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Extracts from Sir Robert Filmer

Extracts from Filmer 1652 "Observations Concerning the Original of Government upon Mr Hobbes Leviathan"

Extracts from Filmer 1652 "Observations upon Aristotle's Politiques"

Extracts from Filmer 1680
Patriarcha or the Natural Power of Kings

Extracts from Filmer 1652 "Observations Concerning the Original of Government upon Mr Hobbes Leviathan".

(¶ O.1) If God created only Adam, and of a piece of him made the woman, and if by generation from them two, as parts of them all mankind be propagated. If also God gave to Adam not only the dominion over the woman and the children that should issue from them, but also over the whole earth to subdue it, and over all the Creatures on it, so that as long as Adam lived, no man could claim or enjoy anything but by donation, assignation, or permission from him, I wonder, how the right of nature can be imagined by Mr Hobbes, which, he saith, is a liberty for

"each man to use his own power as he will himself for preservation of his own life"; "a condition of war of everyone against everyone"; "a right of every man to everything, even to another's body" [Hobbes 1651 Chapter 14 Margin: Naturally every man has Right to everything]

especially since himself affirms

"that originally the father of every man was also his sovereign lord with power over him of life and death" [(Hobbes 1651 Chapter 30].

(¶ O.3) I cannot understand how this "right of nature" can be conceived without imagining a company of men at the very first to have been all created together without any dependency one of another, or as

"mushrooms (fungorum more) they all on a sudden were sprung out of the earth without any obligation one to another",

as Mr Hobbes' words are in his book De Cive, chapter 8, section 1; when the Scripture teaches us otherwise, that all men came by succession and generation from one man. We must not deny the truth of the history of the creation.

(¶ O.11) [Hobbes says that]

"Dominion paternal" [is] not attained "by generation but by contract", which is "the child's consent, either express or by other sufficient arguments declared" [(Hobbes 1651 Chapter 20: Margin: Dominion Paternal how obtained. Not by Generation, but by Contract].

How a child can express consent, or by other sufficient arguments declare it before it comes to the age of discretion I understand not; yet all men grant it is due before consent can be given, and I take it Mr Hobbes is of the same mind where he teaches that Abraham's children were bound to obey what Abraham should declare to them for God's law - which could not be but in virtue of the obedience they owed to their parents [Hobbes 1651 Chapter 26: Margin: Divine Positive Law how made known to be Law]; they owed, not that they covenantedto give. Also, where he saith the

"father and the master being before the institution of commonweals absolute sovereigns in their own families" [Hobbes 1651 Chapter 22 Margin: A Regular Private Body, Lawful, as a Family],

how can it be said that either children or servants were is a state of jus naturae [the right of nature] till the institution of commonweals? It is said by Mr Hobbes in his book De Cive chapter 9, section 7, the

"mother originally hath the government of her children, and from her the father derives his right, because she brings forth and first nourisheth them."

But we know that God at the creation gave the sovereignty to the man over the woman, as being the nobler and principal agent of generation. As to the objection that it is not known who is the father to the son but by the discovery of the mother, and that he is son to whom the mother will, and therefore he is the mother's, the answer is that it is not at the will of the mother to make whom she please the father, for if the mother be not in possession of a husband, the child is not reckoned to have any father at all. But if she be in the possession of a man, the child notwithstanding whatsoever the woman discovereth to the contrary is still reputed to be his in whose possession she is. No child naturally and infallibly knows who are his true parents, yet he must obey those that in common reputation are so, otherwise the commandment of honour thy father and thy mother were in vain, and no child bound to the obedience of it.

Extracts from Filmer 1652 "Observations upon Aristotle's Politiques"

... The first government in the world was monarchical, in the father of all flesh. Adam being commanded to multiply, and people the earth, and to subdue it, and having dominion given him over all creatures, was thereby the monarch of the whole world; none of his posterity had any right to possess anything, but by his grant or permission, or by succession from him.
There never was any such thing as an independent multitude who at first had a natural right to a community. This is but a fiction or fancy of too many in these days, who please themselves in running after the opinions of philosophers and poets, to find out such an original of government as might promise them some title to liberty... And yet this conceit of original freedom is the only ground upon which ... Grotius, Selden, Hobbes, Ascham and others, raise and build their doctrines of government...
Adam was the father, king and lord over his family: a son, a subject, and a servant or a slave were one and the same thing at first. The father had power to dispose or sell
his children or servants; whence we find that, at the first reckoning up of goods in scripture, the manservant and the maidservant are numbered among the possessions and substance of the owner, as other goods were...
I cannot find anyone place or text in the Bible where any power or commission is given to a people either to govern themselves, or to choose themselves governors, or to alter the manner of government at their pleasure...


