would not have been said by them if they had believed that whole nations and people should have been true followers of Christ and of his flock: for certainly none of them are to be damned; and yet Christ himself tells us, that few are saved; and bids us strive to get in at the strait gate. And therefore I conceive it not to be imaginable, that either Christ or his apostles did ever account that the true religion should be planted in the world by the framing of laws, catechisms, or creeds; by the sovereign powers and magistrates whether you call them spiritual or temporal: but that it should have a progress suitable to its beginning. For it is visible that it had its original from the power and spirit of God; and came in against the stream: not only without a Numa Pompilius, or a Mohamet, to plant and establish it, by humane constitutions and authority; but had all the laws of the world to oppose it, and all the bloody tyrants of that age to persecute it, and to inflict exquisite torments on the professors of it. In Nero's time (which was very early) the Christians were offered a temple in Rome, and in what other cities they pleased, to be built to Jesus Christ; and that the Romans should receive him into the number of their gods; but our religion being then in its purity, this was unanimously refused; for that such a God must have no companions, nor needed no temples; but must be worshipped in spirit and truth. The successors to these good Christians were not so scrupulous: for within some ages after, the priests to get riches and power, and the emperors to get and keep the empire, (for by this time the Christians were grown numerous and powerful,) combined together to spoil our holy religion, to make it fit for the government of this world; and to introduce into it all the ceremonious follies and superstitions of the heathen; and (which is worse) the power of priests, both over the persons and consciences of men. I shall say no more of this; but refer you to innumerable authors who have treated of this subject: particularly to a French minister, who has written a book entitled, La Religion catholique apostolique Romaine instituée par Nume Pompile; and to the incomparable Machiavel in his posthumous Letter, printed lately in our language with the translation of his works. But I have made a long digression: and to come back again, shall only desire you to take notice, when I say that anciently popery was no inconvenience in this kingdom, I mean only politically, as the government then stood; and do not speak at all of the prejudice which men's souls did and will ever receive from the belief of those impious tenets, and the want of having the true gospel of Jesus Christ preached unto them, living in perpetual superstition and idolatry. But the consideration of these matters is not so proper to my present purpose, being to discourse only of government. Notwithstanding therefore, as I said before, that popery might have suited well enough with our old constitution; yet as to the present estate which inclines to popularity, it would be wholly as inconsistent with it, and with the power of the keys and the empire of priests, (especially where there is a foreign jurisdiction in the case,) as with the tyranny and arbitrary power of any prince in the world.
I will add thus much in confirmation of the doctor's assertion, that we ought to prevent the growth of popery; since it is now grown a dangerous faction here against the state.
NOBLE VEN. How can that be, I beseech you, sir?
ENG. GENT. Sir, I will make you judge of it yourself. I will say nothing of those foolish writings that have been put forth by Mariana, Emanuel Sa, and some others; about the lawfulness of destroying princes and states in case of heresy: because all the conscientious and honest papists, (of which I know there are great numbers in the world,) do not only not hold, but even abhor such cursed tenets; and do believe, that when the pope, by excommunication has cut off any prince from the communion of the church, he can go no further; nor ought to pretend a power to deprive him of his crown, or absolve his subjects from their oaths and obedience. But I shall confine myself to the present condition of our papists here. You know how dangerous it is for any kingdom or state to have a considerable, wealthy, flourishing party amongst them, whose interest it is to destroy the polity and government of the country where they live; and therefore if our papists prove this party, you will not wonder why this people are so eager to depress them. This is our case: for in the beginning of queen Elizabeth's reign, there was an alteration of religion in our country; which did sufficiently enrage the holy father at Rome, to see that this good cow would be milked no longer. He declares her an heretic and a bastard, (his sanctity not having declared null that incestuous marriage which her father had contracted before with his brother's wife, and which that king had dissolved to marry her mother) and afterwards excommunicated our queen, depriving her as much as in him lay, of the kingdom. Some of the zealots of that party, (having a greater terror for those thunder-bolts than I believe many have now,) began to conspire against her: and plots grew at length so frequent, and so dangerous, that it was necessary (as the parliaments then thought) to secure the queen, by making severe laws against a people, who did not believe themselves her majesty's subjects; but on the contrary, many of them thought themselves in conscience obliged to oppose and destroy her. And although that excommunication, as also the pretended doubtfulness of the title, both died with that renowned queen; yet a new desperate conspiracy against the king her successor and the whole parliament ensuing not long after her decease, those rigorous laws have been so far from being repealed, that very many more (and far severer) have been since made, and are yet in force. Now these laws make so great a distinction between protestants and papists, that whereas the former are by our government and laws the freest in the world, the latter are little better than slaves; are confined to such a distance from their houses; are not to come near the court; (which being kept in the capital city, mostly deprives them from attending their necessary occasions) they are to pay two third parts of their estates annually to the king; their priests are to suffer as traitors, and they as felons for harbouring them. In fine one of us, if he do not break the municipal laws for the good government of the country, need not fear the king's power; whereas, their being what they are is a breach of the law; and does put them into the prince's hands to ruin them when he pleases; nay, he is bound by oath to do it; and when he does it not, is complained against by his people, and parliaments take it amiss. Now judge you, sir, whether it is not the interest of these people to desire and endeavour a change, whilst they remain under these discouragements; and whether they are not like to join with the prince, (whose connivance at the inexecution of those laws is the only means and hope of their preservation,) whenever he shall undertake anything for the increase of his own power, and the depressing his parliaments.
NOBLE VEN. What you say is very undeniable; but then the remedy is very easy and obvious, as well as very just and honourable, which is the taking away those cruel laws; and if that were done they would be one people with you; and would have no necessity, and by consequence no desire to aggrandize the king against the interest and liberty of their own country.
ENG. GENT. You speak very well; and one of the reasons amongst many which I have to desire a composure of all our troubles by a settled government, is that I may see these people (who are very considerable, most of them, for estates, birth and breeding) live quietly under our good laws; and increase our trade and wealth with their expenses here at home: whereas now the severity of our laws against them, makes them spend their revenues abroad, and enrich other nations with the stock of England. But as long as the state here is so unsettled as it is, our parliaments will never consent to countenance a party, who by the least favour and indulgence may make themselves able to bring in their own religion to be national, and so ruin our polity and liberties.
NOBLE VEN. I wonder why you should think that possible?
ENG. GENT. First, sir, for the reason we first gave, which is the craziness of our polity: there being nothing more certain, than that both in the natural and also the politic body any sinister accident that intervenes, during a very diseased habit, may bring a dangerous alteration to the patient. An insurrection in a decayed government, a thing otherwise very inconsiderable, has proved very fatal; as I knew a slight flesh-wound bring a lusty man to his grave in our wars, for that he being extremely infected with the French disease, could never procure the orifice to close. So although the designs both at home and abroad for altering our religion, would be very little formidable to a well-founded government; yet in such an one as we have now, it will require all our care to obviate such machinations. Another reason is the little zeal that is left amongst the ordinary protestants: which zeal uses to be a great instrument of preserving the religion established; as it was here in queen Elizabeth's time. I will add, the little credit the church of England has amongst the people; most men being almost as angry with that popery which is left amongst us (in surplices, copes, altars, cringings, bishops, ecclesiastical courts, and the whole hierarchy; besides an infinite number of useless, idle, superstitious ceremonies; and the ignorance and viciousness of the clergy in general) as they are with those dogmas that are abolished: so that there is no hopes that popery can be kept out, but by a company of poor people called fanatics, who are driven into corners as the first Christians were; and who only in truth conserve the purity of Christian religion, as it was planted by Christ and his apostles and is contained in scripture. And this makes almost all sober men believe, that the national clergy, besides all their other good qualities, have this too; that they cannot hope to make their hierarchy subsist long against the scriptures, the hatred of mankind, and the interest of this people, but by introducing the Roman religion; and getting a foreign head and supporter, which shall from time to time brave and hector the king and parliament in their favour and behalf: which yet would be of little advantage to them, if we had as firm and wise a government as you have at Venice.
Another reason, and the greatest, why the Romish religion ought to be very warily provided against at this time, is; that the lawful and undoubted heir to the crown, if his majesty should die without legitimate issue, is more than suspected to embrace that faith: which (if it should please God to call the king, before there be any remedy applied to our distracted state) would give a great opportunity by the power he would have in intervals of parliament either to introduce immediately that profession, with the help of our clergy, and other English and foreign aids; or else to make so fair a way for it, that a little time would perfect the work. And this is the more formidable, for that he is held to be a very zealous and bigoted Romanist; and therefore may be supposed to act anything to that end, although it should manifestly appear to be contrary to his own interest and quiet; so apt are those who give up their faith and the conduct of their lives to priests, (who to get to themselves empire, promise them the highest seats in heaven; if they will sacrifice their lives, fortunes, and hopes, for the exaltation of their holy mother, and preventing the damnation of an innumerable company of souls which are not yet born) to be led away with such erroneous and wild fancies. Whereas Philip the second of Spain, the house of Guise in France, and other great statesmen, have always made their own greatness their first aim; and used their zeal as an instrument of that: and, instead of being cozened by priests, have cheated them; and made them endeavour to preach them up to the empire of the world.
So I have done with the growth of popery; and must conclude that, if that should be stopped in such manner that there could not be one papist left in England, and yet our polity left in the same disorder that now afflicts it, we should not be one scruple the better for it nor the more at quiet: the growth and danger of popery not being the cause of our present distemper, but the effect of it. But as a good and settled government would not be at all the nearer, for the destruction of popery; so popery and all the dangers and inconveniences of it would not only be further off, but would wholly vanish, at the sight of such a reformation. And so we begin at the wrong end, when we begin with religion before we heal our breaches. I will borrow one similitude more, with our doctor's favour from his profession. I knew once a man given over by the physicians, of an incurable cachexy; which they said proceeded from the ill quality of the whole mass of blood, from great adustion, and from an ill habit of the whole body: the patient had very often painful fits of the colic, which they said, proceeded from the sharpness of the humour which caused the disease; and, amongst the rest, had one fit which tormented him to that degree, that it was not expected he could out-live it; yet the doctors delivered him from it in a small time: notwithstanding, soon after the man died of his first distemper. Whereas, if their art had arrived to have cured that which was the cause of the other, the colic had vanished of itself and the patient recovered. I need make no application nor shall need to say much of the succession of the crown, (which is my next province,) but this I have said already; that it is needless to make any provision against a popish successor, if you rectify your government; and if you do not, all the care and circumspection you can use in that particular will be useless and of none effect; and will but at last (if it do not go off easily, and the next heir succeed peaceably, as is most likely, especially if the king live till the people's zeal and mettle is over) end probably in a civil war about title: and then the person deprived may come in with his sword in his hand, and bring in upon the point of it both the popish religion, and arbitrary power. Which, though I believe he will not be able to maintain long, (for the reasons before alleged,) yet that may make this generation miserable and unhappy.
