No People can be obliged to suffer from their Kings what they have not a right to do.

OUR author's next work is to tell us, That the scope of Samuel was to teach the people a dutiful obedience to their king, even in the things that they think mischievous or inconvenient: For by telling them what the king would do, he indeed instructs them what a subject must suffer: Yet not so that it is right for kings to do injury, but it is right for them to go unpunished by the people if they do it; so that in this point it is all one whether Samuel describe a king or a tyrant.[1] This is hard, but the conclusion is grounded upon nothing. There is no relation between a prediction that a thing shall be attempted or done to me, and a precept that I shall not defend myself, or punish the person that attempts or does it. If a prophet should say that a thief lay in the way to kill me, it might reasonably persuade me not to go, or to go in such a manner as to be able to defend myself; but can no way oblige me to submit to the violence that shall be offer'd, or my friends and children not to avenge my death if I fall; much less can other men be deprived of the natural right of defending themselves by my imprudence or obstinacy in not taking the warning given, whereby I might have preserved my life. For every man has a right of resisting some way or other that which ought not to be done to him; and tho human laws do not in all cases make men judges and avengers of the injuries offer'd to them, I think there is none that does not justify the man who kills another that offers violence to him, if it appear that the way prescribed by the law for the preservation of the innocent cannot be taken. This is not only true in the case of outrageous attempts to assassinate or rob upon the highway, but in divers others of less moment. I knew a man who being appointed to keep his master's park, killed three men in one night that came to destroy his deer; and putting himself into the hands of the magistrate, and confessing the fact both in matter and manner, he was at the publick assizes not only acquitted, but commended for having done his duty; and this in a time when 'tis well known justice was severely administered, and little favour expected by him or his master. Nay, all laws must fall, human societies that subsist by them be dissolved, and all innocent persons be exposed to the violence of the most wicked, if men might not justly defend themselves against injustice by their own natural right, when the ways prescribed by publick authority cannot be taken.

Our author may perhaps say, this is true in all except the king: And I desire to know why, if it be true in all except the king, it should not be true in relation to him? Is it possible that he who is instituted for the obtaining of justice, should claim the liberty of doing injustice as a privilege? Were it not better for a people to be without law, than that a power should be established by law to commit all manner of violences with impunity? Did not David resist those of Saul? Did he not make himself head of the tribe of Judah, when they revolted against his son, and afterwards of the ten tribes, that rejected his posterity? Did not the Israelites stone Adoram who collected the taxes, revolt from the house of David, set up Jeroboam; and did not the prophet say it was from the Lord? If it was from the Lord, was it not good? If it was good then, is it not so forever? Did good proceed from one root then, and from another now? If God had avenged the blood of Naboth by fire from heaven, and destroyed the house of Ahab, as he did the two captains and their men who were sent to apprehend Elijah,[2] it might be said, he reserv'd that vengeance to himself; but he did it by the sword of Jehu and the army (which was the people who had set him up) for an example to others.

But 'tis good to examine what this dutiful obedience is that our author mentions. Men usually owe no more than they receive. 'Tis hard to know what the Israelites owed to Saul, David, Jeroboam, Ahab, or any other king, whether good or bad, till they were made kings: And the act of the people by which so great a dignity was conferr'd, seems to have laid a duty upon them, who did receive more than they had to give: so that something must be due from them unless it were releas'd by virtue of a covenant or promise made; and none could accrue to them from the people afterwards, unless from the merit of the person in rightly executing his office. If a covenant or promise be pretended, the nature and extent of the obligation can only be known by the contents expressed, or the true intention of it. If there be a general form of covenant set and agreed upon, to which all nations must submit, it were good to know where it may be found, and by whose authority it is established, and then we may examine the sense of it. If no such do appear, we may rationally look upon those to be impostors who should go about from thence to derive a right: And as that which does not appear, is as if it were not, we may justly conclude there is no other, or none that can have any effect, but such as have been made by particular nations with their princes; which can be of no force or obligation to others, nor to themselves, any farther than according to the true intention of those that made them. There is no such thing therefore as a dutiful obedience, or duty of being obedient, incumbent upon all nations by virtue of any covenant; nor upon any particular nation, unless it be expressed by a covenant: and whoever pretends to a right of taking our sons and daughters, lands or goods, or to go unpunished if he do, must show that these things are expressed or intended by the covenant.

But tho nations for the most part owe nothing to kings, till they are kings, and that it can hardly be conceived, that any people did ever owe so much to a man, as might not be fully repaid by the honor and advantages of such an advancement; yet 'tis possible that when they are made kings, they may by their good government lay such obligations upon their subjects, as ought to be recompensed by obedience and service. There is no mortal creature that deserves so well from mankind, as a wise, valiant, diligent and just king, who as a father cherishes his people; as a shepherd feeds, defends, and is ready to lay down his life for his flock; who is a terror to evil doers, and a praise to those that do well. This is a glorious prerogative, and he who has it is happy. But before this can be adjudged to belong to all, it must be proved that all have the virtues that deserve it; and he that exacts the dutiful obedience that arises from them, must prove that they are in him. He that does this, need not plead for impunity when he does injuries; for if he do them, he is not the man we speak of: Not being so, he can have no title to the duty by human institution or covenant; nor by divine law, since, as is already proved, God has neither established kings over all nations by precept, nor recommended them by example, in setting them over his own people. He has not therefore done it at all; there is no such thing in nature; and nations can owe nothing to kings merely as kings, but what they owe by the contract made with them.

