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By Thomas Hobbes


Printed by J.C. for R. Royston, at the Angel in Ivie-Lane.


To the Right Honourable, William, Earle of Devonshire,

My most honoured Lord

May it please your Lordship,

It was the speech of the Roman people (to whom the name of King had been render'd odious, as well

by the tyrannie of the Tarquins, as by the Genius and Decretals of that City) 'Twas the speech I say of

the publick, however pronounced from a private mouth, (if yet Cato the Censor were no more than

such) That all Kings are to be reckon'd amongst ravenous Beasts. But what a Beast of prey was the

Roman people, whilst with its conquering Eagles it erected its proud Trophees so far and wide over the

world, bringing the Africans, the Asiaticks, the Macedonians, and the Achaeans, with many other

despoyled Nations, into a specious bondage, with the pretence of preferring them to be Denizens of

Rome? So that if Cato's saying were a wise one, 'twas every whit as wise that of Pontius Telesinus;

who flying about with open mouth through all the Companies of his Army, (in that famous encounter

which he had with Sylla) cryed out, That Rome her selfe, as well as Sylla, was to be raz'd; for that there

would alwayes be Wolves and Depraedatours of their Liberty, unlesse the Forrest that lodg'd them

were grubb'd up by the roots. To speak impartially, both sayings are very true; That Man to Man is a kind of God; and that Man to Man is an arrant Wolfe. The first is true, if we compare Citizens amongst themselves; and the second, if we compare Cities. In the one, there's some analogie of similitude with

the Deity, to wit, Justice and Charity, the twin-sisters of peace: But in the other, Good men must defend

themselves by taking to them for a Sanctuary the two daughters of War, Deceipt and Violence: that is

in plaine termes a meer brutall Rapacity: which although men object to one another as a reproach, by

an inbred custome which they have of beholding their own actions in the persons of other men,

wherein, as in a Mirroir, all things on the left side appeare to be on the right, & all things on the right side to be as plainly on the left; yet the naturall right of preservation which we all receive from the

uncontroulable Dictates of Necessity, will not admit it to be a Vice, though it confesse it to be an

Unhappinesse. Now that with Cato himselfe, (a person of so great a renowne for wisdome) Animosity

should so prevaile instead of Judgement, and partiality instead of Reason, that the very same thing

which he thought equall in his popular State, he should censure as unjust in a Monarchical, other men

perhaps may have leisure to admire. But I have been long since of this opinion, That there was never

yet any more than vulgar prudence that had the luck of being acceptable to the Giddy people; but either

it hath not been understood, or else having been so, hath been levell'd and cryed downe. The more

eminent Actions and Apothegms both of the Greeks and Romans have been indebted for their

Eulogies not so much to the Reason, as to the Greatnesse of them, and very many times to that

prosperous usurpation (with which our Histories doe so mutually upbraid each other) which as a

conquering Torrent carryes all before it, as wel publick Agents as publick Actions, in the streame of

Time. Wisdome properly so call'd is nothing else but this, The perfect knowledge of the Truth in all

matters whatsoever. Which being derived from the Registers and Records of Things, and that as 'twere through the Conduit of certain definite Appellations, cannot possibly be the work of a suddaine

Acutenesse, but of a well-ballanc'd Reason, which by the Compendium of a word, we call philosophy.

For by this it is, that a way is open'd to us, in which we travell from the contemplation of particular

things to the Inference or result of universall Actions. Now look how many sorts of things there are

which properly fall within the cognizance of humane reason, into so many branches does the tree of

philosophy divide it selfe. And from the diversity of the matter about which they are conversant, there

hath been given to those branches a diversity of Names too: For treating of Figures, tis call'd

Geometry; of motion, physick; of naturall right, Moralls; put all together, and they make up philosophy.

