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Editor's Introduction

Front matter
Book I
Book II
Book III
Back matter

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THE KING is ours
T' administer, to guard, t' adorn the State,
But not to warp or change it.
Mark now the difference, ye that boast your love
Of kings, between your Loyalty and ours.
Our love is principle, and has its root
In reason; is judicious, manly, free:
Yours, a blind instinct, crouches to the rod,
And licks the foot, that treads it in the dust.1

The Duty of Resistance to Tyrants--Law--Custom--Packed Juries--The Custom of Kings to tyrannize--The Custom of the People to dethrone them instanced in James II.--Rehoboam--Royalty a trust.

WERE I permitted to inspect the rolls,
Th' eternal archives, hid beyond the poles;
The cause of causes could I but survey,
And see how consequences there obey:
This should be first of all that I'd enquire,
And this to know, the bounds of my desire--
Why Justice reels beneath the blows of might,
And Usurpation sets her foot on right;
Why fame bestows her ill-deserv'd applause,
10       When outrage triumphs over nature's laws;
Why heaven permits the worst of men to rule,
And binds the wise man to obey the fool;2
Why its own thunder does not strike the crown,
And from the stools of pow'r thrust Tyrants down;
Why it pursues the murd'rer's meaner crime,
But leaves exalted criminals to time?
Kings spurn at limitations, laws, and rules,
And rob mankind--because mankind are fools;
Wheedled to act against their common sense,
20       To jumble tyranny with providence;
To hope from God what God expects from them,
For what they ought to do, look up to Him;
Leave unperform'd the duties which they know,
And lift up hands they should employ below!
Christians must no more miracles expect,
The men that will be slaves, He'll not protect;
God never will our base petitions hear,
Till our endeavours supersede our prayer;
Not always then; but nation's may be sure,
30       The willing bondage ever shall endure.
They that would have HIS power to be their friend,
Must, with what power they have, their right defend. 3
The laws of God, God makes us understand,
The laws of Nature never countermand.
Nature prescribes, for 'tis prescrib'd to sense,
Her first of laws to man--is self-defence.
This then is Law to man, from God on high,
Resisting live--or unresisting die!
He always works by means, and means he'll bless,
40       With approbation, often with success.
Nor prayers nor tears will revolutions make,
Tyrants pull down, or irksome bondage break;
'Tis our own business; and He lets us know,
What is our business, he expects we'll do.
Tyrants sometimes in Revolutions fall,
Though their destruction's not design'd at all;
So hasty show'rs, when they from heav'n flow down,
Are sent to fructify, and not to drown;
And, in the torrent, if a drunkard sink,
50       'Tis not the flood that drowns him, but the drink;
Yet who would say, because a sinner's slain,
For fear of drowning, we must have no rain.
It's doubtful who live most unnatural lives,
The subject that his liberty survives,
Or kings that trample law and freedom down,
And make free justice truckle to the crown.
LAW is the master-spring of government--
The only Right Divine that heaven has sent,4
It forms the order of the world below,
60       And all our blessings from that order flow.
Law is the life-blood of the social state;
Subordinate to law is magistrate;
To set the magistrate above the law,
Would all to error and confusion draw,
He's not a king that's not prescribed by laws--
King's, the effect, but government's the cause.
Of all authority for Right Divine,
Custom's the worst, for every royal line.
The still-born Ignorance of antiquity,
70       Quirk'd into life to cozen feesmen by,
Lawyers call Custom; and, for custom, draw
On custom still, to still call custom, Law!
So 'rules' the Bench, and so the maxim takes,
The fault one age commits, no age forsakes!
Begot by fools, maintain'd by knaves and fools,
Improved by craft in error's public schools;
With shifting face, with loose and stammering tongue,
The juggling fraud has plagued the world too long;
Modern encroachments on our freedom makes,
80       And backs it with our fathers' old mistakes:
As if our rev'rence, to their virtues due,
Should recommend their crimes and follies too!
This vapour Custom, this mere wand'ring cloud
Puffs the crown'd wretch, and helps to make him proud.
