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Editor's Introduction

Front matter
Book I
Book II
Book III
Back matter

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Thus Kings were first invented, and thus Kings
Were Burnish'd into heroes, and became
The arbiters of this terraqueous swamp;
Storks among frogs that have but croak'd and died!1

Original Power -- The ancient Gods -- Tyrant-kings -- The Apotheosis of James II. in the Chapel Royal -- Charles II. -- Paternal Government -- God prescribed no Rules of Government -- Origin of Kings -- Saul.

ARISE, O Satire! -- tune thy useful song,
Silence grows criminal, when crimes grow strong;
Of meaner vice, and villains, sing no more,
But Monsters crown'd and Crime enrobed with Power!
At vice's high IMPERIAL throne begin,
Relate the ancient prodigies of sin;
With pregnant phrase, and strong impartial verse,
The crimes of men, and crimes of Kings rehearse!
What though thy labour shall to us be vain,
10       And the World's bondage must its time remain;
Let willing slaves in golden fetters lie,
There's none can save the men who will to die.
Yet some there are that would not tamely bow,
Who fain would break their chains, if they knew how;
And these, from thy inspired lines, may see,
How they choose bondage when they may go free.
He that can levy War with all mankind,
Retard the day-spring of the human mind;
Buy Justice, Sell Oppression, bribe the Law,
20       Exalt the Fool, and keep the Wise in awe;
With pious Peter,2 cant of heaven's commands,
Pray with his lips, and murder with his hands;
Insult the wretched, trample on the poor,
And mock the miseries mankind endure;
Can ravage countries, property devour,
And trample Law beneath the feet of Power;
Scorn the restraint of oaths and promised Right,3
And ravel compacts in the people's sight;
That thing's a TYRANT!--and that People FOOLS,
30       Who basely bend to be that Tyrant's tools!
Examine then the early course of things,
And search the ancient roll of Tyrant Kings,
When the first man usurp'd upon his kind,
Assumed exotick right, assuming reigned;
Supreme in wickedness, more wicked grew;
First forced a homage, then decreed it due.
Trace the first Tyrants to their fancied thrones,
Placed in that heaven that all their crimes disowns:--
If in the Royal lists some monsters reign'd,
40      Abhorr'd by heaven, and hated by mankind,
By lust and blood exalted to a throne,
For all the exquisites of Tyrant known,
The meaner name of monarch they despise,
Alive, usurp the throne, and dead, the skies;
Above the clouds th' incarnate devil stands,
And nations worship with polluted hands!
Old Saturn, Bacchus, and high-thundering Jove,
And all the rabble of the Gods above,
Whose names for their immortal crimes are fear'd,
50      Monarchs and Tyrant-princes first appear'd;
By rapes and blood the path to greatness stain'd,
By rapes and blood the glittering station gain'd;
Succeeding knaves succeeding Gods became,
And sin aspired to an immortal name!
The mighty wretches dwell among the stars
And vice in virtue's glorious robes appears;
And Poets celebrate their praises there,
As Indians worship Devils that they fear!
Yet let us look around the world awhile,
60      And find a Patron-God for Albion's Isle;
Has she so many Tyrants borne in vain?
Has she no Star in the celestial train?
Heaven knows, the difficulty only lies,
In who's the fittest monster for the skies!--
Satire, reflect with care, due caution give,
Some -------- are dead, beware of those that live.
If thou too near the present age begin,
Truth will be crime, and courage will be sin!
Look back two ages, see where shines on high
70      Great JAMES, the modern Bacchus of the sky;
But give him time before his ghost appear,
Lest his uneasy fame bewray his fear:
Alive, the patron of the tim'rous race,
Fear in his head, and frenzy in his face;
His constellation, were it felt beneath,
Would make men strive to die--for fear of death!
His exaltation with his crimes begin,
See how we worship in his House of Sin,
Aloft--we view the Bacchanalian King;
80      Below--the sacred anthems daily sing;
His vast excess the pencil's art displays,
And triumphs in the clouds above our praise:
What can, with equal force, devotion move,
We pray below, and He's debauch'd above!4
Look lower down the galaxy and see,
In yon crown'd Goat another Deity;
His orgied reel and lecherous leer outvie
The old Priapian glory of the sky;
His furious lusts the other Gods deface
90      And spread his viler image through the place;
On obscene altars blaze unholy fires
To him, the God of all unchaste desires! 5
We turn disgusted from the contemplation
Nor seek more royal samples of our nation;
But leave posterity to find the place
Of other heroes, of another race.
Europe, thy thrones have many a name in store,
