De Cive/Authors Preface
Reader, I promise thee here such things, which ordinarily promised, doe seeme to challenge the greatest attention, and I lay them here before thine eyes, whether thou regard the dignity or profit of the matter treated of, or the right method of handling it, or the honest motive, and good advice to undertake it, or lastly the moderation of the Authour. In this Book thou shalt finde briefly described the duties of men, First as Men, then as Subjects, Lastly, as Christians; under which duties are contained not only the elements of the Lawes of Nature, and of Nations, together with the true originall, and power of Justice, but also the very essence of Christian Religion it selfe, so farre forth as the measure of this my purpose could well bear it.
Which kinde of doctrine (excepting what relates to Christian Religion) the most antient Sages did judge fittest to be delivered to posterity, either curiously adorned with Verse, or clouded with Allegories, as a most beautifull and hallowed mystery of Royall authority; lest by the disputations of private men, it might be defiled; Other philosophers in the mean time, to the advantage of mankinde, did contemplate the faces, and motions of things; others, without disadvantage, their natures, and causes. But in after times, Socrates is said to have been the first, who truly loved this civill Science, although hitherto not throughly understood, yet glimmering forth as through a cloud in the government of the Common weale, and that he set so great a value on this, that utterly abandoning, and despising all other parts of philosophy, he wholly embraced this, as judging it onely worthy the labour of his minde. After him comes Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and other philosophers, as well Greeke, as Latine. And now at length all men of all Nations, not only philosophers, but even the vulgar, have, and doe still deale with this as a matter of ease, exposed and prostitute to every Mother-wit, and to be attained without any great care or study. And which makes mainly for its dignity, those who suppose themselves to have it, or are in such employment, as they ought to have it, doe so wonderfully please themselves in its Idaea, as they easily brooke the followers of other arts to be esteemed and styled ingenuous, learned, skilfull, what you will; except prudent: for this Name, in regard of civill knowledge, they presume to be due to themselves onely. Whether therefore the worth of arts is to be weighed by the worthinesse of the persons who entertain them, or by the number of those who have written of them, or by the judgement of the wisest. certainly this must carry it, which so neerly relates to princes, and others engaged in the government of mankinde, in whose adulterate Species also the most part of men doe delight themselves, and in which the most excellent wits of philosophers have been conversant. The benefit of it when rightly delivered (that is) when derived from true principles by evident connexion, we shall then best discerne, when we shall but well have considered the mischiefes that have befallen mankinde in its counterfeit and babling form; for in such matters as are speculated for the exercise of our wits, if any errour escape us, it is without hurt; neither is there any losse, but of time onely: but in those things which every man ought to meditate for the steerage of his life, it necessarily happens, that not onely from errours, but even from ignorance it selfe, there arise offences, contentions, nay even slaughter it selfe. Look now, how great a prejudice these are, such, and so great is the benefit arising from this doctrine of morality, truly declared. How many Kings (and those good men too) hath this one errour, That a Tyrant King might lawfully be put to death, been the slaughter of? How many throats hath this false position cut, That a prince for some causes may by some certain men be deposed? And what blood-shed hath not this erroneous doctrine caused, That Kings are not superiours to, but administrators for the multitude? Lastly, how many rebellions hath this opinion been the cause of which teacheth that the knowledge whether the commands of Kings be just or unjust, belongs to private men, and that before they yeeld obedience, they not only may, but ought to dispute them? Besides, in the morall philosophy now commonly received, there are many things no lesse dangerous then those, which it matters not now to recite. I suppose those antients foresaw this, who rather chose to have the Science of justice wrapt up in fables, then openly exposed to disputations: for before such questions began to be moved, princes did not sue for, but already exercised the supreme power. They kept their Empire entire, not by arguments, but by punishing the wicked, and protecting the good; likewise Subjects did not measure what was just by the sayings and judgements of private men, but by the Lawes of the Realme; nor were they kept in peace by disputations, but by