THE POWER OF KINGS: And in Particular, OF THE King of ENGLAND. Learnedly Asserted, By Sir ROBERT FILMER, Kt. WITH A PREFACE of a Friend: Giving an Account Of the AUTHOR and his WORKS.

In Magnis voluisse sat est—

LONDON: Printed for W. H. & T. F. and are to be sold by Walter Davis in Amen-Corner, near Paternoster-row. 1680.


WHoso would go about to speak Sir Robert Filmer's worth, hath no more to do but onely to Number and to Name his Writings, as they were written in the following Order.

Questio Quodlibetica, or a Discourse of Usury, written about 1630. and first published in the year 1656.

Patriarcha, or the Natural Right of Kings maintained, a­gainst the Unnatural Right of the People to Govern, or chuse themselves Governours. Written about the year 1642. and never Published till of late.

Of the Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Published in the year 1656.

The Anarchy of a Limited and Mixed Monarchy, or Ob­servations upon Mr. Hunton's Treatise on that Subject. First Published in the year 1646.

The Free-holders grand Inquest, touching our Soveraign Lord the King, and his Parliament. In the year 1648.

Of the Power of Kings: and in particular, of the King of England. First Published in the same year.

Observations upon Mr. Hobbes's Leviathan, Mr. Milton against Salmasius, and H. Grotius De Jure Belli & Pacis, concerning the Original of Government. To which those upon Mr. Huntons Book being re-printed, were annexed in the year 1652.

Observations upon Aristotle's Politicks, touching Forms of Government. Published in the same year.

And the Advertisement to the Jury-men of England tou­ching Witches, with the difference between an English and an Hebrew Witch. In the year 1653.

Whoso would give his Writings their due, hath done it alrea­dy, in saying that they are His. Of which, who reads any one, may have some cause to wonder how he came to be sufficiently fur­nished to write that; but who proceeds yet farther to read them all, will have more abundant cause to wonder, should any else but he have wrote the rest.

[Page] His Political Writings are chiefly levell'd against a Doctrine but too generally embrac'd of late That, all men are born equal. To disprove which, though it might be sufficient to appeal to the Practice and Experience of Mankinde, whether all Nations have not still with one Consent mounted their Kings upon Thrones; and whether all the Masters of Philosophies and Religions have not constantly appeared in their Chairs, and in their Pulpits, while their Disciples have humbly presented themselves at their Feet? Not to speak of all the several Heights of Authority, or extents of Command, which either Popular Oratory have attained to by their Wit, or Conquerours have raised themselves to by their Arms. Our Author himself is an undeniable proof of his own Assertion, and has given us the best evidence that all men are not equal by Birth, while he himself hath no equal in Writing. So impossible is it for him to treat either of the means of Acquiring, or the Rights of ex­ercising Soveraignty, without acquiring and exercising a new So­veraignty over his Readers. For does he overcome others? even we at the same time are made Captives without resistance, and are his by right of Conquest. Or does he govern in their stead? even then all Readers are insensibly under his Command, as much as if they were his Subjects, and are his by right of natural Soveraignty. A Reason so far exalted above ours as his, makes him appear like those Kings of old, who were in Stature much superiour to their Subjects, and seemed so far to overtop the rest, as if Nature it self had marked them out for Heads of all. To be short, no Power, whose Cause our Author pleads, can be so absolute, as what he obtains over us at the same time himself. And yet of so sweet a Tyranny, who that are under it can complain? Arguments so prevailing, who is able to withstand? And where the Mastery is gained over us by no other force than that of Perswasion, who would forego the plea­sure of Obedience? The Empire which Wit and Eloquence have over men, seems to be like that Command which Musick hath over the Wilde Beasts, that civilizes and subdues them at one and the same time. And we, while we read this Author, feel the highest of rational Pleasures, even then when we are made at once both Better Subjects, and Wiser Men.

The Power of Kings: And in Particular, Of the KING of ENGLAND.

TO Majestie or Soveraignty belongeth an Absolute Power not subject to any Law. It behoveth him that is a Soveraign, not to be in any sort Sub­ject to the Command of Another; whose Of­fice is to give Laws unto his Subjects, to Abro­gate Laws unprofitable, and in their stead to Establish other; which he cannot do, that is himself Subject to Laws, or to Others which have Command over him: And this is that which the Law saith, that The Prince is acquitted from the Power of the Laws.