As bright in guilt as any crown'd before;
Who, turn'd to Gods, shall shine in Poets' rhymes,
100    And faithful Hist'ry shall record their crimes.
The first Paternal ruler of mankind
That e'er by primogenial title reign'd,
In dignity of government was high
But all his kingdom was his family.
His subjects--were his household and his wife;
His power--to regulate their way of life;
His sway--extended not beyond his gate;
That was the limit--of his regal state;
And every son might from his rule divide,
110    Be King himself, and by himself preside;
And when he died, the government went on
In natural succession to his son.
Next Families of mutual love and unity
Together join'd for friendship and community;
Form'd Laws, and then the natural order was
To trust some man to execute the Laws.
Hence him they best could trust, they trusted--chose;
And thus a Nation and a chief arose,
Both constituted by a mutual trust;
120    The people honest and the ruler just.6
'Tis plain, when man came from his Maker's hand,
He left him free, and at his own command;
Gave him the light of nature to direct,
And reason, 7nature's errors to inspect;
No rules of Government were e'er set down,
Nature was furnish'd to direct her own;
The high unerring light of Providence,
Left that to latent cause and consequence.
Society to regulation tends,
130    As naturally as means pursue their ends;
The wit of man could never yet invent,
A way of life without a government;
And government has always been begun,
In those who, to be govern'd, gave the crown.
He that would other schemes of rule contrive
And search for powers the people could not give,
Must seek a spring which can those powers convey,
And seek a People too that will obey.
At length paternal rule was less complete,
140    And as mankind increas'd became unfit;
The petty Lords grew quarrelsome and proud,
And plunge their little governments in blood.
The factious rivals on pretence of right,
Urge on the people to contend and fight;
Invaded weakness to brute force submits,
Oppression rages, honesty retreats,
Justice gives way to power, and power prevails,
And universal slavery entails.
Thus broils arose, and thus the ends of life
150    Are miss'd in Wars and undecided strife!
Scotland, till late, exemplified the plan,
In many a feud, in many a Highland clan.
The Chief with whoop and whistling trumpet shrill,
Summons his slaves from ev'ry neighb'ring hill;
Tells them, his foeman's bull has stol'n his cow,
And dire revenge th' obedient vassals vow;
With mighty targe, and basket-hilted knife,
Battle and blood decide the petty strife;
The namelings fight, because the lord commands,
160    And wild confusion rules th' ungovern'd lands!
The hunter-tribes, at first, wild beasts pursued,
And then to chase mankind they left the wood;
Became Banditti, Captains, Chieftains, Kings,
And Tyrants, by the natural course of things!
As he that ravaged most could rule the best,
So he grown King that first subdued the rest,
Wheedles mankind to please themselves with chains,
With selfish Kingcraft calls it RIGHT DIVINE,8
And subtle Priestcraft santifies his line.
170    "Kings are as Gods." -- Indeed! -- why then they must
Like God be sacred, -- but like God be just.
If in a King a vicious lust prevails,
The people see it, and the Godship fails. 9
Talks he of 'sacred' then,--the man's a fool;
His high pretence a joke and ridicule;
Abandon'd to his crimes he soon will find
Himself abandon'd too, by all mankind;
With th' Assyrian Monarch turn'd to grass,
As much a Tyrant, and as much an ass!
180    Externals take from Majesty, the rest
Is but--a thing at which we laugh--a jest!
Let us to Scripture History appeal,
And see what truths its ancient rolls reveal:--
That great authority which Tyrants boast,
As most confirming, will confound them most!
When Israel with unheard of murmurs first,
Pray'd to indulgent Heaven they might be curst,
Rejected God, scorn'd his Almighty rule,
And made themselves their children's ridicule,
190    A standing banter, future ages' jest,
As damn'd to slavery at their own request--
With what just arguments did Samuel plead,
Give them the Tyrant's character to read;
Explain the lust of an ungovern'd man,
Show them the danger, preach to them in vain;
Tell them the wretched things they'd quickly find,
Within the pleasing name of King combined;
Deign with their 'wilder'd crowds t' expostulate,
And open all the dangers of their fate!--
200    Yet they sought ruin with unwearied pains,
And begg'd for fetters, slavery, and chains!
But, it's replied, heaven heard its suppliant's prayer,
Itself chose out the King, and plac'd him there;
Disown'd the People's right, and fix'd their choice
In providence, and not the people's voice;
From whence the claim of right by regal line,
