Common Sense HTML version
The contest for monarchy and succession, between the houses of York and Lancaster,
laid England in a scene of blood for many years. Twelve pitched battles, besides
skirmishes and sieges, were fought between Henry and Edward. Twice was Henry
prisoner to Edward, who in his turn was prisoner to Henry. And so uncertain is the fate of
war and the temper of a nation, when nothing but personal matters are the ground of a
quarrel, that Henry was taken in triumph from a prison to a palace, and Edward obliged to
fly from a palace to a foreign land; yet, as sudden transitions of temper are seldom
lasting, Henry in his turn was driven from the throne, and Edward recalled to succeed
him. The parliament always following the strongest side.
This contest began in the reign of Henry the Sixth, and was not entirely extinguished till
Henry the Seventh, in whom the families were united. Including a period of 67 years, viz.
from 1422 to 1489.
In short, monarchy and succession have laid (not this or that kingdom only) but the world
in blood and ashes. 'Tis a form of government which the word of God bears testimony
against, and blood will attend it.
If we inquire into the business of a king, we shall find that in some countries they have
none; and after sauntering away their lives without pleasure to themselves or advantage
to the nation, withdraw from the scene, and leave their successors to tread the same idle
ground. In absolute monarchies the whole weight of business, civil and military, lies on
the king; the children of Israel in their request for a king, urged this plea "that he may
judge us, and go out before us and fight our battles." But in countries where he is neither
a judge nor a general, as in England, a man would be puzzled to know what IS his
The nearer any government approaches to a republic the less business there is for a king.
It is somewhat difficult to find a proper name for the government of England. Sir William
Meredith calls it a republic; but in its present state it is unworthy of the name, because the
corrupt influence of the crown, by having all the places in its disposal, hath so effectually
swallowed up the power, and eaten out the virtue of the house of commons (the
republican part in the constitution) that the government of England is nearly as
monarchical as that of France or Spain. Men fall out with names without understanding
them. For it is the republican and not the monarchical part of the constitution of England
which Englishmen glory in, viz. the liberty of choosing an house of commons from out of
their own body--and it is easy to see that when republican virtue fails, slavery ensues.
Why is the constitution of England sickly, but because monarchy hath poisoned the
republic, the crown hath engrossed the commons?
In England a king hath little more to do than to make war and give away places; which in
plain terms, is to impoverish the nation and set it together by the ears. A pretty business
indeed for a man to be allowed eight hundred thousand sterling a year for, and
worshipped into the bargain! Of more worth is one honest man to society and in the sight
of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.