power and authority: yea they reverenced the supreme power, whether residing in one man or in a councell, as a certain visible divinity; therefore they little used as in our dayes, to joyn themselves with ambitious, and hellish spirits, to the utter ruine of their State; for they could not entertain so strange a phansie as not to desire the preservation of that by which they were preserved; in truth, the simplicity of those times was not yet capable of so learned a piece of folly. Wherefore it was peace, and a golden age, which ended not before that Saturn being expelled, it was taught lawfull to take up arms against Kings. This I say, the Antients not only themselves saw, but in one of their fables, they seem very aptly to have signified it to us; for they say, that when Ixion was invited by Jupiter to a banquet, he fell in love, and began to court Juno her selfe; offering to embrace her, he clasp't a clowd, from whence the Centaures proceeded, by nature halfe men, halfe horses, a fierce, a fighting, and unquiet generation; which changing the names only, is as much as if they should have said, that private men being called to Counsels of State desired to prostitute justice, the onely sister and wife of the supreme, to their own judgements, and apprehensions, but embracing a false and empty shadow instead of it, they have begotten those hermaphrodite opinions of morall philosophers, partly right and comely, partly brutall and wilde, the causes of all contentions, and blood-sheds. Since therefore such opinions are daily seen to arise, if any man now shall dispell those clowds, and by most firm reasons demonstrate that there are no authenticall doctrines concerning right and wrong, good and evill, besides the constituted Lawes in each Realme, and government; and that the question whether any future action will prove just or unjust, good or ill, is to be demanded of none, but those to whom the supreme hath committed the interpretation of his Lawes; surely he will not only shew us the high way to peace, but will also teach us how to avoyd the close, darke, and dangerous by-paths of faction and sedition, then which I know not what can be thought more profitable.
Concerning my Method, I thought it not sufficient to use a plain and evident style in what I had to deliver, except I took my begining from the very matter of civill government, and thence proceeded to its generation, and form, and the first beginning of justice; for every thing is best understood by its constitutive causes; for as in a watch, or some such small engine, the matter, figure, and motion of the wheeles, cannot well be known, except it be taken in sunder, and viewed in parts; so to make a more curious search into the rights of States, and duties of Subjects, it is necessary, (I say not to take them in sunder, but yet that) they be so considered, as if they were dissolved, (i.e.) that wee rightly understand what the quality of humane nature is, in what matters it is, in what not fit to make up a civill government, and how men must be agreed among themselves, that intend to grow up into a well-grounded State. Having therefore followed this kind of Method; In the first place I set down for a principle by experience known to all men, and denied by none, to wit, that the dispositions of men are naturally such, that except they be restrained through feare of some coercive power, every man will distrust and dread each other, and as by naturall right he may, so by necessity he will be forced to make use of the strength hee hath, toward the preservation of himself You will object perhaps, that there are some who deny this; truly so it happens, that very many do deny it. But shall I therefore seem to fight against my self because I affirm that the same men confesse, and deny the same thing? In truth I do not, but they do, whose actions disavow what their discourses approve; of We see all countries though they be at peace with their neighbours, yet guarding their Frontiers with armed men, their Townes with Walls and ports, and keeping constant watches. To what purpose is all this, if there be no feare of the neighbouring power? Wee see even in well-governed States, where there are lawes and punishments appointed for offendors, yet particular men travell not without their Sword by their sides, for their defences, neither sleep they without shutting not only their doores against their fellow Subjects, but also their Trunks and Coffers for feare of domestiques. Can men give a clearer testimony of the distrust they have each of other, and all, of all? How since they doe thus, and even Countreyes as well as men, they publiquely professe their mutuall feare and diffidence; But in disputing they deny it, thats as much as to say, that out of a desire they have to contradict others, they gainsay themselves. Some object that this principle being admitted, it would needs follow, not onely that all men were wicked (which perhaps though it seeme hard, yet we must yeeld to, since it is so clearly