[[ It will certainly be agreed by all lovers of their country, that popery must be kept from returning and being national in this kingdom; as well for what concerns the honour and service of God, as the welfare and liberty of the people. And I conceive there are two ways, by which the parliament may endeavour to secure us against that danger. The first, by ordering such a change in the administration of our government, that whoever is prince can never violate the laws; and then we may be very safe against popery, (our present laws being effectual enough to keep it out, and no new ones being like to be made in parliament that may introduce it;) and this remedy will be at the same time advantageous to us, against the tyranny and encroachments of a protestant successor; so that we may call it an infallible remedy both against popery and arbitrary power. The second way is, by making a law to disable any papists (by name, or otherwise) from inheriting the crown; and this is certainly fallible, that is, may possibly not take place (as I shall show immediately:) and besides it is not improbable that an heir to this kingdom in future times, may dissemble his religion till he be seated in the throne; or possibly be perverted to the Roman faith after he is possessed of it, when it may be too late to limit his prerogative in parliament: and to oppose him without that will, I fear, be judged treason.]]
DOCT. But sir, would you have the parliament do nothing, as things stand, to provide (at least as much as in them lies) that whoever succeeds be a good protestant?
ENG. GENT. Yes, I think it best in the first place to offer to his majesty the true remedy; and if they find him averse to that, then to pursue the other which concerns the succession: because the people (who are their principals and give them their power) do expect something extraordinary from them at this time; and the most of them believe this last the only present means to save them from popery, which they judge (and very justly) will bring in with it a change of government. But then, I suppose, they may be encouraged to propose, in the first place, the true cure: not only because that is infallible, as has been proved; but likewise because his majesty in probability will sooner consent to any reasonable demand towards the reforming of the government and to the securing us that way, than to concur to the depriving his only brother of the crown: And possibly this (as I said before) may be the only way the parliament can hope will prove effectual: for if you please to look but an age back into our story, you will find that Henry the eighth did procure an act of parliament, which gave him power to dispose of the crown by his last will and testament; and that he did accordingly make his said will, and by it devise the succession to his son Edward the sixth, in the first place, and to the heirs of his body; and for want of such, to his daughter Mary, and to the heirs of her body; and for want of which heirs, to his daughter Elizabeth (our once sovereign, of immortal, and blessed memory) and the heirs of her body; and for want of all such issue, to the right heirs of his younger sister; who was, before he made this will, married to Charles Brandon duke of Suffolk, and had issue by him. By this testament he disinherited his elder sister; who was married in Scotland: and by that means did, as much as in him lay, exclude his majesty (who now, by God's mercy, reigns over us) as also his father and grandfather. And to make the case stronger, there passed an act long after, in the reign of queen Elizabeth; that it should be treason during that queen's life, and a praemunire afterwards, to assert that the imperial crown of England could not be disposed of by act of parliament. Yet after the decease of that queen, there was no considerable opposition made to the peaceable reception and recognition of king James of happy memory: and those who did make a little stir about the other title, as the lord Cobham, sir Walter Rawleigh, and a few others, were apprehended and condemned according to law. And notwithstanding that, since, in the reign of king Charles the first, there was a bloody civil war, in which men's minds were exasperated at a high rate, yet in all the course of it the original want of title was never objected against his late majesty. I do not urge this to aver that the parliament with the king's consent cannot do lawfully this, or any other great matter; (which would be an incurring the penalty of that law, and a solecism in the politics:) but to show, that when the passions of men are quieted, and the reasons other than they were, it happens oftentimes that those acts which concern the succession fall to the ground of themselves; and that even without the sword, which in this case was never adopted, and that therefore this remedy in our case may be likely never to take place, if it please God the king live till this nation be under other kind of circumstances.
DOCT. Sir, you say very well: but it seems to me, that the last parliament was in some kind of fault, if this be true that you say; for I remember that my lord chancellor did once during their sitting, in his majesty's name, offer them to secure their religion and liberties any way they could advise of, so they would let alone meddling with the succession; and invited them to make any proposals they thought necessary to that end.
ENG. GENT. Hence these tears! If this had been all, we might have been happy at this time: but this gracious offer was, at the beginning, accompanied with such conditions that made the parliament conjecture that it was only to perplex and divide them; and did look upon it as an invention of some new romance (counsellors and those too, possibly, influenced by the French), to make them embrace the shadow for the substance; and satisfying themselves with this appearance, to do their ordinary work of giving money, and be gone and leave the business of the kingdom as they found it. For it was proposed, that whatsoever security we were to receive should be both conditional, and reversionable. That is, first, we should not be put into possession of this new charter (be it what it will) rill after the death of his majesty who now is: whereas such a provision is desirable, and indeed necessary for us for this only reason; that when that unfortunate hour comes, we might not be (in that confusion) unprovided of a calm, settled and orderly, as well as a legal way, to keep out popery: whereas otherwise if we be to take possession in that minute, it must either miscarry, or be gotten by a war. If it be true that possession be nine points of the law in other cases, it is in this the whole ten: and I should be very unwilling in such a distraction to have no sanctuary to fly to, but a piece of parchment kept in the pells; and to have this too, as well as other advantages, in the power and possession of him in whose prejudice it was made. This had been almost as good an expedient to keep out popery, as the bill which was thrown out that parliament; which provided, that in the reign of a king that should be a papist, the bishops should choose one another upon vacancies. Those counsellors who put my lord chancellor upon this proposal, were either very slender politicians themselves; or else thought the parliament so. If Magna Charta, and the Petition of Right, had not been to take place till after the decease of those princes who confirmed them, neither had the barons shed their blood to so good purpose; nor the members of the parliament in the third year of king Charles  deserved so glorious an imprisonment, after it was ended. The other condition, in this renowned proposal, is; that all provision and security which is given us to preserve our religion shall cease immediately, whenever the prince shall take a certain oath to be penned for that purpose: and I leave it to all thinking men to determine what that will avail us, when we shall have a king of that profession over us, who shall not have so much zeal for his religion, as he who is now the next successor has; but shall possibly prefer his ambition, and his desire to get out of wardship, before the scruples of his confessor; and yet may afterwards, by getting absolution for, and dispensation from such oaths and compliance, employ the power he gets himself, and the security he deprives us of, to introduce violently what worship and faith he pleases. This gracious offer had the fatality to disgust one of the best parliaments that ever sat, and the most loyal: so that laying it aside, they fell upon the succession (the only thing they had then left) and were soon after dissolved: leaving the kingdom in a more distracted condition than they found it. And this can no way be composed, but by mending the polity; so that whoever is king cannot (be he never so inclined to it) introduce popery, or destroy whatever religion shall be established. As you see in the example of the duchy of Hanover, whose prince, some fourteen years since, was perverted to the Roman church; went to Rome to abjure heresy, (as they call the truth;) returned home; where he lived and governed as he did before; without the least animosity of his subjects for his change, or any endeavour of his to introduce any in his government or people: and dying this last spring, left the peaceable and undisturbed rule of his subjects to the next successor, his brother the bishop of Osnaburg, who is a protestant. And this because the polity of that dukedom has been conserved entire for many years, and is upon a right basis: and if our case were so, we should not only be out of danger to have our religion altered (as I said before) whoever is king, but should in other things be in a happy and flourishing condition. But I have made a long and tedious digression to answer your demands: now 'tis time you assist me to find the natural cure of all our mischiefs.
DOCT. Stay, sir; I confess myself to be wonderfully edified with your discourse hitherto, but you have said nothing yet of the duke of Monmouth.
ENG. GENT. I do not think you desire it, though you were pleased to mention such a thing; for I suppose you cannot think it possible, that this parliament (which is now speedily to meet by his majesty's gracious proclamation) can ever suffer such a thing to be so much as debated amongst them.
DOCT. Sir, you have no reason to take that for granted, when you see what books are printed; what great and honourable persons frequent him in private, and countenance him in public; what shoals of the middle sort of people have in his progress this summer met him before he came into any great town; and what acclamations and bonfires have been made in places where he lodged.
ENG. GENT. These things, I must confess, show how great a distemper the people are in; and the great reason we have to pray God of his mercy to put an end to it by a happy agreement in parliament. But certainly this proceeds only from the hatred they have to the next successor and his religion; and from the compassion they have to the duke of Monmouth (who as they suppose, has suffered banishment and disfavour at court, at his instance;) and not from any hopes, or expectations, that the parliament will countenance any pretence that can be made in his behalf to the succession.
DOCT. It may be when we have discoursed of it, I shall be of your mind; as indeed I am inclined already. But yet as nothing in war is more dangerous than to contemn an enemy; so in this argumentation that we use to secure our liberties, we must leave nothing unanswered that may stand in the way of that; especially the duke of Monmouth's claim, which is pretended to confirm and fortify them: for (say some men) if you set him up, he will presently pass all bills that shall concern the safety and interest of the people; and so we shall be at rest forever.
ENG. GENT. Well, I see I must be more tedious than I intended. First then, the reasoning of these men you speak of, does in my apprehension suppose a thing, I cannot mention without horror; which is, that this person should be admitted immediately to the possession of the crown, to do all these fine matters. For otherwise, if he must stay till the death of our sovereign who now reigns, (which I hope and pray will be many years,) possibly these delicate bills may never pass; nor he find hereafter the people in so good a humour to admit him to the reversion; which if it could be obtained (as I think it impossible politically) yet the possession must be kept by a standing army; and the next successor cannot have a better game to play, nor a better adversary to deal with, than one who leaps in over the heads of almost all the protestant princes' families abroad; (besides some papists who are greater:) and when we have been harrassed with wars and the miseries that accompany it some few years, you shall have all these fine people, who now run after him, very weary of their new prince. I would not say anything to disparage a person so highly born, and of so early merit; but this I may say, that if a lawful title should be set on foot in his favour, and a thousand Dutch hosts and such like should swear a marriage, yet no sober man that is not blinded with prejudice will believe, that our king (whom none can deny to have an excellent understanding) would ever marry a woman so much his inferior as this great person's mother was; and this at a time when his affairs were very low, and he had no visible or rational hopes to be restored to the possession of his kingdoms, but by an assistance which might have been afforded him by means of some great foreign alliance.
