The Right Divine of Kings to Govern Wrong!
RIGHT DIVINE OF KINGS TO
Dedicated to the Holy Alliance
45, Ludgate-Hill, London.
THE VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE
THE HOLY ALLIANCE.
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR HOLINESSES,
WHEN a gang of desperate ruffians disguise themselves, and take the road armed, it is a sure sign of robbery and murder; and it becomes the duty of an honest man to raise a hue and cry, and describe the villains.
With that view, I dedicate to you this little book; in the hope, that some who understand the dead language of Despotism, may be induced to translate it into the living tongues of the good people of the Continent.
I pray God to take your ROYALTY into his immediate keeping.
THAT JACK BUILT.
The Drawings are by Mr. GEORGE CRUIKSHANK.
To condemn nonsense, especially in high places, is proper: there are ancient precedents for it.
A thousand years before Christ, Nathan, a priest in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, knew that David the Lord's annointed, had not only worked folly in Israel, by committing adultery with a beautiful woman, but had committed crime, by causing her husband to be put to death. The honest priest charged both the folly and the crime upon the king! He went up to his majesty with this Address: "Thou art the man!" He prosecuted him at the bar of his own conscience, convicted him, and passed sentence upon him--"The sword shall not depart from thine house!"
Three thousand years after this, a priest, sent into an English House of Lords by the nomination of the king, affirms there, that "he had 'high authority' for stating, that the king could not commit folly, much less crime!"6
What a scene! A priest of the Church of England, who promised, before he received the Holy Ghost,7 to lay aside the study of the world and the flesh, who received the Holy Ghost upon that condition, who had a Bible put into his hands to preach truth from, and who--with the Holy Ghost in him, took the sacrament as the most solemn of all oaths, to perform what he had promised--this Priest, who again received the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a Bishop, and again took the oath of the sacrament--this Bishop, regardless of his sacramental oath, puzzles himself behind the Treasury bench with the quillets of the English law, and forgets Nathan!--this Right Reverend Father in God, by divine permission, studies the 'Pleas of the Crown,' talks of 'high authority,' and forgets the authority of his Bible!--bends, like his folding-crook, in the presence of the king of England, and forgets Him whose kingdom is not of this world!--stands, as stiff as his staff, at London--blinks Jerusalem,--squints towards archiepiscopal Canterbury--and inculcates Passive obedience and Non-resistance!
The Doctrine of Divine Right, or 'the King can do no wrong,' is the evil genius of Liberty, the vital spark of Legitimate right, the very soul of Despotism. It demands the prostitution of moral principle, sophisticates scripture, and converts the peace and good will of Christianity into envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness. What it can do, may be known by what it has done. Take a hero--a ruffian who has ravaged and desolated every fair region he could penetrate--a brutal ferocious wretch, of gigantic form, and cruel feature, ignorant of every thing but crime; his sword serrated by hacking the bones of the brave defenders of their country, with halters for the necks of the peaceful at his girdle: toss him an iron sceptre surmounted by the emblems of death and folly; give him the world to crush beneath his feet; and tell me in what age Priestcraft, standing upon the divine right of tithes, would refuse to throw the ermine of royalty over the monster's shoulders, anoint him as from the Lord, and light him up to the world as an image of the Divinity!
According to the law of England, the king can do no wrong. Mr. Justice Blackstone says, the Prerogative of the Crown extends not to do any injury; it is created for the benefit of the people; and, therefore, cannot be exerted to their prejudice.8
Now, if the prerogative of the crown was created for the benefit of the people, is it not plain, that, should it cease to be exerted for their benefit, it would be useless; and that, should it be extended to do them injury, it would be oppression. Will the Bishop say, that oppression is no wrong, or that if oppression should come from the royal prerogative, oppression is right? If he does say this, I ask him, how long, after oppression should be exercised through the prerogative by virtually irresponsible ministers and be declared no wrong, he supposes that a king of England could sit on the throne, or the bishops who maintain the doctrine, sit either at its right hand in the Lords, or any where else? I tell this bishop, that though the law may not suppose it possible for a king of England to do wrong, because it intends him to do right, yet if he should do, and continue to do, oppressive wrong, not all the bishops of England, nor all the bayonets of all the mercenaries of Europe, could keep that king upon the throne of an oppressed people against their united will.
A king of England is not king in his own right, or by hereditary right. The nation is not a patrimony. He is not king by his own power; but in right of, and by the power of the law. He is not king above the law; but by, or under, the law. All the authority that he has, is given to him by law; and he can only rule according to law: for were he to rule against the law, he would be king against the law, and depose himself. The law is the Sovereign, or paramount authority; hence, a king of England is a subject; and in this respect, he and all the people are upon a level before the law--they are all his fellow-subjects; though, as chief magistrate, he is the first subject of the law.
