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Editor's Introduction

Front matter
Book I
Book II
Book III
Back matter

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------------------------- Nations would do well
T' extort their truncheons from the puny hands
Of HEROES, whose infirm and baby minds
Are gratified with mischief; and who spoil,
Because men suffer it, their TOY -- The World.1

Tyrants deposed to preserve the Throne--In Europe--In England before the Conquest--By each other since.--No right line any where--Difference between Tyrants and Kings--Government instituted by the People for their own good--Tyrants treat men as cattle to be slaughtered--God decrees their fall--Ordains Revolutions by the People.

SEARCH we the long records of ages past,
Look back as far as antient rolls will last;
Beyond what oldest history relates,
While kings had people, people magistrates;
Nations, e'er since there has been king or crown,
Have pull'd down tyrants to preserve the throne.
The laws of nature then, as still they do,
Taught them, their rights and safety to pursue;
That if a king, who should protect, destroys,
10       He forfeits all the sanction he enjoys.
There's not a nation ever own'd a crown,
But if their kings opprest them, pull'd them down;
Concurring Providence has been content,
And always blest the action in th' event.
He that, invested with the robes of power,
Thinks 'tis his right the people to devour,
Will always find some stubborn men remain,
That have so little wit, they won't be slain;
Who always turn again when they're opprest,
20       And basely spoil the gay tyrannic jest;
Tell kings--of Nature, Laws of God and Right,
Take up their arms, and with their tyrants fight.
When passive thousands fall beneath the sword,
And freely die at the imperial word,
A stern, unyielding, self-defending few,
While they resist, will ravel all the clew;
Will all the engines of oppression awe,
And trample pow'r beneath the feet of law.
'Tis always natural for men opprest,
30       Whene'er occasion offers to resist;
They're traitors else to truth and common sense,
And rebels to the laws of Providence;
'Tis not enough to say, they may--they must;
The strong necessity declares it just; 2
'Tis Heav'n's supreme command to man, and they
Are always blest who that command obey.
So France deposed the Merovingian line,
And banish'd Childrick3 lost the right divine;
So Holy League their sacred Henry4 slew,
40       And call'd a counsel to erect a new;
For right divine must still to justice bow,
And people first the right to rule bestow:
So Spain to arbitrary kings inured,
Yet arbitrary Favila5 abjured;
Denmark four kings deposed, and Poland seven,
Swedeland but one-and-twenty, Spain eleven:
Russia, Demetrius banish'd from the throne,6
And Portugal pull'd young Alphonsus down;
Each nation that deserves the name of state,
50       Has set up laws above the magistrate;
Hence, when a self-advancing wretch acquires
A lawless rule, his government expires.
Explore the past, the steps of monarchs tread,
And view the sacred titles of the dead;
Look to the early kings of Britain's isle,
For Jus Divinum in our native style.
Conquest, or compacts, form the rights of kings,
And both are human, both unsettled things;
Both subject to contingencies of fate,
60       And so the godship of them proves a cheat.
The crowns and thrones the greatest monarchs have,
Were either stolen, or the people gave.
What claim had colonel Cnute,7 or Captain Suene?
What right the roving Saxon, pirate Dane?
Hengist, or Horsa, Woden's blood defied,
And on their sword, not right divine, relied.
The Norman Bastard, how divine his call!
And where's his heav'nly high original?
These naked nations, long a helpless prey,
70       To foreign and domestic tyranny;--
Their infant strength unfit to guard their name--
Was left exposed to ev'ry robber's claim,
An open prey to pirates, and the isle,
To wild invaders, grew an early spoil.
The Romans ravaged long our wealthy coast,
And long our plains fed Caesar's num'rous host.
What birthright raised that rav'nous leader's name?
His sword, and not his fam'ly, formed his claim.
Where'er the Roman eagles spread their wings,
80       They conquer'd nations, and they pull'd down kings;
Caeser in triumph o'er the whole presided,
And right of conquest half the world divided.
