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READ STUDY GUIDE: Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession

 
Section 2:
OF MONARCHY AND HEREDITARY SUCCESSION
 

MANKIND being originally equals in the order of creation, the equality could only be destroyed by some subsequent circumstance; the distinctions of rich, and poor, may in a great measure be accounted for, and that without having recourse to the harsh ill sounding names of oppression and avarice. Oppression is often the CONSEQUENCE, but seldom or never the MEANS of riches; and though avarice will preserve a man from being necessitously poor, it generally makes him too timorous to be wealthy.

But there is another and greater distinction for which no truly
natural or religious reason can be assigned, and that is, the
distinction of men into KINGS and SUBJECTS. Male and female are the
distinctions of nature, good and bad the distinctions of heaven; but
how a race of men came into the world so exalted above the rest, and
distinguished like some new species, is worth enquiring into, and
whether they are the means of happiness or of misery to mankind.
In the early ages of the world, according to the scripture
chronology, there were no kings; the consequence of which was there
were no wars; it is the pride of kings which throw mankind into
confusion. Holland without a king hath enjoyed more peace for this
last century than any of the monarchical governments in Europe.
Antiquity favors the same remark; for the quiet and rural lives of
the first patriarchs hath a happy something in them, which vanishes
away when we come to the history of Jewish royalty.
Government by kings was first introduced into the world by the
Heathens, from whom the children of Israel copied the custom. It was
the most prosperous invention the Devil ever set on foot for the
promotion of idolatry. The Heathens paid divine honors to their
deceased kings, and the christian world hath improved on the plan by
doing the same to their living ones. How impious is the title of
sacred majesty applied to a worm, who in the midst of his splendor is
crumbling into dust!
As the exalting one man so greatly above the rest cannot be
justified on the equal rights of nature, so neither can it be
defended on the authority of scripture; for the will of the Almighty,
as declared by Gideon and the prophet Samuel, expressly disapproves
of government by kings. All anti-monarchical parts of scripture have
been very smoothly glossed over in monarchical governments, but they
undoubtedly merit the attention of countries which have their
governments yet to form. "RENDER UNTO CAESAR THE THINGS WHICH ARE
CAESAR'S" is the scripture doctrine of courts, yet it is no support
of monarchical government, for the Jews at that time were without a
king, and in a state of vassalage to the Romans.
Near three thousand years passed away from the Mosaic account of
the creation, till the Jews under a national delusion requested a
king. Till then their form of government (except in extraordinary
cases, where the Almighty interposed) was a kind of republic
administered by a judge and the elders of the tribes. Kings they had
none, and it was held sinful to acknowledge any being under that
title but the Lord of Hosts. And when a man seriously reflects on the
idolatrous homage which is paid to the persons of Kings, he need not
wonder, that the Almighty ever jealous of his honor, should
disapprove of a form of government which so impiously invades the
prerogative of heaven.
Monarchy is ranked in scripture as one of the sins of the Jews, for
which a curse in reserve is denounced against them. The history of
that transaction is worth attending to.
The children of Israel being oppressed by the Midianites, Gideon
marched against them with a small army, and victory, thro' the divine
interposition, decided in his favour. The Jews elate with success,
and attributing it to the generalship of Gideon, proposed making him
a king, saying, RULE THOU OVER US, THOU AND THY SON AND THY SON'S
SON. Here was temptation in its fullest extent; not a kingdom only,
but an hereditary one, but Gideon in the piety of his soul replied,
I WILL NOT RULE OVER YOU, NEITHER SHALL MY SON RULE OVER YOU. THE
LORD SHALL RULE OVER YOU. Words need not be more explicit; Gideon
doth not DECLINE the honor, but denieth their right to give it;
neither doth he compliment them with invented declarations of his
thanks, but in the positive stile of a prophet charges them with
disaffection to their proper Sovereign, the King of heaven.