The Laws, Ordinances, Letters-Patents, Priviledges, and Grants of Princes, have no force but during their Life; if they be not ratified by the express Consent, or at least by Sufferance of the Prince following, who had knowledge thereof.

If the Soveraign Prince be exempted from the Laws of his Predecessors, much less shall he be bound unto the Laws he maketh Himself; for a man may well receive a Law from Another man, but impossible it is in Nature for to give a Law unto Himself, no more than it is to Command a mans self in a matter depending of his Own Will: There can be no Obligation which taketh State from the meer Will of him that promiseth the same; which is a necessary Reason to prove evidently, that a King cannot binde his Own Hands, albeit that he would: We see also in the end of all Laws these words, Because it hath so Pleased us; to give us to under­stand, that the Laws of a Sovereign Prince, although they be grounded upon Reason, yet depend upon nothing but his meer and frank good Will. But as for the Laws of God, [Page 2] all Princes and People are unto them subject; neither is it in their power to impugne them, if they will not be guilty of High Treason against God; under the greatness of whom, all Monarchs of the world ought to bow their Heads, in all fear and reverence.

A Question may be, Whether a Prince be subject to the Laws of his Countrey that he hath sworn to keep, or not? If a Sove­raign Prince promise by Oath to his Subjects to keep the Laws, he is bound to keep them; not for that a Prince is bound to keep his Laws by himself or by his Prede­cessors, but by the just Conventions and Promises which he hath made himself; be it by Oath, or without any Oath at all, as should a private man be: and for the same causes that a Private man may be relieved from his unjust and unreasonable Promise, as for that it was so grievous, or for that he was by deceit or fraud Circumvented, or induced thereunto by Errour, or Force, or just Fear, or by some great Hurt; even for the same causes the Prince may be re­stored in that which toucheth the diminishing of his Ma­jesty: And so our Maxime resteth, That the Prince is not subject to His Laws, nor to the Laws of his Predecessors, but well to his Own just and reasonable Conventions.

The Soveraign Prince may derogate from the Laws that he hath promised and sworn to keep, if the Equity thereof cease, and that of himself, without Consent of his Subjects; which his Subjects cannot do among Themselves, if they be not by the Prince relieved.

The Forraign Princes well-advised, will never take Oath to keep the Laws of their Predecessors; for otherwise they are not Sovereigns.

Notwithstanding all Oaths, the Prince may Derogate from the Laws, or Frustrate or Disanul the same, the Rea­son and Equity of them ceasing.

There is not any Bond for the Soveraign Prince to keep the Laws, more than so far as Right and Justice requireth.

Neither is it to be found, that the Antient Kings of the Hebrews took any Oaths, no not they which were Anointed by Samuel, Elias, and others.

As for General and Particular, which concern the Right [Page 3] of men in Private, they have not used to be otherwise Changed, but after General Assemblies of the Three E­states in France; not for that it is necessary for the Kings to rest on their Advice, or that he may not do the Contrary to that they demand, if natural Reason and Justice do so require. And in that the Greatness and Majesty of a true Soveraign Prince is to be known, when the Estates of all the People assembled together in all Humility present their Requests and Supplications to their Prince, without having any Power in any thing to Command, or Determine, or to give Voice; but that that which it pleaseth the King to Like or Dislike, to Command or Forbid, is holden for Law. Wherein they which have written of the Duty of Magi­strates, have deceived themselves, in maintaining that the Power of the People is greater than the Prince; a thing which oft-times causeth the true Subjects to revolt from the Obedience which they owe unto their Soveraign Prince, aud ministreth matter of great Troubles in Commonwealths; of which their Opinion, there is neither reason nor ground.

If the King should be Subject unto the Assemblies and Decrees of the People, he should neither be King nor Sove­raign, and the Commonwealth neither Realm nor Monar­chy; but a meer Aristocracy of many Lords in Power equal, where the Greater part commandeth the less; and whereon the Laws are not to be published in the Name of him that Ruleth, but in the Name and Authority of the Estates; as in an Aristocratical Seignory, where he that is Chief hath no Power, but oweth Obeisance to the Seignory; unto whom yet they every one of them feign themselves to owe their Faith and Obedience: which are all things so absurd, as hard it is to see which is furthest from Reason.