Made Israel's Kings be Kings by Right Divine.
Yes, Saul was King by God's immediate hand--
But 'twas in judgment to afflict the land!
210    In granting He corrected the request,
A king He gave them, but withheld the rest;
Gave all that they pretended to require,
But in the gift he punish'd the desire;
He gave a plague, the very selfsame thing
They ask'd, when they petition'd for a King!
For 'tis remarkable when Samuel saw,
They'd have a King in spite of sense or law,
He told the consequences to the land,
And all the mischiefs that the Word contain'd;
220    Told them, that Kings were instruments design'd,
Not to improve, but to correct mankind!
Told them the Tyrant would insult their peace,
And plunder them of all their happiness!
Told them, that Kings were but exalted theives,
Would rob men first, and then would make them slaves!
Then drew the picture of a monster crown'd,
Ask'd them, if such a villain could be found, 10
Whether they'd like him, and their tribute bring?
They answer, YES:--let such a man be King!
230    And is a Tyrant King your early choice?
"Be KINGS your plague!" said the Eternal's voice;
And with this mighty curse he gave the crown,
And Saul, to Israel's terror, mounts the throne!
Now, Muse, the parallel with caution bring,
On what condition was this man their King?
Tho' Heaven declar'd him, heaven itself set down
The sacred Postulata of the crown;
Samuel examin'd first the high record,
Then dedicates the substance to the Lord.
240    This is the coronation-cash, the bond.
The steps on whcih the throne and kingdom stand;
For which, by future Kings unjustly broke,
God, and the People, mighty vengeance took!11
Then mark the needful steps to make him King,
How sacred ends, concurring means must bring;
Not Samuel's ointment, not the mighty lot,
Could make him King, nor force his title out.
The people like not his mechanic race,
They see no greatness in his youthful face:--
250    "Is this the monarch shall our foes destroy,
Does heaven design to rule us by a boy?"
The flouting Rabbies cry? "We scorn to own,
A man that has no merit for a crown.
Our King must lead the glorious tribes to fight,
And chase the thousands of the Ammonite;
His pers'nal valour must our triumphs bring,
'Tis such a man we want, and such a King."
Away they go, reject his government,
Not Heav'n's high choice could force their due consent!
260    Samuel submits, adjourns the strong debate,
Suspends the King he offered to create;
Owns their dislike's a high material thing,
That their CONSENT alone could make him King!
Why did not God displeasure then express,
Resent the slight, and punish their excess;
Extort obedience by express command,
And crown his choice by his immediate hand;
Destroy the Rebels with his blasting breath,
And punish early treason with their death;
270    With mighty thunders his new King proclaim,
And force the trembling tribes to do the same?
Because He knew it was the course of things,
And Nature's law, that men should choose their Kings;
He knew the early dictate was his own,
That reason acted from himself alone. 12
"'Tis just," says the Almighty Power, "and sense,"
(For actions are the words of Providence;
The mouth of consequences speaks aloud,
And Nature's language is the voice of God:)
280    "'Tis just," says he, "the people should be shown,
The man that wears it, can deserve the crown.
Merit will make my choice appear so just,
They'll own him fit for the intended trust;
Confirm by reason my exalted choice,
And make him King by all the people's voice.
Let Ammon's troops my people's tents invade,
And Israel's trembling sons, to fear betray'd,
Fly from th' advancing legions in the fright,
Till Jabesh' walls embrace the Ammonite;
290    I'll spirit Saul, and arm his soul for war,
The boy they scorn, shall in the field appear;
I'll teach the inexperienced youth to fight,
And flesh him with the slaughter'd Ammonite.
The general suffrage then he'll justly have
To rule the people he knows how to save;
Their willing voices all the tribes will bring,
And make my chosen hero be their King."
He speaks, and all the high events obey,
The mighty voice of Nature leads the way;
300    The troops of Ammon Israel's tents invade,
His mighty fighting sons, to fear betray'd,
Fly from th' advancing squadrons in the fright,
'Till Jabesh' walls embrace the Ammonite.
Saul rouzes; God had arm'd his soul for war;
The boy they scorn'd does in the field appear;
His pers'nal merit now bespeaks the throne,
He beats the enemy, and wears his crown.
The willing tribes their purchased suffrage bring,
Their universal voice proclaims him King.
310     As if Heaven's call had been before in vain,
Saul from this proper minute, dates his reign.
The text is plain, and proper to the thing,
No GOD--but all THE PEOPLE made him King!




