The New Jacobean Order

James I, from The True Law of Free Monarchies; or, The Reciprocal and Mutual Duty Betwixt a Free King and His Natural Subjects >> note 1

[Click on image to enlarge] The True Law of Free Monarchies sets forth James's philosophy of royal absolutism and its divine sanction, setting the terms for new disputes about sovereignty, divine right, and the role of parliaments and subjects. As King of Scotland, James published it there in 1598, then reissued it upon his accession to the throne of England in 1603. In 1616 he published it again, with others of his works of poetry and political theory in a handsome folio edition, claiming thereby the role of author-king, a new Solomon, setting the terms for culture as well as politics. The image of the seated James shown here forms the frontispiece to that folio edition.


As there is not a thing so necessary to be known by the people of any land, next the knowledge of their God, as the right knowledge of their allegiance according to the form of government established among them, especially in a monarchy (which form of government, as resembling the divinity, approacheth nearest to perfection, as all the learned and wise men from the beginning have agreed upon, unity being the perfection of all things), so hath the ignorance and (which is worse) the seduced opinion of the multitude, blinded by them who think themselves able to teach and instruct the ignorants, procured the wrack and overthrow of sundry flourishing commonwealths and heaped heavy calamities threatening utter destruction upon others. * * *

Kings are called gods by the prophetical King David >> note 2 because they sit upon God his throne in the earth and have the count >> note 3 of their administration to give unto him. Their office is "to minister justice and judgment to the people," >> note 4 as the same David saith; "to advance the good and punish the evil," as he likewise saith; "to establish good laws to his people and procure obedience to the same," >> note 5 as divers good kings of Judah did; "to procure the peace of the people," >> note 6 as the same David saith. * * *

God commandeth Samuel to do two things: the one, to grant the people their suit in giving them a king; the other, to forewarn them what some kings will do unto them, that they may not thereafter in their grudging and murmuring say, when they shall feel the snares >> note 7 here forespoken: "We would never have had a king of God in case when we craved him he had let us know how we would have been used by him, as now we find but over-late." And this is meant by these words: "Now therefore hearken unto their voice, howbeit yet testify unto them and show them the manner of the king that shall rule over them." * * *

And next, Samuel, >> note 8 in execution of this commandment of God, he likewise doeth two things.

First, he declares unto them what points of justice and equity their king will break in his behavior unto them. And next he putteth them out of hope that, weary as they will, they shall not have leave to shake off that yoke which God through their importunity hath laid upon them. * * *

Now then, since the erection of this kingdom and monarchy among the Jews and the law thereof may and ought to be a pattern to all Christian and well-founded monarchies, as being founded by God himself, who by his oracle and out of his own mouth gave the law thereof, what liberty can broiling spirits and rebellious minds claim justly to against any Christian monarchy, since they can claim to no greater liberty on their part nor the people of God might have done, and no greater tyranny was ever executed by any prince or tyrant whom they can object nor was here forewarned to the people of God (and yet all rebellion countermanded unto them), if tyrannizing over men's persons, sons, daughters, and servants, redacting >> note 9 noble houses and men and women of noble blood to slavish and servile offices, and extortion and spoil of their lands and goods to the prince's own private use and commodity, and of his courtiers and servants, may be called a tyranny?  * * *

And under the evangel, that king whom Paul >> note 10 bids the Romans "obey" and serve "for conscience's sake" was Nero, >> note 11 that bloody tyrant, an infamy to his age, and a monster to the world, being also an idolatrous persecutor as the king of Babel was. If, then, idolatry and defection from God, tyranny over their people, and persecution of the saints for their profession's sake hindered not the spirit of God to command his people under all highest pain to give them all due and hearty obedience for conscience's sake, giving to Caesar that which was Caesar's and to God that which was God's, as Christ saith, >> note 12 and that this practice throughout the book of God agreeth with this law, which he made in the erection of that monarchy (as is at length before deduced), what shameless presumption is it to any Christian people nowadays to claim to unlawful liberty which God refused to his own peculiar and chosen people? Shortly then, to take up in two or three sentences grounded upon all these arguments, out of the law of God, the duty and allegiance of the people unto their lawful king, their obedience, I say, ought to be to him as to God's lieutenant in earth, obeying his commands in all things except directly against God as the commands of God's minister, acknowledging him a judge set by God over them, having power to judge them but to be judged only by God, whom to only he must give count of his judgment, fearing him as their judge, loving him as their father, praying for him as their protector, for his continuance, if he be good, for his amendment, if he be wicked, following and obeying his lawful commands, eschewing and flying his fury in his unlawful, without resistance but by sobs and tears to God.

