Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Treason Judged by Its Fruits
By Sir John Cheke (15141557)
From The Hurt of Sedition how grievous it is to a Commonwealth, set out in the year 1549
LOOK upon yourselves, after ye have wickedly stept into this horrible kind of treason, do ye not see how many bottomless whirlpools of mischief ye be gulft withal, and what loathsome kinds of rebellion ye be fain to wade through? Ye have sent out in the kings name, against the kings will, precepts of all kinds, and without commandment commanded his subjects, and unrulily have ruled where ye listed to command, thinking your own fancies the kings commandments, and rebels lusts in things to be right government of things, not looking what should follow by reason, but what yourselves follow by affection. And is it not a dangerous and a cruel kind of treason, to give out precepts to the kings people? There can be no just execution of laws, reformation of faults, giving out of commandments, but from the king. For in the king only is the right hereof, and the authority of him derived by his appointment to his ministers. Ye having no authority of the king, but taking it of yourselves, what think ye yourselves to be? Ministers ye be none, except ye be the devils ministers, for he is the author of sedition.
The kings majesty intendeth to maintain peace, and to oppress war; ye stir up uproars of people, hurliburlies of vagabonds, routs of robbers. Is this any part of the kings ministery? If a vagabond would do what he lust, and call himself your servant, and execute such offices of trust, whether ye would or no, as ye have committed unto another mans credit, what would every one of you say or do herein? Would ye suffer it? Ye wander out of houses, ye make every day new matters as it pleaseth you, ye take in hand the execution of those things, God by His Word forbidding the same, which God hath put the magistrates in trust withal. What can ye say to this? Is it sufferable think ye? If ye told a private message in another mans name, can it be but a false lie I pray you? And to tell a feigned message to the commonwealth, and that from the king, can it be honest think ye? To command is more than to speak: what is it then to command so traitorous a lie? This then which is in word a deceitful lie, and in deed a traitorous fact, noisome to the commonwealth, unhonourable to the king, mischievous in you, how can ye otherwise judge of it, but to be an unheard of and notable disobedience to the king: and therefore by notable example to be punished, and not with gentleness of pardon to be forgiven? Ye have robbed every honest house, and spoiled them unjustly, and piteously wronged poor men being no offenders, to their utter undoing, and yet ye think ye have not broken the kings laws. The kings majestys law and his commandment is, that every man should safely keep his own, and use it reasonably to an honest gain of his living: ye violently take and carry away from men without cause, all things whereby they should maintain, not only themselves, but also their family, and leave them so naked, that they should feel the smart of your cursed enterprise, longer than your own unnatural and ungodly stomachs would well vouchsafe. By justice ye should neither hurt nor wrong man, and your pretenced cause of this monstrous stir is to increase mens wealth. And yet how many, and say truth, have ye decayed and undone, by spoiling and taking away their goods? How should honest men live quietly in the commonwealth at any time, if their goods, either gotten by their own labour, or left to them by their friends, shall unlawfully and unorderly, to the feeding of a sort of rebels, be spoiled and wasted, and utterly scattered abroad? The thing that ye take is not your right, it is another mans own. The manner of taking against his will is unlawful, and against the order of every good commonwealth. The cause why ye take it is mischievous and horrible, to fat your sedition. Ye that take it be wicked traitors, and common enemies of all good order.
If he that desireth another mans goods or cattle do fault, what doth he (think you) whose desire taking followeth, and is led to and fro by lust, as his wicked fancy, void of reason, doth guide him? He that useth not his own well and charitably, hath much to answer for; and shall they be thought not unjust, who not only take away other mens, but also misuse and waste the same ungodly? They that take things privily away, and steal secretly and covertly other mens goods, be by law judged worthy death; and shall they that without shame spoil things openly, and be not afeard by impudency to profess their spoil, be thought either honest creatures to God, or faithful subjects to their king, or natural men to their country? If nothing had moved you but the example of mischief, and the foul practice of other moved by the same, ye should yet have abstained from so licentious and villanous a show of robbery, considering how many honester there be, that being loth their wickedness should be blazed abroad, yet be found out by providence, and hanged for desert. What shall we then think or say of you? Shall we call you pickers, or hid thieves? nay more than thieves, day thieves, herd stealers, shire spoilers, and utter destroyers of all kinds of families, both among the poor and also among the rich.