For Liberty our sires in arms appear'd,
And in its sacred name with courage warr'd;
Made the invaders buy their conquest dear,
And legions of their bones lie buried here. 8
When these their work of slaughter had fulfill'd,
And seas of British blood bedew'd the field;
Shoals of Barbarian Goths, worse thieves than they,
90       From Caledonian Friths, and frozen Tay,
O'erspread the fruitful, now abandon'd plains,
And led the captured victims in their chains:
The weaken'd natives, helpless and distrest,
Doom'd to be plunder'd, ravish'd, and oppress'd,
Employ new thieves from the rude Northern coast,
To rob them of the little not yet lost.
The work once done, the workmen, to be paid,
Only demand themselves, and all they had!
In dreadful strife their freedom to maintain,
100     They fought with fury, but they fought in vain;
Yet, like Antaeus, every time they fell,
Their veins with rage and indignation swell;
Not for continued losses they despair,
But for still fiercer battle they prepare;
Again their blood the Saxon chariots stains,
And heaps of heroes strew th' ensanguin'd plains;
Thus, though they leave the world, they keep the field,
And thus their lives, but not their freedom yield.
Three hundred years of bloody conquest past,
110     Plunder'd at first, and dispossest at last,
The few remains, with freedom still inspir'd,
To Western mountains, to resist retired;
Their dear abandon'd country thence they view,
And thence their thirst of Liberty renew;
Offers of peaceful bondage they defy,
What's peace to man without his liberty? 9
The conquer'd nation--fell a dear bought prey,
And Britain's island, Saxon Lords obey:
The shouting troops their victories proclaim,
120     And load their chiefs with royalty and fame:
The garland of their triumphs was their crown,
Mob set them up, and rabble pull'd them down!
Fighting was all the merit they could bring,
The bloodiest wretch appear'd the bravest King!
Nor did his kingship any longer last,
Than till by some more powerful rogue displaced.
In spoil and blood was fix'd the right divine,
And thus commenced the royal Saxon line:--
That sword that vanquish'd innocence in fight,
130     The sword that crush'd the banish'd Britons' right,
At pleasure subdivides the British crown,
And forms eight soldier kingdoms out of one.
From these we strive to date our royal line,
And these must help us to a right divine;
From actions buried in eternal night,
Priestcraft is brought, to fix the fancied right;
Priestcraft that, always on the strongest side,
Contrives, tho' kings should walk, that priests shall ride.
One master thief his fellows dispossest,
140     And gave, once more, the weeping nation rest;
For Egbert,10 English monarchy began,
By his Almighty sword--the Sacred man!
Yet who was Egbert? Search his ancient breed;
What sacred ancestors did he succeed?
What mighty princes form'd his royal line,
And handed down to him the right divine?
A high-Dutch trooper, sent abroad to fight,
Whose trade was blood, and in his arm his right:
A supernumerary Holsteineer,11
150     For want of room at home, sent out to war;
A mere Swiss 12mercenary, who for bread,
Was born on purpose to be knock'd in head;
A Saxon soldier was his high descent,
Murder his business, plunder his intent;
The poor unvalued, despicable thing,
A thief by nation, and by fate a king!
To-day the monarch glories in his crown,
A soldier thief to-morrow knocks him down,
And calls the fancied right divine his own!
160     In the next age that 'rightful' Lord's forgot,
And rampant treason triumphs on the spot:
Success gives title, makes possession just,
For if the fates obey, the subjects must.
We should be last of all that should pretend,
The long descent of princes to defend;
Since, if hereditary right's the claim,
The English line has forty times been lame;
Of all the nations in the world, there's none
Have less of true succession in their crown.
170     Britannia now, with men of blood opprest,
And all her race of tyrants lately ceased;
Ill fate prevailing, seeks at foreign shores,
And for worse monsters, ignorantly implores.
The right divine was so despised a thing,
The crown went out a begging for a king
Of foreign breed, of unrelated race,
Whore in his scutcheon, tyrant in his face;
Of spurious birth, and intermingled blood,
Who nor our laws nor language understood.
180     William the early summons soon obeys,
Ambition fills his sails, his fleets the seas;
By cruel hopes, and fatal valour sped,
The foreign legions Britain's shores o'erspread:
The sword decides the claim, the land's the prey,
Fated the conquering tyrant to obey.
Harold by usurpation gain'd the crown, 13
And ditto usurpation pull'd him down.