When Charles the eighth, the French King, then but Four­teen years old, held a Parliament at Tours, although the Power of the Parliament was never Before nor After so great, as in those Times; yet Relli then the Speaker for the Peo­ple, turning himself to the King, thus beginneth: Most High, most Mighty, and most Christian King, our Natural and Onely Lord; we poor, humble, and obedient Subjects, &c. which are come hither by your Command, in all Humility, Reverence, and [Page 4] Subjection, present our selves before you, &c. And have given me in charge from all this Noble Assembly to declare unto You, the good Will and hearty desire they have, with a most fervent Resolution to Serve, Obey, and Aid You in all your Affairs, Commandments, and Pleasures. All this Speech is nothing else but a Declaration of their good Will towards the King, and of their humble Obedience and Loyalty.

The like Speech was used in the Parliament at Orleans to Charles the 9th, when he was scarce Eleven Years old.

Neither are the Parliaments in Spain otherwise holden, but that even a greater Obedience of all the People is given to the King; as is to be seen in the Acts of the Parliament at Toledo by King Philip, 1552. when he yet was scarce Twen­ty Five Years old. The Answers also of the King of Spain unto the Requests and humble Supplications of his People, are given in these words: We will, or else, We Decree or Ordain; yea, the Subsidies that the Subjects pay unto the King of Spain, they call Service.

In the Parliaments of England, which have commonly been holden every Third Year, the Estates seem to have a great Liberty, (as the Northern People almost all breathe there­after) yet so it is, that in effect they proceed not, but by way of Supplications and Requests to the King. As in the Parliament holden in Octob. 1566. when the Estates by a common Consent had resolved (as they gave the Queen to understand) not to Treat of any thing, until She had first Appointed who should Succeed Her in the Crown; She gave them no other Answer, but That they were not to make her Grave before she were Dead. All whose Resolutions were to no purpose without Her good liking, neither did She in that any thing that they requested.

Albeit by the Sufferance of the King of England, Contro­versies between the King and his People are sometimes de­termined by the High Court of Parliament; yet all the Estates remain in full subjection to the King, who is no way bound to follow their Advice, neither to consent to their Re­quests.

The Estates of England are never otherwise Assembled, no more than they are in France or Spain, than by Parliament-Writs [Page 5] and express Commandments, proceeding from the King; which sheweth very well, that the Estates have no Power of themselves to Determine, Command, or Decree any thing; seeing they cannot so much as Assemble them­selves, neither being Assembled, Depart without express Commandment from the King.

Yet this may seem one special thing, that the Laws made by the King of England, at the Request of the Estates, can­not be again repealed, but by calling a Parliament; though we see Henry the eighth to have always used his Soveraign Power, and with his only word to have disannulled the Decrees of Parliament.

We conclude the Majesty of a Prince to be nothing al­tered or diminished by the Calling together, or Presence of the Estates: But to the contrary, His Majesty thereby to be much the Greater and the more Honourable, seeing all His People to acknowledge Him for their Soveraign.

We see the principal Point of Soveraign Majesty and Ab­solute Power to consist principally in giving Laws unto the Subjects without their Consent. It behoveth, that the Sove­raign Prince should have the Laws in his Power, to Change and Amend them according as Occasion shall require.

In a Monarchy, every one in particular must swear to the Observation of the Laws, and their Allegiance to One Sove­raign Monarch; who, next unto God, (of whom he holds his Scepter and Power) is bound to No Man: For an Oath carrieth always with it Reverence unto whom, and in whose Name it is made, as still given to a Superiour; and there­fore the Vassal gives such Oath unto his Lord, but receives None from Him again, though they be mutually Bound, the One of them to the Other.

Trajan swore to keep the Laws, although he under the name of a Soveraign Prince was exempted; but never any of the Emperours before him so sware: Therefore Pliny the Younger, in a Panegyrical Oration, speaking of the Oath of Trajan, gives out, A great Novelty, saith he, and never before heard of, He sweareth, by whom we swear.