As these contracts are made voluntarily, without any previous obligation, 'tis evident men make them in consideration of their own good; and they can be of force no longer, than he with whom they are made perform his part in procuring it; and that if he turn the power which was given to him for the publick good, to the publick inconvenience and damage, he must necessarily lose the benefit he was to receive by it. The word think is foolishly and affectedly put in by our author; for those matters are very often so evident, that even the weakest know them. No great sagacity is requir'd to understand that lewd, slothful, ignorant, false, unjust, covetous and cruel princes bring inconveniences and mischiefs upon nations, and many of them are so evidently guilty of some or all these vices, that no man can be mistaken in imputing them; and the utmost calamities may rationally be expected from them, unless a remedy be applied.

But, says he, Samuel by telling them what the king would do, instructs them what the subjects must suffer, and that 'tis right he should go unpunished:[3] But, by his favour, Samuel says no such thing; neither is it to be concluded, that because a king will do wickedly, he must be suffer'd, any more than a private man, who should take the same resolution. But he told them, that when they should cry to the Lord by reason of their king, he would not hear them.[4] This was as much as to say, their ruin was unavoidable; and that, having put the power into the hands of those, who instead of protecting would oppress them; and thereby having provoked God against them, so as he would not hearken to their cries, they could have no relief. But this was no security to the authors of their calamity. The houses of Jeroboam, Baasha and Omri, escaped not unpunished, tho the people did not thereby recover their liberty. The kings had introduced a corruption that was inconsistent with it. But they who could not settle upon a right foundation to prevent future mischiefs, could avenge such as they had suffered, upon the heads of those who had caused them, and frequently did it most severely. The like befell the Romans, when by the violence of tyranny all good order was overthrown, good discipline extinguished, and the people corrupted. Ill princes could be cut in pieces, and mischiefs might be revenged, tho not prevented. But 'tis not so everywhere, nor at all times; and nothing is more irrational, than from one or a few examples to conclude a general necessity of future events. They alter according to circumstances: and as some nations by destroying tyrants could not destroy tyranny; others in removing the tyrant, have cut up tyranny by the roots. This variety has been seen in the same nation at different times: The Romans recovered their liberty by expelling Tarquin; but remained slaves notwithstanding the slaughter of Caesar. Whilst the body of the people was uncorrupted, they cured the evil wrought by the person, in taking him away. It was no hard matter to take the regal power that by one man had been enjoy'd for life, and to place it in the hands of two annual magistrates, whilst the nobility and people were, according to the condition of that age, strong and ready to maintain it. But when the mischief had taken deeper root; when the best part of the people had perished in the civil wars; when all their eminent men had fallen in battle, or by the proscriptions; when their discipline was lost, and virtue abolished, the poor remains of the distressed people were brought under the power of a mercenary soldiery, and found no relief. When they kill'd one tyrant, they often made room for a worse: It availed them nothing to cut off a rotten branch, whilst the accursed root remained, and sent forth new sprouts of the same nature to their destruction. Other generous nations have been subdued beyond a possibility of recovery; and those that are naturally base, slide into the like misery without the impulse of an exterior power. They are slaves by nature, and have neither the understanding nor courage that is required for the constitution and management of a government within themselves. They can no more subsist without a master, than a flock without a shepherd. They have no comprehension of liberty, and can neither desire the good they do not know, nor enjoy it if it were bestowed upon them. They bear all burdens; and whatever they suffer, they have no other remedy or refuge, than in the mercy of their Lord. But such nations as are naturally strong, stout, and of good understanding, whose vigour remains unbroken, manners uncorrupted, reputation unblemished, and increasing in numbers; who neither want men to make up such armies as may defend them against foreign or domestick enemies, nor leaders to head them, do ordinarily set limits to their patience. They know how to preserve their liberty, or to vindicate the violation of it; and the more patient they have been, the more inflexible they are when they resolve to be so no longer. Those who are so foolish to put them upon such courses, do to their cost find that there is a difference between lions and asses; and he is a fool who knows not that swords were given to men, that none might be slaves,[5] but such as know not how to use them.

[1] [Patriarcha, ch. 23, summarizing part of James I, True Law of Free Monarchy.]

[2] [1 Kings 1:10-12.]

[3] [Patriarcha, ch. 23.]

[4] [1 Samuel 8:18.]

[5] Ignoratque datos ne quisquam serviat enses. Lucan. [Lucan, Pharsalia, bk. 4.]