Well, but to leave all this, do these men pretend that the duke of Monmouth shall be declared successor to the crown in parliament, with the king's concurrence, or without it? If without it, you must make a war for it; and I am sure that no cause can be stated upon such a point, that will not make the asserters and undertakers of it be condemned by all the politicians and moralists of the world, and by the casuists of all religions: and so by consequence, it is like to be a very unsuccessful war. If you would have this declared with the king's consent; either you suppose the royal assent to be given, when the king has his liberty either to grant it or not grant it, to dissolve the parliament or not dissolve it, without ruin or prejudice to his affairs: if in the first case, it is plain he will not grant it, because he cannot do it without confessing his marriage to that duke's mother, which he has already declared against in a very solemn manner, and caused it to be registered in Chancery; and which not only no good subject can choose but believe, but which cannot be doubted by any rational person: for it would be a very unnatural, and indeed a thing unheard of, that a father who had a son in lawful matrimony, and who was grown to perfection, and had signalized himself in the wars, and who was ever entirely beloved by him, should disinherit him by so solemn an asseveration (which must be a false one too) to cause his brother to succeed in his room. And whereas it is pretended by some, that his majesty's danger from his brother's counsels and designs may draw from him something of this: beside that they do not much complement the king in this; it is clear, his brother is not so popular, but that he may secure him when he pleases without hazard, if there were any ground for such an apprehension.
But we must in the next place suppose that the king's affairs were in such a posture, that he could deny the parliament nothing without very great mischief and inconvenience to himself and the kingdom: then I say, I doubt not, but the wisdom of the parliament will find out divers demands and requests to make to his majesty of greater benefit, and more necessary for the good of his people than this would be; which draws after it not only a present unsettledness, but the probable hazard of misery and devastation for many years to come, as has been proved. So that as on the one side, the parliament could not make a more unjustifiable war than upon this account; so they could not be dissolved upon any occasion wherein the people would not show less discontent and resentment, and for which the courtiers would not hope to have a better pretext to strive in the next choice to make their arts and endeavours more successful in the election of members more suitable to their designs for the continuance of this present misgovernment: for if this parliament do misspend the peoples' mettle which is now up, in driving that nail which cannot go; they must look to have it cool, and so the ship of this commonwealth, which if they please may be now in a fair way of entering into a safe harbour, will be driven to sea again in a storm; and must hope for, and expect another favourable wind to save them: and God knows when that may come.
[[ DOCT. But, sir, there are others, who not minding whether the parliament will consider the duke of Monmouth's concern so far as to debate it, do yet pretend that there is great reason to keep up the peoples' affections to him; and possibly to foment the opinion they have of his title to the crown: to the end, that if the king should die before such time as the government is redressed, or the duke of York disabled by law to succeed, the people might have a head; under whose command and conduct they might stand upon their guard, till they had some way secured their government and religion.
ENG. GENT. What you have started is not a thing that can safely be discoursed of, nor is it much material to our design; which is intended to speculate upon our government, and to show how it is decayed. I have industriously avoided the argument of rebellion, as I find it couched in modern politicians; because most princes hold, that all civil wars in mixed monarchies must be so; and a politician (as well as an orator) ought to be an upright man; so ought to discourse nothing, how rational soever, in these points under a peaceable monarchy which gives him protection, but what he would speak of his prince if all his counsel were present. I will tell you only that these authors hold, that nothing can be alleged to excuse the taking arms by any people in opposition to their prince from being treason, but a claim to a lawful jurisdiction or coordination in the government, by which they may judge of and defend their own rights; and so pretend to fight for and defend the government. For though all do acknowledge, that the good of the people is, and ought to be, the most supreme or sovereign law in the world; yet if we should make private persons, how numerous soever, judge of the welfare of the people, we should have all the risings and rebellions that should ever be made, justified by that title: as happened in France, when The League of the Public Weal took that name; which was raised by the insatiable ambition of a few noblemen, and by correspondency and confederacy with Charles, son of the duke of Burgundy, and other enemies to that crown.
DOCT. But would you have our people do nothing then, if the king should be assassinated, or die of a natural death?
ENG. GENT. You may ask me a very fine question, doctor. If I say, I would have the people stir in that case, then the king and his laws take hold of me; and if I should answer, that I would have them be quiet, the people would tear me in pieces for a jesuit; or at least, believe that I had no sense of the religion, laws, and liberty of my country. In fact, I do suppose, that if the people do continue long in this heat which now possesses them; and remain in such a passion at the time of the king's death without settling matters; they may probably fall into tumults and civil war: which makes it infinitely to be desired, and prayed for by all good Englishmen, that during the quiet and peace we enjoy by the blessing of his majesty's life and happy reign, we might likewise be so wise and fortunate as to provide for the safety and prosperity of the next generation.
DOCT. But if you would not have the people in such a case take the duke of Monmouth for their head, what would you have them do?
ENG. GENT. Doctor, you ask me very fine questions! Do not you know that Machiavel, the best and most honest of all the modern politicians, has suffered sufficiently by means of priests, and other ignorant persons? who do not understand his writings, and therefore impute to him the teaching subjects how they should rebel and conspire against their princes; which if he were in any kind guilty of, he would deserve all the reproaches that have been cast upon him, and ten times more; and so should I, if I ventured to obey you in this. I am very confident, that if any man should come to you, to implore your skill in helping him to a drug that might quickly, and with the least fear of being suspected, dispatch an enemy of his, or some other, by whose death he was to be a gainer; or some young lass that had gotten a surreptitious great belly, should come to you to teach her how to destroy the fruit; I say, in this case you would scarce have had patience to hear these persons out: much less would you have been so wicked to have in the least assisted them in their designs. No more than Solon, Lycurgus, Periander, or any other of the sages could have been brought to have given their advice to any persons who should have begged it, to enable them to ruin and undermine the government of their own commonwealths.
DOCT. Sir, this reprehension would be very justly given me, if I had intended by this question to induce you to counsel me, or any other how to rebel. My meaning was to desire you (who have heretofore been very fortunate in prophesying concerning the events of our changes here) to exercise your faculty a little at this time; and tell us, what is like to be the end of these distractions we are under, in case we shall not be so happy as to put a period to them by mending our government and securing our religion and liberty in a regular way.
ENG. GENT. Doctor, I will keep the reputation of prophecy, which I have gained with you; and not hazard it with any new predictions, for fear they should miscarry.
Yet I care not, if I gratify your curiosity a little in the point about which you first began to interrogate me, by presaging to you; that in case we should have troubles and combustions here, after his majesty's decease (which God avert) we must expect a very unsuccessful end of them, if we should be so rash and unadvised as to make the great person we have been lately speaking of, our head; and that nothing can be more dangerous and pernicious to us than such a choice. I have not in this discourse the least intention to except against, much less to disparage the personal worth of the duke of Monmouth, which the world knows to be very great; but do believe that he has courage and conduct proportionable to any employment that can be conferred upon him, whether it be to manage arms or counsels: but my opinion is, that no person in his circumstance can be a proper head in this case. For the people having been already put on upon the scent of his title to the crown, will be very hardly called off; and so will force the wiser men, who may design better things, to consent that he be proclaimed king immediately: except there be some other head, who by his power, wisdom, and authority, may restrain the forwardness of the multitude, and obviate the acts of some men, whose interest and hopes may prompt them to foment the humours of the people. Now the consequences of hurrying a man to the throne so tumultuously, without the least deliberation, are very dismal: and do not only not cure the politic distemper of our country which we have talked so much of, but do infinitely augment it; and add to the disease our state labours under already (which is a consumption) a very violent fever too; I mean war at home, and from abroad, which must necessarily follow in a few years: nor is it possible to go back, when once we have made that step; for our new king will call a parliament, which being summoned by his writ, neither will nor can question his title or government, otherwise than by making addresses and by presenting bills to him, as they do to his now majesty.
NOBLE VEN. It seems to me, that there needs nothing more than that: for if he consent to all laws as shall be presented to him; you may reform your government sufficiently, or else it is your own fault.
ENG. GENT. We have showed already, and shall do more hereafter, that no laws can be executed till our government be mended: and if you mean we should make such as should mend that, (besides that it would be a better method to capitulate that, before you make choice of your prince, as wise people have done in all ages, and the cardinals do at Rome in the conclave before they choose their pope) I say besides this, it is not to be taken for granted that any bills that tend to make considerable alterations in the administration, (and such we have need of as you will see anon) would either in that case be offered, or consented to. Both prince and people being so ready to cry out upon forty-one, and to be frighted with the name of a commonwealth; even now when we think popery is at the door: which some people then will think farther off, and so not care to make so great alterations to keep it out. Besides, the great men, and favourites of the new prince, will think it hard that the king should be so bounded and limited both in power and revenue, that he shall have no means to exercise his liberality towards them; and so may use their interest and eloquence, in both houses, to dissuade them from pressing so hard upon a prince, who is a true zealous protestant, and has always headed that party; and who is justly admired, if not adored by the people: and considering too that all the power they leave him, will serve but to enable him to defend us the better from popery and arbitrary power; to prevent the latter of which most monarchies were originally instituted.
Thus we may exercise, during a parliament or two, love-tricks between the prince and his people; and imitate the honeymoon that continued for about two years after his majesty's Restoration: till the ill management of affairs, and the new grievances that shall arise, (which will be sure never to fail till our true cure be effected, notwithstanding the care of the new king and his counsellors) shall awaken the discontents of the people; and then they will curse the time, in which they made this election of a prince; and the great men, for not hindering them. Then men will be reckoning up the discontents of the peers, sometime after they had made a rash choice of Henry the seventh in the field, (who had then no title,) when they saw how he made use of the power they gave him; to lessen their greatness and to fortify himself, upon their ruins. When it comes to this, and that the governing party comes to be but a little faction; the people, who never know the true cause of their distemper, will be looking out abroad who has the lawful title; (if the next heir be not in the meantime with an army of English and strangers in the field here, as is most likely:) and look upon the prince of Orange, or the next of kin, as their future saviour; in case the duke be dead in the meantime, and so the cause of all their distrust taken away. Thus most men, (not only discontented persons, but the people in general,) looked upon his majesty that now is, as their future deliverer, during our late distractions; when his condition was so weak that he had scarce wherewithal to subsist, and his enemies powerful at home and victorious abroad: which will not be, I fear, our case.
