De Cive

by Thomas Hobbes

Chapter X.

A comparison between three kinds of government, according to their severall inconveniences

I. What Democraty, Aristocraty, and Monarchy are, hath already been spoken, but which of them tends most to the preservation of the subjects Peace, and procuring their advantages, we must see by comparing them together. But first let us set forth the advantages, and disadvantages of a City in generall, lest some perhaps should think it better, that every man be left to live at his own will, than to constitute any civill society at all. Every man indeed out of the state of civill government hath a most entire, but unfruitfull liberty; because that he who by reason of his own liberty acts all at his own will, must also by reason of the same liberty in others, suffer all at anothers will; but in a constituted City, every subject retains to himselfe as much freedom as suffices him to live well, and quietly, & there is so much taken away from others, as may make them not to be feared. Out of this state, every man hath such a Right to all, as yet he can enjoy nothing; in it, each one securely enjoyes his limited Right; Out of it, any man may rightly spoyle, or kill one another; in it, none but one. Out of it we are protected by our own forces; in it, by the power of all. Out of it no man is sure of the fruit of his labours; in it, all men are. Lastly, out of it, there is a Dominion of Passions, war, fear, poverty, slovinlinesse, solitude, barbarisme, ignorance, cruelty. In it, the Dominion of reason, peace, security, riches, decency, society, elegancy, sciences, and benevolence.

II. Aristotle, in his seventh book and fourteenth Chapter of his Politiques saith, that there are two sorts of governments, whereof the one relates to the benefit of the Ruler, the other to that of the Subjects; as if where Subjects are severely dealt with, there were one, and where more mildly, there were another form of government; which opinion may by no means be subscribed to, for all the profits and disprofits arising from government are the same, and common both to the Ruler, and the Subject; The Dammages which befall some particular subjects through misfortune, folly, negligence, sloth, or his own luxury, may very well be severed from those which concern the Ruler, but those relate not to the government it selfe, being such as may happen in any form of government whatsoever. If these same happen from the first institution of the City, they will then be truly called the inconveniencies of government, but they will be common to the Ruler with his subjects, as their benefits are common; but the first and greatest benefit, Peace, and defence, is common to both, for both he that commands, and he who is commanded, to the end that he may defend his life, makes use at once of all the forces of his fellow-subjects; and in the greatest inconvenience that can befall a City, namely the slaughter of subjects, arising from Anarchy, both the Commander, and the Parties commanded, are equally concerned. Next, if the Ruler levie such a summe of vast monies from his subjects, as they are not able to maintain themselves, and their families, nor conserve their bodily strength, and vigour, the disadvantage is as much his, as theirs, who with never so great a stock, or measure of riches, is not able to keep his authority or his riches without the bodies of his subjects; but if he raise no more than is sufficient for the due administration of his power, that is a benefit equall to himselfe and his subjects, tending to a common Peace, and defence. Nor is it imaginable which way publick treasures can be a grievance to private subjects, if they be not so exhausted, as to be wholly deprived from all possibility to acquire, even by their industry, necessaries to sustain the strength of their bodies, and mindes; for even thus the grievance would concern the Ruler; nor would it arise from the ill institution, or ordination of the government, (because in all manner of governments subjects may be opprest) but from the ill administration of a well established government.

III. Now that Monarchy of the foresaid forms, of Democraty, Aristocraty, and Monarchy, hath the preheminence, will best appear by comparing the conveniences and inconveniences arising in each one of them. Those arguments therefore that the whole universe is governed by one God; that the Ancients preferr'd the Monarchicall state before all others, ascribing the Rule of the Gods to one Jupiter; that in the beginning of affairs, and of Nations, the decrees of Princes were held for Laws; that paternall government instituted by God himselfe in the Creation, was Monarchicall; that other governments were compacted by the artifice of men 1 out of the ashes of Monarchy, after it had been ruined with seditions; and that the people of God were under the jurisdiction of Kings, although I say these doe hold forth Monarchy as the more eminent to us, yet because they doe it by examples and testimonies, and not by solid reason, we will passe them over.

