Wednesday, May 25, 2011

1599 The Dutie of a King by Sir Walter Raleigh

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The Dutie of a King in His Royal Office Sir Walter Raleigh, 1599


The state of monarchie is the supremest thing upon earth; for kings are not only Gods lieutenants upon earth, and sit upon Gods throne, but even by God himselfe they are called gods. There be three principall similitudes that ilustrate the state of monarchie: one taken out of the word of God; and the two other out of the grounds of policie and philosophie. In the scriptures, kings are called gods; and so their power, after a certaine relation, compared to the divine power. Kings are also compared to fathers of families: for a king is truely parens patriæ, the politique father of his people. And, lastly, kings are compared to the head of this microcosme of the body of man.


Kings are justly called gods; for that they exercise a manner or resemblance of divine power upon earth. For, if you will consider the attributes of God, you shall see how they agree in the person of a king. God hath the powere to create or destroy, make or unmake, at his pleasure; to give life or send death, to judge all, and not to be judged nor accountable to none; to raise low things, and to make high things low at his pleasure, and to God are both soule and body due. And the like power have kings: they make and unmake their subjects; they have powers of raising and casting down; of life and of death; judges over all their subjects, and in all causes, and yet accountable to none but God only. They have power to exalt low things, and abase high things, and make of their subjects like men at the chesse; a pawne to take a bishop or a knight, and to cry up or down any of their subjects, as they do their money. And to the king is due both the affection of the soule and the service of the body of his subjects. And, therefore, that reverend bishop here amongst you, though I heare, that by divers he was mistaken, or not well understood, yet did he preach both learnedly and truly anent this point concerning the power of a king; for what he spake of a kings power in abstracto, is most true in divinitie: for to emperours, or kings that are monarches, their subjects bodies and goods are due for their defence and maintenance. But if I had been in his place, I would only have added two words, which would have cleared all; for, after I had told as a divine what was due by the subjects to their kings in generall all subjects were bound to relieve their king; so to exhort them, that, as we lived in a setled state of a kingdome, which was governed by his own fundamentall lawes and orders, that, according thereunto, they were now (being assembled for this purpose in parliament) to consider how to help such a king as now they had; and that according to the ancient forme and order established in this kingdome: putting so a difference between the generall power of a king in divinity and the setled and established state of this crown and kingdome. And I am sure that the bishop meant to have done the same, if he had not been straited by time, which, in repect of the greatnesse of the presence, preaching before me, and such an auditory, he durst not presume upon.


As for the father of a familie, they had of old, under the law of nature, patriam postestatem, which was potestatem vitæ et necis, over the children or familie (I mean such fathers of families as were the lineall heires of those families whereof kings did originally come;) for kings had their first originall from them, who planted and spread themselves in colonies through the world. Now a father may dispose of his inheritance to his childten at his pleasure; yea, even disinherit the eldest upon just occasion, and preferre the youngest, according to his liking; make them beggars or rich at his pleasure; restraine or banish out of his presence, as he finds them give cause of offence, or restore them in favour againe with the penitent sinner: so may the king deale with his subjects.


And, lastly, as for the head of the naturall body, the head hath the power of directing all the members of the body to that use which judgement in the head thinkes most convenient. It may apply sharp cures, or cut off corrupt members, let blood in what proportion it thinkes fit, and as the body may spare, but yet is all this power ordained by God ad ædificationem, non ad destructionem; for although God have power, as well of destruction as of creation or maintenance, yet will it not agree with the wisdome of God to exercise his power in the destruction of nature, and overturning the whole frame of things, since his creatures were made, that his glory might thereby be the better expressed: so were he a foolish father that would disinherit or destroy his children without cause, or leave off the carefull education of them; and it were an idle head that would, in place of physicke, so poyson or phlebotomize the body.
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