I prophesy then, (because you will have me use this word,) that if nobles or people make any such unfortunate choice as this, during the distractions we may be in upon his majesty's death, we shall not only miss our cure; or have it deferred, till another government make it; but remain in the confusion we now suffer under; and besides that, shall be sure to feel, first or last, the calamity of a civil and foreign war: and in the meantime to be in perpetual fear of it, and suffer all the burden and charge which is necessary to provide for it; besides all the other ill consequences of a standing army. To conclude, I assure you on the faith of a Christian, that I have made this discourse solely and singly out of zeal and affection to the interest of my country; and not at all with the least intention to favour or promote the cause or interest of the duke of York, or to disparage the duke of Monmouth: from whom I never received the least unkindness; nor ever had the honour to be in his company: and to whom I shall ever pay respect suitable to his high birth and merit.]]
NOBLE VEN. Well, sir, your reasoning in this point has extremely satisfied me; and the doctor, I suppose, was so before, as he averred; therefore pray let us go on where we left.
ENG. GENT. I cannot take so much upon me as to be dictator in the method of our cure, since either of you is a thousand times better qualified for such an office; and therefore shall henceforth desire to be an auditor.
DOCT. Pray, sir, let us not spend time in compliments, but be pleased to proceed in this business; and we doubt not but as you have hitherto wonderfully delighted us, so you will gratify us in concluding it.
ENG. GENT. I see I must obey you: but pray help me, and tell me in the first place, whether you do not both believe, that as the chief cause of all our distractions is (as has been proved) the breach of our government, so that the immediate causes are two; first, the great distrust on both sides between the king, and his people and parliament; the first fearing that his power will be so lessened by degrees, that at length it will not be able to keep the crown upon his head: and the latter seeing all things in disorder, and that the laws are not executed, (which is the second of the two causes,) fear the king intends to change the government and be arbitrary.
NOBLE VEN. I am a stranger; but (though I never reflected so much upon the original cause, as I have done since I heard you discourse of it) yet I ever thought, that those two were the causes of the unquietness of this kingdom. I mean the jealousy between the king and his people; and the inexecution of the great law of calling parliaments annually, and letting them sit, to dispatch their affairs: I understand this in the time of his majesty's grandfather and father, more than in his own reign.
ENG. GENT. Then whoever can absolutely lay these two causes asleep forever, will arrive to a perfect cure: which I conceive no way of doing, but that the king have a great deal more power, or a great deal less. And you know that what goes out of the king must go into the people, and so vice versa; insomuch that the people must have a great deal more power, or a great deal less. Now it is no question, but either of these two would rather increase their power than diminish it: so that if this cannot be made up by the wisdom of this age, we may see in the next; that both the king will endeavour to be altogether without a parliament, and the parliament to be without a king.
DOCT. I begin to smell what you would be nibbling at; the pretence which some had before his majesty's Restoration, of a commonwealth, or democracy.
ENG. GENT. No; I abhor the thoughts of wishing, much less endeavouring, any such thing, during the circumstances we are now in: that is, under oaths of obedience to a lawful king. And truly, if any Themistocles should make to me such a proposal, I should give the same judgement concerning it that Aristides did in such a case. The story is short. After the war between the Greeks and the Persians was ended, and Xerxes driven out of Greece; the whole fleet of the Grecian confederates, (except that of Athens, which was gone home) lay in a great arsenal (such as were then in use) upon the coast of Attica: during their abode there. Themistocles harrangues one day the people of Athens, (as was then the custom,) and tells them, that he had a design in his head, which would be of infinite profit and advantage to the commonwealth: but that it could not be executed without the order and authority of them; and that it did likewise require secrecy, and if it were declared there in the market-place, (where strangers as well as citizens might be present,) it could not be concealed; and therefore proposed it to their consideration what should be done in it. It was at length concluded, that Themistocles should propose it to Aristides; and if he did next morning acquaint the people that he gave his approbation to it, it should be proceeded in. Themistocles informs him, that the whole fleet of their confederates in the war against the Medes had betaken themselves to the great arsenal upon their coast, where they might be easily fired; and then the Athenians would remain absolute masters of the sea, and so give law to all Greece. When Aristides came the next day to deliver his judgement to the people, he told them that the business proposed by Themistocles, was indeed very advantageous and profitable to the Athenians; but withal, the most wicked and villainous attempt that ever was undertaken: upon which it was wholly laid aside. And the same judgement do I give, doctor, of your democracy, at this time. But to return to the place where I was; I do believe that this difference may easily be terminated very fairly; and that our house need not be pulled down, and a new one built; but may be very easily repaired, so that it may last many hundred years.
NOBLE VEN. I begin to perceive that you aim at this; that the king must give the people more power, as Henry the third, and king John did; or the parliament must give the king more, as you said they did in France in the time of Lewis the eleventh; or else that it will come in time to a war again.
ENG. GENT. You may please to know; that in all times hitherto, the parliament never demanded anything of the king, wherein the interest and government of the kingdom was concerned, (excepting acts of pardon,) but they founded their demands upon their right; not only because it might seem unreasonable for them to be earnest with him, to give them that which was his own; but also because they cannot choose but know that all powers which are fundamentally and lawfully in the crown, were placed there upon the first institution of our government, to capacitate the prince to govern and protect his people: so that for the parliament to seek to take from him such authority, were to be felo de se, as we call a self-homicide. But as in some distempers of the body the head suffers as well as the inferior parts, so that it is not possible for it to order, direct and provide for the whole body, as its office requires; since the wisdom and power which is placed there, is given by God to that end: in which case, though the distemper of the body may begin from the disease of some other part, or from the mass of blood, or putrefaction of other humours; yet since that noble part is so affected by it that reason and discourse fail, therefore to restore this again remedies must be applied to, and possibly humours or vapours drawn from the head itself; that so it may be able to govern and reign over the body, as it did before: or else the whole man, like a slave, must be ruled and guided from without, that is, by some keeper: so is it now with us, in our politic disease: where granting (if you please) that the distemper does not proceed from the head, but the corruption of other parts; yet in the cure, applications must be made to the head as well as to the members, if we mean poor England shall recover its former perfect health: and therefore it will be found, perhaps, essential to our being, to ask something (in the condition we now are) to which the king as yet may have a right; and which except he please to part with, the phenomena of government cannot be salved; that is, our laws cannot be executed; nor Magna Charta itself made practicable: and so both prince and people, that is the polity of England, must die of this disease; or in this delirium, must be governed from without and fall to the lot of some foreign power.
NOBLE VEN. But, sir, (since the business is come to this dilemma) why may not the king ask more power of the parliament, as well as they of him?
ENG. GENT. No question but our present counsellors and courtiers would be nibbling at that bait again, if they had another parliament that would take pensions for their votes; but in one that is come fresh from the people, and understands their sense and grievances very well, I hardly believe they will attempt it: for both council and parliament must needs know by this time-a-day, that the cause of all our distractions coming (as has been said an hundred times) from the king's having a greater power already, than the condition of property at this present can admit without confusion and disorder, it is not like to mend matters for them to give him more; except they will deliver up to him at the same instant their possessions and right to their lands, and become naturally and politically his slaves.
NOBLE VEN. Since there must be a voluntary parting with power, I fear your cure will prove long and ineffectual: and we reconcilers, shall, (I fear,) prove like our devout Capuchin at Venice. This poor man's name was Friar Bernardino da Udine; and was esteemed a very holy man, as well as an excellent preacher: insomuch that he was appointed to preach the Lent sermons in one of our principal churches; which he performed at the beginning with so much eloquence, and applause, that the church was daily crowded three hours before the sermon was to begin. The esteem and veneration this poor friar was in, elevated his spirit a little too high to be contained within the bounds of reason: but before his delirium was perceived, he told his auditory one day; that the true devotion of that people, and the care they had to come to hear his word preached, had been so acceptable to God and to the virgin, that they had vouchsafed to inspire him with the knowledge of an expedient, which he did not doubt but would make men happy and just even in this life; and that the flesh should no longer lust against the spirit; but that he would not acquaint them with it at that present, because something was to be done on their parts to make them capable of this great blessing; which was to pray zealously for a happy success upon his endeavours, and to fast and to visit the churches, to that end: therefore he desired them to come the Wednesday following to be made acquainted with this blessed expedient. You may imagine how desirous our people were, to hear something more of this fifth monarchy. I will shorten my story, and tell you nothing of what crowding there was all night, and what quarrelling for places in the church; nor with what difficulty the 'sages', who were sent by the magistrate to keep the peace, and to make way for the preacher to get into the pulpit, did both: but up he got: and after a long preamble of desiring more prayers, and addressing himself to our senate to mediate with the pope, that a week might be set apart for a jubilee and fasting three days all over the Christian world; to storm heaven with masses, prayers, fasting and alms to prosper his designs; he began to open the matter: that the cause of all the wickedness and sin, and by consequence of all the miseries and affliction which is in the world, arising from the enmity which is between God and the devil; by which means God was often crossed in his intentions of good to mankind here and hereafter, the devil by his temptations making us incapable of the mercy and favour of our creator: therefore he had a design (with the helps before-mentioned) to mediate with almighty God, that he would pardon the devil; and receive him into his favour again after so long a time of banishment and imprisonment; and not to take all his power from him, but to leave him so much as might do good to man, and not hurt: which he doubted not but he would employ that way, after such reconciliation was made, as his faith would not let him question. You may judge, what the numerous auditory thought of this: I can only tell you, that he had a different sort of company at his return from what he had when he came; for the men left him to the boys, who with great hoops instead of acclamations brought him to the gondola, which conveyed him to the Redentore; where he lodged: and I never had the curiosity to enquire, what became of him after.
DOCT. I thank you heartily for this intervention; I see you have learned something in England: for, I assure you, we have been these twenty years turning this, and all serious discourses into ridicule. But yet your similitude is very pat: for in every parliament that has been in England these sixty years, we have had notable contests between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman.
ENG. GENT. Well, sir, we have had a Michael here in our age, who has driven out Lucifer, and restored the true deity to his power: but where omnipotency is wanting, (which differs the Friar's case and mine,) the devil of civil war and confusion may get up again; if he be not laid by prudence and virtue, and better conjurers than any we have yet at court.
NOBLE VEN. Well, gentlemen, I hope you have pardoned me for my farce: but, to be a little more serious, pray tell me how you will induce the king to give up so much of his right as may serve your turn? Would you have the parliament make war with him again?
