VISIONS OF KINGSHIP
The sources printed below represent two lines of thought on the issue of royal power in the 16th century. The first source is most of the first section of an official homily, issued under the authority of Elizabeth I, queen of England (1558-1603). The second is a portion of a text by James VI, king of Scotland, and the third is a small piece of a speech that the same man gave a few years after he succeeded Elizabeth and became King James I of England. These three sources together make the case for obedience to kings. The final source was written in the wake of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of French Protestants. It makes the case for rebellion.
These texts are all in the public domain, though sources have been indicated when they have been copied from other websites.
An Homilie against Disobedience and Wylful Rebellion (1570)
Complete text: http://www.anglicanlibrary.org/homilies/bk2hom21.htm
AS GOD the Creatour and Lord of all things appointed his Angels and heauenly creatures in all obedience to serue and to honour his maiesty: so was it his will that man, his chiefe creature vpon the earth, should liue vnder the obedience of his Creatour and Lord: and for that cause, GOD, as soone as hee had created man, gaue vnto him a certaine precept and law, which hee (being yet in the state of innocency, and remayning in Paradise) should obserue as a pledge and token of his due and bounden obedience, with denunciation of death if hee did transgresse and breake the sayd Law and commandement. And as GOD would haue man to be his obedient subiect, so did he make all earthly creatures subiect vnto man, who kept their due obedience vnto man, so long as man remayned in his obedience vnto GOD: in the which obedience if man had continued still, there had beene no pouerty, no diseases, no sickenesse, no death, nor other miseries wherewith mankinde is now infinitely and most miserably afflicted and oppressed. So heere appeareth the originall kingdome of GOD ouer Angels and man, and vniuersally ouer all things, and of man ouer earthly creatures which GOD had made subiect vnto him, and with all the felicity and blessed state, which Angels, man, and all creatures had remayned in, had they continued in due obedience vnto GOD their King. For as long as in this first kingdome the subiects continued in due obedience to GOD their king, so long did GOD embrace all his subiects with his loue, fauour, and grace, which to enioy, is perfect felicity, whereby it is euident, that obedience is the principall vertue of all vertues, and indeed the very root of all vertues, and the cause of all felicitie. But as all felicitie and blessednesse should haue continued with the continuance of obedience, so with the breach of obedience, and breaking in of rebellion, al vices and miseries did withall breake in, and ouerwhelme the world. The first authour of which rebellion, the root of all vices, and mother of all mischiefes, was Lucifer, first GODS most excellent creature, and most bounden subiect, who by rebelling against the Maiestie of GOD, of the brightest and most glorious Angel, is become the blackest and most foulest fiend and deuill: and from the height of heauen, is fallen into the pit and bottome of hell.
|KING JAMES VI,
THE TREW LAW OF FREE MONARCHIES (1598)
The King towards his people is rightly compared to a father of children, and to a head of a body composed of divers members: For as fathers, the good Princes, and Magistrates of the people of God acknowledged themselves to their subjects. And for all other well ruled Commonwealths, the style of Pater patriae [i.e., father of the country] was ever, and is commonly used to Kings. And the proper office of a King towards his Subjects, agrees very well with the office of the head towards the body, and all members thereof: For from the head, being the seat of judgment, proceedeth the care and foresight of guiding, and preventing all evil that may come to the body or any part thereof. The head cares for the body, so doth the King for his people. As the discourse and direction flows from the head, and the execution according thereunto belongs to the rest of the members, every one according to their office: so is it betwixt a wise Prince, and his people. As the judgment coming from the head may not only employ the members, every one in their own office as long as they are able for it; but likewise in case any of them be affected with any infirmity must care and provide for their remedy, in case it be curable, and if otherwise, gar cut them off for fear of infecting of the rest: even so is it betwixt the Prince, and his people. And as there is ever hope of curing any diseased member by the direction of the head, as long as it is whole; but by the contrary, if it be troubled, all the members are partakers of that pain, so is it betwixt the Prince and his people.
