Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God (Part 3)

This is a continuation in a study of sources upon which the U.S. Declaration of Independence was drawn from, extracted for consideration as the Fourth of July commemorations draw near.

* July 26, 1581 - The Act of Abjuration, or Dutch Declaration of Independence, was signed, whereby the Dutch Low Countries declared their independence from Spain (read it online here).

As it is apparent to all that a prince is constituted by God to be ruler of a people, to defend them from oppression and violence as the shepherd his sheep; and whereas God did not create the people slaves to their prince, to obey his commands, whether right or wrong, but rather the prince for the sake of the subjects (without which he could be no prince), to govern them according to equity, to love and support them as a father his children or a shepherd his flock, and even at the hazard of life to defend and preserve them. And when he does not behave thus, but, on the contrary, oppresses them, seeking opportunities to infringe their ancient customs and privileges, exacting from them slavish compliance, then he is no longer a prince, but a tyrant, and the subjects are to consider him in no other view. And particularly when this is done deliberately, unauthorized by the states, they may not only disallow his authority, but legally proceed to the choice of another prince for their defense. This is the only method left for subjects whose humble petitions and remonstrances could never soften their prince or dissuade him from his tyrannical proceedings; and this is what the law of nature dictates for the defense of liberty, which we ought to transmit to posterity, even at the hazard of our lives. And this we have seen done frequently in several countries upon the like occasion, whereof there are notorious instances, and more justifiable in our land, which has been always governed according to their ancient privileges, which are expressed in the oath taken by the prince at his admission to the government; for most of the Provinces receive their prince upon certain conditions, which he swears to maintain, which, if the prince violates, he is no longer sovereign.

* 1603 -- Johannes Althusius published Politica.

Chapter XXXVIII - Tyranny and Its Remedies
When a ruler has failed only in some part of his office or government, however, he is not immediately to be called a tyrant. Regarding such a person one must consider that even the best at some time or other are weak in the performance of their offices, and are not for this reason to be thought of and treated as tyrants, provided the foundations and bonds of the universal association remain safe and unharmed, and are not shaken, assaulted, or upset by vices or faults of princes. Nor is one to be treated as a tyrant who, having already started on the road to tyranny, nevertheless does not obstinately and insanely persist on it. For the wicked life of a magistrate does not invalidate his royal authority, just as a marriage is not dissolved by every misdeed committed by one mate against another — unless it is the misdeed of adultery, because this is directly contrary to the nature of marriage. So not every misdeed of a magistrate deprives him of his sceptre, but only that in which he, having accepted and then neglected the just rule of administration, acts contrary to the fundamentals and essence of human association, and destroys civil and social life....

* 1613 -- David Pareus' Commentary on Romans (see David Pareus, Operum theologicorum, Vol. II, pp. 246-263) was published, a book that was burned publicly at Oxford and Cambridge in 1622 by order of the British Privy Council because of its exposition of Romans 13, which upholds the Calvinist theory of resistance to tyranny.

* August 4, 1642 - The British Parliament, already engaged in a civil war with King Charles I, issued its Declaration of the Lords and Commons to Justify Their Taking Up Arms (found online in part here, and in full at John Rushworth, ed., Historical Collections of Private Passages of State, Weighty Matters in Law, Remarkable Proceedings in Five Parliaments (1680-1722), vol. 4, pp. 761-768; or online at 'House of Lords Journal Volume 5: 2 August 1642', Journal of the House of Lords: volume 5: 1642-1643 (1802), pp. 256-260). This document, sometimes referred to as the Puritan Declaration of Independence, was directly influential upon the 1775 Second Continental Congress as mentioned below.

