We have shown before that it is God that appoints and chooses kings, and who gives them their kingdoms. Now we say that it is the people who establish kings, puts the sceptre into their hands, and who with their support, approves the election. God would have it done in this manner so that kings should acknowledge that after God, they hold their power and sovereignty from the people. And that this would then encourage them to concentrate and direct all their efforts on the benefit of the people without being puffed with any vain imagination that they were created from material more excellent than other men, for which they were raised so high above others; as if they were to command our flocks of sheep, or herds of cattle. But let them remember and know that they are made no different than anyone else, raised from the earth by the voice and acclamations of the people, raised as it were, on their shoulders to their thrones, that they might afterwards bear on their own shoulders the greatest burdens of the commonwealth. Many ages before that, the people of Israel demanded a king. God gave and appointed the law of royal government contained in Deut. 17: 14-15: "Thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me like as all the nations that are about me, thou shalt in any wise set him whom the Lord thy God shall choose from amongst thy brethren, etc." You see here that the election of the king is attributed to God, but he is established by the people. Now when the practice of this law came in use, let us see in what manner they proceeded.
The elders of Israel, who represented the whole body of the people (elders are understood to be the captains, the centurions, commanders over fifties and tens, judges, provosts, but principally the chiefest of tribes) came to meet Samuel in Ramah, and not being willing longer to endure the government of the sons of Samuel, whose ill management had justly drawn on them the people's dislike, and also persuading themselves that they had found the means to make their wars hereafter with more advantage, they demanded a king of Samuel. Samuel asked counsel of the Lord, who made known that He had chosen Saul for the governor of His people. Then Samuel anointed Saul, and performed all those rights which belong to the election of a king required by the people. Now this might, perhaps, have seemed sufficient, if Samuel had presented to the people the king who was chosen by God, and had admonished them all to become good and obedient subjects. Notwithstanding, to the end that the king might know that he was established by the people, Samuel appointed the elders to meet at Mizpah, where they assembled as if the business of choosing a king had yet to begin, and nothing had already been done, in other words, as if the election of Saul hadn't happened yet. (1 Sam. 10:17) The lot was cast and fell on the tribe of Benjamin, then on the family of Matri, and lastly on Saul, born of that family, the same man whom God had chosen. Then by the consent of all the people Saul was declared king. Finally, so that Saul nor any other might attribute the aforesaid business to chance or lot, Saul then made some proof of his valor in raising the siege of the Ammonites in Jabish Gilead (1 Sam. 11). At the urging of the people, he was again confirmed king in a full assembly at Gilgal. You see that he whom God had chosen, and the lot had separated from all the rest, is established king by the support of the people.
And for David, by the commandment of God, and in a manner more evident than the former, after the rejection of Saul, Samuel anointed for king over Israel, David, chosen by the Lord. (1 Sam. 16:13). After that, the Spirit of the Lord left Saul, and instead worked in a special manner in David. But David, despite all this, did not reign, but was compelled to save himself in deserts and rocks, often coming close to the very brink of destruction. In fact, he never reigned as king until after the death of Saul, for then by the acclamation of all the people of Judah, he was first chosen king of Judah, and seven years later by the consent of all Israel, he was inaugurated king of Israel in Hebron. So then, he is first anointed by the prophet at the commandment of God, as a token he was chosen. Secondly, by the commandment of the people when he was established king. And so that kings may always remember that it is from God, but by the people, and for the people's sake that they reign, and that in their glory they don't say (as is their custom) they hold their kingdom only by God and their sword, but also add that it was the people who first gave them that sword. The same order offered in Solomon. Although he was the king's son, God had chosen Solomon to sit upon the throne of his kingdom, and by explicit words had promised David to be with him and assist him as a father his son. David had with his own mouth designated Solomon to be successor to his crown in the presence of some of the principal men of his court.
But this was not enough, and therefore David assembled at Jerusalem the princes of Israel, the heads of the tribes, the captains of the soldiers, and ordinance officers of the kings, the centurions and other magistrates of towns, together with his sons, the noblemen and worthiest personages of the kingdom, to consult and resolve upon the election. In this assembly, after they had called upon the name of God, Solomon, by the consent of the whole congregation, was proclaimed and anointed as king, and sat upon the throne of Israel. (1 Chr. 28-29) Then, and not before, the princes, the noblemen, his brothers themselves do him homage, and take the oath of allegiance. And so that it may not be said that that was only done to avoid the disputes which might arise amongst the brothers and sons of David about the succession, we read that the other following kings have, in the same manner, been established in their places. It is said, that after the death of Solomon, the people assembled to create his son Rehoboam king. (1 Ki. 12) After Amaziah was killed, (2 Chr. 25:25) Azariah, his only son, was chosen king by all the people, (2 Chr. 26:1) Ahaziah after Jehoram, Jehoahaz, the son of Josiah, after the decease of his father, whose piety might well seem to require that without any other solemnity, both he and the other were chosen and invested into the royal throne by the support of the people.