Persuades him to believe it must be true,
Homage to Law, becomes the Tyrant's due!
Thus Priestcraft preaches, and thus Lawyers draw
An after age, to call a custom--Law!
And yet this boasted, ever-quoted thing,
90       Fails in the point--fails to support the king:
For though by custom, kings have learn'd to ride
A few vile minions, to support their pride,
The people always have opposed the cheat,
It never was their custom to submit;
The Practice of the people made the name,
For practices and customs are the same;
And custom this one mighty truth will tell,
When kings grow tyrants, nations will rebel.
The people may, for custom gives assent,
100     Dethrone the man, to save the Government!
If any say the practice is not so,
Let them to England for examples go.
England the Right Divine of kings profess'd5
And all the marks of slavery caress'd;
Long courted chains, but 'twas in court disguise,
And holy fraud conceal'd the sacred lies--
The CHURCH the mountebank, the KING the jest,
The wheedled monarch, and the wheedling priest!
James proved the patient, crouching, loyal tribe,
110     But let his fate their loyalty describe!
With life-and-fortune, churchmen back'd the crown,6
In crushing all men's freedom but their own.
Then, under colour or pretence of law,
Villains their victims to the shambles draw,
Where sat the scoundrel Chief in ermined pride,
And a pack'd jury in the box beside.
The farce commences--justice heaves a groan--
The case is clear--a verdict for the Crown!
When noble RUSSELL and brave SIDNEY fell,
120     Judges themselves rung out LAW'S funeral knell!
Yet when their own destruction they foresaw,
The passive knaves cried Liberty and Law!
Took from their best of Kings his Right Divine,
And abrogated fealty to the line;
They made a precedent, dropp'd T from TREASON,
And found the best of words behind it--REASON!
The crown's a symbol, that the people meant,
To mark their choice, or form of government;7
The crown is theirs, and this has been their plan,
130     To make the office sacred, not the man:
Hence, if a tyrant on the throne appears,
The place is vacant, and the crown is theirs.
David, the patient tribes too much opprest,
Vex'd them with tribute, and deny'd them rest;
Harass'd the land with imposts and alarms,
Taxing and fighting--money! and to arms!
His son, however wise, disturbed their peace,
With taxes for his sumptuous palaces;
His love of women and his garish state,
140     His love of pomp and show, and looking great;
His building projects, and his vast designs,
Too vast for all the gold of Ophir's mines,
The people's hearts dismay'd, their feelings pain'd,
Their love unsettled, and their treasures drain'd.8
By two such vig'rous monarchs long opprest,
The next that came they loyally addrest;
Implored his gracious majesty would please
To tax them less, and let them live in peace.
The son of Solomon with anger hears
150     The people dare to offer him their pray'ers,
Spurns their Address, his rage no bounds restrain,
And thus he gives his answer with disdain:--
"I bear from Heaven the ensigns of my sway,
My business is to rule, and your's obey:
Therefore your scandalous Address withdraw,
'Tis my command, and my command's your law:
Sedition grows from seeds of discontent,
And faction always snarls at government:
But since my throne from God alone I hold,
160     To Him alone my councils I unfold;
My resolutions he has made your laws,
You are to know my actions, He the cause!
Wherefore I stoop, to let you understand,
I double all the taxes of the land.
And if your discontents and feuds remain,
PETITION--and I'll double them again!
The mild correction which my Father gave,
Has spoil'd the people he design'd to save;
You murmur'd then, but had you thus been used,
170     You'd ne'er his easy clemency abused!"
The injured people, treated with disdain,
Found their Petitions and Addresses vain!
Long had they made submissions to the crown,
And long the love of Liberty had known;
The kings they ask'd of God had let them see,
What God himself foretold of tyranny.
The father had exhausted all their stores,
With costly houses, and more costly whores;
But doubly robb'd by his encroaching son,
180     They rather chose to die, than be undone;
And, thus resolving, by a single stroke,
Ten tribes revolted, and their bondage broke!
