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The whole body of the people is above the king

Now, since the people choose and establish their kings, it follows that the whole body of the people is above the king. This is because he who is established by another is under that person, and he who receives his authority from another is less than the person from whom he derives his power. Potiphar the Egyptian sets Joseph over all his house; Nebuchadnezzar places Daniel over the province of Babylon; Darius sets the one hundred and twenty governors over his kingdom. It is commonly said that masters establish their servants, and kings their officers. In like manner, also, the people establish the king as administrator of the commonwealth. Good kings have accepted this title and even the bad ones themselves use of it; in fact, for a long period of time, no Roman emperor (aside from absolute tyrants such as Nero, Domitian, or Caligula) would allow himself to be called 'lord.' Furthermore, it must necessarily be, that kings were instituted for the people's sake, neither can it be, that for the pleasure of some hundreds of men, and without doubt more foolish and worse than many of the other, all the rest were made, but much rather that these hundred were made for the use and service of all the other, and reason requires that he be preferred above the other, who was made only to and for his sake. Just as for a ship's voyage, the owner appoints a pilot over her who sits at the helm and makes sure she maintain her course and not run aground. The pilot, while on duty, is strictly obeyed by the crew and even by the owner of the vessel despite the fact that he is a servant as well as the least in the ship. The only thing that makes a pilot different than the rest of the crew is that he serves in a better place than they do.

In a commonwealth, the king is the same as the pilot in a ship, the people are owners of the vessel, obeying the pilot, while he is looking out for the public good; as though this pilot neither is (nor ought) to be considered other than as a servant to the public, just as a judge or general in war differs little from other officers. But he is obligated to bear greater burdens, and expose himself to more dangers. By the same reason, the land the king acquires by use of arms by means of frontier expansion in warring on the enemy, or that which he gets by forfeiture or confiscations, actually belongs to the kingdom - not to the king but rather to the people that make up the kingdom, no more nor less than the servant does for his master; neither may one contract or obligate themselves to him, but by and with reference to the authority derived from the people. Furthermore, there are all sorts of people who live without a king, but we cannot imagine a king without people. And those who have been raised to the royal office were not advanced because they excelled other men in beauty and comeliness, nor in some excellency of nature that better enabled them to govern them as shepherds do their flocks, but since they are made out of the same substance as the rest of the people, they should acknowledge that they, as it were, borrow their power and authority.

The ancient custom of the French represents that exceedingly well, for they used to lift up on a buckler, and salute him king whom they had chosen. And why is it said, "I pray you that kings have an infinite number of eyes, a million ears, with extreme long hands, and feet exceedingly swift?" Is it because they are like Argos, Gerien, Midas, or various other mythological creatures so celebrated by the poets? Certainly not, but this is said in regard to all the people, whom the business of governing principally concerns — they lend to the king for the good of the commonwealth their eyes, their ears, their means, and their abilities. If the people forsake the king, he will presently fall to the ground, although his hearing and sight seemed most excellent at first, and that he was strong and in the best possible disposition. And even if he seemed to triumph in all magnificence, yet in an instant he will become most vile and contemptible: to be brief, instead of those divine honors wherewith all men adore him, he shall be compelled to become a petty schoolmaster, and whip children in the school at Corinth. Take away the foundation of this giant, and like the Colossus at Rhodes, he presently tumbles on the ground and breaks into pieces. Seeing then that the king is established in this degree by the people, and for their sake, and that he cannot subsist without them, who can think it strange, then, for us to conclude that the people are above the king?

Now, everything we say concerning the people universally also applies to those who in every kingdom or town lawfully represent the people, and who ordinarily are called the officers of the kingdom, or of the crown — but not those officials appointed by the king, since it is the king and not the people who places and displaces them at his pleasure. Indeed, after his death these officers have no more power, and are considered dead. On the other hand, the officers of the kingdom receive their authority from the people in the general assembly of the states (or, at the least, have done so by ancient custom) and cannot be disauthorized by anyone but them. So then the one depends on the king, the other on the kingdom; those of the sovereign officer of the kingdom, who is the king himself, and those of the sovereignty itself, that is, of the people, of which sovereignty, both the king and all his officers of the kingdom ought to depend. The responsibility of the one is proper relation to the care of the king's person; that of the other, to save the commonwealth from damage; the first ought to serve and assist the king, just as all domestic servants are obligated to their masters; the other to preserve the rights and privileges of the people, and to hinder the ruler so that he neither omit the things that are advantageous to the state, nor commit anything that may cause damage to the public.

Briefly, the one are servants and domestics of the king, employed to obey his person. The other, on the contrary, are as associates to the king, in the administration of justice, participating of the royal power and authority, being bound to the utmost of their power to assist in the management of the affairs of state, just as the king, who is, as it were, their president, and principal only in order and degree.

