Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
 
The Invisible King
By Algernon Sidney (1623–1683)
 
From Discourses on Government

A NOBLE lord, who was irregularly detained in prison in 1681, being by habeas corpus brought to the bar of the King’s Bench, where he sued to be released upon bail; and an ignorant judge telling him he must apply himself to the king, he replied, that he came thither for that end; that the king might eat, drink, or sleep where he pleased; but when he rendered justice, he was always in that place. The king that renders justice is indeed always there; he never sleeps; he is subject to no infirmity; he never dies, unless the nation be extinguished, or so dissipated as to have no government. No nation that has a sovereign power within itself does ever want this king. He was in Athens and Rome, as well as in Babylon and Susa; and is as properly said to be now in Venice, Switzerland, or Holland, as in France, Morocco, or Turkey. This is he to whom we all owe a simple and unconditional obedience. This is he who never does any wrong; it is before him we appear, when we demand justice, or render an account of our actions. All juries give their verdict in his sight: they are his commands that the judges are bound and sworn to obey, when they are not at all to consider such as they receive from the person that wears the crown. It was for treason against him, that Tresilian and others like to him in several ages were hanged. They gratified the lusts of the visible powers; but the invisible king would not be mocked. He caused justice to be executed upon Empson and Dudley. He was injured, when the perjured wretches, who gave that accursed judgment in the case of ship-money, were suffered to escape the like punishment by means of the ensuing troubles which they had chiefly raised. And I leave it to those who are concerned, to consider how many in our days may expect vengeance for the like crimes.
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