De Cive

by Thomas Hobbes

Chapter XII.

Of the internal causes, tending to the dissolution of any Government

I. Hitherto hath been spoken by what causes, and Pacts, Common-weals are constituted, and what the Rights of Princes are over their subjects; Now we will briefly say somewhat concerning the causes which dissolve them, or the reasons of seditions. Now as in the motion of naturall bodies, three things are to be considered, namely, internall disposition, that they be susceptible of the motion to be produced; the externall Agent, whereby a certain and determined motion may in act be produced; and the action it selfe: So also in a Common-weale where the subjects begin to raise tumults, three things present themselves to our regard; First the Doctrines and the Passions contrary to Peace, wherewith the mindes of men are fitted and disposed; next their quality and condition who sollicite, assemble, and direct them already thus disposed, to take up armes, and quit their allegiance; Lastly, the manner how this is done, or the faction it selfe. But one, and the first which disposeth them to sedition, is this, That the knowledge of good and evill belongs to each single man. In the state of nature indeed, where every man lives by equall Right, and have not by any mutuall Pacts submitted to the command of others, we have granted this to be true, nay in the first Chapter, Article 9. we have demonstrated it. But in the civil state it is false. For it was shown in chap. 6. art. 9. that the civill Lawes were the Rules of good and evill, just and unjust, honest and dishonest; that therefore what the Legislator commands, must be held for good, and what he forbids for evill; and the Legislator is ever that Person who hath the supreme power in the Commonweale, that is to say, the Monarch in a Monarchy. We have confirmed the same truth in the eleventh Chapter, Article 2. out of the words of Solomon; for if private men may pursue that as good, and shun that as evill which appears to them to be so, to what end serve those words of his? Give therefore unto thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy People, that I may discern between good and evill. Since therefore it belongs to Kings to discerne betweene good and evill, wicked are those, though usuall sayings, that he onely is a King who does righteously, and that Kings must not be obeyed, unlesse they command us just things, and many other such like. Before there was any government, just and unjust had no being, their nature onely being relative to some command, and every action in its own nature is indifferent; that it becomes just, or unjust, proceeds from the right of the Magistrate: Legitimate Kings therefore make the things they command, just, by commanding them, and those which they forbid, unjust, by forbidding them; but private men while they assume to themselves the knowledge of good and evill, desire to be even as Kings, which cannot be with the safety of the Common weale. The most ancient of all Gods commands is, Gen. 2:15. Thou shalt not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evill; and the most ancient of all diabolicall tentations, Chap. 3. vers. 5. Yee shall be as Gods, knowing good and evill; and Gods first expostulation with man, vers. 11. Who told thee that thou wert naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? As if he had said, how comest thou to judge that nakedness, wherein it seemed good to me to create thee, to be shamefull, except thou have arrogated to thy selfe the knowledge of good and evill?

II. Whatsoever any man doth against his conscience is a sinne, for he who doth so, contemns the Law. But we must distinguish: That is my sinne indeed, which committing, I doe beleeve to be my sinne; but what I beleeve to be another mans sin, I may sometimes doe that without any sin of mine. For if I be commanded to doe that which is a sin in him who commands me, if I doe it, and he that commands me be by Right, Lord over me, I sinne not; for if I wage warre at the Commandement of my Prince, conceiving the warre to be unjustly undertaken, I doe not therefore doe unjustly, but rather if I refuse to doe it, arrogating to my selfe the knowledge of what is just and unjust, which pertains onely to my Prince. They who observe not this distinction, will fall into a necessity of sinning, as oft as any thing is commanded them, which either is, or seems to be unlawfull to them: for if they obey, they sin against their conscience, and if they obey not, against Right. If they sin against their conscience, they declare that they fear not the paines of the world to come; if they sinne against Right, they doe as much as in them lyes, abolish humane society, and the civill life of the present world. Their opinion therefore who teach, that subjects sinne when they obey their Princes commands, which to them seem unjust, is both erroneous, and to be reckoned among those which are contrary to civill obedience; and it depends upon that originall errour which we have observed above in the foregoing Article; for by our taking upon us to judge of good and evill, we are the occasion, that as well our obedience, as disobedience, becomes sin unto us.