Just as the British, the Atlantick, and the Indian Seas, being diversly christen'd from the diversity of

their shoares, doe notwithstanding all together make up The Ocean. And truly the Geometricians have

very admirably perform'd their part. For whatsoever assistance doth accrew to the life of man, whether

from the observation of the Heavens, or from the description of the Earth, from the notation of Times, or

from the remotest Experiments of Navigation; Finally, whatsoever things they are in which this present

Age doth differ from the rude simplenesse of Antiquity, we must acknowledge to be a debt which we

owe meerly to Geometry. If the Morall philosophers had as happily discharg'd their duty, I know not

what could have been added by humane Industry to the completion of that happinesse, which is

consistent with humane life. For were the nature of humane Actions as distinctly knowne, as the nature

of Quantity in Geometricall Figures, the strength of Avarice and Ambition, which is sustained by the erroneous opinions of the Vulgar, as touching the nature of Right and Wrong, would presently faint and languish; And Mankinde should enjoy such an Immortall peace, that (unlesse it were for habitation, on

supposition that the Earth should grow too narrow for her Inhabitants) there would hardly be left any

pretence for war. But now on the contrary, that neither the Sword nor the pen should be allowed any

Cessation; That the knowledge of the Law of Nature should lose its growth, not advancing a whit

beyond its antient stature; that there should still be such siding with the severall factions of

philosophers, that the very same Action should bee decryed by some, and as much elevated by others;

that the very same man should at severall times embrace his severall opinions, and esteem his own

Actions farre otherwise in himselfe than he does in others; These I say are so many signes, so many

manifest Arguments, that what hath hitherto been written by Morall philosophers, hath not made any

progress in the knowledge of the Truth; but yet have took with the world, not so much by giving any

light to the understanding, as entertainment to the Affections, whilest by the successefull

Rhetorications of their speech they have confirmed them in their rashly received opinions. So that this

part of philosophy hath suffered the same destiny with the publick Wayes, which lye open to all

passengers to traverse up and down or the same lot with high wayes and open streets; Some for

divertisement, and some for businesse; so that what with the Impertinencies of some, and the

Altercations of others, those wayes have never a seeds time, and therefore yield never a harvest. The

onely reason of which unluckines should seem to be this; That amongst all the writers of that part of

philosophy, there is not one that hath used an idoneous principle of Tractation: For we may not, as in a

Circle, begin the handling of a Science from what point we please. There is a certain Clue of Reason,

whose beginning is in the dark, but by the benefit of whose Conduct, wee are led as 'twere by the hand

into the clearest light, so that the principle of Tractation is to be taken from that Darknesse, and then

the light to be carried thither for the irradiating its doubts. As often therefore as any writer, doth either

weakly forsake that Clue, or wilfully cut it asunder, he describes the Footsteps, not of his progresse in

Science, but of his wandrings from it. And upon this it was, that when I applyed my Thoughts to the

Investigation of Naturall Justice, I was presently advertised from the very word Justice, (wich signifies a steady Will of giving every one his Owne) that my first enquiry was to be, from whence it proceeded,

that any man should call any thing rather his Owne, than another man's. And when I found that this proceeded not from Nature, but Consent, (for what Nature at first laid forth in common, men did

afterwards distribute into severall Impropriations, I was conducted from thence to another Inquiry,

namely to what end, and upon what Impulsives, when all was equally every mans in common, men did

rather think it fitting, that every man should have his Inclosure; And I found the reason was, that from a

Community of Goods, there must needs arise Contention whose enjoyment should be greatest, and

from that Contention all kind of Calamities must unavoydably ensue, which by the instinct of Nature,

every man is taught to shun. Having therefore thus arrived at two maximes of humane Nature, the one

arising from the concupiscible part, which desires to appropriate to it selfe the use of those things in which all others have a joynt interest, the other proceeding from the rationall, which teaches every man to fly a contre-naturall Dissolution, as the greatest mischiefe that can arrive to Nature; Which principles

being laid down, I seem from them to have demonstrated by a most evident connexion, in this little

work of mine, first the absolute necessity of Leagues and Contracts, and thence the rudiments both of

morall and of civill prudence. That Appendage which is added concerning the Regiment of God, hath

been done with this intent, that the Dictates of God Almighty in the Law of nature, might not seem

repugnant to the written Law, revealed to us in his word. I have also been very wary in the whole tenour

of my discourse, not to meddle with the civill Lawes of any particular nation whatsoever, That is to say,

I have avoyded coming a shore, which those Times have so infested both with shelves, and Tempests.