Of these two things the one must come to pass, to wit, the Prince that swears to keep the Laws of his Country, must [Page 6] either not have the Soveraignty, or else become a Perjur'd Man, if he should but Abrogate but one Law contrary to his Oath; whereas it is not only Profitable that a Prince should sometimes Abrogate some such Laws, but also Ne­cessary for him to Alter or Correct them, as the infinite Va­riety of Places, Times and Persons shall require: Or if we shall say, the Prince to be still a Soveraign, and yet nevertheless with such conditions, that he can make no Law without the Advice of his Councel or People; He must also be Dispensed with by his Subjects, for the Oath which he hath made for the Observation of the Laws; and the Subjects again which are obliged to the Laws, have also need to be Dispensed withal by their Prince, for fear they should be Perjur'd: So shall it come to pass, that the Majesty of the Commonweal en­clining now to this side, now to that side; sometimes the Prince, sometimes the People bearing sway, shall have no Certainty to rest upon; which are notable Absurdities, and altogether incompatible with the Majesty of Absolute Sove­raignty, and contrary both to Law and Reason. And yet we see many men, that think they see more in the matter than others, will maintain it to be most Necessary, that Princes should be bound by Oath, to keep the Laws and Customs of their Countreys: In which doing, they weaken and overthrow all the Rights of Soveraign Majesty, which ought to be most Sacred and Holy, and confound the Sove­raignty of One Soveraign Monarch, with an Aristocracy or Democracy.

Publication, or Approbation of Laws, in the Assembly of the Estates or Parliament, is with us of great importance for the keeping of the Laws; not that the Prince cannot of him­self make a Law, without the Consent of the Estates or People (for even all his Declarations of War, Treaties of Peace, Valuations of the Coin, Charters to enable Towns to send Burgesses to Parliament, and his Writ of Summons to both Houses to Assemble, are Laws, though made without the Consent of the Estates or People;) but it is a Cour­teous part to do it by the good liking of the Senate.

What if a Prince by Law forbid to Kill or Steal, is he not Bound to obey his own Laws? I say, that this Law is not [Page 7] His, but the Law of God, whereunto all Princes are more straitly bound than their Subjects; God taketh a stricter account of Princes than others, as Solomon a King hath said; whereto agreeth Marcus Aurelius, saying, The Magistrates are Judges over private men, Princes judge the Magistrates, and God the Princes.

It is not only a Law of Nature, but also oftentimes re­peated among the Laws of God, that we should be Obedi­ent unto the Laws of such Princes, as it hath pleased God to set to Rule and Reign over us; if their Laws be not di­rectly Repugnant unto the Laws of God, whereunto all Princes are as well bound as their Subjects: For as the Vassal oweth his Oath of Fidelity unto his Lord, towards and a­gainst all men, except his Soveraign Prince: So the Subject oweth his Obedience to his Soveraign Prince, towards and against all, the Majesty of God excepted, who is the Ab­solute Soveraign of All the Princes in the World.

To confound the state of Monarchy, with the Popular or Aristocratical estate, is a thing impossible, and in effect in­compatible, and such as cannot be imagined: For Sove­raignty being of it self Indivisible, How can it at one and the same time be Divided betwixt One Prince, the Nobility, and the People in common? The first Mark of Sovereign Majesty is, to be of Power to give Laws, and to Command over them unto the Subjects: And who should those Sub­jects be that should yield their Obedience to the Law, if they should have also Power to make the Laws? Who should He be that could Give the Law, being he himself con­strain'd to Receive it of them, unto whom he himself Gave it? So that of necessity we must conclude, that as no One in particular hath the Power to make the Law in such a State, that there the State must needs be Popular.

Never any Commonwealth hath been made of an Aristo­cracy and Popular Estate, much less of all the Three Estates of a Commonwealth.

Such States, wherein the Right of Soveraignty is Divided are not rightly to be called Commonweals, but rather the Corruption of Commonweals; as Herodotus hath most brief­ly but truely written.

[Page 8] Commonweals which change their State, the Soveraign Right and Power of them being Divided, finde no rest from Civil Wars.