III. The third seditious doctrine springs from the same root, That Tyrannicide is lawfull; Nay, at this day it is by many Divines, and of old it was by all the Philosophers, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, Plutarch, and the rest of the maintainers of the Greek, and Roman Anarchies, held not only lawful, but even worthy of the greatest praise. And under the title of Tyrants, they mean not onely Monarchs, but all those who bear the chief rule in any Government whatsoever; for not Pisistratus onely at Athens, but those thirty also who succeeded him, and ruled together, were all called Tyrants. But he, whom men require to be put to death as being a Tyrant, commands either by Right, or without Right; if without Right, he is an enemy, and by Right to be put to death; but then this must not be called the killing a Tyrant, but an enemy: if by Right, then the divine interrogation takes place, Who hath told thee that he was a Tyrant, hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? For why doest thou call him a Tyrant, whom God hath made a King, except that thou being a private Person, usurpest to thy self the knowledge of good and evill? But how pernicious this opinion is to all governments, but especially to that which is Monarchicall, we may hence discerne, namely, that by it every King, whether good or ill, stands exposed to be condemned by the judgement, and slain by the hand of every murtherous villain.

IV. The fourth adversary opinion to Civill Society, is theirs, who hold, That they who bear Rule are Subject also to the Civill Lawes. Which hath been sufficiently proved before not to be true in the 6. Chap. Artic. 14. from this Argument, That a City can neither be bound to it self, nor to any subject; not to it selfe, because no man can be obliged except it be to another; not to any Subject, because the single wills of the Subjects are contained in the will of the City, insomuch, that if the City will be free from all such obligation, the Subjects will so too; and by consequence she is so. But that which holds true in a City, that must be supposed to be true in a man, or an assembly of men, who have the Supreme Authority, for they make a City, which hath no being but by their Supreme Power. Now that this Opinion cannot consist with the very being of Government, is evident from hence, that by it the knowledge of what is Good and Evill, that is to say, the definition of what is, and what is not against the Lawes, would return to each single Person: Obedience therefore will cease as oft as any thing seemes to be commanded contrary to the Civill Lawes, and together with it, all coercive jurisdiction, which cannot possibly be without the destruction of the very essence of Government. Yet this Errour hath great props, Aristotle, and others; who, by reason of humane infirmity, suppose the Supreme Power to be committed with most security to the Lawes onely; but they seem to have lookt very shallowly into the nature of Government, who thought that the constraining Power, the interpretation of Lawes, and the making of Lawes, (all which are powers necessarily belonging to Government) should be left wholly to the Lawes themselves. Now although particular Subjects may sometimes contend in judgement, and goe to Law with the Supreme Magistrate, yet this is onely then, when the question is not what the Magistrate may, but what by a certain Rule he hath declared he would doe. As, when by any Law the Judges sit upon the life of a Subject, the question is not whether the Magistrate could by his absolute Right deprive him of his life; but whether by that Law his will was that he should be deprived of it; but his will was, he should, if he brake the Law; else, his will was he should not: This therefore, that a Subject may have an action of Law against his Supreme Magistrate, is not strength of Argument sufficient to prove that he is tyed to his own Lawes. On the contrary, it is evident, that he is not tied to his owne Lawes, because no man is bound to himself. Lawes therefore are set for Titius, and Caius, not for the Ruler: however, by the ambition of Lawyers, it is so ordered, that the Lawes, to unskilfull men seeme not to depend on the Authority of the Magistrate, but their Prudence.

