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
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
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
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
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!