If any one think I take too much liberty in speaking so freely of a man, who is the great champion of absolute power, and the idol of those who worship it; I beseech him to make this small allowance for once, to one, who, even after the reading of sir Robert’s book, cannot but think himself, as the laws allow him, a freeman: and I know no fault it is to do so, unless any one, better skilled in the fate of it than I, should have it revealed to him, that this treatise, which has lain dormant so long, was, when it appeared in the world, to carry, by strength of its arguments, all liberty out of it; and that, from thenceforth, our author’s short model was to be the pattern in the mount, and the perfect standard of politics for the future. His system lies in a little compass, it is no more but this,
However we must believe them upon their own bare words, when they tell us, “We are all born slaves, and we must continue so;” there is no remedy for it; life and thraldom we entered into together, and can never be quit of the one, till we part with the other. Scripture or reason, I am sure, do not any where say so, notwithstanding the noise of divine right, as if divine authority had subjected us to the unlimited will of another. An admirable state of mankind, and that which they have not had wit enough to find out till this latter age! For, however sir Robert Filmer seems to condemn the novelty of the contrary opinion, Patr. p. 3, yet I believe it will be hard for him to find any other age, or country of the world, but this, which has asserted monarchy to be jure divino. And he confesses, Patr. p. 4, That “Heyward, Blackwood, Barclay, and others, that have bravely vindicated the right of kings in most points, never thought of this; but with one consent admitted the natural liberty and equality of mankind.”
It will become necessary for the state to take over and supervise civil society in detail. The more a government violates the principles of uniformity and generality of the law, the more arbitrary and complex its laws become, then the more it comes to resemble an absolutist government, and the more it suffers from problems for which political absolutism appears to be the solution. Every so often, a ruler such as King James II or Adolf Hitler, attempts to put the theories of the absolutists into effect.
David, who might be supposed to understand the donation of God in this text, and the right of kings too, as well as our author, in his comment on this place, as the learned and judicious Ainsworth calls it, in the 8th Psalm, finds here no such charter of monarchical power; his words are, “Thou hast made him, i. e. man, the son of man, a little lower than the angels; thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and the beasts of the field, and fowls of the air, and fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea.” In which words, if any one can find out that there is meant any monarchical power of one man over another, but only the dominion of the whole species of mankind, over the inferior species of creatures, he may, for aught I know, deserve to be one of sir Robert’s monarchs in habit, for the rareness of the discovery. And by this time, I hope it is evident, that he that gave “dominion over every living thing that moveth on the earth,” gave Adam no monarchical power over those of his own species, which will yet appear more fully in the next thing I am to show.
But says our author, however, p. 19. “Whensoever God made choice of any special person to be king, he intended that the issue also should have benefit thereof, as being comprehended sufficiently in the person of the father, although the father was only named in the grant.” This yet will not help out succession: for if, as our author says, the benefit of the grant be intended to the issue of the grantee, this will not direct the succession; since, if God give any thing to a man and his issue in general, the claim cannot be to any one of that issue in particular; every one that is of his race will have an equal right. If it be said, our author meant heir, I believe our author was as willing as any body to have used that word, if it would have served his turn: but Solomon who succeeded David in the throne, being no more his heir than Jeroboam, who succeeded him in the government of the ten tribes, was his issue, our author had reason to avoid saying, that God intended it to the heirs, when that would not hold in a succession, which our author could not except against; and so he has left his succession as undetermined, as if he had said nothing about it: for if the regal power be given by God to a man and his issue, as the land of Canaan was to Abraham and his seed, must they not all have a title to it, all share in it? And one may as well say; that by God’s grant to Abraham and his seed, the land of Canaan was to belong only to one of his seed exclusive of all others, as by God’s grant of dominion to a man and his issue, this dominion was to belong in peculiar to one of his issue exclusive of all others.
The power of assembling and dismissing the legislative, placed in the executive, gives not the executive a superiority over it, but is a fiduciary trust placed in him for the safety of the people, in a case where the uncertainty and variableness of human affairs could not bear a steady fixed rule: for it not being possible that the first framers of the government should, by any foresight, be so much masters of future events as to be able to prefix so just periods of return and duration to the assemblies of the legislative, in all times to come, that might exactly answer all the exigencies of the commonwealth; the best remedy could be found for this defect was to trust this to the prudence of one who was always to be present, and whose business it was to watch over the public good. Constant frequent meetings of the legislative, and long continuations of their assemblies, without necessary occasion, could not but be burdensome to the people, and must necessarily in time produce more dangerous inconveniencies, and yet the quick turn of affairs might be sometimes such as to need their present help: any delay of their convening might endanger the public; and sometimes too their business might be so great, that the limited time of their sitting might be too short for their work, and rob the public of that benefit which could be had only from their mature deliberation. What then could be done in this case to prevent the community from being exposed some time or other to eminent hazard, on one side or the other, by fixed intervals and periods, set to the meeting and acting of the legislative; but to intrust it to the prudence of some, who being present, and acquainted with the state of public affairs, might make use of this prerogative for the public good? and where else could this be so well placed as in his hands, who was intrusted with the execution of the laws for the same end? Thus supposing the regulation of times for the assembling and sitting of the legislative not settled by the original constitution, it naturally fell into the hands of the executive, not as an arbitrary power depending on his good pleasure, but with this trust always to have it exercised only for the public weal, as the occurrences of times and change of affairs might require. Whether settled periods of their convening, or a liberty left to the prince for convoking the legislative, or perhaps a mixture of both, hath the least inconvenience attending it, it is not my business here to inquire; but only to show, that though the executive power may have the prerogative of convoking and dissolving such conventions of the legislative, yet it is not thereby superiour to it.