Nothing but patience then could Britain claim,
Oppress'd by suff'ring, suff'ring made her tame:
190     She saw the tyrant William quit the throne,
And hoped for better usage from his son;
But change of tyrants gave her small relief,
She lost the lion, and receiv'd the thief.
Rufus, his father's ill got treasure seized,
The greedy sons of mother-church appeased;
Bought up rebellion with the cash he stole,
Secured the Clergy, and seduced the whole.
So brib'ry first with robbery combined
To ride before, and treason rode behind.
200     Ambition, and the lust of rule prevail'd,
And Robert's right, on Rufus' head entail'd.14
Beau-Clerk next grasp'd his elder brother's crown,
And, by his sword, maintain'd it was his own:
The second 15Henry fights, and fighting treats,
To own the prince's title he defeats
Consents to mean conclusions of the war,
And stoops to be a base usurper's heir;
Accepts the ignominious grant, and shows
His right's as bad as Stephen's that bestows:
210     The royal tricksters thus divide the prey,
And helpless crowds the jugglers' swords obey.16
Then John, 17another branch of Henry's line,
Jumps on the throne, in spite of Right Divine.
Turn we to mighty Edward's deathless name;
Or to his son's, whose conquests were the same;
That mighty hero of right royal race,
His father still alive, usurp'd his place. 18
As Edward on his parent's murder stood,
So Richard's tyrant reign was closed in blood:
220     Deposed and murder'd, Edward's father lies;
Deposed and murder'd--thus the grandson19 dies.
Lancastrian Henry from his feeble head,
The bauble wrench'd, and wore it in his stead;
Three of his name by due succession reign,
And York demands the right of line in vain.
Thro' seas of slaughter, for this carnaged crown
Edward, not went, but waded to the throne;20
Three times deposed, three times restored by force,
Priest-ridden Henry's title 21 yields of course.
230     Short lived the right the conquering king enjoy'd,
Treason and crime his new-crown'd race destroy'd;
As if the crimson hand of Power pursued
The very crown, and fated it to blood,
Richard by lust of government allured,
By double murders, next that crown procured;
For silent records trumpet-tongued proclaim
The jails and graves of princes are the same.
At Bosworth field, the crookback was dethroned;
Slain in the fight, and then the victor own'd! 22
240     So men of blood, incited by its taste,
By lust of rule urged on, laid England waste;
Oppression then upon oppression grew,
One royal wretch another overthrew;
They made a football of the People's crown,
And brother-tyrant brother-king pull'd down,
Succeeding robberies revenged the past,
And every age of crime outdid the last.
Look on once more--the tangled line survey,
By which kings claim to bind men to obey.
250     In the right line they say their title lies:
But if its twisted?--then the title dies.
Look at it!--knotted, spliced in every place!
Closely survey the intersected race--
So full of violations, such a brood
Of false successions, spurious births, and blood;
Such perjuries, such frauds, to mount a throne,
That Kings might blush their ancestors to own!
Oh! but Possession SUPERSEDES the Line!
Indeed!--then king, as king, has Right Divine;
260     And, coy Succession fled from majesty,
Makes Usurpation as divine as he;
De Facto is de Jure, and a throne,
To every dog that steals it is his bone!
Hence tyrants--and from these infected springs,
Flows the best title of the Best of Kings!23
Right of Succession, or what other claim
Of right to rule, by whatsoever name
Or title call'd, by whomsoever urged,
Is in the people's right of choosing merged.
270     The right's the People's, and the People's choice
Binds kings in duty to obey their voice;
The Public Will, the ONLY Right Divine,
Sanctions the office, or divides the line;
Topples the crown from off the tyrant's head,
And puts a king to govern in his stead.
Tyrant and king are vastly different things--
We're robb'd by tyrants, but obey'd by kings!
If it be ask'd, how the distinction's known,
Oppression marks him out--the nations groan,
280     The broken laws, the cries of injur'd blood,
Are languages by all men understood!24
Just laws and liberty make patriot kings;
Tyrants and tyranny are self-made things. 25
As government was ever understood
To be a measure for the people's good;
So when perverted to a wrong intent,
It's stark oppression, not a government.