ENG. GENT. There cannot, nor ought to be, any change but by his majesty's free consent: for besides, that a war is to be abhorred by all men that love their country; any contest of that kind in this case (viz. to take away the least part of the king's right) could be justified by no man living. I say besides that, a civil war has miscarried in our days; which was founded (at least pretendedly) upon defence of the people's own rights: in which, although they had as clear a victory in the end, as ever any contest upon earth had, yet could they never reap the least advantage in the world by it; but went from one tyranny to another, from Barebone's parliament, to Cromwell's reign; and from that, to a committee of safety: leaving those grave men, who managed affairs at the beginning, amazed to see new men and new principles governing England: and this induced them to cooperate to bring things back, just where they were before the war. Therefore this remedy will be either none, or worse than the disease: it not being now as it was in the barons' time, when the lord who led out his men, could bring them back again when he pleased, and rule them in the meantime, being his vassals: but now there is no man of so much credit, but that one who behaves himself bravely in the war, shall out-vie him; and, possibly, be able to do what he pleases with the army and the government: and in this corrupt age, it is ten to one, he will rather do hurt than good with the power he acquires. But because you ask me how we would persuade the king to this? I answer; by the parliament's humbly remonstrating to his majesty, that it is his own interest, preservation, quiet and true greatness, to put an end to the distractions of his subjects; and that it cannot be done any other way: and to desire him to enter into debate with some men authorized by them, to see if there can be any other means than what they shall offer to compose things: if they find there may, then to embrace it; otherwise, to insist upon their own proposals; and if in the end they cannot obtain those requests, which they think the only essential means to preserve their country, then to beg their dismissal; that they may not stay, and be partakers in the ruin of it.
Now, my reasons why the king will please to grant this after the thorough discussing of it, are two. First, because all great princes have ever made up matters with their subjects upon such contests, without coming to extremities. The two greatest and most valiant of our princes, were Edward the first, and his grandchild Edward the third: these had very great demands made them by parliaments, and granted them all; as you may see upon the statute-book. Edward the second, and Richard the second, on the contrary, refused all things till they were brought to extremity. There is a memorable example in the Greek story of Theopompus, king of Sparta; whose subjects finding the government in disorder for want of some persons that might be a check upon the great power of the king, proposed to him the creation of the ephors (officers who made that city so great and famous afterwards.) The king finding by their reasons, which were unanswerable, (as I think ours now are,) that the whole government of Sparta was near its ruin without such a cure; and considering that he had more to lose in that disorder than others, freely granted their desires: for which being derided by his wife, who asked him what a kind of monarchy he would leave to his son? He answered; a very good one, because it will be a very lasting one. Which brings on my second reason, for which I believe the king will grant these things; because he cannot any way mend himself, nor his condition, if he do not.
NOBLE VEN. You have very fully convinced me of two things: first, that we have no reason to expect or believe that the parliament will ever increase the king's power: and then, that the king cannot by any way found himself a new and more absolute monarchy, except he can alter the condition of property: which I think we may take for granted to be impossible. But yet, I know not why we may not suppose that (although he cannot establish to all posterity such an empire) he may, notwithstanding, change the government at the present; and calling parliaments no more, administer it by force, (as it is done in France,) for some good time.
ENG. GENT. In France it has been a long work: and although that tyranny was begun, as has been said, by petition from the states themselves not to be assembled any more; yet the kings since, in time of great distraction, have thought fit to convocate them again: as they did in the civil wars thrice, once at Orleans, and twice at Blois.
I would not repeat what I have so tediously discoursed of concerning France already; but only to entreat you to remember that our nation has no such poor and numerous gentry, which draw better revenues from the king's purse, than they can from their own estates: all our country people consisting of rich nobility and gentry, of wealthy yeomen, and of poor younger brothers; who have little or nothing, and can never raise their companies, if they should get commissions, without their elder brother's assistance amongst his tenants, or else with the free consent and desire of the people; which, in this case, would hardly be afforded them. But we will suppose there be idle people enough to make an army, and that the king has money enough to arm and raise them: and I will grant too, to avoid tediousness (although I do not think it possible) that the people will at the first for fear, receive them into their houses and quarter them against law; nay, pay the money, which shall be by illegal edicts imposed upon the subjects to pay them: yet is it possible an army can continue any time to enslave their own country? Can they resist the prayers, or the curses, of their fathers, brothers, wives, mothers, sisters, and of all persons wherever they frequent? Upon this account, all the Greek tyrants were of very short continuance: who being in chief magistracy and credit in their commonwealths, by means of soldiers and satellites, usurped the sovereignty. But did ever any of them, excepting Dionysius, leave it to his son? who was driven out within less than a year after his father's death. Many armies of the natives have destroyed tyrannies: so the decemvirate was ruined at Rome, and the Tarquins expelled before that.
Our own country has been a stage, even in our time, where this tragedy has been sufficiently acted: for the army, after the war was done, fearing the monarchy should be restored again, held counsels; got agitators; and though there were often very severe executions upon the ring-leaders, did at length by their perseverance necessitate their officers to join with them, (having many good headpieces of the party to advise them;) and so broke all treaties. And the parliament adhering to a small party of them who consented to lay aside kingly government, they afterwards drove them away too; fearing they would continue to govern by an oligarchy. I am far from approving this way they used; in which they broke all laws divine and human, political and moral: but I urge it only to show how easily an army of natives is to be deluded with the name of liberty; and brought to pull down anything, which their ring-leaders tell them tends to enslaving their country. Tis true, this army was afterwards cheated by their general; who without their knowledge, (much less consent,) one morning suddenly made himself tyrant of his country. It is true, that their reputation (not their arms) supported him in that state for some time; but it is as certain that they did very often, and to the last, refuse to be instrumental to levy moneys, though for their own pay: and so he, against his will, was fain to call from time to time parliamentary conventions. And it is most certain, that he did, in the sickness of which he died, often complain that his army would not go a step farther with him: and, in fact, some months after his death, they did dethrone his son, and restore the remainder of the old parliament; upon promise made to them in secret, (by the demagogues of that assembly,) that a commonwealth should be speedily framed and settled.
NOBLE VEN. Sir, I am satisfied that an army raised here on a sudden, and which never saw an enemy, could not be brought to act such high things for the ruin of their own government; nor possibly, would be any way able to resist the fury and insurrection of the people: but what say you of a foreign army, raised by your king abroad, and brought over, whose officers and soldiers shall have no acquaintance or relations amongst the people here?
ENG. GENT. All forces of that kind must be either auxiliaries, or mercenaries. Auxiliaries, are such as are sent by some neighbour prince or state, with their own colours, and paid by themselves; though possibly, the prince who demands them may furnish the money. These usually return home again, when the occasion for which they were demanded is over: but whether they do or not, if they be not mixed and over-balanced with forces which depend upon the prince who calls them, but that the whole weight and power lies in them; they will certainly, first or last, seize that country for their own sovereign. And as for mercenaries; they must be raised ('tis true) with the money of the prince who needs them, but by the authority and credit of some great persons who are to lead and command them: and these, in all occasions, have made their own commander prince: as F. Sforza at Milan drove out by this trick the Visconti, ancient dukes of that state; and the Mamelukes in Egypt made themselves a military commonwealth. So that the way of an army here, would either be no remedy at all; or one very much worse than the disease, to the prince himself.
NOBLE VEN. Well, sir, I begin to be of opinion, that anything the king can grant the parliament (especially such a parliament as this is, which consists of men of very great estates and so can have no interest to desire troubles) will not be so inconvenient to him, as to endeavour to break the government by force. But why may he not, for this time (by soothing them and offering them great alliances abroad for the interest of England, and balancing matters in Europe more even than they have been; and, in fine, by offering them a war with the French, to which nation they have so great a hatred;) lay them asleep, and get good store of money; and stave off this severe cure you speak of, at least for some time longer?
ENG. GENT. There has been something of this done too lately; and there is a gentleman lies in the tower, who is to answer for it. But you may please to understand, that there is scarce any amongst the middle sort of people, much less within the walls of the house of commons, who do not perfectly know, that we can have no alliance with any nation in the world that will signify anything to them, or to ourselves, till our government be redressed and new modelled: and therefore, though there were an army landed in this island, yet that we must begin there; before we are fit to repulse them, or defend ourselves. And the fear and sense of this people, universally, is; that if we should have any war, either for our own concerns, or for those of our allies, whilst matters remain as they do at home, it would certainly come to this pass: that either being beaten, we should subject this kingdom to an invasion, at a time when we are in a very ill condition to repel it; or else, if we were victorious, that our courtiers and counsellors ardently (or as the French cry, in a trice) would employ that mettle and good fortune, to try some such conclusions at home, as we have been discoursing of. And therefore, if any war should be undertaken without parliament; you would see the people rejoice as much at any disaster our forces should receive, as they did when the Scots seized the four northern counties, in 1639; or, before that, when we were beaten at the isle of Rhee; or when we had any loss in the last war with Holland. And this joy is not so unnatural as it may seem to those who do not consider the cause of it: which is the breach of our old government, and the necessity our governors are under to make some new experiments; and the fear we are in, that any prosperity may make them able to try them, either with effect, or at least with impunity. Which consideration made a court-droll say lately to his majesty, (who seemed to wonder why his subjects hated the French so much;) sir, it is because you love them, and espouse their interest; and if you would discover this truth clearly, you may please to make war with the king of France; and then you shall see, that this people will not only love them, take their parts, and wish them success: but will exceedingly rejoice, when they are victorious in sinking your ships, or defeating your forces. And this is sufficient to answer your proposal for alliances abroad, and for a war with France. Besides this (to wind all up in a word) it is not to be imagined; that so good and wise a prince as we have at this time should ever be induced, when he comes to understand perfectly his own condition, to let his own interest (granting his power to be so, which is very false) contest with the safety and preservation of his people; for which only it was given him: or that he will be any way tenacious of such prerogatives, as now by a natural revolution of political circumstances are so far from continuing useful to his governing the people, that they are the only remora and obstacle of all government, settlement, and order. For his majesty must needs know, that all forms of regulating mankind under laws were ordained, by God and man, for the happiness and security of the governed; and not for the interest and greatness of those who rule: unless where there is better nature in the case. So God governs man, for his own glory only; and men reign over beasts, for their own use and service. But where an absolute prince rules over his own servants, whom he feeds and pays, (as we have said;) or the master of a great and numerous family governs his household; they are both bound, by the law of God and nature, and by their own interest, to do them justice; and not anger or tyrannize over them, more than the necessity of preserving their empire and authority requires.
DOCT. But sir, considering the difficulty which will be found in the king, and possibly in the parliament too, to come up to so great an alteration at the first; and the danger that may happen by our remaining long in this unsettled condition, which does hourly expose us to innumerable hazards, both at home, and from abroad; why may we not begin, and lay the foundation now, by removing all his majesty's present council, by parliament? Which is no new thing; but has been often practised, in many kings' reigns.