declar'd by holy writ) but also wicked by nature (which cannot be granted without impiety). But this, that men are evill by nature, followes not from this principle; for though the wicked were fewer then the righteous, yet because we cannot distinguish them, there is a necessity of suspecting, heeding, anticipating, subjugating, selfe-defending, ever incident to the most honest, and fairest condition'd; much lesse do's it follow that those who are wicked are so by nature, for though from nature, that is from their first birth, as they are meerly sensible Creatures, they have this disposition, that immediately as much as in them lies, they desire and doe whatsoever is best pleasing to them, that either through feare they fly from, or through hardnesse repell those dangers which approach them, yet are they not for this reason to be accounted wicked; for the affections of the minde which arise onely from the lower parts of the soule are not wicked themselves, but the actions thence proceeding may be so sometimes, as when they are either offensive, or against duty. Unlesse you give Children all they aske for, they are peevish, and cry, I and strike their parents sometimes, and all this they have from nature, yet are they free from guilt, neither may we properly call them wicked; first, because they cannot hurt; next, because wanting the free use of reason they are exempted from all duty; these when they come to riper yeares having acquired power whereby they may doe hurt, if they shall continue to doe the same things, then truly they both begin to be, and are properly accounted wicked; In so much as a wicked man is almost the same thing with a childe growne strong and sturdy, or a man of a childish disposition; and malice the same with a defect of reason in that age, when nature ought to be better governed through good education and experience. Unlesse therefore we will say that men are naturally evill, because they receive not their education and use of reason from nature, we must needs acknowledge that men may derive desire, feare, anger, and other passions from nature, and yet not impute the evill effects of those unto nature. The foundation therefore which I have laid standing firme, I demonstrate in the first place, that the state of men without civill society (which state we may properly call the state of nature) is nothing else but a meere warre of all against all; and in that warre all men have equall right unto all things; Next, that all men as soone as they arrive to understanding of this hatefull condition, doe desire (even nature it selfe compelling them) to be freed from this misery. But that this cannot be done except by compact, they all quitt that right which they have unto all things. Furthermore I declare, and confirme what the nature of compacts is; how and by what meanes the right of one might be transfer'd unto another to make their compacts valid; also what rights, and to whom they must necessarily be granted for the establishing of peace, I meane what those dictates of reason are, which may properly be term'd the Lawes of nature; and all these are contain'd in that part of this booke which I entitle Liberty.
These grounds thus layd, I shew farther what civill government, and the supreme power in it, and the divers kinds of it are; by what meanes it becomes so, & what rights particular men, who intend to constitute this civill government, must so necessarily transfer from themselves on the supreme power, whether it be one man, or an assembly of men, that except they doe so it will evidently appeare to be no civill government, but the rights which all men have to all things, that is the rights of tarre will still remaine. Next, I distinguish the divers kindes of it, to wit, Monarchie, Aristocratie, Democratie, and paternall Dominion, and that of Masters over their Servants; I declare how they are constituted, and I compare their severall conveniences and inconveniences each with. other. furthermore, I unfold what those things are which destroy it, and what his or their duty is who rule in chiefe. Last of all, I explicate the natures of the Law, and of sinne, and I distinguish Law from Counsell, from compact, from that which I call Right; all which I comprehend under the title of Dominion.
In the last part of it which is entituled Religion, lest that right which by strong reason I had confirm'd the Soveraigne powers in the preceding discourse have over their Subjects, might seem to be repugnant to the sacred Scriptures, I shew in the first place how it repugns not the Divine right, for as much as God overrules all rulers by nature, (i.e.) by the Dictates of naturall reason. In the second, for as much as God himselfe had a peculiar dominion over the Jewes by vertue of that antient Covenant of Circumcision. In the third, because God doth now rule over us Christians by vertue of our Covenant of Baptisme; and therefore the authority of Rulers in chiefe, or of civill government, is not at all, we see, contrary to Religion.