Blest are the days, and wing'd with joy they fly,
When kings protect the people's liberty;
290     When settled peace in stated order reigns,
And, nor the nation, nor the king complains;
If kings may ravish, plunder, and destroy,
Oppress the world, and all its wealth enjoy;
May harass nations, with their breath may kill,
And limit liberty by royal will;
Then was the world for ignorance design'd,
And God gave kings to blast the human mind;
And Kings but general farmers of the land;
And men their stock for slaughter at command;
300     Mere beasts of draught, to crouch and be opprest,
Whom God, the mighty landlord, form'd in jest.
Yet who believes that Heaven in vain creates,
And gives up what it loves to what it hates;
That man's great Maker call'd him into birth,
To be destroy'd by tyrant-fiends on earth;
That nations are but footstools to a throne,
And millions born to be the slaves of one?
Priestcraft! search Scripture, shew me God's decree,
That crime shall rule by his authority.
310     Kingcraft! search Scripture too, and from it prove
Thy right to ravage from the God of Love. 26
No! HE has issued no such foul command,
But dooms down Despots by the People's hand;
Marks tyrants out for fall in every age,
Directs the justice of the people's rage;
And hurling vengeance on all royal crimes,
Ordains the REVOLUTIONS of the times!



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

1. [KG] From Cowper's The Task, Book 5, "The Winter Morning Walk." [return]
2. If it be asked, Who shall be judge? it is plain that God has made Nature judge. If a king make a law, destructive of human society and the general good, may it not be resisted and opposed? "No!" exclaim a junta of holy men, "it is from GOD!" What is Blasphemy? [return]
3. Childeric I. the son of Merovius, for his lasciviousness, was banished by the great men, and one Egidius, a Gaul, set up in his stead. Childeric II. was banished and deposed by his subjects, and king Pepin reigned in his stead; and so ended the Merovingian family. [return]
4. The League deposed Henry III. and declared him a tyrant, a murderer, and incapable to reign, and held frequent counsels with the pope's legate and the Spaniards about settling the crown, and several proposals were made of settling it, sometimes on the infanta of Spain, at other times on the cardinal of Bourbon, the duke de Main, and others. [return]
5. Favila, a cruel tyrant, was deposed by the Castilians, who chose judges to administer the government, till they appointed another. [return]
6. Besides the banishment of Demetrius, the History of Russia furnishes a sickening catalogue of the butchery of her despots by each other. During the debate in the House of Lords on the 19th of February, 1821, Lord Holland, observing on the Crusade of the Holy Alliance of Despots against Naples, said, 'That objections to the freedom of political constitutions came but ungracefully from the reigning Emperor of Russia, who ascended a throne reeking with the blood of his own father; and as this member of that holy league, owed his crown to the murder of his father, it brought to his recollection, that since the time of the Czar Peter I. no sovereign had ascended the throne of Russia without its being stained with the blood of his immediate predecessor, or some other member of his own family.' [return]
7. The leaders of the invading Saxons and Danes were mere thieves and robbers, pretending to no right but that of the sword. Hengist and Horsa were Saxon leaders, who after conquering Kent, made themselves kings. Woden is famed to be the first great leader of the Goths into Europe, and all their kings affected to be thought of his predatory blood. [return]
8. The hillocks or barrows still remaining in most parts of England were the graves of the soldiers. There are four very large ones near Stevenage in Hertfordshire, close to the road. The plains in Wiltshire and Dorsetshire are full of these monuments of the valorous achievements of the Britons in defence of the liberty. [return]
9. The Britons fought one hundred and sixty-three pitched battles. They might well be said to be conquered, for in these prodigious struggles for their liberty they were nearly all slain. They fought as long as there were any men to be raised; but the Saxons swarming continually over from vastly populous countries, the few Britons that remained, took sanctuary in the western mountains of Wales, and from the crags and cliffs, poor and distrest as they were, they made constant inroads and excursions upon the Saxons; the Saxon Annals are filled with accounts of the renewed warfare. Even the English histories frequently mention the incursions of the Welsh, till, at last, united to England, they seem to be incorporated with the natives of their ancient soil. [return]
10. Egbert came over originally from France, and was not the successor of any prince of the West Saxon kingdom, nor of any kingdom. [return]
11. The Saxons that came over were from Jutland, Holstein, &c. The poor countries the Saxons lived in, being unable to support the vast numbers of the people they produced, they sought subsistence and habitations in fruitful and plentiful lands. [return]
12. A Swiss, alludes to their being mercenaries. [return]
13. Harold seized upon the crown by force. He had no claim to it, by blood or inheritance, being the son of Earl Goodwin. [return]
14. They were both usurpers, for the true right of descent was in Edgar Atheling, of the race of Edmund Ironside. [return]
15. Henry II. was obliged to compromise the dispute with his competitor Stephen; a prudent agreement, but in defiance of hereditary right. [return]
'As at the death of Henry I. the main line of Normandy ended, so the succession has ever since proved so brittle, that it never held to the third heir in a right descent without being put by, or receiving some alteration by usurpation, or extinction of the male blood.'
