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Political Pamphleteer

Theories of Government

Original Power Title Page
Original Power of the Collective Body of the People of England, Examined and Asserted. London, Printed in the Year 1702 [for 1701].

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In 1701, Sir Humphrey Mackworth wrote A Vindication of the Rights of the Commons of England, in which he argues that all political authority rests with the monarchy, Lords, and Commons. Later the same year, Defoe responded with Original Power, in which he defends the rights of the people, saying that the original right to govern lies with the people themselves. If, after choosing to give up this right to allow a monarch and a parliament to rule for them, they find that that government has betrayed them or no longer serves the interests of the people, the relationship is nullified, and power reverts back to the people.

Jure Divino Title Page
Jure Divino: a Satyr. In Twelve Books. By the Author of The True-Born-Englishman. London: Printed in the Year, MDCCVI.

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Jure Divino is in the minority of Defoe’s writings in that he wanted readers to know he was the author. The title page states that the work was done by the author of The True-Born Englishman, and his portrait appears on the frontispiece. The work is large, a twelve-book epic poem, and Defoe solicited subscriptions from both booksellers and friends to help fund its publication.

The poem itself is a refutation of divine right monarchy and its concomitant “virtues”--passive obedience and non-resistance. This type of monarchy is mere tyranny, he argues, and any who give up their freedoms to obey such tyranny are fools. Defoe then gives a history of many tyrants from antiquity down to the present day, ending with praise for King William’s rule and for the current government in England.

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