... A true representation of the people to be made is as impossible as for the whole people to govern. The names of an aristocracy, a democracy, a commonwealth, a state, or any other of like signification are not to be met either in the law or gospel...
That there is a ground in nature for monarchy. Aristotle himself affirms, saying the first kings were fathers of families. As for any ground of any other form of government, there has been none yet alleged but a supposed natural freedom of mankind; the proof whereof I find none do undertake, but only beg it to be granted...

Extracts from Filmer 1680 Patriarcha or the Natural Power of Kings
[In the first of his Two Treatises, Locke provides us with a summary of the account Filmer gives us of this fatherly Authority, as it lies scattered in the several parts of his writings (Locke 1689 1.8). I used this as the basis for my selection of quotes from Patriarcha. I have put into bold type the passages quoted by Locke]

Patriarcha Chapter 1: That the First Kings were Fathers of Families

(¶ 1.1) Since the time that school divinity began to flourish there hath been a common opinion maintained, as well by divines as by divers other learned men, which affirms: Mankind is naturally naturally endowed and born with freedom from all subjection, and at liberty to choose what form of government it please, and that the power which any one man hath over others was at first bestowed according to the discretion of the multitude.

This tenet was first hatched in the schools, and hath been fostered by all succeeding Papists for good divinity. The divines, also, of the Reformed Churches have entertained it, and the common people everywhere tenderly embrace it as being most plausible to flesh and blood, for that it prodigally distributes a portion of liberty to the meanest of the multitude, who magnify liberty as if the height of human felicity were only to be found in it, never remembering that the desire of liberty was the first cause of the fall of Adam.

But howsoever this vulgar opinion hath of late obtained a great reputation, yet it is not to be found in the ancient fathers and doctors of the primitive Church. It contradicts the doctrine and history of the Holy Scriptures, the constant practice of all ancient monarchies, and the very principles of the law of nature. It is hard to say whether it be more erroneous in divinity or dangerous in policy.
An implicit faith is given to the meanest artificer in his own craft; how much more is it, then, due to a prince in the profound secrets of government. The causes and ends of the greatest politic actions and motions of state dazzle the eyes and exceed the capacities of all men, save only those that are hourly versed in the managing public affairs...

(¶ 1.2) To make evident the grounds of this question about the natural liberty of mankind, I will lay down some passages of Cardinal Bellarmine that may best unfold the state of this controversy.

"Secular or civil power is instituted by men; it is in the people, unless they bestow it on a prince. His power is immediately in the whole multitude, as in the subject of it; for this power is in the divine law, but the divine law hath given this power to no particular man. If the positive law be taken away, there is left no reason why amongst a multitude - who are equal - one rather than another should bear rule over the rest. Power is given by the multitude to one man or to more by the same law of nature; for the commonwealth cannot exercise this power; therefore it is bound to bestow it upon some one man, or some few. It depends upon the consent of the multitude to ordain over themselves a king, or consul, or other magistrates; and if there be lawful cause, the multitude may change the kingdom into an aristocracy or democracy..."

(¶ 1.3) I come now to examine the argument which is used by Cardinal Bellarmine, and this is the one and only argument I can find produced by my author for the proof of the natural liberty of the people. It is thus framed: That God hath given or ordained power, is evident by Scripture; but God hath given it to no particular person, because by nature all men are equal, therefore he hath given power to the people or multitude.

To answer this reason, drawn from the equality of man by nature, I will first use help of Bellarmine himself, whose very words are these: If many men had been together created out of the earth, they all ought to have been princes over their posterity. In these words we have an evident confession that creation made man prince of his posterity. And indeed not only Adam, but the succeeding patriarchs had, by right of fatherhood, royal authority over their children. Nor dares Bellarmine deny this also. That the patriarchs, saith he, were endowed with kingly power, their deeds do testify; for as Adam was lord of his children, so his children under him had a command and power over their own children, but still with subordination to the first parent, who is lord-paramount over his children's children to all generations, as being the grandfather of his people.

(¶ 1.4) I see not then how the children of Adam, or of any man else, can be free from subjection to their parents. And this subjection of children being the fountain of all regal authority, by the ordination of God himself; it follows that civil power not only in general is by divine institution, but even the assignment of it specifically to the eldest parents, which quite takes away that new and common distinction which refers only power universal and absolute to God, but power respective in regard to the special form of government to the choice of the people.

