De Cive

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De Cive
by Thomas Hobbes
1642 - 1651

Philosophicall Rudiments Concerning Government and Society. Or, A Dissertation Concerning Man in his severall habitudes and respects, as the Member of a Society, first Secular, and then Sacred. Containing The Elements of Civill Politie in the Agreement which it hath both with Naturall and Divine Lawes. In which is demonstrated, Both what the Origine of Justice is, and wherein the Essence of Christian Religion doth consist. Together with The Nature, Limits and Qualifications both of Regiment and Subjection.

By Thomas Hobbes.

London, Printed by J.C. for R. Royston, at the Angel in Ivie-Lane. 1651.


To the Right Honourable, William, Earle of Devonshire, My most honoured Lord

May it please your Lordship,

It was the speech of the Roman people (to whom the name of King had been render'd odious, as well by the tyrannie of the Tarquins, as by the Genius and Decretals of that City) 'Twas the speech I say of the publick, however pronounced from a private mouth, (if yet Cato the Censor were no more then such) That all Kings are to be reckon'd amongst ravenous Beasts. But what a Beast of prey was the Roman people, whilst with its conquering Eagles it erected its proud Trophees so far and wide over the world, bringing the Africans, the Asiaticks, the Macedonians, and the Achaeans, with many other despoyled Nations, into a specious bondage, with the pretence of preferring them to be Denizons of Rome? So that if Cato's saying were a wise one, 'twas every whit as wise that of pontius Telesinus; who flying about with open mouth through all the Companies of his Army, (in that famous encounter which he had with Sylla) cryed out, That Rome her selfe, as well as Sylla, was to be raz'd; for that there would alwayes be Wolves and Depraedatours of their Liberty, unlesse the Forrest that lodg'd them were grubb'd up by the roots. To speak impartially, both sayings are very true; That Man to Man is a kind of God; and that Man to Man is an arrant. Wolfe. The first is true, if we compare Citizens amongst themselves; and the second, if we compare Cities. In the one, there's some analogie of similitude with the Deity, to wit, Justice and Charity, the twin-sisters of peace: But in the other, Good men must defend themselves by taking to them for a Sanctuary the two daughters of War, Deceipt and Violence: that is in plaine termes a meer brutall Rapacity: which although men object to one another as a reproach, by an inbred custome which they have of beholding their own actions in the persons of other men, wherein, as in a Mirroir, all things on the left side appeare to be on the right, & all things on the right side to be as plainly on the left; yet the naturall right of preservation which we all receive from the uncontroulable Dictates of Necessity, will not admit it to be a Vice, though it confesse it to be an Unhappinesse. Now that with Cato himselfe, (a person of so great a renowne for wisdome) Animosity should so prevaile instead of Judgement, and partiality instead of Reason, that the very same thing which he thought equall in his popular State, he should censure as unjust in a Monarchical, other men perhaps may have leisure to admire. But I have been long since of this opinion, That there was never yet any more-then-vulgar-prudence that had the luck of being acceptable to the Giddy people; but either it hath not been understood, or else having been so, hath been levell'd and cryed downe. The more eminent Actions and Apothegms both of the Greeks and Romans have been indebted for their Eulogies not so much to the Reason, as to the Greatnesse of them, and very many times to that prosperous usurpation (with which our Histories doe so mutually upbraid each other) which as a conquering Torrent carryes all before it, as well publick Agents as publick Actions, in the streame of Time. Wisdome properly so call'd is nothing else but this, The perfect knowledge of the Truth in all matters whatsoever. Which being derived from the Registers and Records of Things, and that as 'twere through the Conduit of certain definite Appellations, cannot possibly be the work of a suddaine Acutenesse, but of a well-ballanc'd Reason, which by the Compendium of a word, we call philosophy. For by this it is, that a way is open'd to us, in which we travell from the contemplation of particular things to the Inference or result of universall Actions. Now look how many sorts of things there are which properly fall within the cognizance of humane reason, into so many branches does the tree of philosophy divide it selfe. And from the diversity of the matter about which they are conversant, there hath been given to those branches a diversity of Names too: For treating of Figures, tis call'd Geometry. of motion, physick; of naturall right, Moralls; put all together, and they make up philosophy. Just as the British, the Atlantick, and the Indian Seas, being diversly christen'd from the diversity of their shoares, doe notwithstanding all together make up The Ocean. And truly the Geometricians have very admirably perform'd their part. For whatsoever assistance doth accrew to the life of man, whether from the observation of the Heavens, or from the description of the Earth, from the notation of Times, or from the remotest Experiments of Navigation; Finally, whatsoever things they are in which this present Age doth differ from the rude simplenesse of Antiquity, we must acknowledge to be a debt which we owe meerly to Geometry. If the Morall philosophers had as happily discharg'd their duty, I know not what could have been added by humane Industry to the completion of that happinesse, which is consistent with humane life. For were the nature of humane Actions as distinctly knowne, as the nature of Quantity