A king of England who regards the happiness of the people, and his own safety, would not wish to be stronger than the law founded on the public will, makes him. More strength would be unnecessary to his welfare, and hurtful to theirs. All power over others, from the watch-box to the throne, tends to injure the understanding, and corrupt the heart. A good King would not desire unlimited power; a bad one would abuse it. He would become mad; and drive the people mad. A despot is a demon. Artillery and fetters with the royal robe flung over them--a cannon ball capped with the royal crown--animated by the royal will--crushing, burning, and butchering liberty, property, and human life--personify the power of an unlimited King.
The ensuing satire shows the folly and danger of such power. It is a partial revival of the Jure Divino, written by DANIEL DE FOE in 1706. After the lapse of a century, nearly the same reason exists for the publication as the author adduced on its first appearance. It had never appeared, he says, had not the world seemed to be going mad a second time with the error of passive obedience and non-resistance. It is not precisely so now: the people have not gone mad, but a bishop has, who may bite his brethren; and there is a slavish party of High Church zealots and pulpit casuists in the country who virtually support the doctrine--although if they attempt reducing it to practice, they may dig a pit beneath the throne, and engulph the dynasty. To expose this destructive doctrine, and disentangle the threads so artfully twisted into snares for the unwary by priestcraft, De Foe composed his Satire. He was the ablest politician of his day, an energetic writer, and, better than all, an honest man; but not much of a poet. The Jure Divino is defective in arrangement and versification. It is likewise disfigured by injudicious repetition; a large portion is devoted to the politics of the time, and it is otherwise unfit for republicans entire; but it abounds with energetic thoughts, forcible touches, and happy illustrations. The present is an attempt to separate the gold from the dross. The selection is carefully made; from the parts rejected the best passages are preserved, the rhyme and metre are somewhat bettered, the extracts are improved and transposed, and many additions of my own are introduced. The production scornfully rejects the slavish folly, senseless jargon, and venal hypocrisy, which pretend that power is from God and not from the People. It defies those who draw upon scripture in support of Divine Right to show that scripture lays down any rules of political government, or enjoins any political duties; or that it does not leave the people to determine by their own reason what government and what governors are best for themselves. It is a forcible and argumentative satire against the nonsense from hole-and-corner and lawn-sleeve men; and presents a series of peculiarly strong and quotable lines, to engraft on the common sense of the free-minded, honest, and open-hearted of my countrymen. If it aids them in the occasional illustration and emphatic expression of their opinions, the pains I have taken will be rewarded.
There is another reason for publishing this satire, besides the revival of Priestcraft. Its twinbrother is alive. Kingcraft rears up its terrific mass, muffled in the mantle of Legitimacy; its head cowled and crowned, and dripping with the holy oil of Divine Right; its eyes glaring deadly hate to human happiness; its lips demanding worship for itself. Denouncing dreadful curses against the free, and yelling forth threatenings and slaughter, it stamps with its hoof, and coils together its frightful force to fall on young Liberty and squelch it. Its red right-arm is bared for the butchery of the brave who love Freedom and dare contend for it. It has prepared its chains and dug its dungeons, erected its scaffolds, and sharpened its axes for the wise and excellent of the earth; and its bloddy banners are unfurled in insolent anticipation of unholy triumph!--
So prayed the Bishop of London, (Porteus--not Howley) and so fervently prays,
THE SPIRIT OF DESPOTISM.
The above Rare and Extraordinary Book10 was privately printed in 1795, without the name of either printer or bookseller, and so effectually suppressed, that there are only two copies of it besides my own in existence.
Its real value consists in exhibiting an entire and luminous view of the causes and consequences of Despotic Power. Its enthusiastic and glowing love of Liberty is unexcelled by any work written since; and for clearness, richness, and beauty of style, it is superior to every production of the Press within the same period. All that the author touches, he turns into gold. I regret to say that most probably I shall never be at liberty to disclose his name.
Naturally desirous that such a work should be perused by all England, I have reprinted it, verbatim, from my own copy; and, although containing as much in quantity as a volume of Gibbon's History of Rome, it is sold for Eighteen-pence.
*** The French, instantly perceiving the transcendent merit of the SPIRIT OF DESPOTISM, and its high importance at this crisis, have translated it into their language, and it is now read throughout France with the greatest avidity. I intreat some good Neapolitan to be the benefactor of his Countrymen in like manner. It should be in the hands of the free, and those who desire to be free, in all nations:--Austria, for instance.
All notes are Hone's except when indicated by the editor's initials, [KG].
See the Form of Ordination. [return]