(Churchill's Divi Britannici, p. 207.) [return]
17. King John was the youngest son of Henry II., who had his eldest line deposed. Henry was the son of a usurper, and usurper himself, and the murderer of his own brother's son. [return]
18. Edward III. reigned, his father, Edward II., being a prisoner, and was afterwards murdered. [return]
19. Richard II. [return]
20. Edward IV. [return]
21. Henry VI. [return]
22. Richard III. was succeeded by Henry VII. who had clearly no claim to the crown from blood. After him it still devolved with irregularity, although under the Tudors, the doctrine of hereditary right was as vaguely maintained as before. Thus, a Parliament granted to Henry VIII. the power of regulating the succession by will, and it was by pretending to exercise a similar power under an alleged will of Edward VI. that the unprincipled Northumberland sought the establishment of Lady Jane Grey. Elizabeth, on the same ground, was importuned to appoint a successor, at intervals, during the last twenty hears of her reign; and finally, named the King of Scotland in her last moments. These are strange incidents for the advocates of Divine Right! The fact is, this wretched theory was never formally advocated until the days of James I.; and it may be considered to be one of the precious fruits of that settled connexion between Church and State, of which the Despot, Henry VIII., laid the foundation. Yet no Despot ever supported himself steadily on an English throne; and what is there to prove, that such men ever can? Look at King Richard II., he was a finished gentleman, possessed some taste for literature, and shewed himself as fond of finery as need be; but he waged war with the common sense of the realm and the rights of the people,--and finally, by entrusting his power to weak, inefficient, and corrupt ministers, roused the anger of a distressed and overtaxed community. MORAL--They were beheaded, and he was dethroned. [return]
THE BEST OF KINGS (Court slang) the King for the time being.--Many a king has been the worst man of his age, but no king was ever the best. In 1683, the very year of Charles the Second's reign, in which Lord William Russel and Algernon Sydney were murdered under the forms of law, by packed juries, and the king's passive obedient judges--when the throne floated in blood, and the king's manners were notoriously and disgustingly sensual and dissolute--in that year, J. Shurley, M. A. in his 'Ecclesiastical History Epitomised,' gives Charles the title of "the best of kings!" calls his life and reign virtuous! and prays that his days may be as the days of Heaven!--This loyal author calls himself, The Christian reader's "BELOVED Brother in CHRIST!"
Of the same king, Charles II., Horace Walpole (Lord Orford) gives this character in his Epistle from Florence:--(Dodsley's Collection, vol. iii. p. 92.)
Fortune, or fair, or frowning, on his soul
Could stamp no virtue, and no vice controul!
Honour or morals, gratitude or truth,
Nor taught his ripen'd age, nor knew his youth!
The care of nations left to whores or chance,
Plund'rer of Britain, pensioner of France;
Free to buffoons, to ministers denied,
He lived an atheist, and a bigot died!
All kings have parasites and praise; the Press records their actions; and Posterity gives their character. [return]
'Tyrants lose all respect for humanity, in proportion as they are sunk beneath it; taught to believe themselves of a different species, they really become so; lose their participation with their kind; and, in mimicking the God, dwindle into the brute! Blind with prejudices as a mole, stung with truth as with scorpions, sore all over with wounded pride like a boil, their minds a heap of morbid proud flesh and bloated humours, a disease and gangrene in the state, instead of its life-blood and vital principle--foreign despots claim mankind as their property. They regard men crawling on the face of the earth as we do insects that cross our path, and survey the common drama of human life as a fantoccini exhibition got up for their amusement. It is the overweening, aggravated, intolerable sense of strolling pride and ungovernable self-will that so often drives them mad; as it is their blind fatuity and insensibility to all beyond themselves, that, transmitted through successive generation, and confirmed by regal intermarriages, in time makes them idiots.'
