De Republica Anglorum: The Maner of Government or Policie of the Realme of England

Thomas Smith. 1583.

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Sir Thomas Smith was a political and legal theorist and member of Parliament. This passage illustrates how understandings of classical Rome influenced sixteenth-century English political theory.

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Chapter 3, “An other division of common wealthes,” and Chapter 4, “Example of chaunges in the maner of government.”

Transcript of the English text. Greek and Latin phrases have not been included.

Chapter 3.

But this matter yet taketh an other doubt; for of these manner of rulings by one, by the fewer part, & by the multitude or greater number, they which have more methodically & more distinctly & perfectly written upon them, doe make a substitution: and dividing eche into two, make the one good and just, and the other evill and unjust: as, where one ruleth, the one they call a king, the other a tyrant: where the fewer number, the one they name a government of the best men, the other of the usurping of a few Gentlemen, or a few of the richer & stronger sort: and where the multitude doth governe, the one where they call a common wealth by the generall name, or the rule of the people, the other the rule of the usurping of the popular or rascall and viler sort, because they be more in number.

Chapter 4

In common wealthes which have had long continuance, the diversities of times have made all these manners of ruling or government to be seene: As in Rome, kinges Romulus, Numa, and Servius: tyrantes, Tarquinius, Sylla, Caesar: the rule of best men, as in time when the first Consuls were: and the usurping of a few, as of the Senators after the death of Tarquinius, and before the succession of the Tribunate, and manifestly in the Decemvirate, but more perniciously in the Triumvirate of Caesar, Crassus, and Pompeius: and afterwarde in the Triumvirate of Octavius, Antonius, and Lepidus: The common wealth and rule of the people, as in the expulsing

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Chapter 4 (cont.) “Example of chaunges in the maner of government,” and Chapter 5, “Of the question of what is right and just in everie common wealth.”

Transcript of the English text. Greek and Latin phrases have not been included.

Chapter 4 (cont.) of the decemviri and long after, especially after the law was made, either by Horatius, or (as some would have it) Hortentius. And the ruling and usurping of the popular and rascall, as a little before Sylla his reigne, and a little before Caius Cesars reigne. For the usurping of the rascality can never long endure, but necessarily breedeth, & quickly bringeth forth a tyrant. Of this, both Athens, Syracuse, Lacedemon, and other old auncient ruling Cities had experience, and a man neede not doubt but that other common wealthes have followed the same fate. For the nature of man is never to stand still in one manner of estate, but to grow from the lesse to the more, and decay from the more againe to the lesse, till it come to the fatall end and destruction, with many turns and turmoyles of sicknesse & recovering, seldome standing in perfect health, neither of a man’s body it selfe, nor of the politique bodie which is compact of the same.

Chapter 5

So when the common wealth is evill governed by an evill ruler and unjust (as in the three last named which be rather a sicknesse of the politique bodie than perfect & good estates) if the laws be made, as most like they be always to maintaine that estate: the question remaineth whether the obedience of them be just, and the disobedience wrong: the profit and conservation of that estate right and justice, or the dissolution: and whether a good and upright man, and lover of his countrie ought to maintaine and obey them, or to seeke by all meanes to abolish them, which great & hautie courages have often attempted: as Dion to rise up against Dionysius, Thrasibulus against ther tyrantes, Brutus and Cassius against Caesar, which hath been cause of many commotions in common wealthes, whereof the judgement of the common people is according to the event and successe: of them which be learned, according to the purpose of the doers, and the estate of the time then present. Certaine it is that it is alwayes a doubtfull and hazardous matter to meddle with the chaunging of the laws and government, or to disobey the orders of the rule or government, which a man doth finde alreadie established.

Metadata Details
Item Type Book
Title De Republica Anglorum: The Maner of Government or Policie of the Realme of England
Short Title Of the English Republic, 1583
Place of Publication London
Publisher H. Midleton for G. Seton
Creator Thomas Smith
Publication Date 1583
Number of Pages Title page and pp. 3–5
Call Number Case J 445 .8238
Location Special Collections 4th floor