If the Prince be an Absolute Soveraign, as are the true Mo­narchs of France, of Spain, of England, Scotland, Turkey, Mo­scovy, Tartary, Persia, Aethiopia, India, and almost of all the Kingdoms of Africk and Asia; where the Kings themselves have the Soveraignty, without all doubt or question, not Di­vided with their Subjects: In this case it is not lawful for any One of the Subjects in particular, or all of them in general, to attempt any thing, either by way of Fact or of Justice, against the Honour, Life, or Dignity of the Soveraign, al­beit he had committed all the Wickedness, Impiety, and Cruelty that could be spoke. For as to proceed against Him by way of Justice, the Subject hath not such Juris­diction over his Soveraign Prince, of whom dependeth all Power to Command, and who may not only Revoke all the Power of his Magistrates, but even in whose Presence the Power of all Magistrates, Corporations, Estates and Communities cease.

Now if it be not l [...]wful for the Subject by the way of Justice to proceed against a King, How should it then be lawful to proceed against him by way of Fact or Force? For question is not here what men are able to do by Strength and Force, but what they ought of Right to do; as not whether the Subject have Power and Strength, but whe­ther they have lawful Power to Condemn their Soveraign Prince.

The Subject is not only guilty of Treason in the highest Degree, who hath Slain his Soveraign Prince, but even he also which hath Attempted the same, who hath given Counsel or Consent thereto; yea, if he have Concealed the same, or but so much as Thought it: Which Fact the Laws have in such Detestation, as that when a man guilty of any Offence or Crime, dyeth before he be condemned thereof, he is deemed to have died in whole and perfect Estate, ex­cept he have conspired against the Life and Dignity of his Soveraign Prince. This only thing they have thought to be such, as that for which he may worthily seem to have been [Page 9] now already Judged and Condemned; yea, even before he was thereof Accused. And albeit the Laws inflict no Punish­ment upon the Evil Thoughts of men, but on those only which by Word or Deed break out into some Enormity; yet if any man shall so much as conceit a Thought for the Violating of the Person of his Soveraign Prince, although he have Attempted nothing, they have yet Judged this same Thought worthy of Death, notwithstanding what Repen­tance soever he have had thereof.

Lest any men should think [Kings or Princes] themselves to have been the Authors of these Laws, so the more strait­ly to provide for their own Safety and Honour; let us fee the Laws and Examples of Holy Scripture.

Nabuchodonosor King of Assyria, with Fire and Sword de­stroyed all the Country of Palestina, besieged Jerusalem, took it, rob'd and razed it down to the ground, burnt the Temple, and defiled the Sanctuary of God, slew the King, with the greatest part of the people, carrying away the rest into Captivity into Babylon, caused the Image of himself made in Gold to be set up in Publick place, commanding all men to Adore and Worship the same, upon pain of being Burnt alive, and caused them that refused so to do, to be cast into a burning Furnace. And yet for all that, the holy Prophets [Baruch 1. Jeremy 29.] directing their Letters unto their Brethren the Jews, then in Captivity in Babylon, will them to pray unto God for the good and happy Life of Nabuchodonosor and his Children, and that they might so long Rule and Reign over them, as the Heavens should endure: Yea even God himself doubted not to call Nabuchodonosor his Servant, saying, That he would make him the most Mighty Prince of the world; and yet was there never a more dete­stable Tyrant than he: who not contented to be Himself Worshipped, but caused his Image also to be Adored, and that upon pain of being burnt quick.

We have another rare Example of Saul, who possessed with an evil Spirit, caused the Priests of the Lord to be with­out iust Cause slain, for that one of them had received David flying from him; and did what in his power was to kill, or cause to be kill'd, the same David, a most innocent Prince, [Page 10] by whom he had got so many Victories; at which time he fell twice himself into David's Hands: who blamed of his Souldiers for that he would not suffer his so mortal Enemy, then in his power, to be Slain, being in assured Hope to have enjoyed the Kingdom after his Death; he detested their Counsel, saying, God forbid that I should suffer the Person of a King, the Lords Anointed, to be violated. Yea, he himself defended the same King persecuting of him, when as he com­manded the Souldiers of his Guard, overcome by Wine and Sleep, to be wakened.

And at such time as Saul was slain, and that a Souldier, thinking to do David a pleasure, presented him with Saul's Head; David caused the same Souldier to be Slain, which had brought him the Head, saying, Go thou Wicked; How durst thou lay thy impure Hands upon the Lords Anointed? Thou shalt surely Die therefore.

