Context: Selden was a very learned scholar and jurist of the first half of the seventeenth century. Among his friends he numbered such literary lights as Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare, although that poetry of his which has come down to us is not first class. By far the largest part of his literary remains is concerned with the law; in fact, his treatise on tithing earned him the enmity of the narrow-minded and captious James I. He was arrested and imprisoned briefly for having the courage to stand by his convictions. Selden's Table-Talk consists of bits of his conversation taken down by his secretary, the Reverend Richard Milward, and arranged by subject matter. In this particular section are collected a number of Selden's comments concerning the power of the state and its officials:
1. There is no streching of Power. 'Tis a good rule, Eat within your Stomach, act within your Commission.2. They that govern most make least noise. You see when they row in a Barge, they that do drudgery-work, slash, and puff, and sweat; but he that governs, sits quietly at the Stern, and scarce is seen to stir.3. Syllables govern the world.4. All power is of God, means no more than Fides est servanda. When St. Paul said this, the People had made Nero Emperor. They agree, he to command, they to obey. . . .5. Christ himself was a great observer of the Civil power, and did many things only justifiable, because the State required it, which were things merely Temporary, for the time that State stood. . . .