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pleasures that accompany them, cannot but create enemies. Some will envy that which is accounted happiness; others may dislike the use they make of their power; some may be unjustly exasperated by the best of their actions, when they find themselves incommoded by them; others may be too severe judges of slight miscarriages. These things may reasonably temper the joys of those, who delight most in the advantages of crowns. But the worst and most dangerous of all their enemies are these accursed sycophants, who, by making those that ought to be the best of men, like to the worst, destroy their being; and by persuading the world they aim at the same things, and are bound to no other rule than is common to all tyrants, give a fair pretence to ill men to say, they are all of one kind. And if this should be received for truth, even they who think the miscarriages of their governors may be easily redressed, and desire no more, would be the most fierce in procuring the destruction of that, which is naught in principle, and cannot be corrected.
KINGS CANNOT BE THE INTERPRETERS OF THE OATHS THEY TAKE.
OUR author's book is so full of absurdities and contradictions that it would be a rope of sand, if a
continued series of frauds did not, like a string of poisons running through the whole, give it some consistence with itself, and shew it to be the work of one and the same hand. After having endeavoured to subvert the laws of God, nature, and nations, most especially our own, by abusing the scriptures, falsely alledging the authority of many good writers, and seeking to obtrude upon mankind a universal law, that would take from every nation the right of constituting such governments within themselves, as seem most convenient for them, and giving rules for the administration of such as they had established, he gives us a full view of his religion and morals, by destroying the force of the oath taken by our kings at their coronation. "Others," says he, "affirm, that although laws of themselves do not bind kings, yet the oaths of kings at their coronation tie them to keep all the laws of their kingdoms. How far this is true, let us but examine the oath of the kings of England at their coronation; the words whereof are these: Art thou pleased to cause to be administered in all thy judgments, indifferent and upright justice, and to use discretion with mercy and verity? Art thou pleased, that our upright laws and customs be observed? And dost thou promise, that those shall be protected and maintained by thee?" &c. To which the king "answers in the affirmative, being first demanded by the archbishop of Canterbury, Pleaseth it you, to confirm and observe the laws and customs of the ancient times, granted from God by just and devout kings unto the English nation by oath unto the said people, especially the laws, liberties, and customs, granted
unto the clergy and laity by the famous king Edward?" From this he infers, that the king "is not to observe all laws, but such as are upright, because he finds evil laws mentioned in the oath of Richard the Second, which he swears to abolish : now what laws are upright, and what evil, who shall judge but the king? &c. So that in effect the king doth swear to keep no laws but such as in his judgment are upright, &c. And if he did strictly swear to observe all laws, he could not without perjury give his consent to the repealing or abrogating of any statute by act of Parliament," &c. And again, "But, let it be supposed for truth, that kings do swear to observe all laws of their kingdoms; yet no man can think it reason, that the kings should be more bound by their voluntary oaths than common persons now if a private person make a contract, either with oath, or without oath, he is no further bound than the equity and justice of the contract ties him; for a man may have relief against an unreasonable and unjust promise, if either deceit or error, force or fear, induced him thereunto; or if it be hurtful or grievous in the performance, since the law in many cases gives the king a prerogative above common persons." Lest I should be thought to insist upon small advantages, I will not oblige any man to shew where Filmer found this oath, nor observe the faults committed in the translation; but notwithstanding his false representation, I find enough for my purpose, and intend to take it in his own words. But first I shall take leave to remark, that those who, for private interests, addict themselves to the per
sonal service of princes, though to the ruin of their country, find it impossible to persuade mankind, that kings may govern as they please, when all men know there are laws to direct and restrain them, unless they can make men believe they have their power from a universal and superior law; or that princes can attempt to dissolve the obligations laid upon them by the laws, which they so solemnly swear to observe, without rendering themselves detestable to God and man, and subject to the revenging hands of both, unless they can invalidate those oaths. Mr. Hobbes, I think, was the first who very ingeniously contrived a compendious way* of justifying the most abominable perjuries, and all the mischiefs ensuing thereupon, by pretending, that as the king's oath is made to the people, the people may absolve him from the obligation; and that the people having conferred upon him all the power they had, he can do all that they could: he can therefore absolve himself, and is actually free, since he is so when he pleases. This is not false in the minor: for the people not having conferred upon him all, but only a part, of their power, that of absolving him remains in themselves, otherwise they would never have obliged him to take the oath. He cannot therefore absolve himself. The Pope finds a help for this, and, as Christ's vicar, pretends the power of absolution to be in him, and exercised it in absolving king John, But our author, despairing to impose either of these upon our age and nation, with
more impudence, and less wit, would enervate all coronation oaths by subjecting them to the discretion of the taker; whereas all men have hitherto thought their force to consist in the declared sense of those who give them. This doctrine is so new, that it surpasses the subtilty of the schoolmen, who, as an ingenious person said of them, had minced oaths so fine, that a million of them, as well as angels, may stand upon the point of a needle; and were never yet equalled but by the Jesuits, who have overthrown them by mental reservations, which is so clearly demonstrated from their books, that it cannot be denied; but so horrible, that even those of their own order, who have the least spark of common honesty, condemn the practice. And one of them, being a gentleman of a good family, told me, he would go the next day and take all the oaths that should be offered, if he could satisfy his conscience in using any manner of equivocation, or mental reservation; or that he might put any other sense upon them, than he knew to be intended by those who offered them. And if our author's conscience were not more corrupted than that of the Jesuit, who had lived fifty years under the worst discipline that I think ever was in the world, I would ask him seriously, if he truly believes, that the nobility, clergy, and commonality of England, who have been always
* Verba jurantis obligare in sensu quo ea creditur accepisse tui juratum est....dictis ipsis testem adhibens Deum, debet dicta facere vera quomodo putat intelligi. Grotius de jure B. & P. l. ii. c. 13.