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Sacred and human histories furnish us with many examples of those who have feared the lustre of a crown. Men that find in themselves no delight in doing mischief, know not what thoughts may insinuate into their minds, when they are raised too much above their sphere. They who were able to bear adversity, have been precipitated into ruin by prosperity. When the prophet told Hazael the villanies he would commit, he answered, “Is thy servant a dog, that I should do these things?" but yet he did them. I know not where to find an example of a man more excellently qualified, than Alexander of Macedon; but he fell under the weight of his own fortune, and grew to exceed those in vice, whom he had conquered by his virtue. The nature of man can hardly suffer such violent changes, without being disordered by them; and every one ought to enter into a just diffidence of himself, and fear the temptations that have destroyed so many. If any man be so happily born, so carefully educated, so established in virtue, that no storm can shake him, nor any poison corrupt him, yet he will consider he is mortal; and knowing no more than Solomon, whether his son shall be a wise man or a fool, he will always fear to take upon him a power, which must prove a most pestilent evil both to the person that has it, and to those that are under it, as soon as it shall fall into the hands of one who either knows not how to use it, or may be easily drawn to abuse it. Supreme magistrates always walk in obscure and slippery places: but when they are advanced so high, that no one is near enough to support, direct,
or restrain them, their fall is inevitable and mortal. And those nations that have wanted the prudence rightly to balance the powers of their magistrates, have been frequently obliged to have recourse to the most violent remedies, and with much difficulty, danger, and blood, to punish the crimes which they might have prevented. On the other side, such as have been more wise in the constitution of their gov. ernments, have always had regard to the frailty of human nature, and the corruption reigning in the hearts of men; and being less liberal of the power over their lives and liberties, have reserved to themselves so much, as might keep their magistrates within the limits of the law, and oblige them to perform the ends of their institution. And as the law which denounces severe penalties for crimes, is indeed merciful both to ill men, who are by that means deterred from committing them; and to the good, who otherwise would be destroyed; so those nations that have kept the reigns in their hands, have by the same act provided as well for the safety of their princes, as for their own. They who know the law is well defended, seldom attempt to subvert it: they are not easily tempted to run into excesses, when such bounds are set, as may not safely be transgressed; and whilst they are by this means rendered more moderate in the exercise of their power, the people is exempted from the odious necessity of suffering all manner of indignities and miseries, or by their destruction to prevent or avenge them.
3. To the third: if these rules have not been well observed in the first constitution, or from the changes
of times, corruption of manners, insensible encroachments, or violent usurpations of princes, have been rendered ineffectual, and the people exposed to all the calamities that may be brought upon them by the weakness, vices, and malice of the prince, or those who govern him, I confess the remedies are more difficult and dangerous: but even in those cases they must be tried. Nothing can be feared that is worse than what is suffered, or must in a short time fall upon those who are in this condition. They who are already fallen into all that is odious, shameful, and miserable, cannot justly fear. When things are brought to such a pass, the boldest counsels are the most safe; and if they must* perish who lie still, and they can but perish who are most active, the choice is easily made. Let the danger be never so great, there is a possibility of safety, whilst men have life, hands, arms, and courage to use them; but that people must certainly perish, who tamely suffer themselves to be oppressed, either by the injustice, cruelty, and malice of an ill magistrate, or by those who prevail upon the vices and infirmities of weak princes. It is in vain to say, that this may give occasion to men of raising tumults, or civil war; for though these are evils, yet they are not the greatest of evils. Civil war, in Machiavel's account, is a disease; but tyranny is the death of a state. Gentle
Moriendum victis, moriendum deditis; id solum interest, an inter crutiatus & ludibria, an pro virtutem expiremus
Quod si nocentes innocentesque; idem exitus maneat, acrioris viri est merito perire.
ways are first to be used, and it is best if the work can be done by them; but it must not be left undone, if they fail. It is good to use supplications, advices, and remonstrances; but those who have no regard to justice, and will not hearken to counsel, must be constrained. It is folly to deal otherwise with a man who will not be guided by reason, and a magistrate who despises the law; or rather to think him a man, who rejects the essential principle of a man; or to account him a magistrate, who overthrows the law by which he is a magistrate. This is the last result; but those nations must come to it, which cannot otherwise be preserved. Nero's madness was not to be cured, nor the mischievous effects of it any otherwise to be suppressed, than by his death. He who had spared such a monster when it was in his power to remove him, had brought destruction upon the whole empire; and by a foolish clemency made himself the author of his future villanies. This would have been yet more clear, if the world had then been in such a temper as to be capable of an intire liberty. But the ancient foundations had been overthrown, and nothing better could be built upon the new, than something that might in part resist that torrent of iniquity which had overflowed the best part of the world, and give mankind a little time to breathe under a less barbarous master. Yet all the best men did join in the work that was then to be done, though they knew it would prove but imperfect. The sacred history is not without examples of this kind; when Ahab had subverted the law, set up false witnesses and corrupt judges to destroy the innocent,
killed the prophets, and established idolatry, his house must then be cut off, and his blood be licked up by dogs. When matters are brought to this pass, the decision is easy. The question is only, whether the punishment of crimes shall fall upon one or a few persons who are guilty of them, or upon a whole nation that is innocent. If the father may not die for the son, nor the son for the father, but every one must bear the penalty of his own crimes, it would be most absurd to punish the people for the guilt of! princes. When the Earl of Morton was sent ambassador to Queen Elizabeth by the estates of Scotland, to justify their proceedings against Mary their queen, whom they had obliged to renounce the gov ernment, he alledged, amongst other things, the murder of her husband plainly proved against her; asserted the ancient right and custom of the king. dom, of * examining the actions of their kings; by which means, he said, many had been † punished with death, imprisonment, and exile; confirmed their actions by the examples of other nations; and
* Animadvertendi in reges.
+ Morte, vinculis, & exilio puniti. BUCHAN. hist. Scot. I. xx Qui tot reges regno exuerunt, exilio damnarunt, carceribus coercuerunt supplicio denique; affecerunt, nec unquam tamen de acerbitate legis minuenda mentio est facta, &c. Ibid. Facile apparet regnum nihil aliud esse, quam mutuam inter regem & populum stipulationem. Non de illarum sanctionum genere, quæ mutationibus temporum sunt obnoxiæ, sed in primo generis humani exortu, et mutuo prope omnium grentium consensu comprobate & una cum rerum natura infragiles & sempiterna perennent. Ibid.