V. In the fifth place, That the Supreme Authority may be divided, is a most fatall Opinion to all Common-weales. But diverse men divide it diverse wayes. For some divide it so as to grant a Supremacy to the Civill Power in matters pertaining to Peace, and the benefits of this life, but in things concerning the salvation of the Soul they transfer it on others. Now, because justice is of all things most necessary to Salvation, it happens, that Subjects measuring justice, not as they ought, by the Civill Lawes, but by the precepts and doctrines of them who, in regard of the Magistrate, are either private mens or strangers, through a superstitious fear dare not perform the obedience due to their Princes, through fear falling into that which they most feared: Now what can be more pernicious to any state, than that men should, by the apprehension of everlasting torments, be deterred from obeying their Princes, that is to say, the Lawes, or from being just? There are also some who divide the Supreme Authority so as to allow the power of War, and Peace, unto one, (whom they call a Monarch) but the right of raising Monies they give to some others, and not to him: But because monies are the sinewes of War, and Peace, they who thus divide the Authority, doe either really not divide it at all, but place it wholly in them, in whose power the money is, but give the name of it to another, or if they doe really divide it, they dissolve the Government: for neither upon necessity can War be waged, nor can the publique Peace be preserved without Money.

VI. It is a common doctrine, That faith and holinesse are not acquired by study, and naturall reason, but are alwayes supernaturally infused, and inspired into men: which, if it were true, I understand not why we should be commanded to give an account of our faith; or why any man, who is truly a Christian, should not be a Prophet; or lastly, why every man should not judge what's fit for him to doe, what to avoid, rather out of his own inspiration, than by the precepts of his Superiours, or right Reason. A return therefore must be made to the private knowledge of Good and Evil; which cannot be granted without the ruine of all Governments. This Opinion hath spread it self so largely through the whole Christian world, that the number of Apostates from natural reason is almost become infinite. And it sprang from sick-brained men, who having gotten good store of Holy Words by frequent reading of the Scriptures, made such a connexion of them usually in their preaching, that their Sermons, signifying just nothing, yet to unlearned men seemed most divine; for he whose non-sense appears to be a Divine speech, must necessarily seeme to be inspired from above.

VII. The seventh Doctrine opposite to Government, is this, That each subject hath an absolute Dominion over the goods he is in possession of. That is to say, such a propriety as excludes not only the right of all the rest of his fellow-subjects to the same goods, but also of the Magistrate himself. Which is not true; for they who have a Lord over them, have themselves no Lordship, as hath been proved, Chap. 8. Artic. 5. Now the Magistrate is Lord of all his Subjects, by the constitution of Government. Before the yoke of Civill Society was undertaken, no man had any Proper Right; all things were common to all men. Tell me therefore, how gottest thou this propriety but from the Magistrate? How got the Magistrates it, but that every man transferred his Right on him? And thou therefore hast also given up thy Right to him; thy Dominion therefore, and Propriety, is just so much as he will, and shall last so long as he pleases; even as in a Family, each Son hath such proper goods, and so long lasting, as seeme good to the Father. But the greatest part of men who professe Civill Prudence, reason otherwise; we are equall (say they) by nature; there is no reason why any man should by better Right take my goods from me, than I his from him; we know that mony sometimes is needfull for the defence and maintenance of the publique; but let them, who require it, shew us the present necessity, and they shall willingly receive it. They who talk thus, know not, that what they would have, is already done from the beginning in the very constitution of Government, and therefore speaking as in a dissolute multitude, and yet not fashioned Government, they destroy the frame.