Text adapted from: http://personal.pitnet.net/primarysources/stuart.html.
|James I's Speech Before Parliament
(March 21, 1609)
The state of monarchy is the supremest thing upon earth; for kings are not only God's lieutenants upon earth, and sit upon God's throne, but even by God himself they are called Gods.... Kings are justly called Gods, for that they exercise a manner or resemblance of divine power upon earth. For if you will consider the attributes to God, you shall see how they agree in the person of a king. God hath power to create, or destroy, make or unmake at his pleasure, to give life or send death, to judge all, and to be judged nor accountable to none. To raise low things, and to make high things low at his pleasure, and to God are both soul and body due. And the like power have Kings: they make and unmake their subjects: they have power of raising, and casting down: of life and of death: judges over all their subjects, and in all causes, and yet accountable to none but God only. They have power to exalt low things, and abase high things, and make of their subjects like men at the chess. A pawn to take a bishop or a knight, and to cry up or down any of their subjects, as they do their money. And to the king is due both the affection of the soul, and the service of the body of his subjects....
A king governing in a settled kingdom, leaves to be a king, and degenerates into a tyrant as soon as he leaves off to rule according to his laws. In which case the king's conscience may speak unto him, as the poor widow said to Philip of Macedon; either govern according to your law, Aut ne Rex sis. And though no Christian man ought to allow rebellion of people against their prince, yet doth God never leave kings unpunished when they transgress these limits....
As for my part, I thank God, I have ever given good proof, that I never had intention to the contrary. And I am sure to go to my grave with that reputation and comfort, that never king was in all his time more careful to have his laws duly observed, and himself to govern thereafter, than I.
I conclude then this point touching the power of kings with this axiom of divinity, that as to dispute what God may do, is blasphemy, but quid vult Deus, that divines may lawfully, and do ordinarily dispute and discuss; for to dispute A posse ad esse is both against logic and divinity: so is it sedition in subjects to dispute what a king may do in the height of his power. But just kings will ever be willing to declare what they will do, if they will not incur the curse of God. I will not be content that my power be disputed upon, but I shall ever be willing to make the reason appear of all my doings, and rule my actions according to my laws.
|VINDICIAE CONTRA TYRANNOS:
A DEFENCE OF LIBERTY AGAINST TYRANTS
attributed to Philippe Duplessis-Mornay
This text adapted largely from: http://polisci.spc.uchicago.edu/~jtlevy/
Those good princes and magistrates are said properly to defend themselves, who environ and fortify by all their means and industry the vine of Christ, already planted, to be planted in places where it has not yet been, lest the wild boar of the forest should spoil or devour it. They do this (I say) in covering with their buckler, and defending with their sword, those who by the preaching of the gospel have been converted to true religion, and in fortifying with their best ability, by ravelins, ditches, and ramparts, the temple of God built with lively stones, until it have attained the full height, in despite of all the furious assaults of the enemies thereof. We have lengthened out this discourse so far, to the end we might take away all scruple concerning this question. Set, then, the estates, and all officers of a kingdom, or the greatest part of them, every one established in authority by the people: know, that if they contain not within his bounds (or at the least, employ not the utmost of their endeavors thereto) a king who seeks to corrupt the law of God, or hinders the reestablishment thereof, that they offend grievously against the Lord, with whom they have contracted covenants upon those conditions. Those of a town, or of a province, making a portion of a kingdom, let them know also, that they draw upon themselves the judgment of God if they drive not impiety out of their walls and confines if the king seek to bring it in, or if they be wanting to preserve by all means, the pure doctrine of the gospel, although for the defense thereof, they suffer for a time banishment, or any other misery. Finally, more private men must be all advertised, that nothing can excuse them, if they obey any in that which offends God, and that yet they have no right nor warrant, neither may in any sort by their private authority take arms, if it appear not most evidently, that they have extraordinary vocation thereunto, all which our discourse [has] confirmed by pregnant testimonies drawn from holy writ.
THE THIRD QUESTION: Whether it be lawful to resist a prince who doth oppress or ruin a public state, 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....
Kings are made by the people
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 the 17th chapter, verse 14 of Deuteronomy: "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. ...
It may be collected 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. ...
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. ...
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. ... 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.
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. ...
[W]hen 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. ...