THE THIRD QUESTION

Whether it is lawful to resist a ruler who is oppressing or ruining the country, and how far such resistance may be extended; by whom, how, and by what right or law it is permitted.

For so much as we must here discuss the lawful authority of a lawful ruler, I am confident that this question won't be in the least acceptable to tyrants and wicked rulers. But it's no wonder that those who acknowledge no law but their own whims are deaf to the voice of that law which is grounded upon reason. But I am convinced that the good rulers will willingly listen to this discussion, because they know full well that every magistrate, whatever their rank, are but an embodiment of the law. And even though nothing will convince the bad rulers, this doesn't say anything against the good, since the two are are, in character, diametrically the opposite of each other. Therefore, whatever shall be said against the actions of tyrants by no means detracts anything from good kings; on the contrary, the more tyrants are shown for their true colors, the more glorious does the true worth and dignity of good kings appear, and neither can the vicious imperfections of the one be laid open without adding perfections and respect to the honor of the other.

But as for tyrants, let them say and think what they please; that will be the least of my worries. For it is not to them, but against them that I write. I believe good kings will readily consent to that which is propounded, for they ought to hate tyrants and wicked governors just as much as shepherds hate wolves, physicians hate poisoners, or true prophets hate false doctors; for reason infuses into good kings as much hatred against tyrants, as nature imprints in dogs against wolves, for as the one lives by looting and pillaging, so the other is born or bred to redress and prevent all such outrages. It may be the flatterers of tyrants will read this and turn up their noses at it, but if they were not past all grace, they would rather blush with shame. I very well know that the friends and faithful servants of kings will not only consider and approve this argument, but also, with their best abilities, defend its contents. Accordingly as the reader shall find himself liking or disliking what we say here, let him know that by that he shall plainly discover either the affection or hatred that he bears to tyrants. Let us now enter into the matter.


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