ENG. GENT. First, the council (that is, the privy council, which you mean) is no part of our government; as we may have occasion to show hereafter: nor is the king obliged by any fundamental law, or by any act of parliament, to hearken to their advice; or so much as to ask it: and if you should make one on purpose, besides that it would not be so effectual as what we may propose, it would be full as hard to go down either with king or parliament. But besides all this, you would see some of these counsellors so nominated by parliament, perhaps, prove honest; and then they would be forced to withdraw, as some lately did; because they found, I suppose, that till the administration be altered, it is impossible that their counsels can be embraced; or anything be acted by them which may tend to the good of their country. Those, who have not so great a sense of honour and integrity, will be presently corrupted by their own interest; whilst the prince is left in possession of all those baits and means to answer such men's expectations: it being most certain, that if you have a musty vessel, and by consequence dislike the beer which comes out of it, and draw it out; causing the barrel to be immediately filled with good and sound liquor: it is certain by experience, that both your new drink, and all that ever you shall put into the cask, till it be taken in pieces, and the pipes shaved and new-modelled, will be full as musty and unsavoury as the first which you found fault with.
NOBLE VEN. Now sir, I think we are at an end of our questions: and I for my part am convinced, that as the king cannot better himself any way by falling out with his people at this time; so that his goodness and wisdom is such, that he will rather choose to imitate the most glorious and generous of his predecessors; as Edward the first, and Edward the third; than those who were of less worth, and more unfortunate; as Edward the second, and Richard the second. And therefore we are now ready to hear what you would think fit to ask of so excellent a prince.
ENG. GENT. I never undertook to be so presumptuous: there is a parliament to sit speedily, and certainly they are the fittest every way to search into such matters; and to anticipate their wisdom would be unreasonable, and might give them just offence. But because all this tittle-tattle may not go for nothing, I shall presume to give you my thoughts how the cure must be wrought, without descending to particulars. The cause immediate (as we have said) of our disease, is the inexecution of our laws: and it is most true, that when that is altered for the better, and that all our laws are duly executed, we are in health. For as we can never have the entire benefit of them, till our government is upon a right basis; so whenever we enjoy this happiness, to have the full benefit of those constitutions which were made by our ancestors for our safe and orderly living, our government is upon a right basis: therefore we must enquire into the cause, why our laws are not executed; and when you have found and taken away that cause, all is well. The cause can be no other than this, that the king is told, and does believe, that most of these great charters or rights of the people, of which we now chiefly treat, are against his majesty's interest; though this be very false (as has been said) yet we will not dispute it at this time, but take it for granted: so that the king having the supreme execution of the laws in his hand, cannot be reasonably supposed to be willing to execute them whenever he can choose whether he will do it or no; it being natural for every man not to do anything against his own interest when he can help it. Now when you have thought well what it should be that gives the king a liberty to choose whether any part of the law shall be current or no; you will find, that it is the great power the king enjoys in the government: when the parliament has discovered this, they will no doubt demand of his majesty an abatement of his royal prerogative in those matters only which concern our enjoyment of our all, that is our lives, liberties and estates; and leave his royal power entire and untouched, in all the other branches of it. When this is done, we shall be as if some great hero had performed the adventure of dissolving the enchantment, we have been under so many years; and all our statutes from the highest to the lowest, from Magna Charta to that for burying in woollen, will be current: and we shall neither fear the bringing in popery, nor arbitrary power in the intervals of parliament; neither will there be any dissensions in them; all causes of factions between the country and court party being entirely abolished; so that the people shall have no reason to distrust their prince, nor he them.
DOCT. You make us a fine golden age: but after all this, will you not be pleased to show us a small prospect of this Canaan, or country of rest? Will you not vouchsafe to particularize a little, what powers there are in the king, which you would have discontinued? Would you have such prerogatives abolished, or placed elsewhere?
ENG. GENT. There can be no government, if they be abolished. But I will not be like a man who refuses to sing amongst his friends at their entreaty, because he has an ill voice; I will rather suffer my self to be laughed at by you in delivering my small judgement in this matter: but still with this protestation, that I do believe than an infinity of men better qualified than myself for such sublime matters, and much more the house of commons, who represent the wisdom as well as the power of this kingdom, may find out a far better way than my poor parts and capacity can suggest. The powers then which now being in the crown do hinder the execution of our laws, and prevent by consequence our happiness and settlement, are four. First, the absolute power of making war and peace, treaties and alliances with all nations in the world; by which means, by ignorant counsellors, or wicked ministers, many of our former kings have made confederations and wars, very contrary and destructive to the interest of England: and by the unfortunate management of them, have often put the king in great hazard of invasion. Besides that, as long as there is a distinction made between the court party and that of the country, there will ever be a jealousy in the people; that those wicked counsellors, (who may think they can be safe no other way,) will make alliances with powerful princes, in which there may be a secret article by which those princes shall stipulate to assist them with forces upon a short warning to curb the parliament, and possibly to change the government. And this apprehension in the people will be the less unreasonable; because Oliver Cromwell, (the great pattern of some of our courtiers,) is notoriously known to have inserted an article in his treaty with cardinal Mazarin, during this king of France's minority, that he should be assisted with ten thousand men from France upon occasion, to preserve and defend him in his usurped government, against his majesty that now is; or the people of England; or in fine, his own army; whose revolt he often feared.
The second great prerogative the king enjoys, is the sole disposal and ordering of the militia by sea and land, raising forces, garrisoning and fortifying places, setting out ships of war, so far as he can do all this without putting taxations upon the people; and this not only in the intervals of parliament, but even during their session; so that they cannot raise the train-bands of the country or city to guard themselves, or secure the peace of the kingdom. The third point is; that it is in his majesty's power to nominate and appoint as he pleases, and for what time he thinks fit, all the officers of the kingdom that are of trust or profit, both civil, military, and ecclesiastical, (as they will be called,) except where there is patronage. These two last powers may furnish a prince who will hearken to ill-designing counsellors, with the means either of invading the government by force, or by his judges and other creatures undermining it by fraud. Especially by enjoying the fourth advantage; which is the laying out and employing, as he pleases, all the public revenues of the crown or kingdom, and that without having any regard (except he thinks fit) to the necessity of the navy, or any other thing that concerns the safety of the public. So that all these four great powers, as things now stand, may be administered at any time, as well to destroy and ruin the good order and government of the state; as to preserve and support it, as they ought to do.
NOBLE VEN. But if you divest the king of these powers, will you have the parliament sit always to govern these matters?
ENG. GENT. Sir, I would not divest the king of them; much less would I have the parliament assume them, or perpetuate their sitting. They are a body more fitted to make laws, and punish the breakers of them, than to execute them. I would have them therefore petition his majesty by way of bill, that he will please to exercise these four great magnalia of government, with the consent of four several councils to be appointed for that end, and not otherwise; that is, with the consent of the major part of them, if any of them dissent. In all which councils, his majesty, (or who he pleases to appoint) shall preside. The councils to be named in parliament; first all the number, and every year afterwards a third part: so each year a third part shall go out, and a recruit of an equal number come in; and in three years they shall be all new: and no person to come into that council, or any other of the four, till he have kept out of any of them full three years, being as long as he was in: and this I learnt from your Quarantias at Venice. And the use is excellent: for being in such a circulation, and sure to have their intervals of power; they will neither grow so insolent as to brave their king, nor will. the prince have any occasion to corrupt them; although he had the means to do it, which in this new model he cannot have. These men in their several councils should have no other instructions, but to dispose of all things and act in their several charges, for the interest and glory of England; and shall be answerable to parliament, from time to time, for any malicious or advised misdemeanour. Only that council which manages the public revenue, shall (besides a very copious and honourable revenue which shall be left to his majesty's disposal for his own entertainment, as belongs to the splendour and majesty of the government) have instructions to serve his majesty (if he pleases to command them, and not otherwise) in the regulating and ordering his economy and household: and if they shall see it necessary, for extraordinary occasions of treating foreign princes and ambassadors, or presenting them, (and the like ostentation of greatness) to consent with his majesty moderately to charge the revenue to that end.
I verily believe that this expedient is much more effectual, than either the justiciar of Aragon was, or the ephors of Sparta: who being to check the king almost in every thing, without having any share in his counsels or understanding them, could not choose but make a sullen posture of affairs: whereas these both seem, and really are, the king's ministers; only obliged by parliament to act faithfully and honestly: to which, even without that, all other counsellors are bound by oath. As for the other council, now called the privy council, the king may still please to continue to nominate them at his pleasure; so they act nothing in any matters properly within the jurisdiction of these four councils; but meddle with the affairs of merchants, plantations, charters, and other matters to which the regal power extends. And provided that his majesty call none of the persons employed in these other four councils, during their being so; nor that this council do any way intermeddle with any affairs, criminal or civil, which are to be decided by law; and do belong to the jurisdictions of other courts or magistrates: they being no established judicatory, or congregation, which either our government or laws do take notice of: (as was said before) but persons congregated by the king, as his friends and faithful subjects, to give him their opinion in the execution of his regal office. As for example, the king does exercise, at this time, a negative voice as to bills presented to him by the parliament; which he claims by right: no man ever said that the privy council had a negative voice; yet former kings did not only ask their advice as to the passing or not passing of such bills; but often decided the matter by their votes: which, although it be a high presumption in them, when they venture to give him counsel contrary to what is given him by his greatest council, yet never any of them have been questioned for it; being looked upon as private men who speak according to the best of their cunning, and such as have no public capacity at all. But if this be not so, and that this council have some foundation in law, and some public capacity; I wish in this new settlement it may be made otherwise: and that his majesty please to take their counsel in private, but summon no persons to appear before them; much less give them authority to send for in custody, or imprison any subject; which may as well be done by the judges and magistrates: who, if secrecy be required, may as well be sworn to secrecy as these gentlemen; and (I believe) can keep counsel as well, and give it too.
NOBLE VEN. But would you have none to manage state-affairs? None imprisoned for secret conspiracies, and kept till they can be fully discovered? You have made an act here lately, about imprisonments; that every person shall have his habeas corpus, I think you call it: so that no man, for what occasion soever, can lie in prison above a night, but the cause must be revealed, though there be great cause for the concealing it.