He that is nourished by the acorns he picked up under an oak, or the apples he gathered from the trees in the wood, has certainly appropriated them to himself. Nobody can deny but the nourishment is his. I ask then, when did they begin to be his? when he digested? or when he eat? or when he boiled? or when he brought them home? or when he picked them up? and it is plain, if the first gathering made them not his, nothing else could. That labour put a distinction between them and common: that added something to them more than nature, the common mother of all, had done; and so they became his private right. And will any one say he had no right to those acorns or apples he thus appropriated, because he had not the consent of all mankind to make them his? was it a robbery thus to assume to himself what belonged to all in common? If such a consent as that was necessary, man had starved, notwithstanding the plenty God had given him. We see in commons, which remain so by compact, that it is the taking any part of what is common, and removing it out of the state nature leaves it in, which begins the property; without which the common is of no use. And the taking of this or that part does not depend on the express consent of all the commoners. Thus the grass my horse has bit; the turfs my servant has cut; and the ore I have digged in any place, where I have a right to them in common with others; become my property, without the assignation or consent of any body. The labour that was mine, removing them out of that common state they were in, hath fixed my property in them.
It is in the Victorian age (1840-1900) that the field is most bewildering. It is true, as Frederick Harrison says, that "this Victorian age has no Shakespeare or Milton, no Bacon or Hume, no Fielding or Scott—no supreme master in poetry, philosophy, or romance whose work is incorporated with the thought of the world, who is destined to form an epoch, to endure for centuries." 11 The genius of the period is more scientific than literary, yet we would be helpless if we had not already eliminated from our discussion everything but the works and writers of pure literature. The output of books has been so tremendous that it would be impossible to analyze the influences which have made them. There are in this Victorian period at least twelve great English writers who must be known, whose work affects the current of English literature. Many other names would need mention in any full history or any minute study; but it is not harsh judgment to say that the main current of literature would be the same without them. A few of these lesser names will come to mind, and in the calling of them one realizes the influence, even on them, of the English Bible. Anthony Trollope wrote sixty volumes, the titles of most of which are now popularly unknown. He told George Eliot that it was not brains that explained his writing so much, but rather wax which he put in the seat of his chair, which held him down to his daily stint of work. He could boast, and it was worth the boasting, that he had never written a line which a pure woman could not read without a blush. His whole Framley Parsonage series abounds in Bible references and allusions. So Charlotte Bronte is in English literature, and Jane Eyre does prove what she was meant to prove, that a commonplace person can be made the heroine of a novel; but on all Charlotte Bronte's work is the mark of the rectory in which she grew up. So Thomas Grey has left his "Elegy" and his "Hymn to Adversity," and some other writing which most of us have forgotten or never knew. Then there are Maria Edgeworth and Jane Austen. We may even remember that Macaulay thought Jane Austen could be compared with Shakespeare, as, of course, she can be, since any one can be; but neither of these good women has strongly affected the literary current. Many others could be named, but English literature would be substantially the same without them; and, though all might show Biblical influence, they would not illustrate what we are trying to discover. So we come, without apology to the unnamed, to the twelve, without whom English literature would be different. This is the list in the order of the alphabet: Matthew Arnold, Robert Browning (Mrs. Browning being grouped as one with him), Carlyle, Dickens, George Eliot, Charles Kingsley, Macaulay, Ruskin, Robert Louis Stevenson, Swinburne, Tennyson, and Thackeray.
That the aggressor, who puts himself into the state of war with another, and unjustly invades another man’s right, can, by such an unjust war, never come to have a right over the conquered, will be easily agreed by all men, who will not think, that robbers and pirates have a right of empire over whomsoever they have force enough to master; or that men are bound by promises, which unlawful force extorts from them. Should a robber break into my house, and with a dagger at my throat, make me seal deeds to convey my estate to him, would this give him any title? Just such a title, by his sword, has an unjust conqueror, who forces me into submission. The injury and the crime are equal, whether committed by the wearer of the crown, or some petty villain. The title of the offender, and the number of his followers, make no difference in the offence, unless it be to aggravate it. The only difference is, great robbers punish little ones, to keep them in their obedience; but the great ones are rewarded with laurels and triumphs; because they are too big for the weak hands of justice in this world, and have the power in their own possession, which should punish offenders. What is my remedy against a robber, that so broke into my house? Appeal to the law for justice. But perhaps justice is denied, or I am crippled and cannot stir, robbed and have not the means to do it. If God has taken away all means of seeking remedy, there is nothing left but patience. But my son, when able, may seek the relief of the law, which I am denied: he or his son may renew his appeal, till he recover his right. But the conquered, or their children, have no court, no arbitrator on earth to appeal to. Then they may appeal, as Jephthah did, to heaven, and repeat their appeal till they have recovered the native right of their ancestors, which was, to have such a legislative over them, as the majority should approve, and freely acquiesce in. If it be objected, this would cause endless trouble; I answer, no more than justice does, where she lies open to all that appeal to her. He that troubles his neighbour without a cause, is punished for it by the justice of the court he appeals to: and he that appeals to heaven must be sure he has right on his side; and a right too that is worth the trouble and cost of the appeal, as he will answer at a tribunal that cannot be deceived, and will be sure to retribute to every one according to the mischiefs he hath created to his fellow-subjects; that is, any part of mankind: from whence it is plain, that he that “conquers in an unjust war, can thereby have no title to the subjection and obedience of the conquered.”