Therefore, as all the whole people is above the king, and likewise taken in one entire body, are in authority before him, yet individually, every one of them is under the king. It is easy to know how far the power of the first kings extended, in that Ephron, king of the Hittites, could not grant Abraham the sepulchre, but in the presence and with the consent of the people (Gen. 23): neither could Hemor the Hevite, king of Sichem, contract an alliance with Jacob without the people's assent and confirmation thereof (Gen. 34); because it was then the custom to refer the most important affairs to be dispensed and resolved in the general assemblies of the people. This might easily be practiced in those kingdoms which were then almost confined within the circuit of one town.

But when the kings began to extend their limits, and since it became impossible for the people to assemble together all into one place because of their great numbers, which would have been nothing but confusion, the officers of the kingdom were established, who should ordinarily preserve the rights of the people, and also, as when extraordinary circumstances required, the people might be assembled, or at the least such a fraction as might by the most principal members be a representation of the whole body. We see this order established in the kingdom of Israel which (in the judgment of the wisest politicians) was excellently ordered. The king had his cupbearers, his carvers, his chamberlains and stewards. The kingdom had her officers, to wit, the seventy-one elders, and the heads and chief chosen out of all the tribes, who had the care of the public faith in peace and war.

Furthermore, the kingdom had magistrates in every town, who had the particular government of them, as the former were for the whole kingdom. At such times when affairs of consequence were to be dealt with, they assembled together, but nothing that concerned the public state could receive any solid determination. David assembled the officers of his kingdom when he desired to invest his son Solomon with the royal dignity; when he would have examined and approved that manner of policy, and managing of affairs, that he had revived and restored, and when there was no question of removing the ark of the covenant.

And because they represented the whole people, it is said in the history, that all the people assembled. These were the same officers who delivered Jonathan from death, condemned by the sentence of the king, by which it appears, that there might be an appeal from the king to the people.

After that, the kingdom was divided through the pride of Rehoboam. The council at Jerusalem, comprised of seventy one elders, seems to have such authority that they might judge the king as well as the king might judge every one of them in particular.

In this council was presided over by the duke of the house of Judah, that is, some principal man chosen out of that tribe; as also, in the city of Jerusalem, there was a governor chosen out of the tribe of Benjamin residing there. This will appear more clear by examples: Jeremiah, sent by God to announce to the Jews the destruction of Jerusalem, was therefore condemned first by the priests and prophets, in whose hands was the ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and then afterwards by all the people of the city; that is, by the ordinary judges of Jerusalem, to wit, the milleniers, and the centurions. Finally, the matter being brought before the rulers of Judah, who were the seventy-one elders assembled, and set near to the new gate of the temple, he was acquitted by them..

In this very assembly, they discreetly condemned, in explicit terms, the wicked and cruel act of the king Jehoiachin, who, a little before, had caused the prophet Uriah, who also foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, to be slain.

We read in another place, that Zedekiah held the authority of this council in such reverence that he was so far from delivering of Jeremiah from the dungeon where the seventy-one had cast him, that he dare scarce remove him into a less rigorous prison. After persuading him to give his consent to the putting to death the prophet Jeremiah, he answered them, that he was in their hands, and that he might not oppose them in anything. (Jer. 38:5) The same king, fearing lest they might bring charges against him, to bring him to account for certain speeches he had used to the Prophet Jeremiah, was glad to feign an untrue excuse. It appears by this, that in the kingdom of Judah, this council was above the king — in this kingdom, I say, not fashioned or established by Plato or Aristotle, but by the Lord God Himself, being author of all their order, and supreme moderator in that monarchy. Such were the seven magi or sages in the Persian empire, who had almost a paralleled dignity with the king, and were termed the ears and eyes of the king, who also never dissented from the judgment of those sages.

In the kingdom of Sparta there were the ephori, to whom it was possible to appeal the judgment of the king, and who, as Aristotle says, had authority also to judge the kings themselves.

In Egypt the people were accustomed to choose and give officers to the king, to the end they might hinder and prevent any encroachment, or usurped authority, contrary to the laws. Now as Aristotle does ordinarily term those lawful kings, who have for their assistants such officers or counsellors, so also he makes no difficulty to say, that where they be absent, there can be no true monarchy, but rather an absolutely barbarous tyranny, or at the least such a dominion as does most nearly approach tyranny.

In the Roman Republic, such were the senators and the magistrates created by the people, the tribune of those who were called Celeres, the praetor or provost of the city, and others, insomuch as there lay an appeal from the king to the people, as Seneca declares by various testimonies drawn from Cicero's books of the commonwealth, and the history of the Horatii sufficiently shows someone who, being condemned by the judges for killing his sister, was acquitted by the people.

In the times of the emperors, there was the senate, the consuls, the praetors, the great provosts of the empire, the governors of provinces, all attributed to the senate and the people, all of which were called the magistrates and officers of the people of Rome. And therefore, when that by the decree of the senate, the emperor Maximus was declared an enemy of the commonwealth, and that Maximus and Albinus were created emperors by the senate, the men of war were sworn to be faithful and obedient to the people of Rome, the senate, and the emperors. Now for the empires and public states of these times (except those of Turkey, Russia and such like, which are rather a rhapsody of robbers, and barbarous intruders, than any lawful empires), there is not one, which is not, or has not ever been governed in any other manner other than that we have described. And if through the negligence and sloth of the principal officers, the successors have found the business in a worse condition, then those who have, for the present, the public authority in their hands, are obligated to, as much as in them lies, return things back into their primary estate and condition.