To which also belongs, that which Hushai said to Absolom: "Nay, but whom the Lord and His people, and all the men of Israel chose, his will I be, and with him will I abide" (2 Sam. 16:18). This is just like saying, "I will follow the king lawfully established, and according to the accustomed order." Thus, although God had promised to His people a perpetual lamp (that is, a king) and a continual successor of the line of David, and that the successor of the kings of this people were approved by the Word of God Himself, despite this, we see that the kings of Israel did not reign before the people had ordained and installed them with the necessary ceremonies. It may be concluded from this that the kingdom of Israel was not a hereditary monarchy, if we consider David and the promise made to him, and that it was wholly elective, if we regard the particular persons. But it is apparent that the election is only mentioned so that the kings might always remember that they were raised to their high office by the people, and therefore they should never forget during life what a strict bound of observance they are tied to with those from whom they have received all their greatness. We read that the kings of the heathen have been established also by the people; for when they had either troubles at home, or wars abroad, someone, in whose ready valor and discreet integrity the people did principally rely and rest their greatest confidence, him they presently, with universal consent, established as king.
Cicero says, that among the Medes, Diocles, from a Judge of private controversies, was, for his uprightness, elected king by the whole people, and in the same manner were the first kings chosen amongst the Romans. Insomuch, that after the death of Romulus, the interregnum and government of the hundred senators being little acceptable to the citizens, it was agreed that from that time forward, the king should be chosen by the acclamation of the people, and with the approval of the senate. Tarquinius Superbus was therefore considered to a tyrant because being chosen neither by the people nor the senate, he intruded himself into the kingdom only by force and usurpation. Therefore Julius Caesar, long after, though he gained the empire by the sword, yet so he might add some pretense of legality to his former intrusion, he caused himself to be declared, both by the people and senate, perpetual dictator. Augustus, his adopted son, would never take on him as inheritor of the empire, although he was declared so by the testaments of Caesar, but always held it as of the people and senate. The same also did Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius, and the first that assumed the empire to himself, without any color of right, was Nero, who also by the senate was condemned.
Because none were ever born with crowns on their heads and sceptres in their hands, and because no man can be a king by himself, nor reign without people (whereas on the contrary, the people may subsist by themselves, and did so, long before they had any kings), it must of necessity follow that kings were at the first constituted by the people. And although the sons and dependents of such kings, inheriting their fathers' virtues, may seem to have rendered their kingdoms hereditary to their offspring, and that in some kingdoms and countries, the right of free election seems of a sort buried, nevertheless in all well-ordered kingdoms, this custom still exists. The sons do not succeed the fathers before the people have first, as it were, re-established them by their new confirmation. Neither were they acknowledged in quality as inheriting it from the dead, but were approved and accounted kings only when they were invested with the kingdom, by receiving the sceptre and diadem from the hands of those who represent the majesty of the people. One may see most evident marks of this in Christian kingdoms which are at this day esteemed hereditary; for the French king, he of Spain and England, and others, are commonly inaugurated, and, as it were, put into possession of their authority by the peers, lords of the realm, and officers of the crown, who represent the body of the people; no more nor less than the emperors of Germany are chosen by the electors, and the kings of Polonia, by the wojewodas or palatines of the kingdom, where the right of election is yet in force.
In like manner also, the cities give no royal reception, nor entries to the king, until after their inauguration, and in ancient times they did not to count the times of their reign until the day of their coronation. This custom was strictly observed in France. But unless the continued course of some successions should deceive us, we must take notice, that the councils of the kingdoms have often preferred the cousin before the son, or the younger brother before the elder. For example, in France, Louis was preferred before his brother Robert, Earl of Eureux [Annales Gillii]; in like manner Henry before Robert, nephew to Capet. Which is more by authority of the people in the same kingdom, the crown has been transported (the lawful inheritors living) from one lineage to another, as from that of the Merovingian kings to that of the Charlemagnes, and from that of the Charlemagnes to that of Capets, the which has also been done in other kingdoms, as the best historians testify.
But not to wander from France, the long continuance and power of which kingdom may in some sort plead for a ruling authority, and where succession seems to have obtained most reputation. We read that Pharamond was chosen in the year 419, Pepin in the year 751, Charles the Great, and Charlemagne, the son of Pepin, in the year 768, without having any respect to their fathers' former estate. Charlemagne dying in the year 772, his portion fell not presently into the possession of his brother Charles the Great, as it ordinarily happens in the succession of inheritances, but by the ordinance of the people and the estates of the kingdom he is invested with it; the same author witnesses, that in the year 812, Lewis the Courteous, although he was the son of Charles the Great, was also elected; and in the testament of Charlemagne, inserted into the history written by Nauclere, Charlemagne does entreat the people to choose, by a general assembly of the councils of the kingdom, which of his grandchildren or nephews the people pleased, and commanding the uncles to observe and obey the ordinance of the people. By this means, Charles the Bold, nephew to Louis the Courteous and Judith, declares himself to be chosen king, as Aimonius the French historian recites. In conclusion, all kings at the first were altogether elected, and those who at this day seem to have their crowns and royal authority by inheritance, have (or should have) first and principally their confirmation from the people. Although the people of some countries have been accustomed to choose their kings of such a lineage, which for some notable merits have worthily deserved it, yet we must believe that they choose the lineage itself, and not every branch that proceeds from it. Neither are they so tied to that election, if the successor degenerates, they may not choose another more worthy, neither those who come and are the next of that lineage are born kings, but created such, nor called kings, but princes of royal blood.
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