We the Lords and Commons in Parliament assembled, having taken into serious Consideration, the present State and Condition of imminent Danger in which the Kingdom now stands, by reason of a Malignant Party prevailing with his Majesty, putting him upon violent and perilous Ways, and now in Arms against us, to the hazarding of his Majesty's Person, and for the Oppression of the true Religion, the Laws and Liberties of this Kingdom, and the Power and Priviledge of Parliament: all of which every honest Mand is bound to defend, especially those who have taken the late Protestation, by which they are more particularly tied unto it; and the more answerable before God, should they neglect it:

Wherefore we finding ourselves ingaged in a Necessity to take up Arms likewise for the Defense of these, which otherwise might suffer and perish, And having used all the good ways and means to prevent Extremities, and preserve the Peace of the Kingdom (which good endeavors of ours the Malignity of our Enemies hath rendered altogether successless and vain) do now think fit to to give this Account unto the World, to be a Satisfaction unto all Men of the Justice of our Proceedings, and a Warning unto those who are involved in the same Danger with us, to let them see the Necessity and Duty which lies upon them, to save themselves, their Religion and Country, for which purpose we set out this ensuing Declaration.
Therefore, we the Lords and Commons, are resolved to expose our Lives and Fortunes for the Defence and Maintenance of the true Religion, the King's Person, Honour and Estate, the Power and Priviledge of Parliament, and the Just Rights and Liberties of the Subjects.
And we do here require all those who have any sense of Piety, Honour or Compassion, to help a distressed State, especially such as have taken the Protestation, and are bound in the same Duty with us unto their God, their King and Country, to come into our Aid and Assistance: This being the true cause for which we raise and Army, under the command of the Earl of Essex, which whom in this Quarrel we will live and die.

* 1644 -- Samuel Rutherford published Lex Rex (read it online here) is a major Calvinistic treatise which teaches that the king is under the law, not above it, and that the ruler who becomes a tyrant may lawfully be resisted.

Question XXVIII. Whether or no wars raised by the subjects and estates, for their own just defence against the king's bloody emissaries, be lawful.
We hold, that the king using, contrary to the oath of God and his royal office, violence in killing; against law and conscience, his subjects, by bloody emissaries, may be resisted by defensive wars, at the commandment of the estates of the kingdom.

* 1648 -- John Goodwin published Right and Might Well Met to vindicate the British Parliament and its army against charges of rebellion in its resistance to King Charles I.

The first-born of the strength of those who condemn the said act of the Army as unlawful, lieth in this: that the actors had no sufficient authority to do what they did therein, but acted out of their sphere, and so became transgressors of that law which commandeth every man to keep order, and within the compass of his calling.

To this I answer: . . . as our Saviour saith (Matt. 2. 27) that the sabbath was made for man (i.e., for the benefit of man), and not man for the sabbath, so certain it is, that callings were made for men, and not men for callings. Therefore the law of the sabbath, though enacted by God, was of right, and according to the intention of the great Lawgiver himself, to give place to the necessary accommodations of men, and ought not to be pleaded in bar hereunto; in like manner, if the law of callings at any time opposeth, or lieth cross to, the necessary conveniences of men, during the time of this opposition it suffereth a total eclipse of the binding power of it.

* 1649 -- John Milton published The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (read it online here).

For if all human power to execute, not accidentally but intendedly, the wrath of God upon evil doers without exception, be of God; then that power, whether ordinary, or if that faile, extraordinary so executing that intent of God, is lawfull, and not to be resisted. But to unfold more at large this whole Question, though with all expedient brevity, I shall here set downe from first beginning, the original of Kings; how and wherfore exalted to that dignitie above thir Brethren; and from thence shall prove, that turning to Tyranny they may bee as lawfully depos'd and punish'd, as they were at first elected: This I shall doe by autorities and reasons, not learnt in corners among Scisms and Heresies, as our doubling Divines are ready to calumniat, but fetch't out of the midst of choicest and most authentic learning, and no prohibited Authors, nor many Heathen, but Mosaical, Christian, Orthodoxal, and which must needs be more convincing to our Adversaries, Presbyterial.
It follows lastly, that since the King or Magistrate holds his autoritie of the people, both originaly and naturally for their good in the first place, and not his own, then may the people as oft as they shall judge it for the best, either choose him or reject him, retaine him or depose him though no Tyrant, meerly by the liberty and right of free born Men, to be govern'd as seems to them best. This, though it cannot but stand with plain reason, shall be made good also by Scripture. Deut. 17.14. When thou art come into the Land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt say I will set a King over mee, like as all the Nations about mee. These words confirme us that the right of choosing, yea of changing thir own Goverment is by the grant of God himself in the People.
Therfore Saint Paul in the forecited Chapter tells us that such Magistrates he meanes, as are, not a terror to the good but to the evil; such as beare not the sword in vaine, but to punish offenders, and to encourage the good. If such onely be mentiond here as powers to be obeyd, and our submission to them onely requir'd, then doubtless those powers that doe the contrary, are no powers ordain'd of God, and by consequence no obligation laid upon us to obey or not to resist them.

