De Cive

by Thomas Hobbes

Chapter IX.

Of the right of Parents over their children and of hereditary Government

I. Socrates is a man, and therefore a living creature, is a right reasoning, and that most evident, because there is nothing needfull to the acknowledging of the truth of the consequence, but that the word Man be understood, because a living creature is in the definition it selfe of a Man, and every one makes up the proposition which was desired, namely this, Man is a living Creature; And this, Sophroniscus is Socrates his Father, and therefore his Lord, is perhaps a true inference, but not evident, because the word Lord is not in the definition of a Father: wherefore it is necessary to make it more evident, that the connexion of Father and Lord be somewhat unfolded. Those that have hitherto endeavoured to prove the Dominion of a Parent over his children, have brought no other argument than that of generation, as if it were of it selfe evident, that what is begotten by me, is mine; just as if a man should think, that because there is a triangle, it appeares presently without any farther discourse, that its angles are equall to two Rights. Besides, since Dominion (that is) supreme Power is indivisible, insomuch as no man can serve two Masters, but two Persons male and female, must concurre in the act of generation, its impossible that Dominion should at all be acquired by generation onely. Wherefore we will with the more diligence in this place, enquire into the original of paternal Government.

II. Wee must therefore returne to the state of nature, in which, by reason of the equality of nature all men of riper yeares are to be accounted equall; There by right of nature the Conqueror is Lord of the conquered: by the Right therefore of nature, the Dominion over the Infant first belongs to him who first hath him in his power'd but it's manifest that he who is newly born is in the Mothers power before any others, insomuch as she may rightly, and at her own wil, either breed him up, or adventure him to fortune.

III. If therefore she breed him (because the state of nature is the state of warre) she is supposed to bring him up on this condition, that being grown to full age he become not her enemy; (which is) that he obey her. For since by naturall necessity we all desire that which appears good unto us, it cannot be understood that any man hath on such termes afforded life to another, that he might both get strength by his years, and at once become an enemy; but each man is an enemy to that other whom he neither obeys nor commands. And thus in the state of nature, every woman that bears children, becomes both a Mother, and a Lord. But what some say, that in this case, the Father by reason of the preeminence of sexe, and not the Mother, becomes Lord, signifies nothing. For both reason shewes the contrary, because the inequality of their naturall forces is not so great, that the man could get the Dominion over the woman without warre. And custome also contradicts not; for women, namely Amazons, have in former times waged war against their adversaries, and disposed of their children at their own wils, and at this day in divers places, women are invested with the principall authority. Neither doe their husbands dispose of their children, but themselves; which in truth they do by the right of nature; forasmuch as they who have the supreme power, are not tyed at all (as hath bin shewed) to the civill lawes. Adde also that in the state of nature it cannot be known who is the Father but by the testimony of the Mother; the child therefore is his whose the Mother will have it, and therefore hers; Wherefore originall Dominion over children belongs to the Mother, and among men no lesse than other creatures: The birth followes the belly.

IV. The Dominion passes from the Mother to others, divers wayes; first, if she quit and forsake her Right by exposing the child. He therefore that shall bring up the childe thus exposed, shall have the same Dominion over it, which the Mother had. For that life which the Mother had given it (not by getting, but nourishing it) she now by exposing, takes from it; Wherefore the obligation also which arose from the benefit of life, is by this exposition made voyd. Now the preserved, oweth all to the preserver, whether in regard of his education as to a Mother, or of his service, as to a Lord; for although the Mother in the state of nature, where all men have a right to all things, may recover her sonne again (namely by the same Right that any body else might doe it) yet may not the Sonne rightly transferre himselfe again unto his Mother.

V. Secondly, if the Mother be taken prisoner, her Sonne is his that took her, because that he who hath Dominion over the Person, hath also Dominion over all belonging to the Person; Wherefore over the Sonne also, as hath been shewed in the foregoing Chapter, in the fifth Article. Thirdly, if the Mother be a subject under what government soever, he that hath the supreme authority in that government, will also have the Dominion over him that is born of her. for he is Lord also of the Mother, who is bound to obey him, in all things. Fourthly, if a woman for societie sake give her selfe to a man on this condition; that he shall bear the sway; he that receives his being from the contribution of both Parties, is the Fathers, in regard of the command he hath over the Mother; but if a woman bearing rule shall have children by a Subject, the children are the Mothers: for otherwise the woman can have no children without prejudice to her authority. And universally, if the society of the male and female be such an union, as the one have subjected himselfe to the other, the children belong to him or her that commands.