VIII. In the last place, it's a great hindrance to Civill Government, especially Monarchicall, that men distinguish not enough between a People and a Multitude. The People is somewhat that is one, having one will, and to whom one action may be attributed; none of these can properly be said of a Multitude. The People rules in all Governments, for even in Monarchies the People Commands; for the People wills by the will of one man; but the Multitude are Citizens, that is to say, Subjects. In a Democraty, and Aristocraty, the Citizens are the Multitude, but the Court is the People. And in a Monarchy, the Subjects are the Multitude, and (however it seeme a Paradox) the King is the People. The common sort of men, and others who little consider these truthes, do alwayes speak of a great number of men, as of the People, that is to say, the City; they say that the City hath rebelled against the King (which is impossible) and that the People will, and nill, what murmuring and discontented Subjects would have, or would not have, under pretence of the People, stirring up the Citizens against the City, that is to say, the Multitude against the People. And these are almost all the Opinions wherewith Subjects being tainted doe easily Tumult. And forasmuch as in all manner of Government Majesty is to be preserv'd by him, or them who have the Supreme Authority, the crimen laesae Majestatis naturally cleaves to these Opinions.

IX. There is nothing more afflicts the mind of man than Poverty, or the want of those things which are necessary for the preservation of life, and honour; and though there be no man but knowes that riches are gotten with industry, and kept by frugality, yet all the poor commonly lay the blame on the Evill Government, excusing their own sloth, and luxury, as if their private goods forsooth were wasted by publique exactions; But men must consider, that they who have no patrimony, must not onely labour that they may live, but fight too, that they may labour. Every one of the Jewes, who in Esdras his time built the Walls of Jerusalem, did the work with one hand, and held the Sword in the other. In all Government we must conceive that the hand which holds the Sword is the King, or Supreme Councell, which is no lesse to be sustained, and nourisht, by the Subjects care and industry, than that wherewith each man procures himself a private fortune; and that Customes, and Tributes, are nothing else but their reward who watch in Armes for us, that the labours and endeavours of single men may not be molested by the incursion of enemies; and that their complaint, who impute their poverty to publick Persons, is not more just, than if they should say that they are become in want by paying of their debts: But the most part of men consider nothing of these things, for they suffer the same thing with them who have a disease they call an Incubus, which springing from Gluttony, it makes men believe they are invaded, opprest, and stifled with a great weight: Now it is a thing manifest of it selfe, that they who seeme to themselves to be burthened with the whole load of the Common-weal, are prone to be Seditious; and that they are affected with change, who are distasted at the present state of things.

X. Another noxious disease of the mind is theirs, who having little employment, want Honour and Dignity. All men naturally strive for Honour, and Preferment, but chiefly they who are least troubled with caring for necessary things. For these men are invited by their vacancy sometimes to disputation among themselves concerning the Common-weal, sometimes to an easie reading of Histories, Politiques, Orations, Poems, and other pleasant Books; and it happens, that hence they think themselves sufficiently furnisht both with wit, and learning, to administer matters of the greatest consequence. Now because all men are not what they appear to themselves, and if they were, yet all (by reason of the multitude) could not be received to publique Offices, its necessary that many must be passed by. These therefore conceiving themselves affronted, can desire nothing more, partly out of envy to those who were preferred before them, partly out of hope to overwhelm them, than ill successe to the publique Consultations; and therefore its no marvell if with greedy appetites they seek for occasions of innovations.

XI. The hope of overcomming is also to be numbred among other seditious inclinations. For let there be as many men as you wil, infected with opinions repugnant to Peace, and civill Government; let there be as many as there can, never so much wounded and torne with affronts, and calumnies, by them who are in Authority; yet if there be no hope of having the better of them, or it appear not sufficient, there will no sedition follow; every man will dissemble his thoughts, and rather content himself with the present burthen, than hazard an heavier weight. There are four things necessarily requisite to this hope: Numbers, Instruments, mutuall trust, and Commanders. To resist publique Magistrates without a great number, is not Sedition, but Desperation. By Instruments of war I mean all manner of armes, munition, and other necessary provision, without which Number can doe nothing, nor Arms neither without mutuall trust; Nor all these without union under some Commander, whom of their own accord, they are content to obey; not as being engaged by their submission to his command (for we have already in this very Chapter, supposed these kind of men not to understand, being obliged beyond that which seems right and good in their own eyes) but for some opinion they have of his vertue, or military skill, or resemblance of humours. If these four be near at hand to men grieved with the present state, and measuring the justice of their actions by their own judgements, there will be nothing wanting to sedition and confusion of the Realme, but one to stirre up and quicken them.