(Hazlitt's Political Essays, p. 341.) [return]
Though a Despot [can] be transformed into a limited king, he is in heart and purpose still a despot. He feels duress; he is not at liberty to oppress at his pleasure; and he awaits an opportunity to exercise 'the Right Divine of Kings to govern wrong;' for he holds the doctrine that "oaths are not to be kept with subjects." In the reign of Richard II. the Duke of Norfolk apprised the Duke of Hereford, that the King purposed their destruction:--
Hereford.--God forbid!--He has sworn by ST. EDWARD, to be a good Lord to me and the others.
Norfolk.--So has he often sworn to me by GOD's BODY: but I do not trust him the more for THAT!
Every restored despot has become an unblushing and shameless perjurer; where is there in history an instance to the contrary?--Once a DESPOT, and always a DESPOT.
ALFRED the Great is the only King in our annals who being guilty of misgovernment, and seeing its evils had the high courage to acknowledge his crime by amendment. At the commencement of his reign he seemed to consider his exalted dignity as an emancipation from restraint, and to have found leisure, even amidst his struggles with the Danes, to indulge the impetuosity of his passions. His immorality and despotism provoked the censure of the virtuous; he was haughty to his subjects, neglected the administration of justice, and treated with contempt the complaints of the indigent and oppressed. In the eighth year of his reign he was driven from the throne by the Danes. Narrowly escaping death and enduring many hardships, adversity brought reflection. According to the piety of the age, instead of tracing events to their political sources, he referred them immediately to the providence of God; and considered his misfortunes as the instrument with which Divine Justice punished his past enormities. By his prudence and valour he regained the throne, and drew up a code of laws by which he ordained the government should be administered. Magistrates trembled at his stern impartiality and inflexibility. He executed forty-four judges in one year for their informal and iniquitous proceedings. Hence their survivors and successors were careful to acquire a competent degree of knowledge, and their decisions became accordant to the law. Discovering that the only real foundation of national happiness is in the enlightenment of the people, he instructed them himself by his writings, endowed establishments for the promotion of Education, and became the guardian and benefactor of his country. [Lingard's History of England, vol. i. c. 4.] --His virtues were the fruit of early instruction. When he was a child, his mother, Osburga, awakened in him a passion for learning and knowledge. Holding in her hand a Saxon poem, elegantly written and beautifully illuminated, she offered it as a reward to the first of her children whose proficiency should enable him to read it to her. The emulation of Alfred was excited: he ran to his master, applied to the task with diligence, performed it to the satisfaction fo the queen, and received the prize of his industry. His mind thus opened by this excellent woman, she dropped in the seeds of knowledge; by careful culture they grew into wisdom, and Alfred is one of the most illustrious instances of the endless blessing conferred upon man by EDUCATION.
From the banks of the strong hold of Corfe Castle, In Dorsetshire, near Wareham, formerly a station of the Danish barbarians, one of their successors making good his lodgment in a nameless House denies the justice of UNIVERSAL EDUCATION, forgetful, perhaps, that the benighted savages, his predecessors, were finally expelled by Alfred; that it was the triumph of Knowledge and Liberty over Ignorance and Selfish power; and the ALFRED, disdaining to use the advantage which Education gave him over the rest of the people, otherwise than for their welfare, incessantly laboured to dispense its benefits to ALL. [return]
'Priestcraft and Kingcraft are partners in the same firm. They trade together. KINGS and conquerors make laws, parcel out lands, and erect churches and palaces for the priests and dignitaries of religion. In return, PRIESTS anoint kings with holy oil, hedge them round with inviolability, spread over them the mysterious sanctity of religion, and, with very little ceremony, make over the whole species as slaves to these Gods upon earth by virtue of DIVINE RIGHT!'
(Hazlitt's Political Essays p. 303.) [return]