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The Historical J7ournal,Ix, 3 (I966), Printed in Great Britain
III. THE IDEOLOGICAL CONTEXT OF HOBBES'S POLITICAL THOUGHT
By QUENTIN SKINNER Christ's College, Cambridge
THE modern reputation of Hobbes's Leviathan as a work 'incredibly overtopping all its successors in political theory'1 has concentrated so much attention on Hobbes's own text that it has tended at the same time to divert attention away from any attempt to study the relations between his thought and its age, or to trace his affinities with the other political writers of his time. It has by now become an axiom of the historiography2 that Hobbes's 'extraordinary boldness'3 set him completely 'outside the main stream of English political thought' in his time.4 The theme of the one study devoted to the reception of Hobbes's political doctrines has been that Hobbes stood out alone 'against all the powerful and still developing constitutionalist tradition',5 but that the tradition ('fortunately ')6 proved too strong for him. Hobbes was 'the first to attack its fundamental assumptions ',7 but no one followed his lead. Although he 'tried to sweep away the whole structure of traditional sanctions ',8 he succeeded only in provoking 'the widespread re-assertion of accepted principles ',9 a re-assertion, in fact, of 'the main English political tradition '.10 And the more Leviathan has become accepted as 'the greatest, perhaps the sole masterpiece '" of English political theory, the less has Hobbes seemed to bear any meaningful relation to the ephemeral political quarrels of his contemporaries. The doctrine of Leviathan has come to be regarded as 'an isolated phenomenon in English thought, without ancestry or posterity '.12 Hobbes's system, it is assumed, was related to its age only by the 'intense opposition' which its 'boldness and originality' were to provoke.'3 The view, however, that Hobbes 'impressed English thought almost entirely by rousing opposition ',4 and that consequently 'no man of his time
R. G. Collingwood, The New Leviathan (Oxford, 1942), p. iV. For studies of Hobbes's reception, see J. Laird, Hobbes (London,
H. R. Trevor-Roper,'Thomas Hobbes' and 'The Anti-Hobbists', in Historical Essays (London, I957), pp. 233-8, 239-43; J. Bowle, Hobbes and his Critics (London,
I951); S. I. Mintz, The Hunting of Leviathan (Cambridge, I962), and incidental discussions in other works cited below. 3 Trevor-Roper, 'Thomas Hobbes', p. 233. 4 Bowle, op. cit. p. I3. 6 Ibid. p. 42. 6 7 Ibid. p. 42. Ibid. p. 47. 8 Ibid. p. 43. 9 Ibid. p. I3. 10
1 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. M. Oakeshott (Oxford, I946), Introduction, p. x. 12 Trevor-Roper, 'Thomas Hobbes', p. 13 Mintz, op. cit. p. I 233. 5. 14 Leslie Stephen, Hobbes (London, I904), p. 67.
occupied such a lonely position in the world of thought '15seems to be much in need of re-examination. For it can be shown that complex and ambiguous relationships between Hobbes and the other political writers of his age have in this way become misleadingly oversimplified. It has not been recognized that to set against the hostility of his numerous critics there was also a popular following for Hobbes's doctrines, particularly on the continent. It has not been realized that Hobbes's theory of obligation was also critically studied at the same time, and treated as authoritative, by a whole group of defacto theorists in the English Revolution. The fact that these aspects of Hobbes's contemporary reputation have been overlooked, moreover, can be shown to have given rise to a misleading view about the intentions even of his critics. These affinities between Hobbes's doctrine and its intellectual milieu have never been investigated.16 The attempt to see Hobbes against this ideological background, however, will not only produce an historically more complete picture. It can also be shown to be relevant in itself to questions about the nature of Hobbes's own contribution to political theory. For Hobbes's views have tended to get evaluated in a misleadingly unhistorical way. He has been treated as a figure in complete isolation, the inventor of 'an entirely new type of political doctrine'."7 He has thus come to seem an inevitable influence, a necessary point of departure, for other political writers of the time, including Harrington and even Locke.'8 All such judgments, however, become arbitrary or unhistorical when it is shown that Hobbes was in fact drawing on and contributing to existing traditions in political ideology, as well as helping to refine and modify them. The prevailing view, moreover, about the meaning of Hobbes's own political doctrine depends in effect on discounting all such evidence about his contemporary intellectual relations. It can be shown, similarly, that this in itself must reduce considerably the plausibility of such interpretations. It is the aim, in short, of the following study to show from an investigation of Hobbes's contemporary reputation that it is not possible to disconnect questions about the proper interpretation of Hobbes's views from questions about the ideological context in which they were developed. The accepted view of Hobbes as a complete outcast from the intellectual has society of his time, 'the bete noire of his age, '19 arisen at least in part from
G. P. Gooch, Political Thought in England: Bacon to Halifax (London, 19I5), p. 23. Bowle's book simply treats Hobbes's critics as 'representative' of a political tradition which Hobbes is alleged 'singlehandedly' to have challenged. For a brilliant discussion, however, of the relations between Hobbes's intellectual assumptions and their appropriate social context, see Keith Thomas, 'The Social Origins of Hobbes's Political Thought', in Hobbes Studies, ed. K. C. Brown (Cambridge, Mass., I965), pp. I85-236. 17 Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History (Chicago, I953), p. i82. 18 For this assumption, see esp. ibid. pp. 202-51; C. B. Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism (Oxford, I962), pp. 265-70; R. H. Cox, Locke on War and Peace (Oxford, I960), esp. pp. 136-47 on the relations between Commonwealths, where it is claimed that Locke's doctrine 'tacitly follows Hobbes', p. 146. 19 Mintz, op. cit. p. vii.
23 Thomas Hobbes. as well as a translation of De Corpore Politico.26 Yet he still placed Hobbes among the highest. I839-45). The English Works. II vols.Z88 QUENTIN SKINNER a misleading restriction of the investigation. 4 vols. which served during the I64os as perhaps the most important salon for the learned. 4 vols. When Pierre Bayle came to summarize so much of their achievement at the end of the century. He was then a frequent visitor at Mersenne's cell. i697). 57. Leibniz himself. VI.23 and the opposition he continued to arouse in the English universities and in the Royal Society. I709). there has never been any study20of Hobbes's reception in his own time on the continent. during his eleven years' exile from the civil wars in England.25 Leibniz completely disagreed with Hobbes's ethical and political theory. or Hobbes in ethics? '27 Hobbes had first gained this high reputation among the continental savants a generation earlier. p. that there is in fact an important distinction to be drawn between the many critics whom Hobbes provoked at home and the many admirers he was to gain on the continent. cited 'the famous Hobbes' with his 'extreme subtlety' on many points. trans.. cit. Many of the scientists and philosophers Hobbes is known to have met there were to become avowed followers and popularizers of his political theories. But the foreign savants were to show no such hostility. 27 Ibid. It has in general been assumed that Hobbes's views 'proved equally noxious and combustible'21 abroad. op. op. S. p. however. if we were to adopt it. ed. see Thomas Birch. part III. 24 Pierre Bayle. 28 On visits. IV. remarks in Laird. III. Molesworth (London. I768). 'which.. 256. especially in France. Leibniz. both with fulsome prefaces in praise of Hobbes's political Except for the brief. 25 G. Hobbes himself remarked with some bitterness in his later years on the contrast between his reputation abroad. Sorbiere.. in his Dictionary. 6 vols. 26-7. I756). for (as he remarked in one of the Meditations) 'what could be more acute than Descartes in physics. 303. 26 Ibid. and that he 'received the same hard usage' as in England. 'Considerations'.28 Hobbes met there the physician Sorbiere. which 'fades not yet . 21 20 . A Voyage to England (London. The History of the Royal Society (London. cit. Sir WV. W. Dictionnaire Historique et Critique (Rotterdam.. Mintz. I. 360. would bring nothing but anarchy'. Although there have been valuable studies of the numerous attacks made on Hobbes by his clerical enemies in England. though valuable.22 It is clear. who was to publish the first French translation of Hobbes's De Cive. IV. all spelling and punctuation are modernized. 22 Ibid. 26-7. pp. Several of them corresponded with Hobbes and even visited him after his return to England in i65I. 99-I03. 435. 62. 5. Note: in this and all following quotations from seventeenth-century sources all translations are mine. The Royal Society always contrived to ignore him. I. he was to single Hobbes out as 'one of the greatest minds of the seventeenth century ' 24 And perhaps the greatest of the foreign savants. Opera Omnia (Geneva.