At what expence of time and industry I have beene in this scrutiny after Truth, I am not ignorant; but to

what purpose, I know not. For being partiall Judges of our selves, we lay a partiall estimate upon our

own productions. I therefore offer up this Book to your Lordships, not favour, but censure first, as

having found by many experiments, that it is not the credit of the Author, nor the newnesse of the work,

nor yet the ornament of the style, but only the weight of Reason, which recommends any Opinion to

your Lordships Favour and Approbation. If it fortune to please, that is to say, if it be sound, if it be

usefull, if it be not vulgar; I humbly offer it to your Lordship as both my Glory, and my protection; But if

in any thing I have erred, your Lordship will yet accept it as a Testimony of my Gratitude, for that the

means of study which I enjoyed by your Lordships Goodnesse, I have employed to the procurement of

your Lordships Favour. The God of Heaven crown your Lordship with length of Dayes in this earthly

Station, and in the heavenly Jerusalem, with a crown of Glory.

Your Honours most humble,

and most devoted Servant,

Tho. Hobbs.

The Author's Preface to the Reader

Reader, I promise thee here such things, which ordinarily promised, doe seeme to challenge the

greatest attention, and I lay them here before thine eyes, whether thou regard the dignity or profit of the

matter treated of, or the right method of handling it, or the honest motive, and good advice to undertake

it, or lastly the moderation of the Authour. In this Book thou shalt finde briefly described the duties of

men, First as Men, then as Subjects, Lastly, as Christians; under which duties are contained not only

the elements of the Lawes of Nature, and of Nations, together with the true originall, and power of

Justice, but also the very essence of Christian Religion it selfe, so farre forth as the measure of this my

purpose could well bear it.

Which kinde of doctrine (excepting what relates to Christian Religion) the most antient Sages did judge

fittest to be delivered to posterity, either curiously adorned with Verse, or clouded with Allegories, as a

most beautifull and hallowed mystery of Royall authority; lest by the disputations of private men, it

might be defiled; Other philosophers in the mean time, to the advantage of mankinde, did contemplate

the faces, and motions of things; others, without disadvantage, their natures, and causes. But in after

times, Socrates is said to have been the first, who truly loved this civill Science, although hitherto not

throughly understood, yet glimmering forth as through a cloud in the government of the Common

weale, and that he set so great a value on this, that utterly abandoning, and despising all other parts of

philosophy, he wholly embraced this, as judging it onely worthy the labour of his minde. After him

comes Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and other philosophers, as well Greeke, as Latine. And now at length all

men of all Nations, not only philosophers, but even the vulgar, have, and doe still deale with this as a

matter of ease, exposed and prostitute to every Mother-wit, and to be attained without any great care or

study. And which makes mainly for its dignity, those who suppose themselves to have it, or are in such

employment, as they ought to have it, doe so wonderfully please themselves in its Idaea, as they easily brooke the followers of other arts to be esteemed and styled ingenuous, learned, skilfull, what you will;

except prudent: for this Name, in regard of civill knowledge, they presume to be due to themselves

onely. Whether therefore the worth of arts is to be weighed by the worthinesse of the persons who

entertain them, or by the number of those who have written of them, or by the judgement of the wisest;

certainly this must carry it, which so neerly relates to princes, and others engaged in the government of

mankinde, in whose adulterate Species also the most part of men doe delight themselves, and in which

the most excellent wits of philosophers have been conversant. The benefit of it when rightly delivered

(that is) when derived from true principles by evident connexion, we shall then best discerne, when we

shall but well have considered the mischiefes that have befallen mankinde in its counterfeit and babling

form; for in such matters as are speculated for the exercise of our wits, if any errour escape us, it is

without hurt; neither is there any losse, but of time onely: but in those things which every man ought to

meditate for the steerage of his life, it necessarily happens, that not onely from errours, but even from

ignorance it selfe, there arise offences, contentions, nay even slaughter it selfe. Look now, how great a

prejudice these are, such, and so great is the benefit arising from this doctrine of morality, truly

declared. How many Kings (and those good men too) hath this one errour, That a Tyrant King might

lawfully be put to death, been the slaughter of? How many throats hath this false position cut, That a

prince for some causes may by some certain men be deposed? And what blood-shed hath not this

erroneous doctrine caused, That Kings are not superiours to, but administrators for the multitude?