The lordship which Adam by command had over the whole world, and by right descending from him the patriarchs did enjoy, was as large and ample as the absolute dominion of any monarch which hath been since creation. For dominion of life and death we find that Judah, the father, pronounced sentence of death against Thamar, his daughter-in-law, for playing the harlot. Bring her forth, saith he, that she may be burnt. Touching war, we see that Abraham commanded an army of three hundred and eighteen soldiers of his own family. And Esau met his brother Jacob with four hundred men at arms. For matter of peace, Abraham made a league with Abimelech, and ratified the articles with an oath. These acts of judging in capital crimes, of making war, and concluding peace, are the chief marks of "sovereignty that are found in any monarch.......

(¶ 1.8) It may seem absurd to maintain that kings now are the fathers of their people, since experience shows the contrary. It is true, all kings be not the natural parents of their subjects, yet they all either are, or are to be reputed, the next heirs to those first progenitors, who were at first the natural parents of the whole people, and in their right succeed to the exercise of supreme jurisdiction; and such heirs are not only lords of their own children, but also of their brethren, and all others that were subject to their fathers.

And therefore we find that God told Cain of his brother Abel,

"His desires shall be subject unto thee, and thou shalt rule over him."

Accordingly, when Jacob bought his brother's birthright, Isaac blessed him thus:

"Be lord over thy brethren, and let the sons of thy mother bow before thee."

As long as the first fathers of families lived, the name of patriarchs did aptly belong unto them; but after a few descents, when the true fatherhood itself was extinct, and only the right of the father descends to the true heir, then the title of prince or king was more significant to express the power of him who succeeds only to the right of that fatherhood which his ancestors did naturally enjoy. By this means it comes to pass that many a child, by succeeding a king, hath the right of a father over many a greyheaded multitude, and hath the title of Pater Patriae.

[Pater Patriae: Father of the Fatherland. An honour conferred on Cicero by the Senate in 63BC, under the Roman Republic, and subsequently on Julius Ceaser and many Roman Emperors. See Wikipedia

(¶ 1.10) In all kingdoms or commonwealths in the world, whether the prince be the supreme father of the people or but the true heir of such a father, or whether he come to the crown by usurpation, or by election of the nobles or of the people, or by any other way whatsoever, or whether some few or a multitude govern the commonwealth, yet still the authority that is in any one, or in many, or in all these, is the only right and natural authority of a supreme father. There is and always shall be continued to the end of the world a natural right of a supreme father over every multitude, although, by the secret will of God, many at first do most unjustly obtain the exercise of it.

To confirm this natural right of regal power, we find in the Decalogue that the law which enjoins obedience to kings is delivered in the terms of "Honour thy father," as if all power were originally in the father. If obedience to parents be immediately due by a natural law, and subjection to princes but by the mediation of a human ordinance, what reason is there that the laws of nature should give place to the laws of men, as we see the power of the father over his child gives place and is subordinate to the power of the magistrate?

If we compare the natural rights of a father with those of a king, we find them all one, without any difference at all but only in the latitude or extent of them: as the father over one family, so the king, as father over many families, extends his care to preserve, feed, clothe, instruct, and defend the whole commonwealth. His war, his peace, his courts of justice, and all his acts of sovereignty, tend only to preserve and distribute to every subordinate and inferior father, and to their children, their rights and privileges, so that all the duties of a king are summed up in an universal fatherly care of his people.

Patriarcha Chapter 2: It is Unnatural for the People to Govern or Choose Governors

(¶ 2.3) I know the politicians and civil lawyers do not agree well about the definition of a family, and Bodin doth seem in one place to confine it to a house; yet in his definition he doth enlarge his meaning to all persons under the obedience of one and the same head of the family, and he approves better of the propriety of the Hebrew word for a family which is derived from a word that signifies a head, a prince or lord, than the Greek word for a family which is derived from oikoiV, which signifies a house. Nor doth Aristotle confine a family to one house, but esteems it to be made of those who daily converse together; whereas, before him, Charondas called a family homosypio, those that feed together out of one common pannier. And Epimenides the Cretian terms a family homocapnoi, those that sit by a common fire or smoke. But let Suarez understand what he please by Adam's family, if he will but confess, as he needs must, that Adam and the patriarchs had absolute power of life and death, of peace and war, and the like, within their houses or families, he must give us leave, at least, to call them kings of their houses or families; and if they be so by the law of nature, what liberty will be left to their children to dispose of.

