A MODEST PLEA FOR AN EQUAL COMMONWEALTH, AGAINST MONARCHY.
Published in the Year 1659.
THOUGH I was never possest with a• evil spirit of opposition, or genius of contrad•••••g and snarling at what is present; but rather studied at least a passive, if not an active compliance with the present power; as knowing there was never any power, whose commission was not passed, if not un∣der the broad seal of Heaven's approbation, yet at least by the privy-seal of God's permissive providence; which I have always taken as a sufficient warrant for paying the tribute of passive obedience, wheresoever I received the benefit of reciprocal protection: Yet I cann•• but acknowledge some governments more pure, refined, and less prone to corruption, than others; and certainly, those wherein the supreme magistrate (whether one or more) hath an interest Page 45distinct from that of the people, must be most apt to degenerate, and have greatest propensity to tyranny and oppression. Now whether monarchy, that winds up all the strings in the instrument of government to the interest of a single person; that tunes laws, religion, and all things, to an harmony and compliance with the monarch's single will, may not justly be suspected of this strain, I leave at the bar of any considerate man's judgment to be decided.
Certainly, whatever gloss or varnish the courtship or flatteries of princes or their parasites may set upon it, such a government is diametrically opposite to, and inconsistent with, the true liberty and happiness of any people.
I remember to have read a pretty strange passage of one of the French kings, that he was the most religious prince, and greatest tyrant that ever wore the crown of France. I was (I confess) some time startled at the strangeness of the character; but our late experience of one, might wear the same livery, makes me able not only to digest the wonder, but also to give credence to this general aphorism, that whatever may be the qualifications of any prince in reference to the personal endowments of his mind, the title of good was never justly attributed to any king, in reference to his office, except comparatively: And therefore, in my apprehension, elective king∣doms have small advantage of hereditary, by reason the unhappiness of such governments seems not so much to spring from the nature of the person admi∣nistering, as of the office and dignity, which ever lays an iron yoke of slavery and oppression on the peoples' necks: So that, considering the vast expence of blood and treasure with which the competition of the office and dignity is usually managed by the scarlet candidates of crowns and sceptres, an here∣ditary monarchy may seem eligible, as the lesser evil; especially, if by some fundamental constitution, like the Salique law of France, the absurd (though not Page 46unusual) pretensions of women and children might be cut off: For to hang the keys of the power civil and ecclesiastic upon apron strings, and to put the sceptre into a hand sitter to were a distaff, is to invert the order both of God and nature, and to set a nation with its heels upwards. And yet I know it is the opinion of some, that women and children are fittest to make princes, as being of a more passive spirit; and therefore likeliest to steer by the ad•ice of wise council: by reason they repose less stress and con∣fidence in their own prudence than men; in autho∣rity of which, the happy and prosperous reign of Queen Elizabeth is usually alledg'd; but whether without wrong to the more than masculine vigour of her spirit, and matchless quickness of parts, whereby she was, to a wonder, qualified for government, and reported rather to out-strip than come short of the more noble sex, I leave others to judge. But should we grant this assertion to have the countenance of reason, and that experience had also set to it its seal of confirmation; it is so far from being of any ad∣vantage to monarchy, by warding off the blow usually given by such as skirmish against it, with their rea∣sons sharpened with these inconveniences, that it gives the deepest wound to its reputation that could be desired, by asserting oligarchy, which by the ge∣neral consent of all times and ages, hath been ex∣ploded as one of the worst of tyrannies, to be the best of monarchies.
I have met with some, that plead much for the single person that should be only the name, without the thing; the office, without the power; the sha∣dow or image, without the substance; as if it were impossible for men, that are the masters and proprie∣tors of reason, to be knit together into civil society and peace for their own common interest and safety, without erecting either some gaudy thing to humour them, or some scare-crow to fright them into obedi∣ence; Nor do I know whose convenience would be Page 47herein consulted, except the lawyers, who (if like pack-horses trained up in one road) not able to change their accustomed pace or stile, it be prudence for the nation to hazard a relapse into tyranny, and again expose their lives and liberties to the will and lust of an arbitrary power, to set up a John of Oke, or Will of Stile, with infinite expence of blood and treasure, by reimposing the yoke so lately cast off, that this pack, &c. may not alter the stile and form of their writs, &c. I say wherefore the nation should be so over-indulgent to a corrupt interest of men, rather than to regulate and reform the forms of law, that, through the subtility of this generation, are be∣come rather snares than fences of our es•ates and properties, falls not within the precincts of my ap∣prehension.