Lastly, how many rebellions hath this opinion been the cause of which teacheth that the knowledge

whether the commands of Kings be just or unjust, belongs to private men, and that before they yeeld

obedience, they not only may, but ought to dispute them? Besides, in the morall philosophy now

commonly received, there are many things no lesse dangerous than those, which it matters not now to

recite. I suppose those antients foresaw this, who rather chose to have the Science of justice wrapt up

in fables, than openly exposed to disputations: for before such questions began to be moved, princes

did not sue for, but already exercised the supreme power. They kept their Empire entire, not by

arguments, but by punishing the wicked, and protecting the good; likewise Subjects did not measure

what was just by the sayings and judgements of private men, but by the Lawes of the Realme; nor were

they kept in peace by disputations, but by power and authority: yea they reverenced the supreme

power, whether residing in one man or in a councell, as a certain visible divinity; therefore they little

used as in our dayes, to joyn themselves with ambitious, and hellish spirits, to the utter ruine of their

State; for they could not entertain so strange a phansie as not to desire the preservation of that by

which they were preserved; in truth, the simplicity of those times was not yet capable of so learned a

piece of folly. Wherefore it was peace, and a golden age, which ended not before that Saturn being

expelled, it was taught lawfull to take up arms against Kings. This I say, the Antients not only

themselves saw, but in one of their fables, they seem very aptly to have signified it to us; for they say,

that when Ixion was invited by Jupiter to a banquet, he fell in love, and began to court Juno her selfe;

offering to embrace her, he clasp't a clowd, from whence the Centaures proceeded, by nature halfe

men, halfe horses, a fierce, a fighting, and unquiet generation; which changing the names only, is as

much as if they should have said, that private men being called to Counsels of State desired to

prostitute justice, the onely sister and wife of the supreme, to their own judgements, and

apprehensions, but embracing a false and empty shadow instead of it, they have begotten those

hermaphrodite opinions of morall philosophers, partly right and comely, partly brutall and wilde, the

causes of all contentions, and blood-sheds. Since therefore such opinions are daily seen to arise, if any

man now shall dispell those clowds, and by most firm reasons demonstrate that there are no

authenticall doctrines concerning right and wrong, good and evill, besides the constituted Lawes in

each Realme, and government; and that the question whether any future action will prove just or

unjust, good or ill, is to be demanded of none, but those to whom the supreme hath committed the

interpretation of his Lawes; surely he will not only shew us the high way to peace, but will also teach us

how to avoyd the close, darke, and dangerous by-paths of faction and sedition, than which I know not

what can be thought more profitable.

Concerning my Method, I thought it not sufficient to use a plain and evident style in what I had to

deliver, except I took my begining from the very matter of civill government, and thence proceeded to

its generation, and form, and the first beginning of justice; for every thing is best understood by its

constitutive causes; for as in a watch, or some such small engine, the matter, figure, and motion of the

wheeles, cannot well be known, except it be taken in sunder, and viewed in parts; so to make a more

curious search into the rights of States, and duties of Subjects, it is necessary, (I say not to take them

in sunder, but yet that) they be so considered, as if they were dissolved, (i.e.) that wee rightly

understand what the quality of humane nature is, in what matters it is, in what not fit to make up a civill

government, and how men must be agreed among themselves, that intend to grow up into a well-

grounded State. Having therefore followed this kind of Method; In the first place I set down for a

principle by experience known to all men, and denied by none, to wit, that the dispositions of men are

naturally such, that except they be restrained through feare of some coercive power, every man will

distrust and dread each other, and as by naturall right he may, so by necessity he will be forced to

make use of the strength hee hath, toward the preservation of himself You will object perhaps, that

there are some who deny this; truly so it happens, that very many do deny it. But shall I therefore seem

to fight against my self because I affirm that the same men confesse, and deny the same thing? In truth

I do not, but they do, whose actions disavow what their discourses approve of. We see all countries

though they be at peace with their neighbours, yet guarding their Frontiers with armed men, their