XII. Salust his Character of Catiline, (than whom there never was a greater Artist in raising seditions) is this, That he had great eloquence, and little wisdome. He separates wisdome from eloquence, attributing this as necessary to a man born for commotions, adjudging that as an instructresse of Peace, and quietnesse. Now, eloquence is twofold. The one is an elegant, and cleare expression of the conceptions of the mind, and riseth partly from the contemplation of the things themselves, partly from an understanding of words taken in their own proper, and definite signification; the other is a commotion of the Passions of the minde (such as are hope, fear, anger, pitty) and derives from a metaphoricall use of words fitted to the Passions: That forms a speech from true Principles, this from opinions already received, what nature soever they are of. The art of that is Logick, of this Rhetorick; the end of that is truth, of this victory. Each hath its use, that in deliberations, this in exhortations; for that is never disjoyned from wisdome, but this almost ever. But that this kind of powerfull eloquence, separated from the true knowledge of things, that is to say, from wisdome, is the true character of them who sollicite, and stirre up the people to innovations, may easily be gathered out of the work it selfe which they have to doe; for they could not poyson the people with those absurd opinions contrary to Peace and civill society, unlesse they held them themselves, which sure is an ignorance greater than can well befall any wise man. For he that knows not whence the Lawes derive their power, which are the Rules of just and unjust, honest and dishonest, good and evill; what makes and preserves Peace among men, what destroyes it; what is his, and what anothers; Lastly, what he would have done to himselfe (that he may doe the like to others) is surely to be accounted but meanly wise. But that they can turn their Auditors out of fools into madmen; that they can make things to them who are ill-affected seem worse, to them who are well-affected seem evil; that they can enlarge their hopes, lessen their dangers beyond reason: this they have from that sort of eloquence, not which explains things as they are, but from that other, which by moving their mindes, makes all things to appear to bee such as they in their mindes prepared before, had already conceived them.

XIII. Many men who are themselves very well affected to civill society, doe through want of knowledge, cooperate to the disposing of subjects mindes to sedition, whilst they teach young men a doctrine conformable to the said opinions in their Schooles, and all the people in their Pulpits. Now they who desire to bring this disposition into Act, place their whole endeavour in this, First, that they may joyn the ill affected together into faction and conspiracy; next, that themselves may have the greatest stroke in the faction: They gather them into faction, while they make themselves the relators, and interpretors of the counsels and actions of single men, and nominate the Persons and Places, to assemble and deliberate of such things whereby the present government may be reformed, according as it shall seem best to their interests. Now to the end that they themselves may have the chief rule in the faction, the faction must be kept in a faction, that is to say, they must have their secret meetings apart with a few, where they may order what shall afterward be propounded in a general meeting, and by whom, and on what subject, and in what order each of them shall speak, and how they may draw the powerfullest, and most popular men of the faction to their side: And thus when they have gotten a faction big enough, in which they may rule by their eloquence, they move it to take upon it the managing of affaires; and thus they sometimes oppresse the Commonwealth, namely where there is no other faction to oppose them, but for the most part they rend it, and introduce a civill warre. For folly and eloquence concurre in the subversion of government in the same manner (as the fable hath it) as heretofore the daughters of Pelias King of Thessaly, conspired with Medea against their father; They going to restore the decrepit old man to his youth again, by the counsell of Medea, they cut him into peeces, and set him in the fire to boyle, in vain expecting when he would live again; So the common people through their folly (like the daughters of Pelias) desiring to renew the ancient government, being drawne away by the eloquence of ambitious men, as it were by the witchcraft of Medea, divided into faction, they consume it rather by those flames, than they reforme it.

Contents | Next | Previous | Text Version