In the last place I declare what duties are necessarily requir'd from us, to enter into the Kingdome of Heaven; and of those I plainly demonstrate, and conclude out of evident testimonies of holy writ, according to the interpretation made by all, that the obedience which I have affirm'd to be due from particular Christian Subjects unto their Christian princes cannot possibly in the least sort be repugnant unto Christian Religion. You have seene my Method, receive now the reason which mov'd me to write this; I was studying philosophie for my minde sake, and I had gathered together its first Elements in all kinds, and having digested them into three Sections by degrees, I thought to have written them so as in the first I would have treated of a body, and its generall properties; in the second of man and his speciall faculties, and affections; in the third, of civill government and the duties of Subjects: therefore the first Section would have contained the first philosophie, and certaine elements of physick; in it we would have considered the reasons of Time, Place, Cause, Power, Relation, Proportion, Quantity, Figure, and motion. In the second we would have beene conversant about imagination, Memory, intellect, ratiocination, appetite, till, good and Evill, honest and dishonest, and the like. what this last Section handles, I have now already shewed you. Whilest I contrive, order, pensively and slowly compose these matters, for I onely doe reason, I dispute not, it so happen'd in the interim, that my Country some few yeares before the civill tarres did rage, was boyling hot with questions concerning the rights of Dominion, and the obedience due from Subjects, the true forerunners of an approaching tar. And was the cause which (all those other matters deferr'd) ripen'd, and pluckt from me this third part. Therefore it happens that what was last in order, is yet come forth first in time, and the rather, because I saw that grounded on its owne principles sufficiently knowne by experience it would not stand in need of the former Sections. I have not yet made it out of a desire of praise (although if I had, I might have defended my selfe with this faire excuse, that very few doe things laudably, who are not affected with commendation) but for your sakes Readers, who I perswaded my selfe, when you should rightly apprehend and throughly understand this Doctrine I here present you with, would rather chuse to brooke with patience some inconveniences under government (because humane affairs cannot possibly be without some) then selfe opiniatedly disturb the quiet of the publique; That, weighing the justice of those things you are about, not by the perswasion and advise of private men, but by the Lawes of the Realme, you will no longer suffer ambitious men through the streames of your blood to wade to their owne power; That you will esteeme it better to enjoy your selves in the present state though perhaps not the best, then by waging tarre, indeavour to procure a reformation for other men in another age, your selves in the meane while either kill'd, or consumed with age; Farthermore, for those who will not acknowledge themselves subject to the civill Magistrate, and will be exempt from all publique burthens, and yet will live under his Jurisdiction, and look for protection from the violence and injuries of others, that you would not looke on them as fellow Subjects, but esteeme them for enemies, and spies, and that yee rashly admit not for Gods Word all which either openly or privately they shall pretend to bee so. I say more plainly, if any preacher, Confessor, or Casuist, shal but say that this doctrin is agreeable with Gods word, namely, That the chief ruler, nay any private man may lawfully be put to death without the chiefes command, or that Subjects may resist, conspire, or covenant against the supreme power, that ye by no means beleeve them, but instantly declare their names. He who approves of these reasons, will also like my intention in writing this book.
Last of al, I have propounded to my self this rule through this whole discourse; First, not to define ought which concerns the justice of single actions, but leave them to be determined by the laws. Next not to dispute the laws of any government in special, that is, not to point which are the laws of any country, but to declare what the laws of all countries are. Thirdly not to seem of opinion, that there is a lesse proportion of for obedience due to an Aristocraty or Democraty, then a Monarchy; though I have endeavoured by arguments in my tenth Chapter to gain a belief in men, that Monarchy is the most commodious government (which one thing alone I confesse in this whole book not to be demonstrated, but only probably stated) yet every where I expresly say, that in all kind of Government whatsoever, there ought to be a supreme and equall power. Fourthly, not in any wise to dispute the positions of Divines, except those which strip Subjects of their obedience, and shake the foundations of civill government. Lastly, lest I might imprudently set forth somewhat of which there would be no need, what I had thus written, I would not presently expose to publique interest, wherefore I got some few copies privately disperst among some of my friends, that discrying the opinions of others, if any things appeared erroneous, hard, or obscure, I might correct, soften, and explain them.
These things I found most bitterly excepted against: that I had made the civill powers too large, but this by Ecclesiasticall persons; that I had utterly taken away liberty of conscience, but this by Sectaries; that I had set princes above the civil Laws, but this by Lawyers; wherefore I was not much moved by these mens reprehensions, (as who in doing this did but do their own business) except it were tye those knots so much faster.
But for their sakes who have a litle been staggered at the principles themselves, to wit the nature of men, the authority or right of nature, the nature of compacts and contracts, and the originall of civill government, because in finding fault they have not so much followed their passions, as their common sense, I have therefore in some places added some annotations whereby I presumed I might give some satisfaction to their differing thoughts; Lastly I have endevoured to offend none beside those whose principles these contradict, and whose tender mindes are lightly offended by every difference of opinions.
Wherefore if ye shall meet with some things which have more of sharpnesse, and lesse of certainty then they ought to have, since they are not so much spoken for the maintenance of parties, as the establishment of peace, and by one whose just grief for the present calamities of his country, may very charitably be allowed some liberty, it is his only request to ye Readers, ye will deign to receive them with an equall mind.