IV. Some there are who are discontented with the government under one, for no other reason, but because it is under one; as if it were an unreasonable thing that one man among so many, should so farre excell in power, as to be able at his own pleasure to dispose of all the rest; these men sure, if they could, would withdraw themselves from under the Dominion of one God. But this exception against one is suggested by envie, while they see one man in possession of what all desire: for the same cause they would judge it to be as unreasonable, if a few commanded, unlesse they themselves either were, or hoped to be of the number; for if it be an unreasonable thing that all men have not an equall Right, surely an Aristocraty must be unreasonable also. But because we have shewed that the state of equality is the state of warre, and that therefore inequality was introduc'd by a generall consent; this inequality whereby he, whom we have voluntarily given more to, enjoyes more, is no longer to be accompted an unreasonable thing. The inconveniences therefore which attend the Dominion of one man, attend his Person, not his Unity. Let us therefore see whether brings with it the greater grievances to the subject, the command of one man, or of many.

V. But first, we must remove their opinion who deny that to be any City at all, which is compacted of never so great a number of servants under a common Lord. In the 9. Artic. of the 5. Chapter, a City is defined to be one Person made out of many men, whose will by their own contracts is to be esteemed as the wills of them all, insomuch as he may use the strength and faculties of each single Person for the publick Peace and safety; and by the same article of the same Chapter, One Person is that, when the wills of many are contained in the will of one. But the will of each servant is contained in the will of his Lord, as hath been declared in the 5. Article of the 8. Chapter, so as he may employ all their forces and faculties according to his own will, and pleasure; it followes therefore that that must needs be a city, which is constituted by a Lord, and many servants; neither can any reason be brought to contradict this which doth not equally combat against a City constituted by a Father, and his Sonnes; for to a Lord who hath no children, servants are in the nature of sonnes; for they are both his honour, and safeguard; neither are servants more subject to their Lords, than children to their Parents, as hath been manifested above in the 5. Article of the 8. Chapter.

VI. Among other grievances of supreme authority one is, that the Ruler, beside those monies necessary for publick charges, as the maintaining of publick Ministers, building, and defending of Castles, waging warres, honourable sustaining his own houshold, may also, if he will, exact others through his lust, whereby to enrich his sonnes, kindred, favourites, and flatterers too. I confesse this is a grievance, but of the number of those which accompany all kindes of government, but are more tolerable in a Monarchy than in a Democraty; for though the Monarch would enrich them, they cannot be many, because belonging but to one. But in a Democraty, look how many Demagoges, (that is) how many powerfull Oratours there are with the people (which ever are many, and daily new ones growing) so many Children, Kinsmen, friends, & Flatterers, are to be rewarded; for every of them desire not onely to make their families as potent, as illustrious in wealth, as may be, but also to oblige others to them by benefits for the better strengthning of themselves. A Monarch may in great part satisfie his Officers and Friends, because they are not many, without any cost to his Subjects, I mean, without robbing them of any of those Treasures given in for the maintenance of War, and Peace; In a Democraty, where many are to be satisfied, and alwayes new ones, this cannot be done without the Subjects oppression. Though a Monarch may promote unworthy Persons, yet oft times he will not doe it; but in a Democraty all the popular men are therefore suppos'd to doe it, because it is necessary; for else, the power of them who did it would so encrease, as it would not onely become dreadfull to those others, but even to the whole City also.

