The power of Augustus Caesar was not given, but usurped.

OUR author's next instance is ingeniously taken from the Romans, Who, he says, tho they were a people greedy of liberty, freed Augustus from the necessity of laws.[1] If it be true, as he affirms, that such a prerogative is instituted only for the preservation of liberty, they who are most greedy of it, ought to be most forward in establishing that which defends it best. But if the weight laid upon the words greedy of liberty, &c. render his memory and judgment liable to censure, the unpardonable prevarication of citing any act done by the Romans in the time of Augustus, as done freely, shews him to be a man of no faith. Omnium jura in se traxerat, says Tacitus of Augustus;[2] nothing was conferred upon him, he took all to himself; there could be nothing of right in that which was wholly usurped. And neither the people or the senate could do anything freely, whilst they were under the power of a mad corrupted soldiery, who first betray'd, and then subdued them. The greatest part of the senate had fall'n at the battle of Pharsalia, others had been gleaned up in several places, the rest destroy'd by the proscriptions; and that which then retained the name of a senate, was made up chiefly of those who had been his ministers, in bringing the most miserable slavery upon their own country. The Roman liberty, and that bravery of spirit by which it had been maintained, was not only abolished, but almost forgotten. All consideration of law and right was trampled under foot; and none could dispute with him, who by the power of the sword had seiz'd the authority both of the senate and people. Nothing was so extravagant, that might not be extorted by the insolent violence of a conqueror, who had thirty mercenary legions to execute his commands. The uncorrupted part of the people that had escaped the sword of Julius, had either perished with Hirtius and Pansa, Brutus and Cassius, or been destroy'd by the detestable triumvirate. Those that remain'd could lose nothing by a verbal resignation of their liberty, which they had neither strength nor courage to defend. The magistracies were possess'd by the creatures of the tyrant; and the people was composed of such as were either born under slavery, and accustomed to obey, or remain'd under the terror of those arms that had consumed the assertors of their liberty. Our author standing in need of some Roman example was obliged to seek it in an age, when the laws were subverted, virtue extinguished, injustice placed in the throne, and such as would not be of the same spirit, exposed to the utmost cruelty. This was the time when the sovereign majesty shined in glory; and they who had raised it above the law, made it also the object of their religion, by adoring the statues of their oppressor. The corruption of this court spread itself over the best part of the world; and reduced the empire to that irrecoverable weakness in which it languished and perish'd. This is the state of things that pleases Filmer, and those that are like him, who for the introduction of the same among us, recommend such an elevation of the sovereign majesty, as is most contrary to the laws of God and men, abhorred by all generous nations, and most especially by our ancestors, who thought nothing too dear to be hazarded in the defence of themselves and us from it.

[1] [Patriarcha, ch. 26.]

[2] Annal. I. 1. [Tacitus, Annals, bk. 1, ch. 2.]