All notes are Hone's except when indicated by the editor's initials, [KG].

1. [KG] From Cowper's The Task, Book 5, lines 279-82. [return]
2. Peter the Cruel, King of Castile. He married the daughter of a Duke of Bourbon, whom he divorced, in order to renew his connexion with a former mistress. His excesses occasioned the people to dethrone him. He affected piety, and to govern by divine right! [return]
3. Despots seldom keep engagements.--The People of Prussia have a promised right from their king of some years standing. After the Battle of Waterloo, he promised them a Constitution--but became a member of the Holy Alliance. In 1814, this king, with another of the fraternity, the Emperor of Russia, was entertained at an expense of 20,038l. 7 s. 10d. in Guildhall London, by the Corporation in Common Council assembled, who also presented addresses of congratulation to the worthies, on their having contributed, by encaging Napoleon, to restore what the addresses call, the LEGITIMATE dynasties. The result is that the legitimate Emperor of Russia backs the crusade on the People of Naples; and the legitimate king of Prussia is as little inclined to let the Prussians have a Constitution, as the Corporation of London find it convenient to return the 14,000l. of the Bridge-House money which they borrowed towards paying for the feast. The company they kept, and the money they owe in consequence, must be a satisfactory, because the only apology from the metropolis of the most free country in Europe, to the Neapolitans, for not assisting them in defending their national Independence, and their new-born Liberty, against the combined attack of the LEGITIMATE dynasties. [return]
The Banquetting House at Whitehall is now the Chapel Royal, where sermons are preached and Divine service is sung by the choir of the king's household. On the floor, are the pews for the congregation, the pulpits of the clergy, the altar with the sacramental vessels, and the other arrangements for sacred worship. On the ceiling, the apotheosis of King James the First, painted by Rubens, represents the king in different situations crowned with the triumphs of drunkenness.
James the First held the highest notions concerning Divine Right. He had a mighty desire to be a great tyrant, but was merely a great driveller. He said on a certain occasion that there is an implicit tie among KINGS, which obligeth them, though there be no other interest or particular engagement, to stick to, and RIGHT ONE ANOTHER, upon an insurrection of subjects.--HOWELL'S Letters, B. 1 & 2. Letter iii.
This obligation among kings to right one another, flows from their 'Right Divine to govern wrong!' The implicit tie to suffocate liberty, wherever it appears, is co-eval with tyranny--but it was never openly avowed until the present concert of kings. The Holy-Alliance is--Despotism shewing itself. [return]
5. It was for this king, Charles II., that the phrase, "our RELIGIOUS king," was invented by the Bishops.
If such Vicegerents are by Heaven appointed
The Devil himself may be the Lord's anointed!

De Foe. [return]