Should we now unbowel and trace to its original this name, for which there have of late appeared so many advocates, I presume it would be found of as ill complexion as the word Tyrant was accounted among the Greeks; the English word king, being but the abbreviate of cunning, the usual epithet (as all men know) of knaves; and to speak truth, expe∣rience hath made good, though never so great a saint hath sate upon the throne, the devil and a bishop have ever stept into the office: For I am not of that fond opinion, that kings are not capable in their pri∣vate capacities of like virtues and qualifications with other men; but that, notwithstanding their accom∣plishments, how excellent, how bright, how orient soever are their personal virtues, they stand on slip∣pery places, and their dignities, their interests, their parasites, their flatterers, are snares too great for them to retain their integrity, and therefore that the ta∣lent of sovereign power is too great, too precious to be intrusted or deposited, in one man's hand, though an angel, left so great a temptation should endanger his fall, and make him apostate to a devil.
That kings are God's scourges, and given in wrath, Page 48we have the testimony of scripture. Nimrod was a great hunter, a mighty man, a great oppressor, and the first king or prince we read of; the first that invaded the liberty of the world, that usurped first authority, and presumed to exercise dominion over his brethren; the first that put a period to that golden age, wherein no other than paternal government was known; but though thus nigh the morning of time, God sent his scourge Nimrod as a just plague amongst the other nations of the earth; yet the people of God, the seed of Abraham, the children of Israel, were a long while after free, a free state, and enjoyed their native liberties till the time of Samuel, when they rebelled, and desired a king like the other nations, that they might be like the heathen whom God had cast out before them; which God construed no other than apostacy, and rejecting of him, than rebellion and high treason against his own divine majesty; and said, They have rejected me: And then tells them what would be the issue, fruit, and product thereof.
They should give away their liberty, and be sub∣jected to an arbitrary power, and become the slaves and vassals of their king, who should take their sons and their daughters to make them his servants, and send them forth to fight his battles; that is, to be the instruments of his pride and luxury, and the cham∣pions of his malice and ambition.
And then he should destroy their property, and take away their houses, and their vineyards, and give them to his servants. Thus the spirit of God gives the same description of a King as of what we call a Tyrant, a Nero, a Monster, as if they were all one, and it were essential to the nature of the office or dignity to be a beast of prey, a l•viathan, an oppressor and de∣vourer of the people; which character hath been too easy to be read in the lives of most of the best kings, whose names are not taken off the file of memory.
Now as for those that would have a mock, a counterfeit, a limited king, a king and no king, an Page 49empty title, a bare name, vox & preterea nihil, or I know not what: they propose a remedy worse than the disease; for to divide the sovereignty, is to say a seene of blood, to sow the seed of a perpetual civil war, and intail ruin on ourselves and posterity: What is divided cannot stand; there will spring up perpetual jealousies, fears and animosities, which will cause intrenchings on each others authority, until the one have supplanted and overturned the other, this is to institute a civil war, anarchy and confusion, instead of a well ordered commonwealth or politic.
Having thus unmasked the true nature of mo∣narchy, which is no other than the mere gentle or civil expression of tyranny, I shall endeavour to ob∣viate some of the most plausible and strenuous argu∣ments, by whose strength and subtility it is endea∣voured to be obtruded, and our assents conciliated to the reception thereof.
One of the grand arguments whereby the betrayers of our liberty endeavour to decoy us into the iron yoke, we have so lately shaken of, is taken from our long use and custom to draw therein, which hath rendered slavery a second nature to us, and therefore endeavour to scare us from our liberty as a novel and dangerous thing; as if servitude were more natural to a nation than freedom, or any custom could utterly expunge nature: I am sure the former cannot reflect with the greater disgrace, or more derogate from the honour of our nation, that we should be of so coarse a metal, so base an alloy, of so spaniel-like couchant, slavish, and degenerate a spirit, than the other doth deviate from truth; but the worthy advocates of this cause, measure truth by the wicked standard of their base and corrupt designs, as they take altitude of all other mens spirits, though never so brave and eleva∣ted by the Jacob's staff of their own pitiful crouch∣ing, fawning humour.
It would waste more ink and paper than I am either willing, or have leisure to bestow, should I shew how much the state of our nation is altered, and into how Page 50great an unsuitableness we are of late travelled unto that government, this argument would plead precrip∣tion for.