About one hundred and thirty years after this, they fell again into
the same error. The hankering which the Jews had for the idolatrous
customs of the Heathens, is something exceedingly unaccountable; but
so it was, that laying hold of the misconduct of Samuel's two sons,
who were entrusted with some secular concerns, they came in an abrupt
and clamorous manner to Samuel, saying, BEHOLD THOU ART OLD, AND THY
SONS WALK NOT IN THY WAYS, NOW MAKE US A KING TO JUDGE US LIKE ALL
THE OTHER NATIONS. And here we cannot but observe that their motives
were bad, viz. that they might be LIKE unto other nations, i. e.
the Heathens, whereas their true glory laid in being as much UNLIKE
them as possible. BUT THE THING DISPLEASED SAMUEL WHEN THEY SAID,
GIVE US A KING TO JUDGE US; AND SAMUEL PRAYED UNTO THE LORD, AND THE
LORD SAID UNTO SAMUEL, HEARKEN UNTO THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE IN ALL
THAT THEY SAY UNTO THEE, FOR THEY HAVE NOT REJECTED THEE, BUT THEY
HAVE REJECTED ME, THAT I SHOULD NOT REIGN OVER THEM. ACCORDING TO
ALL THE WORKS WHICH THEY HAVE DONE SINCE THE DAY THAT I BROUGHT THEM
UP OUT OF EGYPT, EVEN UNTO THIS DAY; WHEREWITH THEY HAVE FORSAKEN ME
AND SERVED OTHER GODS; SO DO THEY ALSO UNTO THEE. NOW THEREFORE
HEARKEN UNTO THEIR VOICE, HOWBEIT, PROTEST SOLEMNLY UNTO THEM AND
SHEW THEM THE MANNER OF THE KING THAT SHALL REIGN OVER THEM, I. E.
not of any particular king, but the general manner of the kings of
the earth, whom Israel was so eagerly copying after. And
notwithstanding the great distance of time and difference of manners,
the character is still in fashion. AND SAMUEL TOLD ALL THE WORDS OF
THE LORD UNTO THE PEOPLE, THAT ASKED OF HIM A KING. AND HE SAID, THIS
SHALL BE THE MANNER OF THE KING THAT SHALL REIGN OVER YOU; HE WILL
TAKE YOUR SONS AND APPOINT THEM FOR HIMSELF, FOR HIS CHARIOTS, AND TO
BE HIS HORSEMEN, AND SOME SHALL RUN BEFORE HIS CHARIOTS (this
description agrees with the present mode of impressing men) AND HE
WILL APPOINT HIM CAPTAINS OVER THOUSANDS AND CAPTAINS OVER FIFTIES,
AND WILL SET THEM TO EAR HIS GROUND AND TO READ HIS HARVEST, AND TO
MAKE HIS INSTRUMENTS OF WAR, AND INSTRUMENTS OF HIS CHARIOTS; AND HE
WILL TAKE YOUR DAUGHTERS TO BE CONFECTIONARIES, AND TO BE COOKS AND
TO BE BAKERS (this describes the expence and luxury as well as the
oppression of kings) AND HE WILL TAKE YOUR FIELDS AND YOUR OLIVE
YARDS, EVEN THE BEST OF THEM, AND GIVE THEM TO HIS SERVANTS; AND HE
WILL TAKE THE TENTH OF YOUR FEED, AND OF YOUR VINEYARDS, AND GIVE
THEM TO HIS OFFICERS AND TO HIS SERVANTS (by which we see that
bribery, corruption, and favoritism are the standing vices of kings)
AND HE WILL TAKE THE TENTH OF YOUR MEN SERVANTS, AND YOUR MAID
SERVANTS, AND YOUR GOODLIEST YOUNG MEN AND YOUR ASSES, AND PUT THEM
TO HIS WORK; AND HE WILL TAKE THE TENTH OF YOUR SHEEP, AND YE SHALL
BE HIS SERVANTS, AND YE SHALL CRY OUT IN THAT DAY BECAUSE OF YOUR
KING WHICH YE SHALL HAVE CHOSEN, AND THE LORD WILL NOT HEAR YOU IN
THAT DAY. This accounts for the continuation of monarchy; neither do
the characters of the few good kings which have lived since, either
sanctify the title, or blot out the sinfulness of the origin; the
high encomium given of David takes no notice of him OFFICIALLY AS A
KING, but only as a MAN after God's own heart. NEVERTHELESS THE
PEOPLE REFUSED TO OBEY THE VOICE OF SAMUEL, AND THEY SAID, NAY, BUT
WE WILL HAVE A KING OVER US, THAT WE MAY BE LIKE ALL THE NATIONS, AND
THAT OUR KING MAY JUDGE US, AND GO OUT BEFORE US, AND FIGHT OUR
BATTLES. Samuel continued to reason with them, but to no purpose; he
set before them their ingratitude, but all would not avail; and
seeing them fully bent on their folly, he cried out, I WILL CALL
UNTO THE LORD, AND HE SHALL SEND THUNDER AND RAIN (which then was a
punishment, being in the time of wheat harvest) THAT YE MAY PERCEIVE
AND SEE THAT YOUR WICKEDNESS IS GREAT WHICH YE HAVE DONE IN THE SIGHT
OF THE LORD, IN ASKING YOU A KING. SO SAMUEL CALLED UNTO THE LORD,
AND THE LORD SENT THUNDER AND RAIN THAT DAY, AND ALL THE PEOPLE
GREATLY FEARED THE LORD AND SAMUEL. AND ALL THE PEOPLE SAID UNTO
SAMUEL, PRAY FOR THY SERVANTS UNTO THE LORD THY GOD THAT WE DIE NOT,
FOR WE HAVE ADDED UNTO OUR SINS THIS EVIL, TO ASK A KING. These
portions of scripture are direct and positive. They admit of no
equivocal construction. That the Almighty hath here entered his
protest against monarchical government is true, or the scripture is
false. And a man hath good reason to believe that there is as much of
king-craft, as priest-craft, in withholding the scripture from the
public in Popish countries. For monarchy in every instance is the
Popery of government.