In the empire of Germany, which is conferred by election, there are the electors and the rulers, both secular and ecclesiastic, the counts, barons, and deputies of the imperial cities, and as all these in their proper places are solicitors for the public good, likewise in the councils do they represent the majesty of the empire, being obliged to advise, and carefully foresee, that neither by the emperor's partiality, hate, nor affection, the public state comes to harm. And for this reason, the empire has its chancellor, as well as the emperor his, both the one and the other have their peculiar officers and treasurers apart from each other. And it is a thing so well-known, that the empire is preferred before the emperor, that it is a common saying, "That emperor does homage to the empire."

In like manner, in the kingdom of Poland, there are for officers of the crown, the bishops, the palatines, the castellains, the nobility, the deputies of towns and provinces assembled extraordinarily, before whom and with whose consent, and nowhere else, they make new laws, and decisions concerning wars. For the ordinary government there are the counsellors of the kingdom, the chancellor of the state, etc., although the king has his own stewards, chamberlains, servants, and domestics. Now if any man should demand who were the greater in Poland, the king, or all the people of the kingdom, represented by the lords and magistrates, he should do as much, as if he asked at Venice, if the duke were above the dominion. But what shall we say of kingdoms, which are said to be hereditary monarchies? We may indeed conclude the very same. The kingdom of France, heretofore preferred before all others in excellency of their laws and majesty of their estate, is a good example. Now, if those who have the public commands in their hands do not discharge their duties as they should, it does not follow that they are not obligated to do it. The king has his high steward of his household, his chamberlains, his masters of his games, cupbearers, and others, whose offices were accustomed to depend on the person of the king. After the death of their master, their offices then became void. And indeed, at the funeral of the king, the lord high steward, in the presence of all the officers and servants of the household, breaks his staff of office, and says, "Our master is dead, let every one provide for himself." On the other side, the kingdom has her own officers, to wit, the mayor of the palace, who since has been called the constable, the marshals, the admiral, the chancellor, or great referendary, the secretaries, the treasurers and others, who heretofore were created in the assembly of the three estates, the clergy, the nobility, and the people.

Since the parliament of Paris was made sedentary, they are not thought to be established in their places before they have been first received and approved by that session of parliament, and may not be dismissed nor disposed but by the authority and consent of the same. Now all these officers take their oath first to the kingdom, which is as much as to say, to the people, then to the king who is protector of the kingdom, which can be seen by the tenure of the oath. Above all, the constable, who, receiving the sword from the king, has it girded around him with this charge, that he maintain and defend the commonwealth, as we can see by the words that the king then pronounces.

Besides, the kingdom of France has the peers (so called either for that they are the king's companions, or because they are the fathers of the commonwealth) taking their names from the several provinces of the kingdom, in whose hands the king at his inauguration takes his oath as if all the people of the kingdom were in them present which shows that these twelve peers are above the king. They on the other side swear, "That they will preserve not the king, but the crown, that they will assist the commonwealth with their counsel, and therefore will be present with their best abilities to counsel the ruler both in peace and war," as appears plainly in the formula of the oath of their peership.

And they therefore have the same right as the peers of the court, who, according to the law of the Lombards, were not only associates to the feudal lord in the judgment of causes, but also did take an account, and judge the disputes that happened between the lord and his vassals.

We may also know, that those peers of France often discussed suits and differences between the king and his subjects. Insomuch, that when Charles VI would have given sentence against the Duke of Brittany, they opposed it, alleging that the discussing of that business belonged properly to the peers and not to the king, who might not in any sort derogate from their authority.

Therefore it is that at the present day, the parliament of Paris is called the court of peers, being in some sort constituted judge between the king and the people; even between the king and every private person, and is bound and ought to maintain the least in the kingdom against the king's attorney, if he undertake anything contrary to law.

Furthermore, if the king ordain anything in his council, if he treat any agreement with the neighboring rulers, if he begin a war, or make peace, as lately with the emperor Charles V, the parliament ought to interpose their authority, and all that which concerns the public state must be dealt with there. Neither is there anything firm and stable which the parliament does not first approve. And to the end that the counsellors of that parliament should not fear the king, formerly they did not attain to that place without the nomination of the whole body of the court; neither could they be dismissed for any lawful cause, but only by the authority of the said body.

Furthermore, if the orders of the king are not subsigned by a secretary of the kingdom, at this day called a secretary of state, and if the public decrees are not sealed by the chancellor, who has power also to cancel them, they are of no force or value. There are also dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, barons, seneschals, and, in the cities and good towns, mayors, bailiffs, lieutenants, capitols, consuls, syndics, sheriffs and others, who have special authority, through the circuit of some countries or towns, to preserve the people of their jurisdiction. At the present day some of these dignities have become hereditary. Thus much concerning the ordinary magistrates.


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