But of what weight or trurh is it of, will easily appear to any that have taken notice of that, passage of our modern history of the last century, which c•••erns the gallant hero Sir Philip Sidney; who though born in that most unlucky juncture of time for prod•cing brave spirits, when the nation tr•••led under the go∣vernment of a woman, was yet thought word•y of the Polish crown, and had an overture in order to his election thereto, had not his jealous mistress prevent∣ed; if, then, one born, under the inf••ences of a female government, and not of the highest rank of nobility, was thought si••to sway a scepter, of how great blasphemy against the honour of our nation, may they be thought guilty, who say, the •r••-born people of England, after they have •roke the more ancient Norman yoke, and the more modern of a lat∣ter, &c. are not 〈◊〉 to enjoy that liberty, that hath been the price of so much blood and treasure: But should we concede all the argument seem• to beg, that our necks are used to the yoke, and we are be∣come familiar to servitude; shall ••e the ••fore will∣ingly suffer our ears to be bored to the posts of our new masters, and become slave• for ever? Shall we court our bonds, and glory in that which is our shame? Shall we never learn to be free, and value liberty? Shall we never emancipate ourselves and posterity, but intail thraldom and s•• cry on them also, to all generations? For so long as we draw in this yoke, our condition is the 〈◊〉 with slaves; whatsoever is born unto us is a ves••l of our Lords; the fruit of our loins must drink of the same cup with us, draw in the same yoke, groan under the same tyranny and oppression we bequeath unto them: nay, who knows but their bondage may •n•rease, li•e that of Israel's under the son or Solomon, whose little finger was heavier than his father's l•ins; for tyran∣nies usually exasperate and wax worse with continu∣ance: Page 51shall we now bequeath our children liberty or bonds, freedom or oppression? If we, who have had our necks worn with the yoke, and our backs bowed down with heavy burdens, are of a couchant slavish spirit, perhaps our posterity, if born in a freer air, and under the influences of a more benign govern∣ment, may prove of more generous and noble spirits, worthy of, and knowing how to prize their liberty. But without doubt, those brave and gallant souls, by the conduct of whose valour and prudence we have broken the iron yoke of arbitrary and exorbitant power; and by the good providence of God, redeemed the captivity of our nation, from the unrighteous bonds of its wicked oppressors, are worthy of, and know how to prize and improve what hath been pur∣chased with so much ••eat and oil, and will not in the end sell their birth-right for a mess of pottage, but leave an offspring, heirs of their own valour and gal∣lantry, that will, with the utmost peril of their lives and fortunes, desend and preserve what the labours of their ancestors hath purchased, with sore travel both of mind and body, and so transmit it intire to their posterity, through msny generations, till the consummation of all things, and that time shall be no more.
But for a farther and more fatisfactory answer, to silence this argument, we may consider how the scene is changed, and balance of lands altered since these last centuries; and by reason thereof, with how great difficulty monarchy hath made good its ground since Henry the Eighth's days, in which it first began most visible to decline, and hath ever since been post∣ing to its period.
For that wilful prince, by alienating the church revenues, quite altered the balance of lands that was the basis of his government, and thereby did that service unawares, that pulled up the stake of monar∣chy: for the church (which with all its preferments, was at the king's devotion and sole dispose) did at that time possess a third part of the lands and wealth Page 52of the whole nation: which being afterwards sold, and coming into the hands of private men, set up many thousands of families that had no dependence on the crown. Since which time, the number of freeholders being much encreased, the nation hath had a natural and strong vergency towards a com∣monwealth; which hath been much discovered in the spirit and complexion of our parliaments, of which the house of commons (heretofore an inconsiderable truckling kind of court, that was only summoned for the Prince to milk their purses, and let the peo∣ple blood in the silver vein) grew now more peremp∣tory, and began to give check to their princes exor∣bitances; insomuch, that Queen Elizabeth was put to her courtship to retain them in allegiance; as after∣wards King James, to a thousand shifts and juggles: who, notwithstanding all his King-craft and cunning, in which he so much gloried, and boasted himself so great a master, was scarce able, with much juggling and dissimulation, to divert the storm from falling on his own head, which afterward rained so much blood and vengeance on his son and posterity, to the utter ruin and confusion of his family.
To conclude therefore this particular, it being a maxim of truth, placed beyond all hazard of contra∣diction, that no government can be fixed in this nation, but according to the balance of land. That Prince that is not able, neither by his own nor the public revenue, in some measure to counterpoise, if not over balance the greater part of the people, must necessarily be tenant at will for the crown he wears: for they that are the proprietors of the land and wealth of any nation, will with ease be able, by that magnetism, to draw the greatest number of abettors to their side, and so to gild over their pretensions, as to render them current with the people, and so in the end, give law to the rest of their brethren: Therefore, where there is one proprietor or landlord, as in Turkey, there is absolute monarchy; where a few, aristocracy, &c.
Now, since the crown lands, and church lands of Page 53this nation are sold, what other prop or pillar of securi∣ty is left for the throne of a prince to rest upon, ex∣cept that of a mercenary army, lies not within view of my apprehensions; and then how wholesome or safe advice the re-establishing of monarchy is to this nation, I leave all men (that have not altogether ab∣jured their reason and conscience, to judge and deter∣mine.
As for those poetical, if not prophane flourishes, wherewith orators and poets, the constant parasites of princes, use to gild over monarchy, pretending it the most natural and rational of all other forms of government, and that whose pattern was first shown in the mount, or rather let down from heaven, para∣le•ling it with God's regimen of the universe, which is alledged as its prototype first exemplar; and there∣fore to have something more of a divine right and character impressed upon it than any other, &c.
These, I say, are such trite, bald, and slight rea∣sonings, that they do not merit so much respect as to receive an answer; for may we not as well by this loose and allusive way of arguing, borrow a pattern from heaven for the triumvirate, that Augustus, Le∣pidus, and Mare Antony sometime imposed on Rome.
Doth it not as well quadrate with the sacred Trinity, by the triple sceptred of whose divine providence the empire of the world is administered, as by their's sometime that of the Romans? Will any one therefore be so bold as to say, that it was the most natural and rational government, and founded by no less than a di∣vine right, according to its pattern and archetype in the heavens! notwithstanding the brand of the blackest and bloodiest tyranny Rome ever saw hath been set thereon, by the universal consent of all historians.
Or may we not, considering the pride, ambition, rapine, extortion, injury and oppression, that usually crowd into the courts of the best princes, with as much or more reason parallel absolute monarchy, with that of the prince of darkness, in which there is no Tri∣nity, as in the other; and therefore more exactly Page 54quadrate to the absoluteness our proud monarchs so much endeavour to obtain?
I confess, could we have a prince to whom majesty might be atributed, without prophane hyperboles, that was a true vicar or lieutenant of God, that was not subject to the passions and infirmities, much less the vices and monstrosities of human nature, that could neither be imposed on by deceit, nor abused by flattery, whom the passions neither of fear nor affection, could warp to the least declivity, from what is right and honest; whose reason could never be biassed by any private interest or base respect, to decline the paths of justice and equity, but would manage the reins of his power with a like constan∣cy and steadiness, as by the hand of Providence the helm of the universe is steered: I should then become an advocate of monarchy, and acknowledge it to have the impress of divinity, and bear the character and inscription of God upon it, to be the best and most absolute form of government, and a true copy of its divine original: but till security be given for such a righteous administration, I desire to be excused from being a pander to ambition, or the advocate of ty∣ranny, as having learnt, It is not good for man to be alone, especially on the high and slippery places, where the strongest heads are apt to wax giddy; but, in the multitude of counsellors there is safety: and methinks, the very dialect of princes in the plural number (what∣ever of state or majesty may be pretended) is a witness of, and doth clearly speak the unnaturalness of such exorbitant monopolies of power, and that though they act in a single capacity, are willing to speak like a commonwealth.
Most of the other arguments, of which the advo∣cates of tyranny make use, are drawn from the pre∣tended advantages of that government, above and be∣yond others in respect of secrecy, celerity, unanimity, and the like, which though conveniencies, yet being far too light to counterpoise and balance the other in commodities, together with the great charge and ex∣cise Page 55they are rated at, require no other answer, nor shall I waste more time and ink upon them.
Having thus passed the pikes of the sharpest argu∣ments, that are usually raised in defence of the odd thing called a single person, I shall only speak a word or two to that is founded on the single command, that in times of war and eminent danger, when the gates of Janus's temple are set open, is committed to one man, it being a received maxim, that reason hath always conceded an advantage to the absolute jurisdiction of a single person in the field, prescribing to that end but one general to an army, for fear of divisions upon contrary counsels and commands.
To which may be replied, notwithstanding ge∣nerals are not taken upon trust, as kings in successive monarchies, but upon the test of experience, and proved sufficiency manifested in former services; yet if it seem expedient to the commonwealth, there may be a rotation in that office as well as others, as was anci∣ently in the Roman republic, whose armies were led forth by their annual successive consuls, and that with great success and victory.
But the expedient our present parliament hath found out by commission, doth so fully answer this objection that I need say no more unto it; for without doubt, it is the interest of a free state to have all the people so trained up in military discipline, and made fami∣liar with arms, that he may not be thought arrived at the just accomplishments of a gentleman, that is not able to lead an army in the field, it being among the Romans no absurd apostrophe to leave the plough∣tail, to head an army, or, vice versa, when their military employments were accomplished: how much then may they be thought to fall short of the accomplishments of a gentleman, that know not how to manage the conduct of a troop of horse, as I fear, too many of our gentry, upon a due scrutiny would be found; who, notwithstanding all their great pre∣tences to be accounted armigeri, or esquires, are scarce stout enough to discharge a pistol, or were Page 56ever militant beyond the borders of their ladies carpets.
I shall now sound a retreat to the further progress of my pen on this theme, lest I should seem too much to triumph over a baffled and prostrate enemy, it being my desire to use victory with like modera∣tion, I desire to bear a foil, conquest or captivity: therefore, fince by the good providence of God, together with the gallant conduct of the no less pru∣dent than valiant assertors of our native rights and liberties, we are re-instated in the possession of our birth-rights, I shall attempt the discovery of those rocks and shelves, on which in the late night of apos∣tacy we split our liberties, and endanger the utter ruin and shipwreck of our lives and fortunes, in the dangerous sea of an exorbitant and unlimited power; and thereby strike some sparks of light for the future better steering of the commonwealth, in whose bot∣tom, as all our lives and felicities are adventured, we are all concerned to endeavour its being brought into a safe port and harbour.
The work then of our present pilots, that sit at the stern, and manage the conduct of our affairs, is, to endeavour the commonwealth may be so equally ba∣lanced, as it may neither have propensity to a second relapse into monarchy, as of late; or oligarchy, which is worse: nor yet into anarchy, the worst of all three: But to settle a free-state upon such just and righteous foundations as cannot be moved, that may be a strong rampire of defence, not only to our civil liberties, as men, from the future enchroachment of tyranny, or inundation of exorbitant power; but also of security to our spiritual liberties, as Christians, from the invasion of those that desire to domineer and lord it over the consciences of their brethren: both which seem so linked and twisted to each other, that what conduces to the security of one, hath no smail tendency to the establishing of the other also, and do commonly so inseparable accompany each other, that wheresoever there is a free-state, or equal Page 57commonwealth, liberty of conscience is inviolably preserved, together with convenient and inoffensive latitude in toleration of religions, as in Holland, Venice, &c.
Now, for the better securing of these, we are to take notice of what persons or things are most incon∣sistent with, and have greatest enmity to, the interest of a free-state or equal commonwealth.
For discovery of which, as I know it a crime of presumption unpardonable, for one seated in the vale of a private condition, to pretend a fairer prospect into the interest of state, than those Providence hath placed in the watch-towers, and on the pinnacles of power; yet by reason a by-stander may be allowed to discern something of the game; and he that is out of play, to shew the ground to a bowler; and one that stands below may better know what props the foundation rests upon, than he that is on the top of the tower: and it being the duty of every one to cast in his mite to the vaster treasures of their know∣ledge, to whom Providence hath committed the conduct of our affairs, I am bold, being partly thereto encouraged by that great candour where∣with I observe the like tribute of zealous and faithful hearts are already received, to tender what in my apprehension may have a tendency to a future settlement and security. I confess, were we at this time bowed down under the govern∣ment of a monarch, in whose court every coun∣sellor of state is to be taken on an implicit faith to enjoy by his prince's patent and favour, a monopoly of reason as well as honour; and that his understand∣ing is no less elevated than according to the propor∣tion his titles and fortunes swell above the tide of other mens: I might justly be accounted absurd to offer any thing of this nature, as knowing with what scorn and contempt so rash an adventure would be encountered.
But in a free state, where the greatest senators are not ashamed to confer with the meanest persons, I am Page 58not afraid to put myself into the crowd of those that make addresses of this nature: wherefore, to conclude this parenthesis, and resume the thread of our dis∣course, there are nor, as I presume, past two or three sorts of persons, whose interests run counter to, or, indeed are not twisted and wound up in the same bot∣ton with that of a free state, or at least in the spin∣ning out of a few years, might not be interwoven therewith; and those are, the Lawyer, the Divine, and Hereditary Nobility; as for the Cavalier and Courtier, I question not but a little time would breathe out their antipathy, and warp their affections to a perfect compliance, and closing with an equal commonwealth.