The tyrant, in his sceptred bloated pride,
Believing God and blood upon his side;
To the high altar in a rage repairs,
And rather tells his tale, than makes his prayers:9
"Behold!" says he, "the slaves, o'er whom I reign,
Have made the pow'r I had from Thee in vain;
From thy diviner rule they separate,
190     And make large schisms both in Church and State;
My just intentions are, with all my force,
To check rebellion in its earliest course;
Revenge th' affronts of my insulted throne,
And save thy injured honour, and my own;
And as thy counsels did my fathers bless,
He claims thy help, who does their crown possess!"
Listen ye kings, ye people all rejoice,
And hear the answer of th' Almighty voice:
Tremble, ye tyrants, read the high commands,
200     In sacred writ the sacred sentence stands!
"Stir not a foot! thy new-rais'd troops disband!"
SAYS THE ETERNAL;--"it is my command!
I raised thy fathers to the Hebrew throne,
I set it up, but you yourselves pull down!
For when to them I Israel's sceptre gave,
'Twas not my chosen people to enslave.
My first command no such commission brings,
I made no tyrants, though I made you kings;
But you my people vilely have opprest,
210     And misapplied the powers which you possest.
'Tis Nature's laws the people now direct,
When Nature speaks, I never contradict.
Draw not the sword, thy brethren to destroy,
The liberty they have, they may enjoy;
I ever purposed, and I yet intend,
That what they may enjoy, they may defend;
They have deserted from a misused throne,
"The thing's from ME"--the crime is all thy own!" 10
If kings no more be flatter'd and deceived,
220     Nor shun too late, the knaves they have believed;
If as 'trustees for uses' they agree
To act by limited authority;
Subordination will its order keep,
Ambition die, and all rebellion sleep.
The weeping nations shall begin to laugh,
The subjects easy, and the rulers safe.
Plenty and peace embrace just government,
The king be pleased, the people be content.
If any king is hoodwink'd to believe,
230     People will blind obedience to him give;
Let him pause long, before he dares to try,
They all by practice give their words the lie!11
Art may by mighty dams keep out the tide,
Check the strong current, and its streams divide;
Pen up the rising waters, and deny
The easy waves to glide in silence by:
But if the river is restrain'd too long,
It swells in silence to resent the wrong;
With fearful force breaks opposition down,
240     And claims its native freedom for its own.
So Tyranny may govern for a time,
Till Nature drowns the tyrants with their crime!




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

1. [KG] From William Cowper's The Task, Book 5, "The Winter Morning Walk," ll. 348-56. [return]
2. It is difficult to avoid laughing at the extreme ignorance of crowned heads themselves, in despotic countries, when one contrasts it with the importance they assume, and the pomp and splendour with which they transfer their royal persons from place to place. The sight is truly ludicrous. Are these the men, occupied, as they usually are, in the meanest trifles and the most degrading pleasures, who tell us that the government over which they preside, is a perfect system, and the wisest philosopher knows not how to govern mankind; that is, to consult their happiness and security, so well as themselves, neglected as they have been in youth, and corrupted in manhood by panders to their vices, and flatterers of their foibles, their pride, and their ambition? There is reason to believe that many kings in despotic kingdoms, have been worse educated, and possess less abilities, than a common charity-boy, trained in a parish school to read and write.
(Spirit of Despotism.)