* January 30, 1750 -- Jonathan Mayhew preached his famous sermon, A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to Higher Powers, credited by John Adams with being greatly influential in leading to the commencement of the War of American Independence.

Let us now trace the apostle's reasoning in favor of submission to the higher powers, a little more particularly and exactly. For by this it will appear, on one hand, how good and conclusive it is, for submission to those rulers who exercise their power in a proper manner: And, on the other, how weak and trifling and unconnected it is, if it be supposed to be meant by the apostle to show the obligation and duty of obedience to tyrannical, oppressive rulers in common with others of a different character.
Thus, upon a careful review of the apostle's reasoning in this passage, it appears that his arguments to enforce submission, are of such a nature, as to conclude only in favor of submission to such rulers as he himself describes; i.e., such as rule for the good of society, which is the only end of their institution. Common tyrants, and public oppressors, are not intitled to obedience from their subjects, by virtue of any thing here laid down by the inspired apostle.

I now add, farther, that the apostle's argument is so far from proving it to be the duty of people to obey, and submit to, such rulers as act in contradiction to the public good, and so to the design of their office, that it proves the direct contrary. For, please to observe, that if the end of all civil government, be the good of society; if this be the thing that is aimed at in constituting civil rulers; and if the motive and argument for submission to government, be taken from the apparent usefulness of civil authority; it follows, that when no such good end can be answered by submission, there remains no argument or motive to enforce it; if instead of this good* end's being brought about by submission, a contrary end is brought about, and the ruin and misery of society effected by it, here is a plain and positive reason against submission in all such cases, should they ever happen. And therefore, in such cases, a regard to the public welfare, ought to make us withhold from our rulers, that obedience and subjection which it would, otherwise, be our duty to render to them. If it be our duty, for example, to obey our king, merely for this reason, that he rules for the public welfare, (which is the only argument the apostle makes use of) it follows, by a parity of reason, that when he turns tyrant, and makes his subjects his prey to devour and to destroy, instead of his charge to defend and cherish, we are bound to throw off our allegiance to him, and to resist; and that according to the tenor of the apostle's argument in this passage.

* May 20, 1775 - The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence (although its authenticity has been questioned by some) was signed by the citizens of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, becoming the first declaration of independence issued within the British colonies (read it online here).

Resolved: That whosoever directly or indirectly abets or in any way way form or manner, covutenances the invasion of our rights, as attempted by the Parliment of Great Britain, is an enemy to his country, to America, and the rights of man.

Resolved: That we, the citizens of Mecklenburg county, do hereby disolve the political bonds which have connected us with the mother country, and absolve ourselves from all allegiance to the British crown, abjuring all political connection with a nation that has wantonly trampled on our rights and liberties and inhumanly shed the innocent blood of Americans at Lexington.

Resolved: That we do hereby declare ourselves a free and independent people, that we are and of right to be, a sovereign and self-governing people under the power of God and the general Congress; to the maintenance of which independence we solemnly pledge to each other our mutual cooperation, our lives, our fortunes, and our most sacred honor.