VII. Another grievance is, that same perpetuall fear of death which every man must necessarily be in, while he considers with himself that the Ruler hath power not onely to appoint what punishments he lists on any Transgressions, but that he may also in his wrath, and sensuality, slaughter his innocent Subjects, and those who never offended against the Lawes. And truly this is a very great grievance in any forme of Government wheresoever it happens: (for it is therefore a grievance because it is; not, because it may be done) but it is the fault of the Ruler, not of the Government; For all the acts of Nero are not essentiall to Monarchie; yet Subjects are lesse often undeservedly condemn'd under one Ruler, than under the People: For Kings are onely severe against those who either trouble them with impertinent Counsells, or oppose them with reproachfull words, or controule their Wills; but they are the cause that that excesse of power which one Subject might have above another becomes harmlesse. Wherefore some Nero or Caligula reigning, no men can undeservedly suffer, but such as are known to him, namely Courtiers, and such as are remarkable for some eminent Charge; and not all neither, but they onely who are possessed of what he desires to enjoy; for they that are offensive, and contumelious, are deservedly punisht. Whosoever therefore in a Monarchy will lead a retired life, let him be what he will that Reignes, he is out of danger: for the ambitious onely suffer, the rest are protected from the injuries of the more potent. But in a popular Dominion there may be as many Nero's, as there are Oratours who sooth the People; for each one of them can doe as much as the People, and they mutually give way to each others appetite (as it were by this secret pact, Spare me to day, and Ile spare thee to morrow) while they exempt those from punishment, who to satisfie their lust, and private hatred, have undeservedly slain their fellow-subjects. Furthermore, there is a certain limit in private power, which if it exceed, it may prove pernicious to the Realme, and by reason whereof it is necessary sometimes for Monarchs to have a care that the common-weale do thence receive no prejudice. When therefore this power consisted in the multitude of Riches, they lessened it by diminishing their heaps; but if it were in popular applause, the powerfull party without any other crime laid to his charge, was taken from among them. The same was usually practised in Democraties; for the Athenians inflicted a punishment of ten yeares banishment on those that were powerfull, meerly because of their powers, without the guilt of any other crime; and those who by liberall gifts did seek the favour of the common people, were put to death at Rome, as men ambitious of a Kingdome. In this Democraty and Monarchy were eaven; yet differ'd they much in fame, because fame derives from the People, and what is done by many, is commended by many: and therefore what the Monarch does, is said to be done out of envie to their vertues, which if it were done by the People, would be accounted Politie.

VIII. There are some who therefore imagine Monarchy to bee more grievous than Democraty, because there is lesse liberty in that, than in this. If by liberty they mean an exemption from that subjection which is due to the Lawes (i.e.) the commands of the People, neither in Democraty, nor in any other state of government whatsoever, is there any such kind of liberty. If they suppose liberty to consist in this, that there be few lawes, few prohibitions, and those too such, that except they were forbidden, there could be no Peace; then I deny that there is more liberty in Democraty than Monarchy; for the one as truly consisteth with such a liberty, as the other. For although the word liberty, may in large, and ample letters be written over the gates of any City whatsoever, yet is it not meant the Subjects, but the Cities liberty, neither can that word with better Right be inscribed on a City which is governed by the people, than that which is ruled by a Monarch. But when private men or subjects demand liberty, under the name of liberty, they ask not for liberty, but dominion, which yet for want of understanding, they little consider; for if every man would grant the same liberty to another, which he desires for himselfe, as is commanded by the law of nature, that same naturall state would return again, in which all men may by Right doe all things, which if they knew, they would abhor, as being worse than all kind of civill subjection whatsoever. But if any man desire to have his single freedome, the rest being bound, what does he else demand but to have the Dominion? For who so is freed from all bonds, is Lord over all those that still continue bound. Subjects therefore have no greater liberty in a Popular, than in a Monarchicall State. That which deceives them, is the equall participation of command, and publique places; for where the authority is in the People, single subjects doe so far forth share in it as they are parts of the People ruling; and they equally partake in publique Offices so far forth as they have equall voices in choosing Magistrates, and publique Ministers. And this is that which Aristotle aim'd at, himself also, through the custome of that time, miscalling Dominion liberty, in his sixth Book, and second Chapter of Politiques. In a popular State there is liberty by supposition; which is a speech of the vulgar, as if no man were free out of this State. From whence, by the way, we may collect, That those Subjects, who in a Monarchy deplore their lost liberty, doe onely stomack this, that they are not receiv'd to the steerage of the Common-weal.

IX. But perhaps for this very reason some will say, That a Popular State is much to be preferr'd before a Monarchicall; because that, where all men have a hand in publique businesses, there all have an opportunity to shew their wisedome, knowledge, and eloquence, in deliberating matters of the greatest difficulty and moment; which by reason of that desire of praise which is bred in humane nature, is to them who excell in such like faculties, and seeme to themselves to exceed others, the most delightfull of all things. But in a Monarchy, this same way to obtain praise, and honour, is shut up to the greatest part of Subjects; and what is a grievance, if this be none? Ile tell you: To see his opinion whom we scorne, preferr'd before ours; to have our wisedome undervalued before our own faces; by an uncertain tryall of a little vaine glory, to undergoe most certaine enmities (for this cannot be avoided, whether we have the better, or the worse); to hate, and to be hated, by reason of the disagreement of opinions; to lay open our secret Counsells, and advises to all, to no purpose, and without any benefit; to neglect the affaires of our own Family: These, I say, are grievances. But to be absent from a triall of wits, although those trialls are pleasant to the Eloquent, is not therefore a grievance to them, unlesse we will say, that it is a grievance to valiant men to be restrained from fighting, because they delight in it.