ENG. GENT. This act you mention, (and a great many more which we have to the same purpose, that is against illegal imprisonments) shows, that for a long time the power over men's persons has been exercised (under his majesty) by such as were likely, rather to employ it ill than well: that is, would rather imprison ten men for honourable actions; (such as standing for the people's rights in parliament, refusing to pay illegal taxes, and the like) than one for projecting and inventing illegal monopolies; or any other kind of oppressing the people. This made, first Magna Charta, then the Petition of Right, and divers other acts besides this last, take that power quite away; and make the law and the judges the only disposers of the liberties of our persons. And it may be, when the parliament shall see the fruit of this alteration we are now discoursing of, and that state-affairs are in better hands, they may think fit to provide that a return or warrant of imprisonment from one of these four councils, (which I suppose will have a power of commitment given them as to persons appearing delinquents before them) wherein it shall be expressed; that if the public is like to suffer or be defrauded, if the matter be immediately divulged; I say in this case, the parliament may please to make it lawful for the judge to delay the bailing of him for some small time: because it is not to be judged, that these counsellors, so chosen, and so instructed, and to continue so small a time, will use this power ill; especially being accountable for any abusing of it to the next parliament: and I suppose the parliament, amongst other provisions in this behalf, will require that there shall be a register kept of all the votes of these several councils, with the names as well of those who consented, as of such who dissented. And as to the former part of your question, whether I would have none to manage state-affairs? I think there are very few state-affairs, that do not concern either peace and war, and treaties abroad; the management of the armies, militia, and the county force at home; the management of all the public moneys, and the election of all officers whatsoever. The other parts of state-affairs, which are making and repealing of laws, punishing high crimes against the state, with levying and proportioning all manner of impositions upon the people, this is reserved to the parliament itself: and the execution of all laws, to the judges and magistrates. And I can think of no other affairs of state than these.
DOCT. Do you intend that the council for choosing officers shall elect them of the king's household, that is his menial servants?
ENG. GENT. No; that were unreasonable. Except any of them have any jurisdiction in the kingdom; or any place or pre-eminence in parliament annexed to such office; but in these things which concern the powers and jurisdictions of these several councils, (wherein the protection of liberty, as Machiavel calls it, is now to be placed) I shall not presume to say anything; but assure yourself, if ever it come to that, it will be very well digested in parliament: they being very good at contriving such matters, and making them practicable; as well as at performing all other matters, that concern the interest and greatness of the kingdom.
DOCT. I have thought, that the ephors of Sparta were an admirable magistracy; not only for the interest of the people, but likewise for the preservation of the authority of the kings, and of their lives too. For Plutarch observes, that the cities of Messene and Argos had the same government with Lacedaemon; and yet for want of erecting such an authority as was in the ephors, they were not only perpetually in broils amongst themselves, and for that reason ever beaten by their enemies; (whereas the Spartans were always victorious;) but even their kings were the most miserable of men: being often called in question judicially, and so lost their lives; and many of them murdered by insurrections of the people. And at last, in both these cities, the kings were driven out; their families extirpated; the territory new divided; and the government turned into a democracy. And I ever thought that this expedient you propose (for I have heard you discourse of it often before now), would prove a more safe and a more noble reformation, than the institution of the ephors was: and that a prince who is a lover of his country; who is gracious, wise and just, (such a one as it has pleased God to send us at this time;) shall be ten times more absolute when this regulation is made, than ever he was or could be before: and that whatsoever he proposes in any of these councils will be received as a law, nay as an oracle: and, on the other side, ill and weak princes shall have no possibility of corrupting men; or doing either themselves, or their people, any kind of harm or mischief. But have you done now?
ENG. GENT. No, sir; when this provision is made for the execution of the laws, which I think very effectual, (not to say infallible,) although it is not to be doubted, but that there will be from time to time many excellent laws enacted; yet two I would have passed immediately. The one, concerning the whole regulation of the elections to parliament: which we need very much; and no doubt but it will be well done. That part of it which is necessary to go hand in hand with our settlement, and which indeed must be part of it, is: that a parliament be elected every year at a certain day, and that without any writ or summons; the people meeting of course at the time appointed in the usual place; (as they do in parishes at the church-house to choose officers;) and that the sheriffs be there ready to preside and to certify the election. And that the parliament so chosen shall meet at the time appointed; and sit and adjourn, as their business is more or less urgent; but still setting yet a time for their coming together again. And if there shall be a necessity (by reason of invasion, or some other cause) for their assembling sooner; then the king to call the counsellors of these four councils all together, and with the consent of the major part of them, intimate their meeting sooner. But when the day comes for the annual meeting of another parliament, they must be understood to be dissolved in law, without any other ceremony; and the new one to take their place.
DOCT. I would have this considered too, and provided for; that no election should be made of any person who had not the majority of the electors present to vote for him: so the writ orders it; and so reason dictates. For else how can he be said to represent the county, if not a fifth part have consented to his choice? As happens sometimes; and may do oftener: for where seven or eight stand for one vacant place, (as I have known in our last Long Parliament,) the votes being set in columns, he who has had most votes has not exceeded four hundred, of above two thousand who were present.
NOBLE VEN. This is a strange way! I thought you had put every man by himself, as we do in our government, and as I understood they do in the house of commons, when there is any nomination; and then, if he has not the major part, he is rejected.
ENG. GENT. This is very material; and indeed essential: but I make no doubt, but if this project should come in play in parliament, this and all other particulars (which would be both needless and tedious to discourse of here) will be well and effectually provided for. The next act I would have passed, should be concerning the house of peers: that as I take it for granted, that there will be a clause in the bill concerning elections, that no new boroughs shall be enabled to send members to parliament except they shall be capacitated thereunto by an act; so it being of the same necessity as to the liberty of parliament, that the peers (who do and must enjoy both a negative and deliberative voice in all parliamentary transactions, except what concern levying of money originally) be exempted from depending absolutely upon the prince; and that therefore it be declared by act, for the future, that no peer shall be made but by act of parliament, and then that it be hereditary in his male line.
NOBLE VEN. I am not yet fully satisfied how you can order your matters, concerning this house of peers: nor do I see, how the contests between the house of commons and them can be so laid asleep, but that they will arise again. Besides, the house of commons must necessarily be extremely concerned to find the house of peers, (which consists of private persons, though very great and honourable ones,) in an instant, dash all that they have been so long hammering for the good of all the people of England, whom they represent. Were it not better, now you are upon so great alterations, to make an annual elective senate; or at least one wherein the members should be but for life, and not hereditary?
ENG. GENT. By no means, sir; the less change the better: and in this case, the metaphysical maxim is more true than in any, viz. nothing should be multiplied unnecessarily: for great alterations fright men, and puzzle them; and there is no need of it at all in this case. I have told you before, that there is a necessity of a senate; and how short this government would be without it; and how confused in the meantime. The Roman senate was hereditary amongst the patricii; except the censor left any of them out of the roll during his magistracy, for some very great and scandalous offence: and in that case too there was an appeal to the people, as in all other causes; witness the case of Lucius Quinctius, and many others. To show that there can be no need of such a change here as you speak of, you may please to consider; that all differences between the several parts of any government, come upon the account of interest. Now when this settlement is made, the house of peers and the house of commons can have no interest to dissent: for as to all things of private interest, (that is, the rights of peers, both during the sitting of parliaments, and in the intervals,) is left to their own house to judge of; as it is to the house of commons, to judge of their own privileges. And as for the contest of the peers' jurisdiction as to appeals from courts of equity; (besides that I would have that settled in the act which should pass concerning the lords' house,) I believe it will never happen more, when the government is upon a right foundation; it having been hitherto fomented by two different parties: the court-party sometimes blowing up that difference to break the session, lest some good bills for the people should pass; or that the king, by rejecting them, might discontent his people. To avoid which dilemma, there needed no more, but to procure some person to prosecute his appeal before the lords. Some honest patriots afterwards possibly might use the same policy which they learnt from the courtiers, to quash some bill very destructive in which they were out-voted in the commons house; otherwise it is so far from the interest of the commons to hinder appeals from courts of equity, that there is none amongst them but know we are almost destroyed for want of it. And when they have considered well, and that some such reformation as this shall take place; they will find that it can never be placed in a more honourable and unbiased judicatory than this: and I could wish, that even in the intermission of parliamentary sessions, the whole peerage of England, (as many of them as can conveniently be in town) may sit in their judicial capacities, and hear appeals in equity; as well as judge upon writs of error.
Now as to your other objection, (which is indeed of great weight,) that the house of commons must needs take it ill, that the lords should frustrate their endeavours for the people's good by their negative; if you consider one thing, the force of this objection will vanish: which is, that when this new constitution shall be admitted, the lords cannot have any interest or temptation to differ with the commons in anything wherein the public good is concerned; but are obliged by all the ties in the world to run the same course and fortune with the commons; their interest being exactly the same: so that if there be any dissenting upon bills between the two houses, when each of them shall think their own expedient conduces most to the advantage of the public, this difference will ever be decided by right reason at conferences; and the lords may as well convince the commons, as be convinced by them: and these contests are and ever will be of admirable use and benefit to the commonwealth. The reason why it is otherwise now, and that the house of peers is made use of to hinder many bills from passing, that are supposed to be for the ease of the people, is; that the great counsellors and officers which sit in that house do suggest, (whether true or false,) that it is against his majesty's will and interest that such an act should pass; whereupon it has found obstruction. But hereafter, if our expedient take place, it cannot be so; first, because our king himself cannot have any designs going (as was proved before) which shall make it his advantage to hinder any good intended his people, whose prosperity then will be his own; and then, because in a short time the peers, being made by act of parliament, will consist of the best men of England both for parts and estates; and those who are already made, if any of them have small estates, the king, (if he had the interest,) would not have the means to corrupt them: the public moneys, and the great offices being to be dispensed in another manner than formerly: so their lordships will have no motive in the world to steer their votes and counsels, but their own honour and conscience, and the preservation and prosperity of their country. So that it would be both needless and unjust to pretend any change of this kind. Besides, this alteration in the administration of our government being proposed to be done by the unanimous consent of king, lords, and commons, and not otherwise, it would be very preposterous to believe, that the peers would depose themselves of their hereditary rights; and betake themselves to the hopes of being elected. It is true, they have lost the power they had over the commons; but that has not been taken from them by any law, no more than it was given them by any, but is fallen by the course of nature; as has been shown at large. But though they cannot lead the commons by their tenures as formerly, yet there is no reason or colour that they should lose their coordination; which I am sure they have by law, and by the fundamental constitution of the government: and which is so far from being prejudicial to a lasting settlement, (as was said) that it infinitely contributes to it; and prevents the confusion which would destroy it. If I should have proposed anything in this discourse, which should have entrenched upon the king's hereditary right; or that should have hindered the majesty and greatness of these kingdoms from being represented by his royal person; I should have made your story of the capuchin friar very applicable to me.