* May 31, 1775 - The Charlotte Town Resolves were issued by the Mecklenburg County, North Carolina Committee of Safety (read it online here).

* July 6, 1775 - The Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms (read it online here), written by Thomas Jefferson and John Dickinson, and issued by the Second Continental Congress, was signed. Thomas Jefferson's Autobiography records his study of the historical collections of John Rushworth, personal secretary to Oliver Cromwell, who is the source of record for the British Parliament's August 4, 1642 Declaration of of the Lords and Commons to Justify Their Taking Up Arms, which is the primary model for the 1775 Continental Congress Declaration.

Our cause is just. Our union is perfect. Our internal resources are great, and, if necessary, foreign assistance is undoubtedly attainable. -- We gratefully acknowledge, as signal instances of the Divine favour towards us, that his Providence would not permit us to be called into this severe controversy, until we were grown up to our present strength, had been previously exercised in warlike operation, and possessed of the means of defending ourselves. With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare, that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverence, employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live slaves.

Lest this declaration should disquiet the minds of our friends and fellow-subjects in any part of the empire, we assure them that we mean not to dissolve that union which has so long and so happily subsisted between us, and which we sincerely wish to see restored. -- Necessity has not yet driven us into that desperate measure, or induced us to excite any other nation to war against them. -- We have not raised armies with ambitious designs of separating from Great-Britain, and establishing independent states. We fight not for glory or for conquest. We exhibit to mankind the remarkable spectacle of a people attacked by unprovoked enemies, without any imputation or even suspicion of offence. They boast of their privileges and civilization, and yet proffer no milder conditions than servitude or death.

In our own native land, in defence of the freedom that is our birthright, and which we ever enjoyed till the late violation of it -- for the protection of our property, acquired solely by the honest industry of our fore-fathers and ourselves, against violence actually offered, we have taken up arms. We shall lay them down when hostilities shall cease on the part of the aggressors, and all danger of their being renewed shall be removed, and not before.

With an humble confidence in the mercies of the supreme and impartial Judge and Ruler of the Universe, we most devoutly implore his divine goodness to protect us happily through this great conflict, to dispose our adversaries to reconciliation on reasonable terms, and thereby to relieve the empire from the calamities of civil war.

Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 1, pp. 6-7:

The next event which excited our sympathies for Massachusetts, was the Boston port bill, by which that port was to be shut up on the 1st of June, 1774. This arrived while we were in session in the spring of that year. The lead in the House, on these subjects, being no longer left to the old members, Mr. [Patrick] Henry, R. H. [Robert Lee, Fr. L. Lee, three or four other members, whom I do not recollect, and myself, agreeing that we must boldly take an unequivocal stand in the line with Massachusetts, determined to meet and consult on the proper measures, in the council-chamber, for the benefit of the library in that room. We were under conviction of the necessity of arousing our people from the lethargy into which they had fallen, as to passing events ; and thought that the appointment of a day of general fasting and prayer would be most likely to call up and alarm their attention. No example of such a solemnity had existed since the days of our distresses in the war of '55, since which a new generation had grown up. With the help, therefore, of Rushworth, whom we rummaged over for the revolutionary precedents and forms of the Puritans of that day, preserved by him, we cooked up a resolution, somewhat modernizing their phrases, for appointing the 1st day of June, on which the port-bill was to commence, for a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, to implore Heaven to avert from us the evils of civil war, to inspire us with firmness in support of our rights, and to turn the hearts of the King and Parliament to moderation and justice. To give greater emphasis to our proposition, we agreed to wait the next morning on Mr. Nicholas, whose grave and religious character was more in unison with the tone of our resolution, and to solicit him to move it. We accordingly went to him in the morning. He moved it the same day; the 1st of June was proposed; and it passed without opposition. The Governor dissolved us, as usual.

* July 4, 1776 - The United States Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress, and signed on August 2, 1776.

Stay tuned tomorrow (DV) for the story of the Patriot Pastor.

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