X. Besides, there are many reasons why deliberations are lesse successefull in great Assemblies, than in lesser Councells; whereof one is, that to advise rightly of all things conducing to the preservation of a Common-weal, we must not onely understand matters at home, but Forraign Affaires too: at Home, by what goods the Country is nourished, and defended, and whence they are fetched; what places are fit to make Garrisons of; by what means Souldiers are best to be raised, and maintained; what manner of affections the Subjects bear toward their Prince, or Governours of their Country, and many the like: Abroad, what the power of each neighbouring Country is, and wherein it consists; what advantage, or disadvantage we may receive from them; what their dispositions are both to us-ward, and how affected to each other among themselves, and what Counsell daily passeth among them. Now, because very few in a great Assembly of men understand these things, being for the most part unskilfull (that I say not incapable) of them, what can that same number of advisers with their impertinent Opinions contribute to good Counsells, other than meer letts and impediments?

XI. Another reason why a great Assembly is not so fit for consultation is, because every one who delivers his opinion holds it necessary to make a long continued Speech, and to gain the more esteem from his Auditours, he polishes, and adornes it with the best, and smoothest language. Now the nature of Eloquence is to make Good and Evill, Profitable and Unprofitable, Honest and Dishonest, appear to be more or lesse than indeed they are, and to make that seem just, which is unjust, according as it shall best suit with his end that speaketh. For this is to perswade; and though they reason, yet take they not their rise from true Principles, but from vulgar received opinions, which, for the most part, are erroneous; neither endeavour they so much to fit their speech to the nature of the things they speak of, as to the Passions of their mindes to whom they speak; whence it happens that opinions are delivered not by right reason, but by a certain violence of mind. Nor is this fault in the Man, but in the nature it selfe of Eloquence, whose end (as all the Masters of Rhetorick teach us) is not truth (except by chance) but victory, and whose property is not to inform, but to allure.

XII. The third reason why men advise lesse successfully in a great convent is, because that thence arise Factions in a commonweal, and out of Factions, Seditions, and Civill War; for when equall Oratours doe combat with contrary Opinions, and Speeches, the conquered hates the Conquerour, and all those that were of his side, as holding his Counsell, and wisedome in scorne: and studyes all meanes to make the advise of his adversaries prejudiciall to the State, for thus he hopes to see the glory taken from him, and restored unto himself. Farthermore, where the Votes are not so unequall, but that the conquered have hopes by the accession of some few of their own opinion at another sitting to make the stronger Party, the chief heads do call the rest together; they advise apart how they may abrogate the former judgment given; they appoint to be the first and earliest at the next convent; they determine what, and in what order each man shall speak, that the same businesse may again be brought to agitation, that so what was confirmed before by the number of their then present adversaries, the same may now in some measure become of no effect to them, being negligently absent. And this same kind of industry and diligence which they use to make a people, is commonly called a faction. But when a faction is inferiour in votes, and superiour, or not much inferiour in power, than what they cannot obtain by craft, and language, they attempt by force of armes, and so it comes to a civill warre. But some will say, these things doe not necessarily, nor often happen; he may as well say, that the chief Parties are not necessarily desirous of vain glory, and that the greatest of them seldom disagree in great matters.

XIII. It followes hence, that when the legislative power resides in such convents as these, the Laws must needs be inconstant, and change, not according to the alteration of the state of affaires, nor according to the changeablenesse of mens mindes, but as the major part, now of this, then of that faction, do convene; insomuch as the Laws do flote here, and there, as it were upon the waters.

XIV. In the fourth place, the counsels of great assemblies have this inconvenience, that whereas it is oft of great consequence, that they should be kept secret, they are for the most part discovered to the enemy before they can be brought to any effect, and their power, and will, is as soon known abroad, as to the People it selfe commanding at home.