VI. But in the state of nature, if a man, and woman contract so, as neither is subject to the command of the other, the children are the Mothers for the reasons above given in the third Article, unlesse by pacts it be otherwise provided. For the Mother may by pact dispose of her Right as she lists, as heretofore hath been done by the Amazons, who of those children which have been begotten by their neighbours, have by pact allowed them the males, and retained the females to themselves; but in a civill government, if there be a contract of marriage between a man and woman, the children are the Fathers; because in all Cities, viz. constituted of Fathers, not Mothers governing their families, the domesticall command belongs to the man, and such a contract, if it be made according to the civill Laws, is called MATRIMONY; but if they agree only to lye together, the children are the Fathers, or the Mothers variously, according to the differing civill Lawes of divers Cities.

VII. Now because by the third Article the Mother is originally Lord of her Children, and from her the Father, or some body else by derived Right, it is manifest that the Children are no lesse subject to those by whom they are nourisht, and brought up, than Servants to their Lords, and Subjects to him who beares the Supreme Rule; and that a Parent cannot be injurious to his Sonne as long as he is under his power. A Son also is freed from subjection on the same manner as a subject and servant are. For emancipation is the same thing with manumission, and abdication with banishment.

VIII. The enfranchised son, or released servant, doe now stand in lesse fear of their Lord and Father, being deprived of his naturall and lordly power over them, and (if regard be had to true and inward Honour) doe Honour him lesse, than before. For Honour (as hath been said in the section above) is nothing else but the estimation of anothers power; and therefore he that hath least power, hath alwayes least Honour. But it is not to be imagin'd that the enfranchiser ever intended so to match the enfranchised with himself, as that he should not so much as acknowledge a benefit, but should so carry himself in all things, as if he were become wholly his equall; It must therefore be ever understood, That he who is freed from subjection, whether he be a servant, sonne, or some colony, doth promise all those externall signes, at least whereby Superiours used to be Honour'd by their inferiours. From whence it followes, That the precept of honouring our Parents, belongs to the law of nature, not onely under the title of Gratitude, but also of Agreement.

IX. What then, will some one demand, is the difference between a sonne, or between a subject, and a servant? Neither doe I know that any Writer hath fully declared what liberty, and what slavery is. Commonly to doe all things according to our own phancies, and that without punishment, is esteem'd to be liberty; not to be able to doe this, is judg'd bondage; which in a Civill Government, and with the peace of mankind cannot possibly be done, because there is no City without a Command, and a restraining Right. LIBERTY, that we may define it, is nothing else but an absence of the lets, and hinderances of motion, as water shut up in a vessell is therefore not at liberty, because the vessell hinders it from running out, which the vessell being broken, is made free. And every man hath more or lesse liberty, as he hath more or lesse space in which he employes himself: as he hath more liberty, who is in a large, than he that is kept in a close prison. And a man may be free toward one part, and yet not toward another; as the traveller is bounded on this, and that side with hedges, or stone walls, lest he spoyle the vines, or corne, neighbouring on the high way. And these kinde of lets are externall, and absolute; in which sense all Servants, and Subjects are free, who are not fetter'd and imprisoned. There are others which are arbitrary, which doe not absolutely hinder motion, but by accident; to wit, by our own choyce, as he that is in a ship is not so hindered, but he may cast himselfe into the Sea, if he will: and here also the more wayes a man may move himselfe, the more liberty he hath, and herein consists civill liberty; for no man, whether subject, sonne, or servant, is so hindred by the punishments appointed by the City, the Father, or the Lord, how cruell soever, but that he may doe all things, and make use of all meanes necessary to the preservation of his life and health. For my part therefore I cannot finde what reason a meer servant hath to make complaints, if they relate onely to want of liberty, unlesse he count it a misery to be restrained from hurting himselfe, and to receive that life, (which by warre, or misfortune, or through his own idlenesse was forfeited) together with all manner of sustenance, and all things necessary to the conservation of health, on this condition only, that he will be rul'd: for he that is kept in by punishments layd before him, so as he dares not let loose the reines to his will in all things; is not opprest by servitude, but is governed and sustained. But this priviledge free subjects and sonnes of a family, have above servants, (in every government, and family, where servants are) that they may both undergoe the more honourable offices of the City or family, and also enjoy a larger possession of things superfluous. And herein layes the difference between a free subject, and a servant, that he is FREE indeed, who serves his City onely; but a SERVANT is he who also serves his fellow subject: all other liberty is an exemption from the Lawes of the City, and proper only to those that bear Rule.