6. No hereditary king ever reigned in the world, but to govern by laws and constitutions which were established before he came to be king.
(Coke's Detection, vol. i. p. 13.) [return]
7. Reason is the image of God stamped upon man at his birth, the understanding breathed into him with the breath of life, and in the participation of which alone he is raised above the brute creation, and his own physical nature! --Reason is the queen of the moral world, the soul of the universe, the lamp of human life, the pillar of society, the foundation of law, the beacon of nationes, the golden chain let down from heaven, which links all animated and all intelligent natures in one common system--and, in the vain strife between fanatic innovation and fanatic prejudice, we are exhorted to dethrone this queen of the world, to blot out this light of the mind, the deface this fair column, to break in pieces this golden chain!
( Hazlitt's Political Essays, p. 57.) [return]
8. PRIESTCRAFT, n. s. [priest and craft.] Religious frauds; management of wicked priests to gain power.--Johnson.
KINGCRAFT, n. s. [king and craft.] Royal frauds; management of wicked kings to gain power.
The greatest curses any age have known
Have issued from the temple, or the throne;
Extent of ill from kings at first begins,
But priests must aid, and consecrate their sins.
The tortured subject might be heard complain,
When sinking under a new weight of chain,
Or more rebellious, might perhaps repine,
When tax'd to dow'r a titled concubine,
But the priest christens all a Right Divine!
(Hor[ace] Walpole's Epistle from Florence.) [return]
9. The time has been when rulers have actually claimed the title of God's vicegerents, and have been literally worshipped as gods by the servile crew of courtiers; --men gradually bowed down by despotism from the erect port of native dignity, and driven, by fear, to crouch under the most degrading of all supersitition, the political idolatry of a base fellow-creature. -- After all the language of court admiration, the praises of poets and orators, the statues and monuments erected to their fame, the malignant consequences of their actions prove them to have been no other than conspirators against the improvement and happiness of the human race. What were their means of conducting their governments, of exercising this office of Heaven's vicegerents? Crafty, dishonest arts, oppression, extortion, and, above all, fire and sword. They dared to ape the thunder and lightning of Heaven, and, assisted by the machinations of the grand adversay of man, rendered their imitative contrivances for destruction more terrible and deadly than the original. Their imperial robe derived its deep crimson colour from human blood; and the gold and diamonds of their diadems were accumulated treasures wrung from the famished bowels of the poor, born only to toil for others, to be robbed, to be wounded, to be trodden under foot, and forgotten in an early grave. How few, in comparison, have reached the age of three score and ten, and yet, in the midst of youth and health, their days have been full of labour and sorrow. Heaven's vicegerents seldom bestowed a thought upon them, except when it was necessary either to inveigle or to force them to take the sword and march to slaughter. Where God caused the sun to shine gaily, and scattered plenty over the land, his vicegerents diffused famine and solitude. The valley, which laughed with corn, they watered with the tear of artificial hunger and distress; the plain that was bright with verdure, and gay with flowerets, they dyed red with gore. They operated on the world as the blast of an east wind, as a pestilence, as a deluge, as a conflagration. --It is an incontrovertible axiom, that all who are born into the world, have a right to be as happy in it as the unavoidable evils of nature, and their own disordered passions will allow. The grand object of all good government, of all government that is not an usurpation, must be to promote this happiness, to assist every individual in its attainment and security. A government chiefly anxious about the emoluments of office, chiefly employed in augmenting its own power, and aggrandizing its obsequious instruments, while it neglects the comfort and safety of individuals in middle or low life, is despotic and a nuisance. It is founded on folly as well as wickedness, and, like the freaks of insanity, deals mischief and misery around, without being able to ascertain or limit its extent and duration. If it should not be punished as criminal, let it be coerced as dangerous
(Spirit of Despotism (sic), p. 90.) [return]
10. It is remarkable, that a king scarcely ever exercises tyrannical power over the people, but it was mingled with ungoverned vice in himself. Men of virtue and moderation seldom, if ever, turn tyrants. Despotic rule gives the reins to lust, and makes the errors of government, and the crimes of life, mix together. it is the high road to cruelty and brutalizing selfishness.--A king of France took out his watch when he guessed that the axe was cutting off the head of his favorite, and said, 'My dear friend must make a sad figure just now!'--A hill in Richmond Park is still shewn as remarkable for having been the station from whence Henry VIII. eagerly looked out for the ascent of a rocket at London, announcing tothe impatient tyrant the precise moment when one of his wives was suffering death on the scaffold! [return]
11. Samuel told the people the MANNER of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book and laid it up before the Lord. (1 Samuel, I. 25.) It is plain, the word manner signifies the constitution of the government, or the conditions on which Saul was to be king, namely, according to justice and law; and this is meant in frequent expressions, by going in and out before them, referring to justice executed in the gates, and peace and war; the king was to lead them in one, and direct in the other. This manner of the Kingdom was told to all the people, and that implied, that the consent of the people was requisite to make him king, without which, though Samuel and anointed him, he was not owned by the Israelites, but went about his private affairs till after the victory over the Ammonites. Then the manner of the kingdom was written in a book--a token of its being a compact between Saul and the people; and Samuel's laying it up before the Lord, is equivalent to an oath recorded on both sides; for it was there as a witness between the king and the people, and served both as their oath of allegiance, and his oath of government. -- All this being done, what followed? All the people went to Gilgal, and there THEY (mark the word) made Saul king.--(1 Samuel, i. 15.) [return]
12. It is alledged, that the vulgar are not capable of judging concerning principles of government; I answer, they are then not capable of being guilty of transgression; for where there is a want of capacity of judgment, there can be no sin. This is a dangerous argument, my Lords, and exposes government to the violence of everyone who can overturn it with impunity. You have no defence against any person in this case who is resolute, except superior strength; for the gallows will not frighten a man who is not conscious of guilt, if he has any degree of natural fortitude. Try to persuade the vulgar that there is any case in which they cannot sin, and you will soon perceive what operation it will have upon them. But when you tell them they are not judges of your manoeuvres of state, they will soon tell you that they cannot transgress what they do not understand: and that you require of them more than the Deity requires of them, or even supposes; for he requires no duty without first allowing men to judge of his laws, and makes no laws beyond the reach of their understandings.
( Sermons to Asses, (Ministers of State,) p. 57.)

[The quotation comes from Hone's 1819 publication of James Murray's Sermons to Asses, to Doctors in Divinity, to Lords Spiritual, and to Ministers of State.] [return]