NOBLE VEN. I see you have not forgiven me that novel yet: but pray give me leave to ask you one question. Why do you make the election of great officers, to be by a small secret council? That had been more proper for a numerous assembly; as it is in most commonwealths.
ENG. GENT. It is so in democracies, and was so in Sparta; and is done by your great council in Venice: but we are not making such a kind of government, but rectifying an ancient monarchy; and giving the prince some help in the administration of that great branch of his regality: besides it is sufficient, that our parliament chooses these councils; (that is always understood, the lords and commons, with the king's consent.) Besides, it is possible that if such a regulation as this come in debate amongst them, the parliament will reserve to itself the approbation of the great officers; as chancellor, judges, general officers of an army, and the like; and that such shall not have a settlement in those charges, till they are accordingly allowed of; but may in the meantime exercise them. As to particulars, I shall always refer you to what the parliament will judge fit to order in the case: but if you have anything to object, or to show in general, that some such regulation as this cannot be effectual towards the putting our distracted country into better order; I shall think myself obliged to answer you: if you can have patience to hear me, and are not weary already; as you may very well be.
NOBLE VEN. I shall certainly never be weary of such discourse; however I shall give you no further trouble in this matter: for I am very fully satisfied, that such reformation, (if it could be compassed;) would not only unite all parties; but make you very flourishing at home, and very great abroad. But have you any hopes that such a thing will ever come into debate? What do the parliament-men say to it?
ENG. GENT. I never had any discourse to this purpose, either with any lord, or member of the commons house; otherwise than as possibly some of these notions might fall in, at ordinary conversation: for I do not intend to entrench upon the office of God, to teach our senators wisdom. I have known some men so full of their own notions, that they went up and down, sputtering them in every man's face they met. Some went to great men during our late troubles; nay, to the king himself; to offer their expedients from revelation. Two men I was acquainted with, of which one had an invention to reconcile differences in religion; the other, had a project for a bank of lands to lie as a security for sums of money lent; both these were persons of great parts and fancy; but yet so troublesome at all times, and in all companies, that I have often been forced to repeat an excellent proverb of your country: 'God deliver me from a man that has but one business!' And I assure you there is no man's reputation that I envy less, than I do that of such persons; and therefore you may please to believe, that I have not imitated them in scattering these notions; nor can I prophesy, whether any such apprehensions as these will ever come into the heads of those men, who are our true physicians.
But yet to answer your question, and give you my conjecture; I believe that we are not ripe yet for any great reform. Not only because we are a very debauched people; I do not only mean that we are given to whoring, drinking, gaming and idleness; but chiefly that we have a politic debauch, which is a neglect of all things that concern the public welfare, and a setting up our own private interest against it: I say, this is not all; for then the polity of no country could be redressed: for every commonwealth that is out of order, has ever all these debauches we speak of, as consequences of their loose state.
But there are two other considerations which induce me to fear that our cure is not yet near. The first is; because most of the wise and grave men of this kingdom are very silent, and will not open their budget upon any terms: and although they dislike the present condition we are in as much as any men, and see the precipice it leads us to, yet will never open their mouths to prescribe a cure; but being asked what they would advise, give a shrug, like your countrymen. There was a very considerable gentleman as most in England, both for birth, parts, and estate; who being a member of the parliament that was called in 1640, continued all the war with them: and by his wisdom and elo-quence (which were both very great) promoted very much their affairs. When the factions began between the presbyters and independents, he joined cordially with the latter: so far as to give his affirmative to the vote of no addresses: that is, to an order made in the house of commons, to send no more messages to the king, nor to receive any from him. Afterwards, when an assault was made upon the house by the army, and divers of the members taken violently away and secluded; he disliking it, though he were none of them, voluntarily absented himself; and continued retired (being exceedingly averse to a democratical government, which was then declared for,) till Cromwell's usurpation: and being infinitely courted by him, absolutely refused to accept of any employment under him; or to give him the least counsel. When Cromwell was dead; and a parliament called by his son, or rather by the army; the chief officers of which did, from the beginning, whisper into the ears of the leading members, that if they could make an honest government, they should be stood by (as the word then was) by the army: this gentleman, at that time, neither would be elected into that parliament, nor give the least advice to any other person that was; but kept himself still upon the reserve. Insomuch that it was generally believed, that although he had ever been opposite to the late king's coming to the government again, though upon propositions; yet he might hanker after the restoration of his majesty that now is. But the apprehension appeared groundless when it came to the pinch: for being consulted as an oracle by the then general Monk, whether he should restore the monarchy again or no; he would make no answer, nor give him the least advice: and, in fact, has ever since kept himself from public business. Although, upon the banishment of my lord of Clarendon, he was visited by one of the greatest persons in England; and one in as much esteem with his majesty as any whatsoever; and desired to accept of some great employment near the king: which he absolutely refusing, the same person, not a stranger to him, but well known by him, begged of him to give his advice how his majesty (who desired nothing more than to unite all his people together, and repair the breaches which the civil war had caused, now my lord Clarendon was gone who by his counsels kept those wounds open) might perform that honourable and gracious work: but still this gentleman made his excuses. And, in short, neither then, nor at any time before or after, (excepting when he sat in the Long Parliament of the year '40;) neither during the distracted times, nor since his majesty's return, when they seemed more reposed; would ever be brought, either by any private intimate friend, or by any person in public employment, to give the least judgement of our affairs; or the least counsel to mend them: though he was not shy of declaring his dislike of matters as they went. And yet this gentleman was not only by repute and esteem a wise man, but was really so; as it appeared by his management of business, and drawing declarations, when he was contented to act; as also by his exceeding prudent managing of his own fortune, which was very great; and his honourable living and providing for his family: his daughters having been all married to the best men in England; and his eldest son to the most accomplished lady in the world. I dare assure you, there are above an hundred such men in England; though not altogether of that eminency.
NOBLE VEN. Methinks these persons are altogether as bad an extreme as the loquacious men you spoke of before. I remember when I went to school, our master, amongst other commonplaces in the commendation of silence, would tell us of a Latin saying; that a fool while he held his peace did not differ from a wise man: but truly I think we may as truly say, that a wise man whilst he is silent does not differ from a fool: for how great soever his wisdom is, it can neither get him credit, nor otherwise advantage himself, his friend, nor his country. But let me not divert you from your other point.
ENG. GENT. The next reason I have to make me fear, that such an expedient as we have been talking of will not be proposed suddenly; is the great distrust the parliament has of men. Which will make most members shy of venturing at such matters, which being very new, at the first motion are not perfectly understood; at least to such as have not been versed in authors who have written of the politics; and therefore the mover may be suspected of having been set on by the court party to puzzle them; and so to divert, by offering new expedients, some smart mettlesome debates they may be upon concerning the succession to the crown, or other high matters. For it is the nature of all popular councils (even the wisest that ever were, witness the people of Rome and Athens, which Machiavel so much extols) in turbulent times, to like discourses that heighten their passions and blow up their indignation; better than those that endeavour to rectify their judgements, and tend to provide for their safety. And the truth is, our parliament is very much to be excused, or rather justified, in this distrust they have of persons; since there has been of late so many and so successful attempts used by the late great ministers, to debauch the most eminent members of the commons house, by pensions and offices: and therefore it would wonderfully conduce to the good of the commonwealth, and to the composing our disordered state; if there were men of so high and unquestionable a reputation, that they were above all suspicion and distrust, and so might venture upon bold, that is (in this case) moderate counsels, for the saving of their country. Such men there were in the parliament of 1640; at least twenty or thirty: who having stood their ground in seven parliaments before, which in the two last kings' reigns had been dissolved abruptly and in wrath; and having resisted the fear of imprisonment and great fines for their love to England, as well as the temptation of money and offices to betray it; both offered by the wicked counsellors of that age, tending both to the ruin of our just rights and the detriment of their master's affairs: I say, having constantly and with great magnanimity and honour made proof of their integrity, they had acquired so great a reputation, that not only the parliament, but even almost the whole people stuck to them; and were swayed by them in actions of a much higher nature than any are now discoursed of; without fear of being deserted, or as we say, left in the lurch; as the people of France often are by their grandees, when they raise little civil wars to get great places; which as soon as they are offered, they lay down their arms, and leave their followers to be hanged.
But although these two reasons of the silence of some wise men, and the want of reputation in others, does give us but a sad prospect of our land of promise; yet we have one consideration, which does encourage us to hope better things ere long: and that is the infallible certainty that we cannot long continue as we are; and that we can never meliorate, but by some such principles as we have been here all this while discoursing of: and that without such helps and succours as may be drawn from thence, we must go from one distraction to another, till we come into a civil war; and in the close of it be certainly a prey to the king of France, who (on which side it matters not) will be a gamester and sweep stakes at last; the world not being now equally balanced between two princes alike powerful, as it was during our last civil war: and if as well this danger, as the other means to prevent it, be understood in time, (as no doubt it will;) we shall be the happiest and the greatest nation in the world in a little time; and in the meantime, enjoy the best and most just easy government of any people upon earth. If you ask me, whether I could have offered anything that I thought better than this; I will answer you as Solon did a philosopher, who asked him whether he could not have made a better government for Athens? Yes; but that his was the best, that the people would or could receive. And now I believe you will bear me witness; that I have not treated you as a wise man would have done, in silence: but it is time to put an end to this tittle-tattle, which has nauseated you for three days together.
NOBLE VEN. I hope you think better of our judgements than so; but I believe you may very well be weary.
DOCT. I am sure the parish priests are often thanked for their pains, when they have neither taken half so much as you have, nor profited their auditory the hundredth part so much.
ENG. GENT. The answer to thank you for your pains, is always, thank you, sir, for your patience; and so I do, very humbly, both of you.
NOBLE VEN. Pray, sir, when do you leave the town?
ENG. GENT. Not till you leave the kingdom. I intend to see you, if please God, aboard the yacht at Gravesend.
NOBLE VEN. I should be ashamed to put you to that trouble.
ENG. GENT. I should be much more troubled, if I should not do it; in the meantime I take my leave of you for this time, and hope to wait on you again tomorrow. What, doctor, you stay to consult about the convalescence? Adieu to you both.
DOCT. Farewell, sir.
Nullum numen abest, si sit prudentia.
[If prudence be present, no divine power is absent.]
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