XV. These inconveniences which are found in the deliberations of great assemblies do so farre forth evince Monarchy to be better than Democraty, as in Democraty affairs of great consequence are oftner trusted to be discussed by such like Committees, than in a Monarchy. Neither can it easily bee done otherwayes; for there is no reason why every man should not naturally rather minde his own private, than the publique businesse, but that here he sees a means to declare his eloquence, whereby he may gain the reputation of being ingenuous, and wise, and returning home to his friends, to his Parents, to his wife, and children, rejoyce, and triumph in the applause of his dexterous behaviour: As of old all the delight Marcus Coriolanus had in his warlike actions, was, to see his praises so well pleasing to his Mother. But if the People in a Democraty would bestow the power of deliberating in matters of Warre, and Peace, either on one, or some very few, being content with the nomination of Magistrates, and publique Ministers, that is to say, with the authority without the ministration, then it must be confest, that in this particular, Democraty and Monarchy would be equall.

XVI. Neither do the conveniencies or inconveniences which are found to be more in one kind of government than another, arise from hence, namely, because the government it self, or the administration of its affairs, are better committed to one, than many; or on the other side, to many, than to some few. For Government is the power, the administration of it is the act. Now the Power in all kind of government is equall; the acts only differ, that is to say the actions and motions of a common-weale, as they flow from the deliberations of many, or few, of skilfull, or impertinent men. Whence we understand, that the conveniences, or inconveniences of any government, depend not on him in whom the authority resides, but on his Officers; and therefore nothing hinders, but that the common-weale may be well governed, although the Monarch be a woman, or youth, or infant, provided that they be fit for affaires, who are endued with the publique Offices, and charges; And that which is said, Woe to the land whose King is a childe, doth not signifie the condition of a Monarchy to be inferiour to a Popular state, but contrariwise, that by accident it is the grievance of a Kingdome, that the King being a childe, it often happens, that many by ambition, and power, intruding themselves into publique counsels, the government comes to be administred in a Democraticall manner, and that thence arise those infelicities which for the most part accompany the Dominion of the People.

XVII. But it is a manifest sign, that the most absolute Monarchy is the best state of government, that not onely Kings, but even those Cities which are subject to the people, or to Nobles, give the whole command of warre to one only, and that so absolute, as nothing can be more (wherein by the way this must be noted also, that no King can give a Generall greater authority over his army, than he himselfe by Right may exercise over all his subjects). Monarchy therefore is the best of all governments in the Camps. But what else, are many Common-wealths, than so many Camps strengthened with armes, and men against each other, whose state (because not restrained by any common power, howsoever an uncertain peace, like a short truce, may passe between them) is to be accounted for the state of nature, which is the state of War.

XVIII. Lastly, since it was necessary for the preservation of our selves to be subject to some Man, or Councell, we cannot on better condition be subject to any, than one whose interest depends upon our safety, and welfare; and this then comes to passe when we are the inheritance of the Ruler; for every man of his own accord endeavours the preservation of his inheritance. But the Lands, and Monies of the Subjects are not onely the Princes Treasure, but their bodies, and active minds; which will be easily granted by those who consider at how great rates the Dominion of lesser Countries is valued, and how much easier it is for men to procure mony, than money men; nor doe we readily meet with any example that shewes us when any subject, without any default of his own, hath by his Prince been despoiled of his life, or goods, through the sole licenciousnesse of his Authority.

XIX. Hitherto we have compared a Monarchicall, with a Popular State; we have said nothing of Aristocracy; we may conclude of this, by what hath been said of those, that, that which is hereditary, and content with the election of Magistrates; which transmits its deliberations to some few, and those most able; which simply imitates the government of Monarchs most, and the People least of all, is for the Subjects both better, and more lasting than the rest.


1. Compacted by the artifice of men, &c. It seems the Ancients who made that same fable of Prometheus pointed at this. They say, that Prometheus having stolne fire from the Sunne, formed a man out of clay, and that for this deed he was tortured by Jupiter with a perpetuall gnawing in his liver. Which is, that by humane invention (which is signified by Prometheus) Laws and Justice were by imitation taken from Monarchy, by vertue whereof (as by fire removed from its naturall orbe) the multitude (as the durt and dregs of men) was as it were quickned and formed into a civill Person, which is termed Aristocraty, or Democraty; but the Awthours and Abettors being found, who might securely and quietly have lived under the naturall jurisdiction of Kings, doe thus smart for it, that being exposed still to alteration, they are tormented with perpetuall cares, suspitions, and dissentions.


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