To the evil of monarchy we have added that of hereditary
succession; and as the first is a degradation and lessening of
ourselves, so the second, claimed as a matter of right, is an insult
and an imposition on posterity. For all men being originally equals,
no ONE by BIRTH could have a right to set up his own family in
perpetual preference to all others for ever, and though himself might
deserve SOME decent degree of honors of his cotemporaries, yet his
descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them. One of the
strongest NATURAL proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings,
is, that nature disapproves it, otherwise, she would not so
frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind an ASS FOR A
LION.
Secondly, as no man at first could possess any other public honors
than were bestowed upon him, so the givers of those honors could have
no power to give away the right of posterity, and though they might
say "We choose you for OUR head," they could not, without manifest
injustice to their children, say "that your children and your
children's children shall reign over OURS for ever." Because such
an unwise, unjust, unnatural compact might (perhaps) in the next
succession put them under the government of a rogue or a fool. Most
wise men, in their private sentiments, have ever treated hereditary
right with contempt; yet it is one of those evils, which when once
established is not easily removed; many submit from fear, others from
superstition, and the more powerful part shares with the king the
plunder of the rest.
This is supposing the present race of kings in the world to have
had an honorable origin; whereas it is more than probable, that could
we take off the dark covering of antiquity, and trace them to their
first rise, that we should find the first of them nothing better than
the principal ruffian of some restless gang, whose savage manners or
pre-eminence in subtility obtained him the title of chief among
plunderers; and who by increasing in power, and extending his
depredations, over-awed the quiet and defenceless to purchase their
safety by frequent contributions. Yet his electors could have no idea
of giving hereditary right to his descendants, because such a
perpetual exclusion of themselves was incompatible with the free and
unrestrained principles they professed to live by. Wherefore,
hereditary succession in the early ages of monarchy could not take
place as a matter of claim, but as something casual or complimental;
but as few or no records were extant in those days, and traditionary
history stuffed with fables, it was very easy, after the lapse of a
few generations, to trump up some superstitious tale, conveniently
timed, Mahomet like, to cram hereditary right down the throats of the
vulgar. Perhaps the disorders which threatened, or seemed to
threaten, on the decease of a leader and the choice of a new one (for
elections among ruffians could not be very orderly) induced many at
first to favor hereditary pretensions; by which means it happened, as
it hath happened since, that what at first was submitted to as a
convenience, was afterwards claimed as a right.
England, since the conquest, hath known some few good monarchs, but
groaned beneath a much larger number of bad ones; yet no man in his
senses can say that their claim under William the Conqueror is a very
honorable one. A French bastard landing with an armed banditti, and
establishing himself king of England against the consent of the
natives, is in plain terms a very paltry rascally original. It
certainly hath no divinity in it. However, it is needless to spend
much time in exposing the folly of hereditary right, if there are any
so weak as to believe it, let them promiscuously worship the ass and
lion, and welcome. I shall neither copy their humility, nor disturb
their devotion.
Yet I should be glad to ask how they suppose kings came at first?
The question admits but of three answers, viz. either by lot, by
election, or by usurpation. If the first king was taken by lot, it
establishes a precedent for the next, which excludes hereditary
succession. Saul was by lot, yet the succession was not hereditary,
neither does it appear from that transaction there was any intention
it ever should. If the first king of any country was by election,
that likewise establishes a precedent for the next; for to say, that
the RIGHT of all future generations is taken away, by the act of
the first electors, in their choice not only of a king, but of a
family of kings for ever, hath no parrallel in or out of scripture
but the doctrine of original sin, which supposes the free will of all
men lost in Adam; and from such comparison, and it will admit of no
other, hereditary succession can derive no glory. For as in Adam all
sinned, and as in the first electors all men obeyed; as in the one
all mankind were subjected to Satan, and in the other to Sovereignty;
as our innocence was lost in the first, and our authority in the
last; and as both disable us from reassuming some former state and
privilege, it unanswerably follows that original sin and hereditary
succession are parallels. Dishonorable rank! Inglorious connexion!