Aristotle gives the lie to Plato and those that say political and economical societies are all one and do not differ specie, but only multitudine and paucitate, as if there were no difference betwixt a great house and a little city. All the argument I find he brings against them is this:

The community of man and wife differs from the community of master and servant, because they have several ends. The intention of nature, by conjunction of male and female, is generation; but the scope of master and servant is preservation, so that a wife and a servant are by nature distinguished, because nature does not work like the cutlers of Delphos, for she makes but one thing for one use. If we allow this argument to be sound, nothing does follow but only this: that conjugal and despotical communities do differ. But it is no consequence that therefore economical and political societies do the like; for though it proves a family to consist of two distinct communities, yet it follows not that a family and a commonwealth are distinct, because, as well in the commonweal as in the families, both these communities are found. {footnote reference to Aristotle, Politics, Book 1, chapter 2}

And as this argument comes not home to our point, so it is not able to prove that title which it shows for; for if it should be granted - which yet is false - that generation and preservation differ about the individuum, yet they agree in the general, and serve both for the conservation of mankind; even as several servants differ in the particular ends or offices, as one to brew and another to bake, yet they agree in the general preservation of the family. Besides, Aristotle confesses that amongst the barbarians - as he calls all them that are not Grecians - a wife and a servant are the same, because by nature no barbarian is fit to govern. It is fit the Grecians should rule over the barbarians; for by nature a servant and a barbarian is all one. Their family consists only of an ox for a man-servant and a wife for a maid; so they are fit only to rule their wives and beasts. Lastly, Aristotle, if it had pleased him, might have remembered that nature does not always make one thing but for one use. He knows the tongue serves both to speak and taste.

(¶ 2.15) It is truly said by his late Majesty King James: A king can never be so notoriously vicious but he will generally favour justice, and maintain some order, except in the particulars wherein his inordinate lust carries him away. Even cruel Domitian, Dionysius, the tyrant, and many others are commended by historians for great observers of justice. A natural reason is to be rendered for it. It is the multitude of people and the abundance of their riches which are the only strength and glory of every prince. The bodies of his subjects do him service in war, and their goods supply his present wants: therefore, if not out of affection to his people, yet out of natural love to himself, every tyrant desires to preserve the lives and protect the goods of his subjects, which cannot be done but by justice, and if it be not done, the prince's loss is the greatest. [By contrast:] in a popular state every man knows the public good doth not depend wholly on his care, but the commonwealth may well enough be governed by others though he tend only his private benefit, he never takes the public to be his own business.

(¶ 2.17) If it be unnatural for the multitude to chose their governors, or to govern or to partake in the government, what can be thought of that damnable conclusion which is made by too many that the multitude may correct or depose their prince if need be? Surely the unnaturalness and injustice of this position cannot sufficiently be expressed; for admit that a king made a contract or paction with his people, either originally in his ancestors or personally at his coronation - for both these pactions some dream of but cannot offer any proof for either - yet by no law of any nation can a contract be thought broken, except that first a lawful trial be by the ordinary judge of the breakers thereof, or else every man may be both party and judge in his own case, which is absurd once to be thought, for then it will lie in the hands of the headless multitude when they please to cast off the yoke of government - that God hath laid upon them - to judge and punish him, by whom they should be judged and punished themselves, Aristotle can tell us what judges the multitude are in their own case pleistoi fauloi kritai peri twn oikeiwu. The judgement of the multitude in disposing of the sovereignty may be seen in the Roman history, where we may find many good emperors murdered by the people, and many bad elected by them. [Filmer gives examples]

Patriarcha Chapter 3: Positive Laws do not Infringe the Natural and Fatherly Power of Kings

(¶ 3.1) Hitherto I have endeavoured to show the natural institution of regal authority, and to free it from subjection to an arbitrary election of the people. It is necessary also to inquire whether human laws have a superiority over princes, because those that maintain the acquisition of royal jurisdiction from the people do subject the exercise of it to positive laws. But in this also they err; for as kingly power is by the law of God, so it hath no inferior law to limit it.