Townes with Walls and ports, and keeping constant watches. To what purpose is all this, if there be no

feare of the neighbouring power? Wee see even in well-governed States, where there are lawes and

punishments appointed for offendors, yet particular men travell not without their Sword by their sides,

for their defences, neither sleep they without shutting not only their doores against their fellow Subjects,

but also their Trunks and Coffers for feare of domestiques. Can men give a clearer testimony of the

distrust they have each of other, and all, of all? How since they doe thus, and even Countreyes as well

as men, they publiquely professe their mutuall feare and diffidence; But in disputing they deny it, thats

as much as to say, that out of a desire they have to contradict others, they gainsay themselves. Some

object that this principle being admitted, it would needs follow, not onely that all men were wicked

(which perhaps though it seeme hard, yet we must yeeld to, since it is so clearly declar'd by holy writ)

but also wicked by nature (which cannot be granted without impiety). But this, that men are evill by

nature, followes not from this principle; for though the wicked were fewer than the righteous, yet

because we cannot distinguish them, there is a necessity of suspecting, heeding, anticipating,

subjugating, selfe-defending, ever incident to the most honest, and fairest condition'd; much lesse do's

it follow that those who are wicked are so by nature, for though from nature, that is from their first birth,

as they are meerly sensible Creatures, they have this disposition, that immediately as much as in them

lies, they desire and doe whatsoever is best pleasing to them, that either through feare they fly from, or

through hardnesse repell those dangers which approach them, yet are they not for this reason to be

accounted wicked; for the affections of the minde which arise onely from the lower parts of the soule

are not wicked themselves, but the actions thence proceeding may be so sometimes, as when they are

either offensive, or against duty. Unlesse you give Children all they aske for, they are peevish, and cry,

I and strike their parents sometimes, and all this they have from nature, yet are they free from guilt,

neither may we properly call them wicked; first, because they cannot hurt; next, because wanting the

free use of reason they are exempted from all duty; these when they come to riper yeares having

acquired power whereby they may doe hurt, if they shall continue to doe the same things, then truly

they both begin to be, and are properly accounted wicked; In so much as a wicked man is almost the

same thing with a childe growne strong and sturdy, or a man of a childish disposition; and malice the

same with a defect of reason in that age, when nature ought to be better governed through good

education and experience. Unlesse therefore we will say that men are naturally evill, because they

receive not their education and use of reason from nature, we must needs acknowledge that men may

derive desire, feare, anger, and other passions from nature, and yet not impute the evill effects of those

unto nature. The foundation therefore which I have laid standing firme, I demonstrate in the first place,

that the state of men without civill society (which state we may properly call the state of nature) is

nothing else but a meere warre of all against all; and in that warre all men have equall right unto all

things; Next, that all men as soone as they arrive to understanding of this hatefull condition, doe desire

(even nature it selfe compelling them) to be freed from this misery. But that this cannot be done except

by compact, they all quitt that right which they have unto all things. Furthermore I declare, and confirme

what the nature of compacts is; how and by what meanes the right of one might be transfer'd unto

another to make their compacts valid; also what rights, and to whom they must necessarily be granted

for the establishing of peace, I meane what those dictates of reason are, which may properly be term'd

the Lawes of nature; and all these are contain'd in that part of this booke which I entitle Liberty.

These grounds thus layd, I shew farther what civill government, and the supreme power in it, and the

divers kinds of it are; by what meanes it becomes so, & what rights particular men, who intend to

constitute this civill government, must so necessarily transfer from themselves on the supreme power,

whether it be one man, or an assembly of men, that except they doe so it will evidently appeare to be

no civill government, but the rights which all men have to all things, that is the rights of warre will still

remaine. Next, I distinguish the divers kindes of it, to wit, Monarchie, Aristocratie, Democratie, and

paternall Dominion, and that of Masters over their Servants; I declare how they are constituted, and I

compare their severall conveniences and inconveniences each with other. Furthermore, I unfold what

those things are which destroy it, and what his or their duty is who rule in chiefe. Last of all, I explicate

the natures of the Law, and of sinne, and I distinguish Law from Counsell, from compact, from that

which I call Right; all which I comprehend under the title of Dominion.

In the last part of it which is entituled Religion, lest that right which by strong reason I had confirm'd the Soveraigne powers in the preceding discourse have over their Subjects, might seem to be repugnant to

the sacred Scriptures, I shew in the first place how it repugns not the Divine right, for as much as God

overrules all rulers by nature, (i.e.) by t