X. A Father, with his sonnes and servants growne into a civill Person by vertue of his paternall jurisdiction, is called a FAMILY. This family, if through multiplying of children, and acquisition of servants, it becomes numerous, insomuch as without casting the uncertain dye of warre, it cannot be subdued, will be termed an Hereditary Kingdome; which though it differ from an institutive Monarchy, being acquired by force in the original, & manner of its constitution; yet being constituted, it hath al the same properties, and the Right of authority is every where the same, insomuch as it is not needfull to speak any thing of them apart.

XI. It hath been spoken, by what Right supreme authorities are constituted. Wee must now briefly tell you by what right they may be continued. Now the Right by which they are continued, is that which is called the right of SUCCESSION. Now because in a Democratie, the supreme authority is with the People, as long as there be any subjects in being, so long it rests with the same Person; for the People hath no Successour. In like manner in an Aristocraty, one of the Nobles dying, some other by the rest is substituted in his place; and therefore except they all dye together, which I suppose will never happen, there is no succession. The Querie therefore of the Right of Succession takes place onely in an absolute Monarchy. For they who exercise the supreme power for a time onely, are themselves no Monarchs, but Ministers of state.

XII. But first, if a Monarch shall by Testament appoint one to succeed him, the Person appointed shall succeed; for if he be appointed by the People, he shall have all the Right over the City which the People had, as hath been shewed in the 7. Chap. Art. 11. But the People might choose him; by the same Right therefore may he choose another; But in an hereditary Kingdome there are the same Rights as in an institutive; Wherefore, every Monarch may by his will make a successour.

XIII. But what a man may transferre on another by Testament, that by the same Right may he yet living, give, or sell away; To whomsoever therefore he shall make over the supreme power, whether by gift, or sale, it is rightly made.

XIV. But if living, he have not declared his will concerning his successour by Testament, nor otherwise, it is supposed, First, that he would not have his Government reduced to an Anarchy, or the state of warre, (that is) to the destruction of his subjects; as well because he could not doe that without breach of the Lawes of nature, whereby he was obliged to the performance of all things necessarily conducing to the preservation of Peace, as also because if that had been his will, it had not been hard for him to have declared that openly. Next, because the Right passeth according to the will of the Father, we must judge of the successour according to the signes of his will. It is understood therefore, that he would have his subjects to be under a Monarchicall Government rather than any other, because he himselfe in ruling, hath before approved of that state by his example, and hath not afterward either by any word or deed condemned it.

XV. Furthermore, because by naturall necessity all men wish them better from whom they receive glory, and honour, than others; but every man after death receives honour and glory from his children, sooner than from the power of any other men: hence we gather, that a father intends better for his children, than any other persons. It is to be understood therefore, that the will of the father, dying without Testament, was, that some of his children should succeed him; yet this is to be understood with this proviso, that there be no more apparent tokens to the contrary: of which kind, after many successions, custome may be one, for he that makes no mention of his succession, is supposed to consent to the customes of his Realme.

XVI. Among children the Males carry the preheminence, in the beginning perhaps, because for the most part (although not alwayes) they are fitter for the administration of greater matters, but specially of wars; but afterwards, when it was grown a custome, because that custome was not contradicted; and therefore the will of the Father, unlesse some other custome or signe doe clearly repugne it, is to be interpreted in favour of them.

XVII. Now because the Sonnes are equall, and the power cannot be divided, the eldest shall succeed; for if there be any difference by reason of age, the eldest is supposed more worthy, for nature being judge, the most in years (because usually it is so) is the wisest. But other judge there cannot be had. But if the Brothers must be equally valued, the succession shall be by lot. But primogeniture is a naturall lot, and by this the eldest is already prefer'd; nor is there any that hath power to judge, whether by this, or any other kind of lots the matter is to be decided. Now the same reason which contends thus for the first-born sonne, doth no lesse for the first born daughter.

XVIII. But if he have no children, then the command shall pass to his Brothers & Sisters, for the same reason, that the children should have succeeded if he had had them: for those that are nearest to us in nature, are supposed to be nearest in benevolence; and to his brothers, sooner than his sisters, and to the elder sooner than the yonger; for the reason is the same for these which it was for the children.

XIX. Furthermore, by the same reason that men succeed to the power, doe they also succeed to the Right of succession: for if the first-born dye before the Father, it will be judged, that he transferred his Right of succession unto his children, unlesse the Father have otherwise decreed it, and therefore the Nephewes will have a fairer pretence to the succession, than the Uncles. I say all these things will be thus, if the custome of the place (which the Father by not contradicting, will be judged to have consented to) doe not hinder them.


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