An Anecdote, containing the thoughts of a Despot is a treat. It appears from the Emperor of Austria heading the Holy Alliance against Naples with our money in his pockets, as well as from a letter dated Laybach, 28th January, 1821, that his Majesty has the horrors. The letter states, that when the Professors of the Lyceum at Laybach were presented to him, he made this nervous speech:--
"Gentlemen--The students of Carniola have always deserved praise, (from which their progress in useful knowledge may be inferred). Endeavour to preserve for them this good character, (modern Boeotians). Remain ever faithful to what is ancient, (Tyranny); for what is ancient is good, (he means for himself); and our ancestors (his Ancestors) ever found it so. Why should it not be the same to us? (The throne-men). People (tyrant-haters) are occupied elsewhere (at Naples) with new notions principles of liberty), that I (heigh Oh!) cannot approve, (cannot help); and never shall approve, (Royal till death). From such notions (political truth) preserve yourselves, (God preserve the Emperor); attach yourselves to nothing but what is positive, (Despotism). I do not want learned men (the students at Copenhagen on the king's birth-day, January 2nd, 1821, shouted "Vivat Rex;" the soldiers, not understanding Loyalty in Latin, and, supposing the students uttered seditious cries, dispersed them with their sabres and killed four: ergo (Steel is stronger than Latin). I want only loyal and good subjects, (implicitly obedient slaves); and it is your part to (become drill serjeants, and) form them (into line). He who serves (implicitly obeys), will instruct, (that is--keep the students stupid) according to my orders; and whoever feels himself incapable of that, (non-instruction,) and embraces novel ideas, (knowledge,) had better depart--or I shall myself remove him (by putting something into his head!).
This is a fine and perfect specimen of legitimate mind; and here is another:-- At the Museum of Bologna the Professors of the University shewed this same Emperor one of Sir Humphrey Davy's safety lamps, and informed him tha the Englishman its inventor, had, by his numerous discoveries, produced a revolution in science. At the word revolution the countenance of the Emperor changed; he rumped the attendant, and said, the King of England would no doubt feel the consequences of his condescension to his unruly subjects; but, as to himself, he should take proper care not to suffer any of his subjects to make revolutions! -- "What is ancient is good." Stick to that, Despots! Your ancestors, 'an please your Majesties, groped without safety lamps-- I pray that you may, till you be no more. [return]
3. GOD punishes bad kings and oppressors, as he does the rest of mankind--through his instruments, THE PEOPLE. It is the only way by which he has ever made an example of tyrants as a terror to others.[return]
4. The tyrant Henry VIII., by making himself the head of the Church, clearly begat the Right Divine. The King could give bishoprics, and the Bishops could give opinions. Your Majesty is the breath of our nostrils, said Bishop Neil to James I., and speaking of himself and brethren as to worldly advantages, he certainly spoke the truth. Before the Kings of England were heads of the Church we heard little of divine right, and sometimes the Church itself was seen on the side of freedom; since that time, never. The doctrine in England, that the King can do no wrong, supposes the positive responsibility of his Ministers. But, that it is a dangerous licence of language, is witnessed in a Right Reverend exposition of this kingly privilege in regard to Adultery. The Bishop leaped from political to moral delinquency, with a casuistry worthy an admirer of the royal power of translation. The Abbe de Choisy, a Priest of the same school as the British Father in God, though not of the same church, dedicated an edition of Thomas a[grave] Kempis, on the 'Imitation of Christ' to Madame de Maintenon, a courtesan and mistress to Louis XIV., prefixing this motto: "Hear oh! daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house; so shall the King greatly desire thy beauty!" Psa. xiv. 10, 11.
The Court's a golden but a fatal circle,
Upon whose magic skirts a thousand devils
In crystal forms, sit tempting innocence,
And beckon early virtue from its centre.
