KING JAMES I ON KINGSHIP (1598)

Kings are called gods by the prophetical King David, because they sit upon. . . [God's] throne in the earth, and have the count of their administration to give unto Him. Their office is, "To minister justice and give judgment to the people," as this same David saith; "To advance the good, and punish the evil." As he likewise saith: "To establish good laws to his people and procure obedience to the same, as diverse good Kings of Judah did: "To procure the peace of the people," as the same David saith: "To decide all controversy that can arise among them," as Solomon did: "To be the minister of God for the weal of them that do well, as the minister of God, to take vengeance upon them that do evil," as St. Paul saith. . . .

By the law of nature the king becomes a natural father to all his lieges at his coronation: and as the father of his fatherly duty is bound to care for the nourishing, education, and virtuous government of his children; even so is the king bound to care for all his subjects. As all the toil and pain that the father can take for his children, will be thought light and well bestowed by him, so that the effect thereof rebound to their profit and weal; so ought the prince to do towards his people. As the kindly father ought to foresee all inconvenience and dangers that may arise toward his children, and though with the hazard of his own person press to prevent the same; so ought the king to-wards his people. . . .

And according to these fundamental laws already alleged, we daily see that in the Parliament (which is nothing else but the head court of the king and his vassals) the laws are but craved by his subjects, and only made by him at their rogation, and with their advice: for albeit the king make daily statutes and ordinances, enjoying such pains thereto as he thinks meet, without any advice of Parliament or estates; yet it lies in the power of no Parliament, to make any kind of law or statute without his scepter be to it, for giving it the force of a law. . . . And as ye see manifest, that the king is over-lord of the whole land: so is he master over every person that inhabiteth the same, having power over the life and death of every one of them: for although a just prince will not take the life of any one of his subjects without a clear law; yet the same laws whereby he taketh them, are made by himself or his predecessors; and so the power flows always from himself; as by daily experience we see, good and just princes will from time to time make new laws and statutes, adjoining the penalties to the breakers thereof, which before the law was made, had been no crime to the subject to have committed. Not that I deny the old definition of a king and of a law; which makes the king to be a speaking law, and the law a dumb king; for certainly a king that governs not by his law, can neither be countable to God for his administration, nor have a happy and established reign. For albeit true that I have at length proved, that the king is above the law, as both the author and giver of strength thereunto; yet a good king will not only delight to rule his subjects by the law, but even will conform himself in his own actions thereunto, always keeping that ground, that the health of the commonwealth be his chief law. And where he sees the law doubtsome or rigorous, he may interpret or mitigate the same. . . . And therefore general laws, made publicly in Parliament, may upon known respects to the king by his authority be mitigated, and suspended upon causes only known to him.