No Veneration paid, or Honor conferr'd upon a just and lawful Magistrate, can diminish the Liberty of a Nation.

SOME have supposed, that tho the people be naturally free, and magistrates created by them, they do by such creations deprive themselves of that natural liberty; and that the names of king, sovereign lord, and dread sovereign, being no way consistent with liberty, they who give such titles do renounce it. Our author carries this very far, and lays great weight upon the submissive language used by the people, when they humbly crave that his majesty would be pleased to grant their accustomed freedom of speech, and access to his person; and give the name of supplications and petitions to the addresses made to him:[1] Whereas he answers in the haughty language of le roy le veut, le ray s'avisera,[2] and the like. But they who talk at this rate, shew, that they neither understand the nature of magistracy, nor the practice of nations. Those who have lived in the highest exercise of their liberty, and have been most tenacious of it, have thought no honor too great for such magistrates as were eminent in the defence of their rights, and were set up for that end. The name of dread sovereign might justly have been given to a Roman dictator, or consul, for they had the sovereign authority in their hands, and power sufficient for its execution. Whilst their magistracy continued, they were a terror to the same men, whose axes and rods had been a terror to them the year or month before, and might be so again the next. The Romans thought they could not be guilty of excess in carrying the power and veneration due to their dictator to the highest: And Livy tells us, that his edicts were esteemed sacred.[3] I have already shewn, that this haughty people, who might have commanded, condescended to join with their tribunes in a petition to the dictator Papirius, for the life of Quintus Fabius, who had fought a battle in his absence, and without his order, tho he had gained a great and memorable victory. The same Fabius, when consul, was commended by his father Q. Fabius Maximus, for obliging him by his lictors to dismount from his horse, and to pay him the same respect that was due from others. The tribunes of the people, who were instituted for the preservation of liberty, were also esteemed sacred and inviolable, as appears by that phrase, sacrosancta tribunorum potestas,[4] so common in their ancient writers. No man, I presume, thinks any monarchy more limited, or more clearly derived from a delegated power, than that of the German emperors; and yet sacra caesarea majestas[5] is the publick style. Nay, the Hollanders at this day call their burgermasters, tho they see them selling herring or tar, high and mighty lords, as soon as they are advanced to be of the 36, 42 or 48 magistrates of a small town. 'Tis no wonder therefore, if a great nation should think it conducing to their own glory, to give magnificent titles, and use submissive language to that one man, whom they set up to be their head; most especially, if we consider that they came from a country where such titles and language were principally invented.

Among the Romans and Grecians we hear nothing of majesty, highness, serenity and excellence appropriated to a single person, but receive them from Germany and other Northern countries. We find majestas populi Romani, and majestas imperil,[6] in their best authors; but no man speaking to Julius or Augustus, or even to the vainest of their successors, ever used those empty titles, nor took upon themselves the name of servants, as we do to every fellow we meet in the streets. When such ways of speaking are once introduced, they must needs swell to a more than ordinary height in all transactions with princes. Most of them naturally delight in vanity, and courtiers never speak more truth, than when they most extol their masters, and assume to themselves the names that best express the most abject slavery. These being brought into mode, like all ill customs, increase by use; and then no man can omit them without bringing that hatred and danger upon himself, which few will undergo, except for something that is evidently of great importance. Matters of ceremony and title at the first seem not to be so; and being for some time neglected, they acquire such strength as not to be easily removed. From private usage they pass into publick acts; and those flatterers who gave a beginning to them, proposing them in publick councils, where too many of that sort have always insinuated themselves, gain credit enough to make them pass. This work was farther advanced by the church of Rome, according to their custom of favouring that most, which is most vain and corrupt; and it has been usual with the popes and their adherents, liberally to gratify princes for services render'd to the church, with titles that tended only to the prejudice of the people. These poisonous plants having taken root, grew up so fast, that the titles which, within the space of a hundred years, were thought sufficient for the kings and queens of England, have of late been given to Monk and his honourable duchess. New phrases have been invented to please princes, or the sense of the old perverted, as has happen'd to that of le roy s'avisera: And that which was no more than a liberty to consult with the lords upon a bill presented by the commons, is by some men now taken for a right inherent in the king of denying such bills as may be offer'd to him by the lords and commons; tho the coronation oath oblige him to hold, keep and defend the just laws and customs, quas vulgus elegerit.[7] And if a stop be not put to this exorbitant abuse, the words still remaining in acts of parliament, which shew that their acts are our laws, may perhaps be also abolished. But tho this should come to pass, by the slackness of the lords and commons, it could neither create a new right in the king, nor diminish that of the people: But it might give a better colour to those who are enemies to their country, to render the power of the crown arbitrary, than anything that is yet among us.

[1] [Patriarcha, ch. 30, ch. 29.]

[2] [The king wishes it, the king will consider.]

[3] Edictum dictatoris pro numine observatum. Hist. 1. 8 [Livy, History of Rome, bk. 8, ch. 34.]

[4] [The sacrosanct power of the tribunes.]

[5] [Sacred Caesarean majesty.]

[6] [Majesty of the Roman people, majesty of the empire.]

[7] [Which the people shall have chosen.]