The father of a family governs by no other law than by his own will, not by the wills of his sons or servants. There is no nation that allows children any action or remedy for being unjustly governed; and yet, for all this, every father is bound by the law of nature to do his best for the preservation of his family. But much more is a king always tied by the same law of nature to keep this general ground, that the safety of the kingdom be his chief law; he must remember that the profit of every man in particular, and of all together in general, is not always one and the same; and that the public is to be preferred before the private; and that the force of laws must not be so great as natural equity itself, which cannot fully be comprised in any laws whatsoever, but is to be left to the religious achievement of those who know how to manage the affairs of the state, and wisely to balance the particular profit with the counterpoise of the public, according to the infinite variety of times, places, persons. A proof unanswerable for the superiority of princes above laws is this, that there were kings long before there were any laws. For a long time the word of a king was the only law; and if practice, as saith Sir Walter Raleigh, declare the greatness of authority, even the best kings of Judah and Israel were not tied to any law; but they did whatsoever they pleased in the greatest matters.

[The following passage from Filmer comments on the account of how the Jews first acquired a king. This is the passage from 1 Samuel chapter 11 in the King James version of the Jewish Bible that Filmer refers to. Samuel was a prophet of God and a judge in Israel:

And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.... And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment. Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.... Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them. And Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king. And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day. Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king.]

(¶ 3.2) The unlimited jurisdiction of kings is so amply described by Samuel that it hath given occasion to some to imagine that it was but either a plot or trick of Samuel to keep the government himself and family by frightening the Israelites with the mischiefs in monarchy, or else a prophetical description only of the future ill-government of Saul. But the vanity of these conjectures are judiciously discovered in that majestical discourse of the true law of free monarchy, wherein it is evidently shown that the scope of Samuel was to teach the people a dutiful obedience to their king, even in those things which themselves did esteem mischievous and inconvenient; for by telling them what a king would do he, indeed, instructs them what a subject must suffer, yet not so that it is right for kings to do injury, but it is right for them to go unpunished by the people if they do it....

(¶ 3.5) The reason why laws have been also made by kings was this: When kings were either busied with wars, or distracted with public cares, so that every private man could not have access to their persons, to learn their will and pleasure, then were laws of necessity invented, that so every particular subject might find his prince's pleasure deciphered unto him in the table of his laws....

(¶ 3.6) Now albeit kings who make the laws be, as King James teaches us, above the laws, yet will they rule their subjects by the law; and a king, governing in a settled kingdom, leaves to be a king, and degenerates into a tyrant, so soon as he seems to rule according to his laws; yet where he sees the laws rigorous or doubtful he may mitigate and interpret. General laws made in Parliament may, upon known respects to the king, by his authority be mitigated or suspended upon causes only known to him.

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Filmer, R. 1652/Hobbes, "Observations Concerning the Original of Government upon Mr Hobbes Leviathan" Paragraph numbers from the web extracts at <http://studymore.org.uk/xFil.htm>
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(Filmer 1652/Hobbes par -)

Filmer, R. 1652/Aristotle, "Observations on Aristotles Politiques Touching Forms of Government" Paragraph numbers from the web extracts at <http://studymore.org.uk/xFil.htm>
With references in the text to
(Filmer 1652/Aristotle par -)

Filmer, R. 1680, Patriarcha or the Natural Power of Kings Paragraph numbers from the web extracts at <http://studymore.org.uk/xFil.htm>
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(Filmer 1680 par -)

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Bellarmine, Robert (1542-1641) Italian theological theorist: Patriarcha 1.2 and 1.3

childhood: nature of O.1 - Filmer contrasts his idea with Hobbes O.11 - Child owned by man who owns his mother O.11 - Son, subject, and slave the same thing at first. Aristotle1 - Parents have royal authority over children 1.3 - No child free 1.4 - People are like children to kings 1.8 - Natural rights of father and king: 1.10 - Father has absolute power of life and death 2.3 - No remedy for injustice 3.1

contract not the basis of society: See Observations on Hobbes O.11 and Patriarcha 2.17.

God: When Filmer refers to God, I infer he is making a theological rather than a natural argument. See O.1 - O.11 - Patriarcha 1.3 - 1.4 - 1.8 - 1.10 - 2.17 - 3.1 -

kings fathers of people and next heirs to Adam: Patriarcha 1.8. (Also pars 1.3 and 1.4

law: human (positive) laws do not infringe the power of kings
Patriarcha chapter 3.

nature - natural Where Filmer refers to natural rights, or by the power of nature, my inference would that the argument is from nature not theology. See title - unreasonableness of Hobbes' right of nature - and:

natural liberty false:
Patriarcha chapter 1.

natural power of kings true
Patriarcha chapter 3.

right of nature a puzzle: See Observations on Hobbes O.1, O.3, O.11.

unnatural things: See Patriarcha 2.3 and 2.17