Even Kings and Emperors Aren’t Above the Law

John Milton, The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates:

How much more rationally spake the Heathen King. Demophoon in a Tragedy of Euripides then these interprets would put upon King David, “I rule not my people by tyranny, as if they were Barbarians, but am myself liable, if I doe unjustly to suffer justly.” Not unlike was the speech of Traian the worthy Emperor, to one whom he made General of his Praetorian Forces, “Take this drawne sword”, saith he, “to use for me, if I reigne well, if not, to use against me.” Thus Dion re∣lates. And not Traian onely, but Theodosius the younger a Christian Emperor and one of the best, causd it to be enacted as a rule undenyable and fit to be acknowledgd by all Kings and Emperors, that a Prince is bound to the Laws; that on the autority of Law the autority of a Prince depends, & to the Laws ought submit. Which Edict of his remaines yet un∣repeald in the Code of Justinian. l. 1. tit. 24. as a sacred constitution to all the succeeding Emperors. How then can any King in Europe maintaine and write himselfe accountable to none but God, when Emperors in thir owne imperiall Statutes have writt’n and decreed themselves accountable to Law. And indeed where such account is not fear’d, he that bids a man reigne over him above Law, may bid as well a savage beast.

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