Yet the most subtile sophist cannot produce a juster simile.
As to usurpation, no man will be so hardy as to defend it; and that
William the Conqueror was an usurper is a fact not to be
contradicted. The plain truth is, that the antiquity of English
monarchy will not bear looking into.
But it is not so much the absurdity as the evil of hereditary
succession which concerns mankind. Did it ensure a race of good and
wise men it would have the seal of divine authority, but as it opens
a door to the FOOLISH, the WICKED, and the IMPROPER, it hath in
it the nature of oppression. Men who look upon themselves born to
reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest
of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the
world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that
they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and
when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ignorant
and unfit of any throughout the dominions.
Another evil which attends hereditary succession is, that the
throne is subject to be possessed by a minor at any age; all which
time the regency, acting under the cover of a king, have every
opportunity and inducement to betray their trust. The same national
misfortune happens, when a king worn out with age and infirmity,
enters the last stage of human weakness. In both these cases the
public becomes a prey to every miscreant, who can tamper successfully
with the follies either of age or infancy.
The most plausible plea, which hath ever been offered in favour of
hereditary succession, is, that it preserves a nation from civil
wars; and were this true, it would be weighty; whereas, it is the
most barefaced falsity ever imposed upon mankind. The whole history
of England disowns the fact. Thirty kings and two minors have reigned
in that distracted kingdom since the conquest, in which time there
have been (including the Revolution) no less than eight civil wars
and nineteen rebellions. Wherefore instead of making for peace, it
makes against it, and destroys the very foundation it seems to stand
on.
The contest for monarchy and succession, between the houses of York
and Lancaster, laid England in a scene of blood for many years.
Twelve pitched battles, besides skirmishes and sieges, were fought
between Henry and Edward. Twice was Henry prisoner to Edward, who in
his turn was prisoner to Henry. And so uncertain is the fate of war
and the temper of a nation, when nothing but personal matters are the
ground of a quarrel, that Henry was taken in triumph from a prison to
a palace, and Edward obliged to fly from a palace to a foreign land;
yet, as sudden transitions of temper are seldom lasting, Henry in his
turn was driven from the throne, and Edward recalled to succeed him.
The parliament always following the strongest side.
This contest began in the reign of Henry the Sixth, and was not
entirely extinguished till Henry the Seventh, in whom the families
were united. Including a period of 67 years, viz. from 1422 to 1489.
In short, monarchy and succession have laid (not this or that
kingdom only) but the world in blood and ashes. 'Tis a form of
government which the word of God bears testimony against, and blood
will attend it.
If we inquire into the business of a king, we shall find that in
some countries they have none; and after sauntering away their lives
without pleasure to themselves or advantage to the nation, withdraw
from the scene, and leave their successors to tread the same idle
round. In absolute monarchies the whole weight of business, civil and
military, lies on the king; the children of Israel in their request
for a king, urged this plea "that he may judge us, and go out before
us and fight our battles." But in countries where he is neither a
judge nor a general, as in England, a man would be puzzled to know
what IS his business.
The nearer any government approaches to a republic the less
business there is for a king. It is somewhat difficult to find a
proper name for the government of England. Sir William Meredith calls
it a republic; but in its present state it is unworthy of the name,
because the corrupt influence of the crown, by having all the places
in its disposal, hath so effectually swallowed up the power, and
eaten out the virtue of the house of commons (the republican part in
the constitution) that the government of England is nearly as
monarchical as that of France or Spain. Men fall out with names
without understanding them. For it is the republican and not the
monarchical part of the constitution of England which Englishmen
glory in, viz. the liberty of choosing an house of commons from out
of their own body—and it is easy to see that when republican virtue
fails, slavery ensues. Why is the constitution of England sickly, but
because monarchy hath poisoned the republic, the crown hath engrossed
the commons?
In England a king hath little more to do than to make war and give
away places; which in plain terms, is to impoverish the nation and
set it together by the ears. A pretty business indeed for a man to be
allowed eight hundred thousand sterling a year for, and worshipped
into the bargain! Of more worth is one honest man to society and in
the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.
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