. i685). Le Corps Politique ou les Elements de la Loi Morale et Civile (Amsterdam. 32 Lambertino Velthuysen. in Elements Philosophiques du Citoyen (Amsterdam. Wolf. ii a-b. I649). I9-2 . i66o). I652). A. his own view of the origins and the necessary form of political society both cited and closely followed Hobbes's characteristic account. 'Thomas Hobbes and his Disciples in France and England'. as well as the efforts which these disciples made to ensure that the works of 'this great politician' became widely known. Hobbes' as a basis for the argument of his Traite du Pouvoir Absolu. Epistolica Dissertatio (Amsterdam. Traite du Pouvoir Absolu des Souverains (Cologne. 36 Ibid. I36 ff. on the relations between natural and human laws. who was later to produce a further translation of De Cive.p. with a preface recommending it to Louis XIV as suitable for use in all French schools. whose De Cive had shown that politics could be made a study as scientific as geometry. And for further elucidation Merlat simply referred 'the curious' to Hobbes's own works. 446. 32 Mersenne to Sorbibre. I75 ff. printed in ibid. viii (I966).33 This continental acceptance of the relevance of Hobbes's doctrine was to be reflected in the political propaganda of the De Witt party in Holland34 as well as among the apologists for absolutism in France. Comparative Studies in Society and History. i65I). and on the power of the civil magistrate. pointing out 'how much you will see my own views bear the closest affinity to the views of the great Hobbes '.36In France Merlat similarly used the viewpoint of 'that famous Englishman. ioa-b. 31 Gassendi to Sorbiere: printed in Thomas Hobbes. Consideratien van Staat (n. whose remarks about the freedom and clarity of Hobbes's political thought were to be inserted in the second edition of De Cive.32 A large number of letters sent to Hobbes at this time by other French admirers reveal the extent of his popularity and ideological relevance in France.35 'The famous Hobbes' is cited throughout this Dissertatio as the authority on the nature of man.3' Mersenne himself wrote similarly of 'the incomparable Hobbes'. 30 See. 1928).30 He met Gassendi. pp. Correspondence of Spinoza (London. sig. Du Verdus's translation of De Cive. i66i). 37 E.IDEOLOGICAL CONTEXT OF HOBBES S POLITICAL THOUGHT 289 system.. pp. i 33 For a special study of this group and its correspondence with Hobbes. p. Hobbes was 'undoubtedly correct' to see that 'the malice of most men would ruin a Society'. Ii647).37Although he claimed to disagree strongly with Hobbes on the question of man's natural unsociability.. p. 153-67. 2.38 29 See. in Les Elements de la Politique de Monsieur Hobbes (Paris.29 He also met the mathematician Du Verdus. Elementa Philosophica De Cive (Amsterdam. **. Sorbi6re's translation of De Cive. sig. 'Annotations'. and so was correct to deduce not only that this 'established in general the need for political power'. 34 See Johan de la Court. 2I9-22. but also that it required that such power should be absolute. In Holland Velthuysen welcomed the publication of De Cive with a dissertation in the form of a letter to its 'most celebrated' author. his translation of De Corpore Politico. 38 Ibid. see my article. 35 ff. Merlat.
47 J. William Falkner in Christian Loyalty (London. Gundling. A. 2 vols. and ed. It is a commonplace that Spinoza's Tractatus Politicus shows the effects of 'a critical reflection on Hobbes's theory' in 'its content and terminology as well as its method . and in his De J7ure Oppignorati Territorii cited Hobbes as his authority both in discussing the problems of establishing political society and on the need for a monopoly of power within it. cit.. Textor.290 QUENTIN SKINNER Hobbes's political theory was to be critically studied as well as merely popularized among his contemporaries on the continent. I9I6). I679). The Classics of International Law (Washington. 2 vols. remarked-very instructively-on the dangerous fact that while 'many learned and good men in England have been roused' against 'this novel philosophy of Hobbes'. particularly by critics.47 Grotius was conventionally the greatest name to cite in discussions 39 Benedict de Spinoza.40 It is known from his correspondence that Spinoza himself recognized his affinities with Hobbes. pp. as the authority to be cited in discussing both the distinction between 'the Natural Law of Man and of States' and 'the origins of Kingdoms and the ways in which they are acquired under the Law of Nations '. trans. however. Also mentioned Hobbes in De Praerogativa (n. as cited in the Introduction to The Moral and Political Works of ThlomasHobbes (London. Spinoza (London. Hampshire. H. Wernham (Oxford. I958). The jurists were sometimes hostile to Hobbes's views. p. 7. W.g. as 'the two incomparable men to be consulted in these matters'. professor of Law at Holstein in the i66os. C. ii. Dissertation on the Law of Nature and of Nations (I676). Hugo Grotius and Thomas Hobbes. i68o). De Jure Oppignorati Territorii (Magdeburg. pp. 42 E. in J. p.g. Introduction.. 357. 46 J. 44 Samuel Rachel. 2 vols..46 Beckman in his Meditationes Politicae gave a list of authorities on political theory in which he singled out. p. who often bracketed Spinoza together with Hobbes in a general denunciation. 45 N. 41 See Wolf.). 43 See John Aubrey. 9 and 82. G. 75. I898). The affinity was recognized at the time. Even the hostile traditionalists were to acknowledge his immediate impact. B. Gundling was to use Hobbes as a source throughout his works. xxvi n. and even in Germany . I. Meditationes Politicae (Frankfort. von Bar (ed. i6. I750). I706). I33-6. 40 E. II. I. that Hobbes's political doctrines were to set off the strongest echoes. His sympathetic readers. Letter 50. op. S.41 It is known from Aubrey's biography that Hobbes himself (anticipating much modern commentary)42 recognized in Spinoza's political theory an equally pessimistic but even more rigorous development of his own assumptions.) and in Dissertatio de Statu Naturali (I709).d. in L. yet it 'has been greedily swallowed by some in France and the Netherlands. p. I 2.). I679). trans.45 Textor in his Synopsis J7uris Gentium gave Hobbes. Brief Lives. The Classics of International Law (Washington. I9I6). I95I). Clark (Oxford. but in their works he none the less joins the ranks of the great-a name to cite with the Ancients. and Regnus 'a Mansvelt. Beckman.43 It was among the continental jurists. . Richard Baxter in The Second Part of the Non-Conformists Plea for Peace (London. Samuel Rachel. Scott (ed. ed. Synopsis of the Law of Nations (i68o). along with Pufendorf. and to stand with Grotius and Pufendorf among modern authorities. included some of the greatest names. A. The Political Works. moreover. trans. 269.
vii). since he felt (as did Leibniz)52 that Hobbes had been unfortunate in being 'interpreted with very great rigour. He begins by agreeing that 'what Mr Hobbes observes concerning the genius of Mankind is not impertinent to our present argument: that all have a restless desire after power'. corresponding to Book II of his Treatise. 87. There was a clearer sense of the relevance as well as the importance of his doctrine. on the establishment of States. Hobbes. I). and in viii. but Beckman was later to decide that it was Hobbes's name which 'deserved to be praised before all others'*48 The most careful student of Hobbes among the seventeenth-century jurists was to be Pufendorf himself.p. nevertheless. 55 Ibid. It was recognized at the time. I.56 48 49 J. The distinction has been largely ignored in modern commentary. cit. 50 Samuel Pufendorf. ch. 373. he treated it as a sad but undoubted fact that 'as a prophet is not esteemed in his own country. Book ii. pp. I679).49 His great treatise of I672. ii). on sovereignty (vii. even than his acknowledgments suggest. De Yure Naturae et Gentium. op. by some learned men . on contracts (v.55 It becomes clear that the immediate reception of Hobbes's political theory on the continent was much less hostile than in England. his friend John Aubrey. C. Of the Law of Nature and Nations (London. 5i8-26. he concluded (with extensive quotation from Leviathan) that 'Mr Hobbes hath given us a very ingenious draft of a civil State. although Pufendorf remained sceptical about 'that War of all men against all which Hobbes would introduce'. Politica Parallela (Frankfort. 56 Aubrey. and with very little reason. 51 Ibid. Cited Hobbes as authority on Law of Nature (in Book ii. p. cit. Pufendorf was frequently critical of Hobbes. conceived as an artificial man'. 276. on consensus (ii. iii). 4I7. . perhaps. op. trans. at two important points. but by the first of his biographers. Beckman. in his effort to construct a systematic jurisprudence out of a 'reconciliation between the principles of Grotius and Hobbes '. cit. When Aubrey came to draw up his list of Hobbes's 'learned familiar friends' for his biography. so he was more esteemed by foreigners than by his countrymen '. whose basic political axiom. not only by Hobbes himself. I7IO). to defend even this part of Hobbes's system. on man and society. he conceded that Hobbes 'has been lucky enough in painting the insecurities of such a state'. iv. And. however. Book vii. 84-8. op. p. treated Hobbes throughout as an authority on many of the points at which (in Pufendorf's favourite phrase) 'scholars are not yet agreed '.54 In Book VII Pufendorf is even closer to Hobbes-closer. 54 Ibid. In Book ii.50 as well as providing perhaps the most intelligent analysis by a contemporary of Hobbes's political theory. 52 Leibniz. was 'unworthy of human nature '. he felt. and Book VII.IDEOLOGICAL CONTEXT OF HOBBES S POLITICAL THOUGHT 29I about ius gentium.51 He was prepared. moreover. though he remained hostile to the theory of obligation which Hobbes deduced. II2. pp. v. Pufendorf remained close and sympathetic to Hobbes's views. p. and concluded that if the theory is treated 'only by way of hypothesis' it may well have a distinct relevance and cautionary value. 53 Pufendorf. 468. Laird.
60 Francis Osborne. B.59Within his own lifetime he was not without a similar recognition. 104. Charles Blount. See sig. Unpublished Letters and Philosophical Regimen. but their serious ideological purchase. 414. ed. and even the intentions. of course. X. 75 and 322.. who both revealed in their writings a markedly 'Hobbesian' strain. A. The accepted view of Hobbes's reputation has been based. sig. not to mention their popular following.63 57 J. I900). 63 62 Ibid.57 By the end of the century Ilobbes had come to be accepted as an authority even among philosophers of avowedly opposed temperament. The Life. anatomizing 'Hobbists' into pit. 'I must confess a genius. Rand (London. 3rd earl of Shaftesbury.292 QUENTIN SKINNER The relations of Hobbes's political thought to the ideologies of the English Revolution have been obscured as well as illuminated by the tendency of scholars to concentrate exclusively on the fulminations of Hobbes's numerous clerical opponents. I. Osborne wrote of Hobbes as one of the men who had 'embellished the age '. Selden and Osborne. I659). 61 Aubrey. in the first place. It is a view based. p. cit. A.62 the fulsome sentiments of which were to be echoed by Blount's remarks on Hobbes as 'the great instructor of the most sensible part of Mankind'.'58 By this time Hobbes had attained the recognition he had always hoped for. It has not been recognized how much they feared not merely Hobbes's dangerous doctrines. A Miscellany (London. For despite the many attacks Hobbes also gained a serious reputation as an authority on political matters among many of the learned-even among the learned orthodox who remained uncommitted to any of his views. were also (according to Aubrey) amongst the earliest serious students of Hobbes's political works. p. none the less. ii vols. particularly denounced for his heterodoxy. 369. p. I693). The Oracles of Reasonz(London. I885-1921). in the second place. 'Tom Hobbes'. 59 See Thomas Hearne. Somne Opinions of Mr Hobbes Considered. A. Eachard. gallery and box 'friends'. It is true. 68 A. Remarks and Collections (Oxford. Letter to Stanhope. on a misleading oversimplification of the nuances and complexities of different political ideologies of the time. In a similar spirit Hobbes's friend Abraham Cowley 'bestowed on him an immortal Pindaric Ode '. 368. in having his works placed (though amidst much controversy) in the libraries of his own university. of Hobbes's critics. . as Shaftesbury was to admit. that among his contemporaries Hobbes was particularly marked out for his originality. that his impact has been viewed in a misleading perspective. 4a-b. The serious reputation of Hobbes among 'the solemn. the judicious' was conceded at the time even by his enemies. and even an original among these latter leaders in philosophy.60 while Selden is known to have sought Hobbes's acquaintance oIn the strength of reading Leviathan. Cooper. It can be shown (quite apart from the central issue of Hobbes's following) that the treatment of Hobbes's critics as 'representative' of political theory at the time has been misleading in two important respects. It is evident. op. Introduction distinguished Hobbes's serious and popular following. on a mistaken impression of the assumptions.
I. yet 'even our own countryman Master Hobbes hath pieces of more exquisiteness and profundity in that subject than ever the Grecian wit was able to reach unto'. he joined the other critics in acknowledging Leviathan64 65 Aubrey's list of Hobbes's closest friends included four clergymen (see Aubrey. in which Hobbes's 'excellent notions' on 'the grounds and principles of Policy' are 'commended as the best that ever were writ'. vii. p. 3 a. a man of excellent parts'. in seeing Hobbes not only as 'a man of excellent parts '. Seth Ward. ed. p. I2a. sig. Although they had produced works 'of singular use and commodity'. 241. These acknowledgments of Hobbes's stature have been suppressed in modern commentary. cit. too. 'To the Reader'. A.64among whom must be counted that very type of a Restoration bishop. op. Works (London. caused the critics to move with some circumspection in their attacks. 'The Prerogative of Popular Government'. Yet he acknowledged 'a very great respect and a very high esteem' for its author. was the work of 'a universal scholar '.IDEOLOGICAL CONTEXT OF HOBBES S POLITICAL THOUGHT 293 Although such tributes to Hobbes mainly came from his less conventional friends. Even the critics agreed. p. A Treatise of the Schism of England (London. p. 88. I656). Examinations. Observations. i650).7 moreover. 5a. There was no need. and I hope hit him '. Cf. Hobbes had a number of clerical admirers. I771). 68 J. Although suspicious and critical of Leviathan he nevertheless agreed 'that Mr Hobbes is and will in future ages be accounted the best writer at this day in the world '. while Harrington looked to future ages. A. I652). Academiarum Exainen (London. The Leviathan Heretical (Oxford. Seth Ward. his recognition was not confined to them. 4a. 223. A Survey of the Politics (London. 67 J. I683). p. sig.65 and possibly wrote the Epistle prefacing De CorporePolitico. 73 Villiam Lucy. i662). I653). 66 . 71 Roger Coke. Webster claimed. sig.70 but even as a writer 'of as eminent learning and parts as any this last age hath produced'. sig. that the best he could hope to do was to 'fling my stone at this giant.67 And. 2a. Webster. Cenisuires and Confutations of Divers Errors in the Two First Chapters of Mr Hobbes his Leviathan (London. Hobbes was 'a man with so great a name for learning'. 72 Johln Dowel. 1650). Tonnies (London. sig. however.72 The recognition of its author's 'mighty acumen ingenii '. disliking its attack on the universities.68 These anticipations of Hobbes's modern reputation were echoed at the time even among his critics. The Elements of Law. I I7. A. 70 Philip Scot. A Philosophical Essay (Oxford. Thomas Hlobbes. I654).7 Clarendon. Ward was suspicious of Leviathan. As much as any follower. as even its bitterest critics allowed. 69 Alexander Rosse. A. I663).71 Leviathan.66 James Harrington wrote of Hobbes in a very similar way. I889). prefaced his statesmanlike attack by conceding how difficult it was to contest the 'great credit and authority' which Leviathan had gained 'from the known name of the author. Introduction. as one critic admitted. Harrington. F. Leviathan Drawn out with an Hook (London. A. to revere too much the views of the Ancients on statecraft. a reference by Webster to Hobbes and the Ancients completes the eulogy. Censures and Confutations of Notorious Errors in Mr Hobbes his Leviathan (London. 370).69 a man 'singularly deserving in moral and socratical philosophy '. De Corpore Politico (London. 74 William Lucy. Thomas Hobbes.
Leviathan (Oxford. 82 John Eachard. that what disturbed the critics was not merely the serious reputation or even the alarming content of Hobbes's doctrines.80 Hobbes's enemies doubtless wished to emphasize the menace. I0-I4. surpassed in the number of his entries only by Bacon and Raleigh. earl of Clarendon.. "' W. 3 a. The popular acceptance of Hobbes's views. 77 Rosse. I679). 2b. 76-7. . was a point which weighed with his critics from the start. cit.294 QUENTIN SKINNER with whatever alarm-to be a work 'which contains in it good learning of all kinds.82 The printing history for all of Hobbes's political works certainly bears this out. A Catalogue of the Most Vendible Books in England (London. An Examination of the Political Part of Mr Hobbes his Leviathan (London. A catalogue of 'the most vendible books in England' which happens to survive for the year i658 included all of Hobbes's works on political theory. sig. but there is independent evidence about the extent of Hobbes's contemporary popularity. Ure (Liverpool. I4. Z. that even apparently 'wise and prudent' men had come to accept his political views. i6-22. I670). which 'are daily undertaken to be defended '. Hargreaves.83 De CorporePolitico. sig. cit. This point has been submerged under the weight given to the contemporary attacks on Hobbes-though the number of attacks might in itself be thought to offer some paradoxical guide to Hobbes's continuing popularity. Mr Hobbes's State of Nature Considered. to sig. sig. however. 76 George Lawson. p.76 Within two years of its publication Rosse had expected to be attacked himself for denouncing so fashionable a work. 79 Clarendon. and in a vigorous and pleasant style '. op. 80 John Whitehall. A Brief View and Survey of. politely extracted. The Creed of Mr Hobbes Examined (London. i b.78 Clarendon noted at the same time how much Hobbes's popularity continued to weather every attack. 30-6. sig.7 By the time of his death Hobbes had grown 'so great in reputation'. and have been generally read and admired . pp. as Whitehall angrily remarked.77By I670 Tenison felt obliged to admit that 'there is certainly no man who hath any share of the curiosity of this present age' who could still remain 'unacquainted with his name and doctrine'. 83 For following details. ed. P. in a very commendable method. I676). and very wittily and cunningly digested. cf. I657). op. 1958). A. sig. 3. p. H. i b. I658).75 It is clear. Macdonald and M. I952).. originally published in i65o. 2. and their even more alarming popularity. 4b. reached a 7 Edward Hyde. Thomas Hobbes: a Bibliography (London. The Leviathan Found Out (London. A. and showed him one of the most popular of all the writers listed under 'humane learning'. how much his works 'continue still to be esteemed as well abroad as at home '. A. but their ideological purchase.81 Twenty years later Eachard was to make the figure of Hobbes in his Dialogue reply to his detractors by pointing out that despite their strictures on his works they 'have sold very well. T. A. 3 a. p. As early as i657 Lawson was to note how much Leviathan was 'judged to be a rational piece' both by 'many gentlemen' and by 'young students in the Universities '. 78 Thomas Tenison. moreover. London.
i69I-2). 4a. I2I-9. P. De Cive was first published in a very small edition in i642.. The Reasonableness of Scripture-Belief (London. sig. A. 'Thomas Hobbes'. within whose lifetime the Two Treatises reached only three English and two French editions. it seemed to the last exponents of passive obedience that the 'authority and the reasons' of Hobbes's political theory 'are of a sudden so generally received..85 The failure to acknowledge this element of popularity has tended to give a misleading impression of the intentions of Hobbes's contemporary critics. 86 Charles Wolseley. but precise dates unknown.'. as well as appearing in the two-volume collection of Hobbes's Opera Philosophica which went through two editions in i 668. Lymeric. however. The History of Passive Obedience since the Refornation (Amsterdam. 278-483. was immediately translated. 88 Anthony 'a Wood. To the more hysterical critics it even seemed possible to believe that 'most of the bad principles of this Age are of no earlier a date than one very ill Book. Introduction. Athenae Oxoniensis (London. but rather because he was seen to give the ablest and most influential presentation to a point of view which was itself gaining increasingly in fashionable acceptance and in ideological importance. Leviathan went through three editions in its first year of publication.87 By this time (according to Anthony 'a Wood. A. I904-5). B. 9I.88 The suspicion of Hobbes's leading contribution to 'the debauching of this generation'89 was the moving spirit even with some of Hobbes's most statesmanlike critics. as if the doctrine were Apostolical '. The Diary. life of Bramhall in Works of. i672). II. . The 'three editions' of Leviathan in i65 I may of course be slightly misleading. H. 4a.John Bramhall (Dublin. It is a record of publication not even rivalled by Locke (to take the most famous case from the next generation). Richard Cumberland excused his long philosophical attack on Hobbes with the hope that he might 84 Samuel Pepys. 8 vols. and by i668 the book (as Pepys noted) was so 'mightily called for' that he had to pay three times the original price to get a copy. sig. It was published again in I657. i689). Two Treatises of Government. it had attained a third edition by I65I and a new translation by i 66o. ed. again in I669. It can be shown. . i b. i676). as the second two are evidently false imprints-contemporary. Laslett (Cambridge. pp. appendix A. are indeed but the spawn of the Leviathan '. They have been treated as attacking a single source of heterodox opinion. Wheatley (London. Translated into French in I649. 2 vols. ed. N. sig.86 By the time of the i688 Revolution. 87 Abednego Seller. 1960). and in its French version went through two further editions within the year. Hobbes's old Oxford enemy) Leviathan had already 'corrupted half the gentry of the Nation '.IDEOLOGICAL CONTEXT OF HOBBES S POLITICAL THOUGHT 295 third edition by I652.84 even though there had in fact been two further editions of the work in the same year. that they concentrated on Hobbes not because he was seen as the 'singlehanded' opponent of tradition. VIII. 89 J. 85 See John Locke. but on being re-issued five years later it went through three editions in one year. when the question of allegiance to de facto power was again (as when Leviathan was first published) the central issue of political debate.
91 A more realistic-and more revealing-assumption was that the reason for Hobbes's doctrines being so 'greedily sought and cried up'92 was rather 'the prevalence of a scoffing humour' in 'this unhappy time '. and men are apt to entertain new opinions in any science.F. E. 97 R. Farquhar. p. Teeter. I723). It was not Hobbes himself whom they were even mainly concerned to denounce. cited from Mintz. I700). p. of the increasingly rationalist temper of political debate. p. but rather Hobbes as the best example of the alarming and increasing phenomenon of 'Hobbism'.L. Some Opinions. although for the worse.96 To some Hobbes was the leading symptom.90Even Clarendon. i683). 'This Hobbes is an excellent fellow'. But the point on which all critics agreed was that Hobbes's popularity reflected a more widespread endorsement of his outlook. City Politics (London. According to Lucy the popularity of Leviathan merely indicated 'the genius that governs this age.296 QUENTIN SKINNER limit the increasing acceptance of Hobbes's political views. and fell in with a daring inclination'.98 The 'Hobbist' villain became a familiar parody on the Restoration stage: in Farquhar's Constant Couple he reads what appears to be The Practice of Piety. from the bitterness of his second exile. to others the sole cause. 92 Baxter. of which sort are Mr Hobbes his writings '. A. in which all learning. 'the seed whereof was first sowed in that book'.95 And according to Eachard-Hobbes's rudest. cit. atheistically disposed' attitude to the powers that be. 3a. *. op. 96 Eachard.H. Introduction. 91 Clarendon..9 When Francis Atterbury came to reflect a generation later on the ease with which the 'false and foolish opinions' of that age had 'gotten footing and thriven'. A. I40-69. A Sober Enquiry (London. cit. On this point generally. sig. p. Inquiry. with religion. op. A Treatise of the Laws of Nature (i672) (trans. sect. sig. And he particularly mentioned Hobbes as a man who had 'owed all his reputation and his followers' to this 'skill he had in fitting his principles to men's constitutions and tempers'. Examinations. 99 T. 3b. claimed to trace 'many odious opinions' back to Leviathan. Within Hobbes's own lifetime the word 'Hobbism' was already in popular currency to denote 'a wild. London. as the political rationalist 90 Richard Cumberland. 'The Dramatic Use of Hobbes's Political Ideas'. III (936). 3b. p. more seriously. hath suffered a change. I727). but is in fact Leviathan under plain cover. 66.94Earlier critics had nearly all made the same point. 2: Vizard. . he had no doubt that there had been 'something in them which flattered either our vanity our lust or our pride. The Constant Couple (London. shrewdest critic-the age itself had thrown up so many 'who were sturdy. 50. p. 95 Lucy. xxx. I36. Reflections and Observations (London. 8. cit. see L. Maxims. 93 Anonymous.97 while the 'Hobbists' were recognized as wanting to 'subvert our laws and liberties and set up arbitrary power '. had there never been any such man as Mr Hobbes in the world '. resolved practicants in Hobbianism' that they 'would most certainly have been so. op. i673). "" Francis Atterbury.99The 'Hobbist' was also recognized. sig. 5I98 John Crowne.
that in Hobbes's own time there was to be only one 'favourable' as against fifty-one 'hostile' published reactions to Hobbes's political views. 104 S. 157-60. 105 A point excellently made in Mintz. Book i. esp.105Only half of the twelve tracts entirely aimed at Hobbes during his own lifetime were even mainly concerned with his political thought.'06 This did not mean that Hobbes's specifically political doctrines were to receive less notice in his own time.103 The 'Hobbists' and the followers of Hobbes. . 3. P. 103 John Bramhall. I679). with the aim of showing him that 'the Hobbian principles do destroy all relations between man and man. requires it of us'.104It is evident. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (London. Lamprecht. cit. and the whole frame of the Commonwealth '. American Political Science Review.) (B. It has not always been recognized. however. p. It was his famous attempt to explain political association in terms of man's need to mediate his nasty and brutish nature which was to give Hobbes his 100 Anonymous. but 'because the public requires it. in the first place. 101Anonymous. xxxiv (I940). vii.p. It. p. have been almost totally discounted by modern commentators. p. n.d. pp. that a great deal of information has been missed here. It can be shown that Hobbes had important affinities and connexions with other strands of contemporary political debate. The Catching of Leviathan (London. who has the power of eternal life and death. para. 102 John Locke. 503. as a man who would justify his keeping of 'compacts' not by saying 'because God. 6. p. so alarming to contemporaries. but to the man 'who is thoroughly an Hobbist'. op. heading to ch. and that these were both recognized and sympathetically discussed. 32. but also passim. 'Hobbes and Hobbism'.IDEOLOGICAL CONTEXT OF HOBBES' S POLITICAL THOUGHT 297 who assumed that God had left it 'arbitrary to men (as the Hobbeans vainly fancy)'100to establish their own political societies 'according to the principles of equality and self-preservation agreed to by the Hobbists'. 6. and the Leviathan will punish you if you do not'*102 Bramhall similarly addressed his Catching of Leviathan not merely to Hobbes. 106 See checklistin ibid. It can also be shown that Hobbes came to be cited and accepted within his own lifetime-independently of any close critical study-simply as an authority on matters of political theory. I690).101 Locke in his Essay contrasted the 'Hobbist' with the Christian. The Great Law of Nature or Self-Preservation Examined (n. I658). or had read only to confute them. The positive ideological affinities between the political views of Hobbes and his contemporaries have in consequence received no attention. Catalogue gives I673). The one analysis of the relations between 'Hobbes and Hobbism' has claimed.. in fact. 3 1-53.M. ch. 6. that most of Hobbes's critics (apart from the mathematicians) were concerned not so much with his political doctrines as with the allegedly atheistic implications of his determinism. even among writers who might never have read his works. p. A Letter to a Friend (London.
112 I9OO). or whether 'as a learned modern has said' he is 'compelled into Society merely for the advantages and necessities of life '. I69. Algernon Sydney. Twice he pointed out that. Robertson (London. but it was undoubtedly on this point that John Locke came nearest to citing Hobbes in the Two Treatises. p. M. 'under monstrous visages of dragons.298 QUENTIN SKINNER immediate place in the accepted canon of writers on political theory. i8i.. He became labelled as the writer who had thought of deducing the necessary form of the state from the imagined chaos of a 'state of Nature'. A. children or goods than he can procure by his own sword '. See Locke. 83. 'I0 Samuel Mead. 3rd earl of Shaftesbury. p. 'Dialogue Three'. pp. If there was a state of Nature. 9. Vindiciae Juris Regii (London. Discourses Concerning Government (London. if the contract between magistrate and people is ever 'extinguished'.. rapine and injustice'."1' And Algernon Sydney. apart from government. B. I694). Locke's friend Tyrrell frequently cited Hobbes as the man who believed that if subjects were released from their obligation they would inevitably return to 'a state of Nature. and I know not what devouring creatures'. I9. 'let it be a state of war. whom he attacked in chapter III of the Second Treatise for 'confounding' the state of Nature with a state of war 'can only be the Hobbesists'*108 Other populist writers were more forthcoming. . with those writers who had represented human nature. "I A. Just as Aristotle retained a reputation in the seventeenth century-even among his fashionable denigrators-as the first writer who had emphasized man's natural sociability. 342. op. He wanted to 'agree heartily'. 43. 3b-4a. Bibliotheca Politica (London. 109 James Tyrrell. 107 108 2 vols. Characteristics. p. ed. but with unequivocal approval. 155-6. the hero among the populist writers. for 'to speak well of it is to render it inviting and tempt men to turn hermits'. Also cites Hobbes. The 'some men'. 298 and note to para. 3rd ed."10Shaftesbury even hinted slyly at the valuable lesson which the Hobbesian doctrine might contain. J.. 153. The greatest of them happened also to be the most cautious in citation. wherein no man can promise to himself any other wife. the inevitable result is a return to 'the condition Hobbes rightly calls bellum omnium contra omnes. cit. it has already been pointed out. p. Oratio pro Populo Anglicano (n. i654). I689). 113 Anonymous. The point was often made even by writers who wished to repudiate it. 27.112 Hobbes's theory about political 'pacts '.113 the views of this 'eminent Anonymous. I689). not only cited Hobbes in his Discourses in the same way. that is (as he supposes) of war'*109 Samuel Mead's defence of the change of allegiance at i688 made the same point. I74. sig. Cooper. pp. or who wished to leave it an open question (as one writer put it) whether 'as it was said of old' man was 'naturally sociable'. Confusion Confounded (London. Leviathans.107 The clearest evidence of the tendency to link Hobbes's authority with this particular view is provided by the 'whig' writers on allegiance. ii. so Hobbes gained a reputation as the first writer to reverse this traditional emphasis.p. he claimed. 175i).
g. which caused Hobbes to be treated among contemporary writers as an authority. 'Politicaster' in Works. "' William Sherlock. 6b. op. I673). p. Animadversions on a Discourse (London. among whom he particularly mentioned Hobbes.120 on the extent of sovereign power . that his political theory was the subject of more genuine critical appraisal. were attitudes which became known to the whole range of contemporary political writers. 140. of 119 J. amongst whom his treatment of political obligation became an important model. Lownde. p. . 559. Several of them justified the change of allegiance when a prince 'can no longer govern' on the grounds that society would otherwise 'dissolve into a mob. i682). The Petty Papers. I69I). 116 E. i6. 1927). The Case of the Allegiance Due to Sovereign Powzers(London. however. for example. The Parallel (London. E. 3. 2 vols. however. He was discussed (guardedly. Anonymous.18 By i 694 Lownde assumed that to write of man's natural sociability might be thought absurd. even though many who cited this view showed no further concern with the deductions Hobbes was concerned to make from these axioms. Anonymous. there is a state of war'*116 The de facto theorists. p.. I694). In I673. the marquis of Lansdowne (London. I2. A Treatise of Human Reason (London. sig. 114 115 Anonymous.'22It was chiefly his view of political obligation. It can also be shown. The dread of anarchy which the view implied was to raise further sympathetic echoes at the time of the Revolution in i688.g. but with some admiration) by some of the most traditionalist theorists of absolutism. Anonymous. A. were able to make use of the same warning themselves. ed.IDEOLOGICAL CONTEXT OF HOBBES S POLITICAL THOUGHT 299 philosopher' about man's natural 'state of war'. I69I). 219. pp. 118 Anonymous. The Censure the Rota (Oxford. Hobbes can occasionally be found cited as an authority by contemporaries even on details of his political theory-on the nature of political reasoning .114 his attempt to base 'a scheme of human nature'115 on this supposition. with whose views on allegiance Hobbes retained close affinities. 121 Sir William Petty. cit. The dangers pointed out in 'Mr Hobbes's notion of power' were readily reinforced by the enemies of de facto theory. 38. 44-5. p. A Discourse Concerning the Nature of Man (London. He was also discussed (with the closest and most sympathetic attention) by the most radical theorists of defacto rule. p. 122 I. or Mr Hobbes's state of Nature'*117 It is clear that 'Hobbes's state of Nature' was by then a phrase in recognized usage. I674). The Duty of Allegiance (London. 53.119 It was undoubtedly this uncritical tendency to associate Hobbes with a particular view about the 'state of Nature' which gave him his widest contemporary reputation. I69I). p. He had already shown the dangers of accepting power as a title to succession 'in making his state of war-for when all is left to strength and power.121 and especially on the rights of the civil power in ecclesiastical affairs. as it differed so much from the views of 'learned persons'. 5 a and 120 Harrington. p. Dryden had been attacked on the grounds that he had represented men in one of his plays 'in a Hobbian state of war'. however. Scot.
the two royal chaplains arraigned in the i6zos for preaching that the will of the king was above the law. 7i and note. op. I.. It has been remarked. cit. p. cit. Although the Patriarchal discussion of man's nature was characteristically in scriptural terms. 132 J.127 One of Locke's earliest notes about political theory copied out Filmer's words of warm approbation for Hobbes's views on sovereignty. p. 3 vols. but these critics were arguably correct to see a common tradition between Hobbes and the Patriarchalists. p. p.123Aubrey too mentioned Manwaring (and Wood added Sibthorpe) as a preacher of Hobbism before Hobbes. see ibid. and their 'prime dictate of nature. John Locke. 127 J. Lanson. Haller. i88.. I33. Works. 3. op. A History of Political Thzought the English Revolution (London. 131 Dudley Digges. I84-28I. I934). The first of these affinities. 126 Sydney.125 Tyrrell's attack on Filmer included the charge (echoed in Sydney's Discourses)'26 that he had borrowed directly from Hobbes. 130 E. that in a writer like Dudley Digges.. I957). Economica. 336-55.p.. p. 7.300 QUENTIN SKINNER This contemporary acceptance of Hobbes's authority on defacto power has passed almost completely unnoticed. cited in Locke. I954). 128 For Locke on Filmer. on Filmer and Hobbes. 33. howeverwith the traditional absolutists-was widely commented on at the time. see Locke. see Maurice Cranston. G. 'Introduction' to Tracts of Liberty in the Puritan Revolution (Columbia. the preservation of themselves '131 we 'might be reading a popular abridgment of the Leviathan'.124 The 'whig' critics of absolutism similarly exploited this affinity between Hobbes and monarchists like De Moulin. see P. 334. Figgis. I89I). And it was Locke (in one of his notebooks) who was to ask rhetorically. op. 'The Contemporary Background of Hobbes's 'State of Nature'. 2nd ed. p. 7i n. by a great authority. and especially Filmer-a point which has been taken up by several scholars. I9I4). Bossuet (Paris. op. Zagorin. cit. pp.g. i643). Tyrrell. Patriarcha Non Monarcha (i68i). vii (I927).132 The parallels seemed sufficiently close to be uncomfortable to several of the Patriarchalists themselves. cit. The Unlazfulness of Subjects TakinzgUp Arms (n. p. indeed. see W. Whitehall. 129 Phyllis Doyle. For Locke on Parker. One critic even compared Hobbes to Sibthorpe and Manwaring. 75 n. N. p. These links have even prompted speculation about the influence of Calvinist individualism on Hobbes129as well as the influence of Hobbes on other theorists of absolutism. Among their works published at the time of the Exclusion Crisis there were several attempts-notably by Mackenzie and Falkner-explicitly to dissociate their views on monarchy from the views of 124 Aubrey. with his discussion of men's 'unavoidable occasions of quarrel' in a state of Nature. 3. The Divine Right of Kings (London. p. a biography (London. 239. on Wren and Hobbes. I. there was a curious parallel even here between their invocation of fallen man and Hobbes's assumption of innate wickedness as a political premiss. of Samuel Parker's erastianism: 'how far is this short of Mr Hobbes's doctrine?'128 The differences are great.130 There is a further parallel in the Patriarchal deduction of absolutism from the needs of political society. Wren. in On De Moulin and Hobbes. 123 125 .
134 Hobbes's unyielding support for the absolute power of kings. op.'135Even Clarendon wrote of Hobbes's discussion about churches in a Christian Commonwealth that it was a 'faultless Chapter'. and his Leviathan. It was one of their hopes. 304. G. It was essentially their rationalist and contractarian account of the rights both of subject and sovereign which was on trial at both of the great crises over political obligation in the English Revolution. I949). lus Regium (Edinburgh. PP. I951). op. A. p.. which no man. It can be shown that in both crises many theorists of defacto rule were to make specific use of Hobbes's authority in coming to terms with their new governors. yet I am content to confess that I have said something not much unlike them. 136 Clarendon. Sir Robert Filmer himself. It is the discussion of Hobbes's viewpoint by these writers which provides the most unequivocal though least recognized evidence about both the contemporary popularity and the serious ideological relevance of 'Hobbism' in the political thought of the English Revolution. 134 .137 It was amongst the theorists of de facto rule. sig. Patriarcha and Other Political Works. P.133Ten years before this.IDEOLOGICAL CONTEXT OF HOBBES 'S POLITICAL THOUGHT 30I Hobbes. a few of whom even acknowledged Hobbes's authority. p. it was on trial again in I689. cited in B. ed. But how can I avoid it? Are not these my own words? Though that I might deny. H. but prefaced it with the admission that 'with no small content I read Mr Hobbes's book De Cive. By the time of the 'Glorious Revolution' most writers on political obligation had grown far too wary or sophisticated to think of trying to support any de facto case by invoking the dangerous reputation of the Commonwealth theorists. i684). i a. about the rights of sovereignty. particularly in ecclesiastical matters. Laslett (Oxfoid. and provided a particularly 'proper' theme 'for his excellent way of reasoning'*136 And the most fulsome tribute to Hobbes's theory of Sovereignty was to come from the most prominent of the Patriarchalists. Bishop Parker wrote of his own account of magistrates' powers that it 'savours not a little of the Leviathan. as a favourer of such opinions'. Falkner. It was on trial in I649. 133 George Mackenzie. 'Observations Concerning the Original of Government'. 137 Sir Robert Filmer. that Hobbes in his own time was to receive the closest and most sympathetic consideration. esp. 239. with the replacement of James II's de iure power by the rule of the 'Great Deliverers' William and Mary. hath so amply and judiciously handled '. Clarendon (Cambridge. H. I. cit. however. i67I). Wormald. that I know. 2b. A Defence and Continuation of the Ecclesiastical Polity (London. 407-I Tenison. Tenison had taken care in his Examination of Hobbes's doctrines to explain away the fact that he had been the subject of 'reproach myself. He wrote a shrewd critique of Hobbes's account. 279. p. was nevertheless a doctrine attractive to many of the most traditional monarchists. cit. with the establishment of the Commonwealth's de facto rule after the execution of the king. cit. They preferred to argue that the new authority was based not on the need to submit but on the citizens' free consent. 135 Samuel Parker. op. sig.
142 141 Ibid. but because He is omnipotent. and there can be no injury to a willing mind '. and therefore asserts that God himself is the natural lord and governor of the World. and that God is the natural lord of the World because He made it. he admitted. 'Mr Hobbes indeed saith that those who submit upon compact are capable of no injury afterwards. I69I). at the time of the i688 Revolution. . They might claim. because they have given up their wills already. and that we who submit to it cannot be charged with Hobbism. 36.144 They might claim to be corroborating the Convocation Book's doctrine of 138 Anonymous. i a. that they could demonstrate the need for submission 'without asserting the principles of Mr Hobbes'*138 Their typical assertion was 'that our Government is now thoroughly settled. 'by the best writers on the subject' that obligations are only conditional where there has been some prior agreement. '141 Other writers on Sherlock's side in the debate felt less scruple about invoking the similarity. not because He made it. cit. Their Present Majesties' Government Proved to be Thoroughly Settled. without Asserting the Principles of Mr Hobbes (London. Critics have pointed out. but they were in fact taking their arguments 'from the rebels in the year '4z and from the advocates of Cromwell's usurpation'. William Sherlock. I689). p. Anonymous. was the 'de facto Tory' dean of St Paul's.142 Another tract of the same year emphasized that 'Hobbes rightly observes' in a case of de facto rule that 'where an external right and dominion is admitted' there is 'no cause why an external obligation which does not touch the conscience may not also be admitted'. 'that it is Hobbism' to argue the rights of defacto powers. p. op. whose Case of Allegiance was written in I69I to justify his decision to take the new oaths of allegiance 'after so long a refusal'. to be endorsing the principles of the Church of England. A Full Anszwer(London.14 Sherlock felt close enough to Hobbes's argument to want to distinguish their points of view with some care. An Answer to a Late Pamphlet (London. 140 Sherlock. A. to argue in terms of de facto power. For he makes power and nothing else -to give right to dominion. of Hobbes's treatment of this point. I689). But I say that Government is founded in right. And it is clear that this side of the debate was never far from repeating Hobbes's most characteristic views. and the authority. since we do not say that any Prince who has quiet possession of the throne can claim our obedience. They attacked not merely the reliance on Hobbes's authority. 144 Anonymous. I5. and that we may Submit to it. but also pointed out the links with other de facto theorists from the dark days of the Commonwealth. A Discourse (London. 7. as one of them pointed out.302 QUENTIN SKINNER indeed. but only such as are confirmed and settled in it by the determination of our representatives'. p. i. I69I). 'It is agreed'. I5. The centre of this controversy. however. 143 Anonymous. 'But those who say this do not understand Mr Hobbes or me. 143 Every critic of this group of defacto theorists claimed to see in their remarks a sinister attempt to revive 'Hobbist' principles of political obligation. p. p. 139 Ibid. it was said. sig. 139 One group of writers continued.
while 'Mr Hobbes taught the absolute power of all Princes only as a philosopher. p. 146 20 HJ IX 145 . 147 Ibid. I691). with Leviathan cited pp. Providence and Precept (London. This earlier group has been almost completely ignored. Parallels 148 Anonymous. I 3. pp. such as Hobbes. Anonymous. It is true that a list of Hobbes's authentic contemporary following would be short and would contain no writer of the front rank. 149 Anonymous. 80-2. and it is not within the power of metaphysics to distinguish them '. p. 14.146 'The question'. 4-5. I5.' 45 Hobbes was still seen as the major influence. but it is of the greatest importance for establishing the contemporary reputation and the real ideological purchase of Hobbes's political thought. It can also be shown that a reading of Hobbes's political theory among these writers both crystallized and endorsed several of their own political views. An Examination [of Sherlock's Case of Allegiance] (London.47 A similarly detailed textual comparison was provided by another critic who claimed to show that 'Mr Hobbes makes power and nothing else give right to dominion. Dr Sherlock's Case of Allegiance Considered (London. Owen. upon principles of mere reason'. The evidence for establishing such a list. i69i). And it must be recognized that such tests-although they provide the only definite means of gauging the acceptance of one particular writer-are not only especially rigorous when applied to the conventions of seventeenthAnonymous. Baxter. as it was put by one of these writers. Jenkins etc. p.IDEOLOGICAL CONTEXT OF HOBBES' S POLITICAL THOUGHT 303 allegiance. while 'there were other writings that would have done the trick to an hair. I69I). Several of the attacks on Sherlock ('The Doctor' to his opponents) tried to establish by close textual comparisons that long before the Doctor's time 'Mr Hobbes had taught the same '. can only be unequivocally provided from specific citations and sympathetic discussions of Hobbes's political works. but that work in fact 'did but little service' to them. and the transferring of allegiance to usurpers?' And the answer-given after lengthy textual comparisons-was that on the questions of political obligation Hobbes and Sherlock were 'fratres fratrerrimi.149 The point of major importance is that Hobbes's critics were undoubtedly right in claiming a link between the de facto theorists of the I69os and an earlier group of 'Hobbesian' theorists in the i65os. these latter-day Hobbists 'by adding the authority of scripture' also make themselves 'sure of a profitable office in the state'. p. For. however. 73. 'is whether Mr Hobbes and the Doctor teach not the same doctrine about the legal right and possession of sovereignty. Another less patient critic finally concluded that Hobbes's principles had been surpassed. Dr Sherlock's Two Kings of Brainford (London. And pray does not the doctor do the same? I am much mistaken if this be not the design of his whole book . 169I). It can be shown that Hobbes was both cited and discussed in the works of these theorists as their authority on questions about both the grounds and the proper extent of a citizen's obligation to the State.
vol. but not name them. But it was regarded at the time as beyond dispute that among those who would 'scarce simper in favour or allowance' for Hobbes there were many who were none the less 'Hobbists' for that. no hope could be held out for increased knowledge'. of Ascham cited: Anonymous. sig. The Right of Dominion (London. 155 The Yournals of the House of Commons (n. stressing their assumption that 'if servility to the authority of the ancients precluded examination of traditional beliefs. A. The evidence will tend to be underestimated partly by the fact that Hobbes's political theory did contribute to the attitudes of a larger group. 1961). Goodwin. 1927). A Combat Betzween Two Seconds (London. p.). 152 Aubrey.d. pp. Jones.152 out his own emancipation from the use of authorities. 538 and 548. Others you may read for your own satisfaction.. 153 Francis Osborne. Works (London. p.153 And to John Selden. ed. cit.. Hobbes was not much cited in his own time. Several of the writers who discussed Hobbes's views were themselves to be treated as authorities on points which were in fact common to them all. even anonymity: the failure to recognize the force of this convention has undoubtedly contributed something to the impression of Hobbes's lonely notoriety. but will also tend of themselves substantially to underestimate the evidence. Ancients and Moderns (St Louis.151 With Hobbes himself it was a famous boast that he had read few works by other His friend Francis Osborne similarly pointed men and had cited even fewer. There was thus no reason why such writers themselves should have focused exclusively on the authority of Hobbes. It is not uncommon to find writers like Anthony Ascham. or Lewis de Aloulin cited as authorities on points where an acknowledgment of Hobbes might have served equally well. 151 Cf. op. I689). . p. another of Hobbes's friends. I. that even among writers who might have been expected to cite Hobbes's authority. 636. i I9. 'Conjectural Paradoxes'. Table Talk. R.156 It is certainly clear that in 150 E. 136. The whole trend was towards informality. I655)..304 QUENTIN SKINNER century political discussion. A man who had been named in Parliament as the author of blasphemous and profane works155was not a writer to cite idly or without very necessary reason as an authority on anything. the number may have been diminished further by considerations about Hobbes's dangerous reputation. 156 Eachard. Peace Protected (London. I649). a slavish reversion to the typically medieval quest for the endorsement of every view. This type of suppression is difficult to prove. Sir Frederick Pollock (London. 154 John Selden. of de Moulin: M. 5. p. 349. gth ed.150 The evidence will tend further to be underestimated by the fact that all the conventions of political debate at the time were against the citation of authorities. moreover. F. but nor was any other political writer: every acknowledgment had come to sound like a lack of originality. 2nd ed. lest a man become diffident about his own views. it was a maxim that 'in quoting of books' one should cite only 'such authors as are usually read. and even suggested a habit of reading sparingly. Hawke. 4b. 24. Marchamont Nedham.g. I660-I667. p. of Nedham: K. p. I654). SomzeOpinions.p. n.'154 It seems very likely. 75. viii.
II. 5. below.160 in several discussions of the need for absolute power published under the Commonwealth. p. similarly. i658). is that within these 'Hobbesian' groups there were several writers who did not stop short of an acknowledgment of Hobbes. Conscience Puzzled (London. p. both in their approach and in their theories of political obligation. it becomes by no means necessarily tendentious to add that there may have been more silent reliance on Hobbes than there was citation of his works among contemporaries.g. for example. 158 157 20-2 . 2 vols. that political society must be based on man's mediation of a basically anti-social psychology.164 The typically 'Hobbesian' deduction. 164 Matthew Wren. 165 E.. Of Government and Obedience (London. pp. I649). i650). pp. 26. 1'9 See Petty Papers. 'enlarged'. II. A Persuasive to a Mutual Compliance (London. H. 9.B. I653). in Anonymous. 47. that this establishes a reciprocal relation between obligations to protest and to obey. and in Anonymous. *. Drew. in John Hall. I650). Samuel Eaton. J. The Bounds and Bonds of Public Obedience (London. Confusion Confounded.g. p. 5-6. 'Hobbism' is anatomized without any sort of comment only in private commonplace books. N. in John Dury. 163 Thomas White. I650). i655). 160 E. Cf. I654).. pp. but much prefer not to see printed. 8. I650). i650). i65I).g.IDEOLOGICAL CONTEXT OF HOBBES S POLITICAL THOUGHT 305 seventeenth-century England there were political opinions which men might believe. 20. 'ATTOKATAKPIXIE (London. p. commonplace book entries 'Mr Hobbes's Creed' and 'The Principles of Mr Hobbes' in British Museum. pp.B. The Oath of Allegiance (London. Elcock. p. Monarchy Asserted (London. I650). sig. p. The typically 'Hobbesian' premiss.W. A Discourse Concerning the Engagement (London. pp. can also be found expressed in very similar language in many of the 'Engagement' tracts of i 650. The crucial point.165 The fact that only a small group of writers acknowledged and avowedly followed the authority of Hobbes does not exclude the possibility of a wider influence. 44-5. Sir William Petty. 1899). I652). I659).. II. E. E. p. yet never once cited Hobbes in his own published works.'62 Thomas White. p. as the leading authority on political theory.g. in T.) 162 Francis Osborne. ed. p. And there are certainly signs that a man who sympathized with Hobbes's views was better able to say so in private than in any published form. Animadversions (London. C. however. that this John Hall differs from the John Hall of Durham (i627-56) cited in note 177. 13-14. 4th ed. can be found expressed in identical language in dozens of the tracts on allegiance written in the i650s. Considerations Concerning the Present Engagement (London. A Disengaged Survey of the Engagement (London. 3b-4a. 49-50.. in his private memoranda.'63 and Matthew Wren. (N. 13-14 and 98. Thomas Pierce. Sloane MSS 904 and 1458. 161 E. Hull (Cambridge. 23.158And Sir William Petty provides at least one further example of a contemporary writer on politics who commended Hobbes.16' as well as in 'Hobbist' writers like Francis Osborne.159 When such considerations about the conditions as well as the conventions of discussion are given some weight. The Northern Subscribers' Plea Vindicated (London. 7. Anonymous. The Economic Writings. The Grounds of Obedience and Government (London.. The Engagement Vindicated (London. Hobbes himself was thought to have acted too boldly in publishing views which 'though he believed them to be true' were none the less 'too dangerous to be spoken aloud . even discuss. Anonymous.
see also F. before they were settled in a Society. For. as a deduction from the known nature of human nature. 'it is the law of nature that men live peaceably. and as by natural right he may. 7. 4I. I3.306 QUENTIN SKINNER The best general statement of Hobbes's method and principles. 43. ed. as much as it was denounced by their clerical enemies. De Cive. Ibid. 32. P. 13. It was equally an axiom. As 'Mr Hobbes. p. against which the views of these 'Hobbists' may be compared. 27.168 'Everyone in a state of nature'. and the citizen's obligation to it."7' The laws of men's nature are thus said to make it possible for man to mediate his own natural condition. as he more picturesquely went on. I657). The English Face of Machiavelli (London. and right of every man to every thing. as the basic law of man's nature made self-preservation his paramount aim. Killing is Murder and No Murder (London.166Hobbes's first 'demonstration' was thus 'that the state of men without civil society (which state we may properly call the state of nature) is nothing else but a mere war of all against all. toward the preservation of himself'.' also pointed out. that they may tend the preservation of their lives. VII. Rud. ch. as Master Hobbes truly saith. Right of Dominion. I949). and in that war all men have equal right unto all things'*167 This was the view of man treated as axiomatic by Hobbes and his followers. which whilst they are in war they cannot '. as 'Mr Hobbes. Each of these claims was to be similarly taken up and developed by other de facto theorists. The revolutionary 'principle' of Hobbes's political theory was thus-in direct opposition to the traditional picture of man as a political animal-the famous doctrine 'that the dispositions are naturally such. every man in the state of Nature gained just as much 'as by force and strength through wounds and slaughters they could obtain or retain'. The Right of Dominion. Lamprecht (New York. Hobbes's essential concern. for example. was a mere warX170 The second 'demonstration' which Hobbes set out was that. as the author added. 166 167 169 Thomas Hobbes. Phil. Michael Hawke. was to 'demonstrate' the necessary form of the state. S. every man will distrust and dread each other. so by necessity he will be forced to make use of the strength he hath. 'hath a right to dominion. published two years later. p. 170 .' And from this point. 172 Hawke. 168 Hawke. 171 Hobbes. and conquest only puts him in possession. p. ch. Philos.172 For this reason. Ibid. is contained in the preface 'To the Reader' of De Cive. ch. Rudiments' has pointed out. II. Raab. VII. On Hawke. as he set it out there. even to another's body'. the argument ran. p. IV. p. I694). so 'all men as soon as they arrive to understanding of this hateful condition of universal war then desire (even nature itself compelling them) to be freed from this misery'. that except they be restrained through fear of some coercive power. p. 141. of the work published in I655 on The Right of Dominion that 'Dominion was first procured by arms '. p. that 'the natural state of man. P.169 It was again an axiom in Killing is Murder. 'I conceive Mr Hobbes might collect that the right of nature is a condition of war of every one against every one. p. De Cive.
was to be reprinted by John Toland as the opening tract in his edition of Harrington's Works. andas Mr Hobbes-a sure and irresistable power conferreth the right of domin173 1'74 175 Ibid. The Grounds and Reasons of Monarchy Considered (Edinburgh. p. to mean that the possession of power itself established a title to be obeyed: as the aim of subscribing to government was self-preservation. than maintain it upon grounds taken up and not demonstrated '. 13. preferably monarchical. J. that he commit no outward or civil act repugnant to the law of nature. It is a corollary. yet he doubts whether the arguments which he brings to this business be so firm or no '. like Hobbes. ed. pp. I650). although men's absolute selfseeking could be mediated 'by compact'. znd ed. I3. The Idea of the Law (London. that his basic contention about the relation between self-preservation and political obligation was completely demonstrated. however. p. 12. p. It was recognized. Killing is Murder. that the law of nature is easily kept. but the rights which all men have to all things.179 Hobbes remained certain.174 And The Right of Dominion similarly used Hobbes's account again to make the point that 'every one hath sufficient power to rein and moderate his outward demeanour. 'as Master Hobbes saith'.IDEOLOGICAL CONTEXT OF HOBBES S POLITICAL THOUGHT 307 it is possible to regard 'human nature itself' as 'the mother of the natural law . the very 'Hobbesian' author of The Groundsand Reasons of Monarchy Considered. 124-5. though he assured himself that the rest of his book (which is principally erected to the assertion of Monarchy) is demonstrated. sig. . p. 178 Ibid. 29. it could only be adequately mediated by a compact which set up an absolute. p. John Heydon.173 The way that 'Mr Hobbes doth thus describe the laws of nature' was similarly treated as authoritative in The Idea of the Law. he admitted that any attempt to demonstrate the 'intrinsic value and expediency' of monarchy 'is a business so ticklish. that 'a sure and irresistable power confers the right of dominion and ruling over those who cannot resist '. p. moreover. And in this sense is Mr Hobbes's saying true. in which Hobbes's own account was extensively quoted. Right of Dominion. For 'except they do so' there will 'evidently appear to be no civil government. he claimed that he would 'rather be sceptical in my opinion. I77I). Hawke. A. that even Mr Hobbes in his De Cive.78 This whole discussion. 180 Hawke. 179 James Harrington. '175 Hobbes's central 'demonstration' was that.177 And. in the first place. De Cive. The same confidence was again echoed by other theorists of de facto rule. will remain *176 The only possible shortcoming of this account which Hobbes conceded was the difficulty of 'demonstrating' that the form of this government had to be monarchical. 176 Hobbes. Like Hobbes. 50. that is the rights of war. power. i66o). 177 John Hall. so this presupposed an obligation to obey any power with the capacity to protect. 25. Works.180 It was thus demonstrated that 'by the law of war.. 4a-b. Toland (London. The point was to be taken up by John Hall. whatsoever the victor obtaineth is his right: ius est in armis.
If obligation is due to power. p. pp. had to be obeyed in all things. but rather to corroborate views they already held. p. Hobbes was not only discussed by other writers as a means of crystallizing their own political stance. whence from will spring a moral obligation also. cit. I37.184 But this would be to mistake the role of law. There is also another and even more revealing way. which cannot 'actually and formally oblige a creature. but who can be shown to have arrived at these conclusions independently of studying Hobbes's own works. For 'before all this can rise to the height and perfection of a law. such obligation must cease where the power itself fails. 'Euitactus Philodemius'. that the notion of a mutual relation between protection and obedience circumscribed as well as defined the limits of a citizen's obligations. in the second place. op. in cases 'as Mr Hobbes describes' when people 'bind themselves by general compact to the observation of such laws as they judge to be for the good of them all'. In I648 he published A Discourse. cit.185 There was some contemporary endorsement of Hobbes's political doctrine at each of its most characteristic points. and consequently of life. till it be made known'. spiritual as well as temporal. Op. An Anszwerto the Vindication (London. I09. of the sword. concerned (in the words of its own sub-title) with What is particularly lawful during the confusions and revolutions of governments. but to some extent a contribution to a particular climate of opinion. It might seem that obligations in society are based on a 'natural law'. it was said. 50. They provide the clearest evidence that Hobbes's political theory was not a completely isolated phenomenon. and make up the formality of a law'.'183 It would be a mistake to suppose that political obligation is created by natural laws of themselves. I50-I. And here the reader is referred to 'Hobbes. Polit. I40. there must come a command from superior powers. 15-I6. 'that Holy Scriptures are to be understood according to each man's small use of reason' is one which 'Mr Hobbes very well confutes'*182 It was recognized by these 'Hobbists'. in his preface. Ascham's point of departure. p. however. in which the contemporary ideological relevance of Hobbes's political views can be proved. . is transferred from the people to the magistrate'. as it was agreed. