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in England would have subscribed the following address, had it been offered to him; or, whether her Majesty, who values the rights of her subjects as much as her own prerogative, would not have been very much offended at it ? and yet I will appeal to the reader, if this has not been the sense of many addresses, when taken out of several artificial qualifying expressions, and exposed in their true and genuine light.
It is with unspeakable grief of heart, that we hear & set of men daily preaching up among us that pernicious and damnable doctrine of self-preservation; and boldly affirming, as well in their public writings, as in their private discourses, that it is lawful to resist a tyrant, and take up arms in defence of their lives and liberties. We have the utmost horror and detestation of these diabolical principles, that may induce your people to rise up in vindication of their rights and freedoms, whenever a wicked prince shall make use of his royal authority to subvert them. We are astonished at the bold and impious attempts of those men, who, under the reign of the best of sovereigns, would avow such dangerous tenets as may secure them under the worst. We are resolved to beat down and discountenance these seditious notions, as being altogether republican, jesuitical, and conformable to the practice of our rebellious forefathers, who, in all ages, at an infinite expense of blood and treasure, asserted their rights and properties, and consulted the good of their posterity by resistance, arms, and pitched battles, to the great trouble and disquiet of their lawful prince. We do, therefore, in the most humble and dutiful manner, solemnly protest and declare, that we will never resist a sovereign that shall think fit to destroy our Magna Charta, or invade those rights and liberties which those traitors procured for us; but will venture our lives and fortunes against such of our fellowsubjects who think they may stand up in defence of them.”
It happens very unluckily, that there is something so supple and insinuating in this absurd, unnatural doctrine, as makes it extremely agreeable to a prince's ear: for which reason, the publishers of it have always been the favourites of weak kings. Even those who have no inclination to do hurt to others, says the famous satirist, would have the power of doing it if they pleased. Honest men, who tell their sovereigns what they expect from them, and what obedience they shall be always ready to pay them, are not upon an equal foot with such base and abject flatterers; and are, therefore, always in danger of being the last in the royal favour. Nor, indeed, would that be unreasonable, if the professors of nonresistance and passive obedience would stand to their principle; but instead of that, we see they never fail to exert themselves against an arbitrary power, and to cast off the oppression when they feel the weight of it. Did they not, in the late revolution, rise up unanimously with those who always declared their subjection to be conditional, and their obedience limited ? And very lately, when their queen had offended them in nothing, but by the promotion of a few great men to posts of trust and honour, who had distinguished themselves by their moderation and humanity to all their fellow-subjects, what was the behaviour of these men of meek and resigned principles ? Did not the church memorial, which they all applauded and cried up, as the language and sentiments of their party, tell H. M. that it would not be safe for her to rely upon their doctrines of passive obedience and non-resistance, for their “nature might rebel against principles ?” Is not this, in plain terms, that they will only practise non-resistance to a prince that pleases them, and passive obedience when they suffer nothing? I remember, one of the rabble in Edipus, when he is upbraided with his rebellion, and asked by the prophet if he had not taken an
ath to be loyal, falls a scratching his head, and tells, “Why yes, truly, he had taken such an oath, but it was a hard thing, that an oath should be a man's master.” This is, in effect, the language of the church in the above-mentioned memorial. Men of these soft, peaceable dispositions, in times of prosperity, put me in mind of Kirke's Lambs ; for that was the name he used to give his dragoons that had signalized themselves above the rest of the army by many military achievements among their own countrymen.
There are two or three fatal consequences of this doctrine, which I cannot forbear pointing out. The first of which is, that it has a natural tendency to make a good king a very bad
When a man is told he may do what he pleases with impunity, he will be less careful and cautious of doing what he
should do, than a man who is influenced by fear, as well as by other motives to virtue. It was a saying of Thales, the wise Milesian, “That of all wild beasts, a tyrant is the worst; and of all tame beasts, a flatterer.” They do, indeed, naturally beget one another, and always exist together. Persuade a prince that he is irresistible, and he will take care not to let so glorious an attribute lie dead and useless by him. An arbitrary power has something so great in it, that he must be more than man who is endowed with it but never exerts it.
This consequence of the doctrine I have been speaking of, is very often a fatal one to the people; there is another, which is no less destructive to the prince. A late unfortunate king very visibly owed his ruin to it. He relied upon the assurances of his people, that they would never resist him upon any pretence whatsoever, and accordingly, began to act like a king who was not under the restraint of laws, by dispensing with them, and taking on him that power which was vested in the whole legislative body. And what was the dreadful end of such a proceeding? It is too fresh in everybody's memory. Thus is a prince corrupted by the professors of this doctrine, and afterwards betrayed by them. The same persons are the actors, both in the temptation and the punishment. They assure him they will never resist, but retain their obedience under the utmost sufferings; he tries them in a few instances, and is deposed by them for his credulity.
I remember, at the beginning of King James's reign, the Quakers presented an address, which gave great offence to the high-churchmen of those times. But, notwithstanding the uncourtliness of their phrases, the sense was very honest. The address was as follows, to the best of my memory, for I then took great notice of it; and may serve as a counterpart to the foregoing one.
“ THESE are to testify to thee our sorrow for our friend Charles, whom we hope thou wilt follow in everything that is good.
* We hear that thou art not of the religion of the land, any more than we, and, therefore, may reasonably expect that thou wilt give us the same liberty that thou takest thyself.
“ We hope that in this and all things else, thou wilt promote the good of thy people, which will oblige us to pray that thy reign over us may be long and prosperous.”
Had all King James's subjects addressed him with the same integrity, he had, in all probability, sat upon his throne till death bad removed him from it.
No. 1. FRIDAY, DECEMBER 23, 1715.
Rara temporum felicitas, ubi sentire quæ velis, et quæ sentias dicere licet.
ТАСІт. The arguments of an author lose a great deal of their weight, when we are persuaded that he only writes for argument's sake, and has no real concern in the cause which he espouses. This is the case of one, who draws his pen in the defence of property, without having any; except, perhaps, in the copy
of a libel, or a ballad. One is apt to suspect that the passion for liberty, which appears in a Grub Street patriot, arises only from his apprehensions of a gaol ; and that, whatever he may pretend, he does not write to secure, but to get something of his own. Should the government be overturned, he has nothing to lose but an old standish.
It is but justice to a great writer, to distinguish between his hasty and his deliberate compositions; between such of his works, as he had planned at his leisure, and finished with care, and such as he was called upon to furnish on the sudden, not with a view to his own fame, but to the discharge of some occasional duty, which a present emergency, or his character and station in life, imposed upon him. Such was apparently the case of the Freeholder ; a set of periodical essays, undertaken in the heat of the rebellion in 1715, and with the best purpose of reconciling an abused people to the new succession; at a time when the writer was deeply engaged in public buisness, and had scarce the leisure to produce these papers so fast as they were demanded from him. For it was important, in that conjuncture, that the minds of men should be calmed and softened by some immediate applications; and the general good taste of that age made it expedient that such applications should be administered, not by an ordinary hand, but by the most polite and popular of our writers.
If these considerations be allowed their just weight, The Freeholder will be read with pleasure, and must even be thought to do no small credit to its author, though it be not always written with that force, or polished everywhere up to that perfect grace, which we admire so much in the Tatler, Spectator, and Guardian.