in Geometricall Figures, the strength of Avarice and Ambition, which is sustained by the erroneous opinions of the Vulgar, as touching the nature of Right and Wrong, would presently faint and languish; And Mankinde should enjoy such an Immortall peace, that (unlesse it were for habitation, on supposition that the Earth should grow too narrow for her Inhabitants) there would hardly be left any pretence for war. But now on the contrary, that neither the Sword nor the pen should be allowed any Cessation; That the knowledge of the Law of Nature should lose its growth, not advancing a whit beyond its antient stature; that there should still be such siding with the severall factions of philosophers, that the very same Action should bee decryed by some, and as much elevated by others; that the very same man should at severall times embrace his severall opinions, and esteem his own Actions farre otherwise in himselfe then he does in others; These I say are so many signes, so many manifest Arguments, that what hath hitherto been written by Morall philosophers, hath not made any progress in the knowledge of the Truth; but yet have took with the world, not so much by giving any light to the understanding, as entertainment to the Affections, whilest by the successefull Rhetorications of their speech they have confirmed them in their rashly received opinions. So that this part of philosophy hath suffered the same destiny with the publick Wayes, which lye open to all passengers to traverse up and down or the same lot with high wayes and open streets; Some for divertisement, and some for businesse; so that what with the Impertinencies of some, and the Altercations of others, those wayes have never a seeds time, and therefore yield never a harvest. The onely reason of which unluckines should seem to be this; That amongst all the writers of that part of philosophy, there is not one that hath used an idoneous principle of Tractation: For we may not, as in a Circle, begin the handling of a Science from what point we please. There is a certain Clue of Reason, whose beginning is in the dark, but by the benefit of whose Conduct, wee are led as 'twere by the hand into the clearest light, so that the principle of Tractation is to be taken from that Darknesse, and then the light to be carried thither for the irradiating its doubts. As often therefore as any writer, doth either weakly forsake that Clue, or wilfully cut it asunder, he describes the Footsteps, not of his progresse in Science, but of his wandrings from it. And upon this it was, that when I applyed my Thoughts to the Investigation of Naturall Justice, I was presently advertised from the very word Justice, (wich signifies a steady Will of giving every one his Owne) that my first enquiry was to be, from whence it proceeded, that any man should call any thing rather his Owne, then another mans. And when I found that this proceeded not from Nature, but Consent, (for what Nature at first laid forth in common, men did afterwards distribute into severall Impropriations, I was conducted from thence to another Inquiry, namely to what end, and upon what Impulsives, when all was equally every mans in common, men did rather think it fitting, that every man should have his Inclosure; And I found the reason was, that from a Community of Goods, there must needs arise Contention whose enjoyment should be greatest, and from that Contention all kind of Calamities must unavoydably ensue, which by the instinct of Nature, every man is taught to shun. Having therefore thus arrived at two maximes of humane Nature, the one arising from the concupiscible part, which desires to appropriate to it selfe the use of those things in which all others have a joynt interest, the other proceeding from the rationall, which teaches every man to fly a contre-naturall Dissolution, as the greatest mischiefe that can arrive to Nature; Which principles being laid down, I seem from them to have demonstrated by a most evident connexion, in this little work of mine, first the absolute necessity of Leagues and Contracts, and thence the rudiments both of morall and of civill prudence. That Appendage which is added concerning the Regiment of God, hath been done with this intent, that the Dictates of God Almighty in the Law of nature, might not seem repugnant to the written Law, revealed to us in his word. I have also been very wary in the whole tenour of my discourse, not to meddle with the civill Lawes of any particular nation whatsoever, That is to say, I have avoyded coming a shore, which those Times have so infested both with shelves, and Tempests. At what expence of time and industry I have beene in this scrutiny after Truth, I am not ignorant; but to what purpose, I know not. For being partiall Judges of our selves, we lay a partiall estimate upon our own productions. I therefore offer up this Book to your Lordships, not favour, but censure first, as having found by many experiments, that it is not the credit of the Author, nor the newnesse of the work, nor yet the ornament of the style, but only the weight of Reason, which recommends any Opinion to your Lordships Favour and Approbation. If it fortune to please, that is to say, if it be sound, if it be usefull, if it be not vulgar; I humbly offer it to your Lordship as both my Glory, and my protection; But if in any thing I have erred, your Lordship will yet accept it as a Testimony of my Gratitude, for that the means of study which I enjoyed by your Lordships Goodnesse, I have employed to the procurement of your Lordships Favour. The God of Heaven crown your Lordship with length of Dayes in this earthly Station, and in the heavenly Jerusalem, with a crown of Glory.


Your Honours most humble, and most devoted Servant, Tho. Hobbs.

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