Page:A Compendium of the Theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg.djvu/48

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It was this early direction of his character and life which made him one of the earliest and most enlightened apostles of popular sovereignty. For his own and his excellent father's public services, his family was ennobled in 1718, and it then took the name of Swedenborg. This gave him a seat in the House of Peers or upper house of the Swedish Parliament, where he exhibited a capacity for statesmanship scarcely inferior to that which made him famous as a philosopher. He was one of the most conspicuous champions of a constitutional government for Sweden, that should set bounds to the whims of a capricious sovereign, and his too unrestricted power. He boldly took the stand to which Hampden and Russell only a few years before had been martyrs,—and which it required great courage, sagacity and virtue to maintain, in any legislative body in the eighteenth century,—that government should be organized and conducted for the good of the governed, and that no man was fit to be entrusted with absolute power. "No one," he said in one of his memorials to the Diet, involving the question of enlarging the prerogatives of the Crown, "No one has the right to leave his life and property in the absolute power of any individual; for of these God alone is master, and we are merely His stewards in this world. . . . I shudder when I reflect what may happen, and probably will happen, if private interests, by which the public good is shoved into the background, should gain the ascendency here. Besides, I cannot see any difference between a king of Sweden who possesses absolute power and an idol; for all turn themselves heart and soul as well to the one as to the other; they obey his will, and worship what passes from his mouth."

During his youth, Swedenborg had witnessed the misfortunes into which an unlimited monarchy had precipitated his country,—the misery and distress of eighteen years of war, with its dearly-bought victories and its bloody defeats, its decimated armies, followed by a bankrupt treasury, pestilence and famine,—and though always a favorite of the king, he never relaxed his efforts, from the day he was clothed with the responsibilities of a legislator, to bring the power and prerogatives of the crown