And afterwards, without all Distimulation, mourned Him­self for the dead King. All which is worth good considera­tion: for David was by Saul prosecuted to Death, and yet wanted not Power to have revenged Himself, being become Stronger than the King; besides, he was the Chosen of God, and Anointed by Samuel to be King, and had Married the King's Daughter: And yet for all that, he abhorred to take upon him the Title of a King, and much more to Attempt any thing against the Life or Honour of Saul, or to Rebel against him; but chose rather to Banish himself out of the Realm, than in any sort to seek the Kings Destruction.

We doubt not but David, a King and a Prophet, led by the Spirit of God, had always before his Eyes the Law of God, Exod. 22. 28. Thou shalt not speak Evil of thy Prince, nor detract the Magistrate; neither is there any thing more common in Holy Scripture, than the forbidding not only to Kill or Attempt the Life or Honour of a Prince, but even for the very Magistrates, although, saith the Scripture, They be Wicked and Naught.

The Protestant Princes of Germany, before they entred in­to Arms against Charles the Emperour, demanded of Martin Luther, if it were Lawful for them so to do, or not; who frankly told them, That it was not Lawful, whatsoever Ty­ranny [Page 11] or Impiety were pretended; yet was he not therein by them Believed; so, thereof, ensued a Deadly and most La­mentable War, the End whereof was most Miserable; draw­ing with in, the Ruine of many great and noble Houses of Germany, with exceeding slaughter of the Subjects.

The Prince, whom you may justly call the Father of the Country, ought to be to every man Dearer and more Reve­rend than any Father, as one Ordained and Sent unto us by God. The Subject is never to be suffered to Attempt any thing against the Prince, how Naughty and Cruel soever he be: lawful it is, not to obey him in things contrary to the Laws of God, to Flie and Hide our selves from him; but yet to suffer Stripes, yea, and Death also, rather than to Attempt any thing against his Life and Honour. O how many Tyrants should there be, if it should be lawful for Subjects to kill Ty­rants? How many good and innocent Princes should as Ty­rants perish by the Conspiracy of their Subjects against them? He that should of his Subjects but exact Subsidies, should be then, as the Vulgar People esteem him, a Tyrant: He that should Rule and Command contrary to the good Liking of the People, should be a Tyrant: He that should keep strong Guards and Garrisons for the safety of his Person, should be a Tyrant: He that should put to death Traitors and Conspira­tors against his State, should be also counted a Tyrant. How should good Princes be assured of their Lives, if under colour of Tyranny they might be Slain by their Subjects, by whom they ought to be Defended?

In a well-ordered State, the Soveraign Power must remain in One onely, without Communicating any part thereof unto the State, (for in that case it should be a Popular Govern­ment, and no Monarchy.) Wise Polititians, Philosophers, Di­vines, and Historiographers, have highly commended a Monar­chy above all other Common-weals. It is not to please the Prince, that they hold this Opinion; but for the Safety and Happiness of the Subjects. And contrarywise, when as they shall Limit and Restrain the Soveraign Power of a Monarch, to Subject him to the General Estates, or to the Council; the Soveraignty hath no firm Foundation, but they frame a Popu­lar Confusion, or a miserable Anarchy, which is the Plague of [Page 12] all Estates and Commonweals: The which must be duely considered, not giving credit to their goodly Discourses, which perswade Subjects, that it is necessary to subject Mo­narchs, and to give their Prince a Law; for that is not only the Ruine of the Monarch, but also of the Subjects. It is yet more strange, that many hold Opinion, that the Prince is subject to his Laws, that is to say, subject to his Will, whereon the Laws which he hath made depend; a thing impossible in Nature. And under this Colour, and ill-digested Opinion, they make a mixture and confusion of Civil Laws, with the Laws of Nature and of God.

A pure Absolute Monarchy is the surest Commonweal, and without Comparison, the Best of all. Wherein many are abused, who maintain that an Optimacy is the best kinde of Government; for that many Commanders have more Judg­ment, Wisdome, and Counsel, than One alone. For there is a great difference betwixt Councel and Commandment.

The Councel of Many wise men may be better than of One; But to Resolve, Determine, and to Command, One will always perform it better than Many: He which hath advisedly digested All their Opinions, will soon Resolve without Contention; the which Many cannot easily per­form: It is necessary to have a Soveraign Prince, which may have Power to Resolve and Determine of the Opinions of his Council.


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