(Anon. quoted by Dr. Watts.) [return]
5. Sir Robert Filmer, the great champion of Divine Right having defended it in print, Algernon Sidney drew out a system of original power, and government according to the laws of God, nature, and reason. Before it was finished, the friends of Divine Right seized the manuscript, and finding Sidney's arguments unanswerable, they laid aside the work, and fell upon the man; -- so they cut off his head, merely because they could not answer his book.[return]
6. A Courtier's loyalty is charmingly pictured in the portrait of Bubb Doddington, drawn by himself in his celebrated Diary. He was by trade a Boroughmonger, and his stock consisted of six Members in the House of Commons, which he jobbed about and sold to the best bidder. At the close of his bargain and sale of the whole in a lump to the Duke of Newcastle for the king's service, there is a finish which renders the painting a fine and matchless Cabinet specimen. -- Bubb, who had been in disgrace at court for selling them elsewhere, said to the duke, "I knew I had given no just cause of offence, but that I could not justify it with HIS MAJESTY; that it was ENOUGH that HE (the king) WAS DISPLEASED, to make me think that I WAS IN THE WRONG, and to beg Him to forget it: I would not even be IN THE RIGHT against HIM!" The duke was delighted with this loyal and dutiful submission. Bubb says, "He took me up in his arms, and KISSED ME TWICE!" and Bubb was rewarded for laying his six members of the honorable house at the foot of the throne with the price he stipulated for--namely, the treasurership of the navy, and a peerage! The story was beautifully and most impressively related by the excellent-hearted and inflexible JOHN HUNT, in his noble and successful defence, on the trial of an ex officio information for words in the Examiner charged not as false, but as libellous on the Honorable House. [return]
All Majesty is derived from Law founded on right reason. A strength beyond that is mere force. The Magistrate formerly had no Majesty but while engaged in the magisterial duties. His real dignity consisting in his legal authority.
When the ancient parliaments of France met according to the consitution annually, the king went to meet the members seared in a waggon drawn by oxen, which a waggoner drove with his goad to the parliament house; but he was in no state until he was seated there, robed and crowned, and sceptered. And, indeed, in that place only, where the great affairs of the Commonwealth are transacted, can it be said, that Real Majesty does truly and properly reside; and not where the king plays, or dances, or prattles with his women, when the vulgar are always styling him, your Majesty.

(Hotoman's Franco-gallia, p. 73.) [return]
8. Solomon could have but two occasions for money; one for his costly buildings, the other for his numerous women, for he never had any wars. To the expense of his buildings the kings of other countries contributed largely; so that it must have been his excesses in women, and other luxurious indulgences, that caused him to oppress the people with heavy burdens of taxes. [return]
9. The author has taken a poetical licence here. For scripture does not say that Rehoboam prayed to the Lord. [return]
10. When the ten tribes revolted from Rehoboam, and chose Jeroboam king, there is no doubt they limited him by law; for many years afterwards king Ahab, one of his successors, admiring a herb-garden near to his own palace, applied to the owner, Naboth, and offered him either a vineyard for it, or the worth of it in money; but Naboth would neither exchange nor sell it, and Ahab returned home so vexed, that he went to bed and would not eat any thing. Naboth having thus displeased the king, the courtiers got up a charge of Blasphemy and Sedition against him by means of false witnesses hired on purpose; he was found guilty and executed, and Ahab got possession of the garden, probably as a forfeiture to the crown. It is clear, therefore, that Ahab's power was restrained by law, for it was not until Nabot (sic) was murdered under the forms of law, that the king could get the poor man's property. Another thing is very remarkable: as soon as the murder was completed, and the king had got the garden, there was an honest Father in God, who, instead of saying 'the king could do no wrong,' went to his majesty, charged him with the crime, and denounced his downfall, which happened accordingly, through his listening to flattering ecclesiastics, and his fondness for military affairs. If the Bishop of London should desire to preach on this story, he is informed that he may find it in the Bible, 1 Kings, xxi. [return]
FLATTERY is a fine picklock of tender ears; especially of those whom fortun hath borne high upon their wings [Ben Jonson, Timber], that submit their dignity and authority to it, by a soothing of themselves. For, indeed, men could never be taken in that abundance with the springes of others' flattery, if they began not there; if they did but remember how much more profitable the bitterness of truth were than all the honey distilling from a whorish voice, which is not praise but poison. But now it is come to that extreme of folly, or rather madness, with some, that he that flatters them modestly, or sparingly, is thought to malign them.
(Ben Jonson [from Timber].)
The ears of kings are so tingled with a continual uniform approbation, that they have scarce any knowledge of true praise. Have they to do with the greatest fool of all their subjects--they have no way to take advantage of him: by the flatterer saying, "It is because he is my king," he thinks he has said enough to imply that he therefore suffered himself to be overcome. This quality stifles and confuses the other true and essential qualities which are sunk deep in the kingship.
(Montaigne.) [return]