Kings receive laws from the people

These may be sufficiently verified by examples. Before there was a king in Israel, God by Moses prescribed to him both sacred and civil ordinances, which he should have perpetually before his eyes. But after Saul was elected and established by the people, Samuel delivered it to him written, to the end, he might carefully observe it; neither were the succeeding kings received before they had sworn to keep those ordinances.

The ceremony was this, that together with the setting of the crown on the king's head, they delivered into his hands the Book of the Testimony, which some understand to be the right of the people of the land, others, the law of God according to which he ought to govern the people. Cyrus, acknowledging himself conservator of his country's laws, obliges himself to oppose any man who would offer to infringe them; and at his inauguration, ties himself to observe them, although some flatterers tickled the ears of his son Cambises, that all things were lawful for him.

The kings of Sparta, whom Aristotle calls lawful princes, did every month renew their oaths, promising in the hands of the magistrates speaking for the kingdom, to rule according to those laws which they had from Lycurgus. When Archidamus, the son of Zeuxidamus, was asked who were the governors of Sparta, he answered, "The laws, and the lawful magistrates." And lest the laws might grow into contempt, these people bragged that they received them from heaven; and that they were inspired from above, to the end that men might believe that their determinations were from God, and not from man. The kings of Egypt did in nothing vary from the tenor of the laws, and confessed that their principal felicity consisted in the obedience they yielded to them. Romulus, at the institution of the Roman kingdom, made this agreement with senators: the people should make laws, and he would take both for himself and others, to see them observed and kept. Antiochus, the third of that name, king of Asia, wrote to all the cities of his kingdom, that if in the letters sent to them in his name, there were anything found repugnant to the laws, they should believe they were no act of the king's, and therefore yield no obedience unto them. Now, although some citizens say, that by decree of the senate, the emperor Augustus was declared to be exempt from obedience to laws; yet, notwithstanding, Theodosius, and all the other good and reasonable emperors, have professed that they were bound to the laws, lest what had been extorted by violence, might be acknowledged and received instead of law. And for Augustus Caesar, insomuch as the Roman commonwealth was enslaved by his power and violence; she could say nothing freely, but that she had lost her freedom. And because they dare not call Augustus a tyrant, the senate said he was exempt from all obedience to the laws, which was in effect as much as if they plainly should have said the emperor was an outlaw. The same right has ever been of force in all well-governed states and kingdoms of Christendom.

For neither the emperor, the king of France, nor the kings of Spain, England, Poland, Hungary, and all other lawful princes; as the archdukes of Austria, dukes of Brabante, earls of Flanders, and Holland, nor other princes, are not admitted to the government of their estates, before they have promised to the electors, peers, palatines, lords, barons, and governors, that they will render to every one right according to the laws of the country. This oath is so strict that they cannot alter or innovate anything contrary to the privileges of the countries without the consent of the towns and provinces. If they do it, they are no less guilty of rebellion against the laws than the people are in like manner, if they refuse obedience when they command according to law. Briefly, lawful princes receive the laws from the people as well as the crown, in lieu of honor, and the scepter, in lieu of power, which they are bound to keep and maintain and therein lies their highest glory.


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