Kings were the authors and makers of the laws, and not the laws of the kings. * * * In the Parliament (which is nothing else but the head court of the king and his vassals) the laws are but craved by his subjects and only made by him at their rogation >> note 13 and with their advice. For albeit the king make daily statutes and ordinances, enjoining such pains thereto as he thinks meet, without any advice of Parliament or estates, yet it lies in the power of no Parliament to make any kind of law or statute without his scepter be to it, for giving it the force of a law. And although divers changes have been in other countries of the blood royal and kingly house, the kingdom being wrest[ed] by conquest from one to another, as in our neighbor country in England (which was never in ours), yet the same ground of the king's right over all the land and subjects thereof remaineth alike in all other free monarchies, as well as in this. For when the Bastard of Normandy >> note 14 came into England and made himself king, was it not by force and with a mighty army? Where he gave the law and took none, changed the laws, inverted the order of government, set down the strangers, his followers, in many of the old possessors' rooms, as at this day well appeareth a great part of the gentlemen in England being come of the Norman blood, and their old laws, which to this day they are ruled by, are written in his language, and not in theirs. And yet his successors have with great happiness enjoyed the crown to this day, whereof the like was also done by all them that conquested them before. * * * I have said a good king will frame all his actions to be according to the law, yet is he not bound thereto but of his good will and for good example-giving to his subjects. * * *

And the agreement of the law of nature in this our ground with the laws and constitutions of God and man already alleged will, by two similitudes, easily appear. The king towards his people is rightly compared to a father of children and to a head of a body composed of divers members. For as fathers the good princes and magistrates of the people of God acknowledge themselves to their subjects. And for all other well-ruled commonwealths, the style of pater patriae >> note 15 was ever, and is commonly, used to kings. And the proper office of a king towards his subjects agrees very well with the office of the head towards the body and all members thereof. For from the head, being the seat of judgment, proceedeth the care and foresight of guiding and preventing all evil that may come to the body or any part thereof. The head cares for the body; so doth the king for his people. As the discourse and direction flow from the head and the execution according thereunto belongs to the rest of the members, every one according to their office, so it is betwixt a wise prince and his people.

And now, first for the father's part (whose natural love to his children I described in the first part of this my discourse, speaking of the duty that kings owe to their subjects), consider, I pray you, what duty his children owe to him and whether upon any pretext whatsoever it will not be thought monstrous and unnatural to his sons to rise up against him, to control him at their appetite, and, when they think good, to slay him or to cut him off and adopt to themselves any other they please in his room. Or can any pretense of wickedness or rigor on his part be a just excuse for his children to put hand into him? >> note 16 * * *

And for the similitude of the head and the body, it may very well fall out that the head will be forced to gar >> note 17 cut off some rotten member (as I have already said) to keep the rest of the body in integrity; but what state the body can be in if the head, for any infirmity that can fall to it, be cut off, I leave it to the reader's judgment. * * * And if it be not lawful to a private man to revenge his private injury upon his private adversary (since God hath only given the sword to the magistrate), how much less is it lawful to the people or any part of them (who all are but private men, the authority being always with the magistrate, as I have already proved) to take upon them the use of the sword, whom to it belongs not, against the public magistrate, whom to only it belongeth?

Next, in place of relieving the commonwealth out of distress (which is their only excuse and color), >> note 18 they shall heap double distress and desolation upon it; and so their rebellion shall procure the contrary effects that they pretend it for. For a king cannot be imagined to be so unruly and tyrannous but the commonwealth will be kept in better order, notwithstanding thereof, by him than it can be by his way-taking. >> note 19 * * *

I grant, indeed, that a wicked king is sent by God for a curse to his people and a plague for their sins; but that it is lawful to them to shake off that curse at their own hand, which God hath laid on them, that I deny and may do so justly. Will any deny that the king of Babel was a curse to the people of God, as was plainly forespoken and threatened unto them in the prophesy of their captivity? >> note 20 And what was Nero to the Christian church in his time? And yet Jeremiah and Paul (as ye have else >> note 21 heard) commanded them not only to obey them but heartily to pray for their welfare.

It is certain, then (as I have already by the law of God sufficiently proved), that patience, earnest prayers to God, and amendment of their lives are the only lawful means to move God to relieve them of their heavy curse.

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