Vox Populi, Vox Dei
Vox Populi, Vox Dei is Latin for "the voice of the people is the voice of God." The phrase was used as the title of a Whig tract of 1709, which was expanded in 1710 and later reprintings as The Judgment of whole Kingdoms and Nations. The author is unknown but was probably either Robert Ferguson or Thomas Harrison. There is no evidence for persistent attribution to Daniel Defoe or John Somers as authors.
The most cited section of the revised (1710) version of the pamphlet read:
“There being no natural or divine Law for any Form of Government, or that one Person rather than another should have the sovereign Administration of Affairs, or have Power over many thousand different Families, who are by Nature all equal, being of the same Rank, promiscuously born to the same Advantages of Nature, and to the Use of the same common Faculties; therefore Mankind is at Liberty to choose what Form of Government they like best.”
The 1709 tract's use of the Latin phrase was consistent with earlier usage of vox populi, vox Dei in English political history since at least as early as 1327 when the Archbishop of Canterbury Walter Reynolds brought charges against King Edward II in a sermon "Vox populi, vox Dei". From Reynolds onwards English political use of the phrase was favorable, not referencing the original context of the usage by Alcuin (739) who in a letter advised the emperor Charlemagne to resist such a dangerous democratic idea on the grounds that "the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness".
Vox Populi, Vox Dei : being true Maxims of Government was the next year, 1710, republished under the title of The Judgment of whole Kingdoms and Nations, with considerable alterations. The 10th printing of the revised tract was in 1771.
- William Gibson Enlightenment Prelate: Benjamin Hoadly, 1676-1761 2004 p.90 "Hoadly's assize sermons had a strong influence, and provided the foundation for Whigs like Thomas Harrison, the probable author of the 1709 tract Vox Populi Vox Dei: or True Maxims of Government, which was reprinted eight times in the first .."
- J. P. Kenyon Revolution Principles: The Politics of Party 1689-1720 1990 p.209 "The author of Vox Populi Vox Dei is unknown. Some nineteenth-century bibliographers gave the honour to Somers, others to Defoe, but neither attribution is very plausible. ...It was signed 'R. F.', and there seems no reason to challenge the accepted attribution to Robert Ferguson. But long before 1709 Ferguson had turned Jacobite, and it is unlikely that he turned back. As for Political Aphorisms, this was signed ...Thomas Harrison"
- Philip Hamburger Law and Judicial Duty 2009 Page 74 "At the meeting of this high court early in 1327, Archbishop of Canterbury Walter Reynolds brought charges against the king, ... homage to the prince, and Archbishop Reynolds — the son of a baker — preached on the text Vox populi, vox Dei
- David Lagomarsino, Charles T. Wood The Trial of Charles I: A Documentary History 2000 "As far back as 1327, in pronouncing the deposition of Edward II, the Archbishop of Canterbury Walter Reynolds had taken as his justifying text the old Carolingian adage Vox populi, vox Dei, “The voice of the people is the voice of God."
- Whitmore and Fenn An Alphabetical catalogue of an extensive collection of the extensive writings of Daniel Defoe 1829 p.23 "Vox Populi, Vox Dei : being true Maxims of Government, proving — That all, Kings, Governours, and Forms of Government ..." was afterwards published under the title of " The Judgment of whole Kingdoms, .., with considerable alterations."
- Netta Murray Goldsmith Alexander Pope: the evolution of a poet 2002 p.102 "Until the 1750s men were flogged and imprisoned if convicted of spreading propaganda in support of the Stuart cause, while in 1719, a young printer John Matthews, who published a Jacobite pamphlet, Vox Populi, Vox Dei, was hanged.3 In these circumstances Jacobites learned to write ... "
- Kathleen Wilson The Sense of the People: Politics, Culture and Imperialism 1998 p.115 "The pamphlet Vox Populi, Vox Dei was perhaps the most notorious instance of this tactic, borrowing its title from a radical Whig tract of 1709 to argue that by the Whigs' own principles of. ."
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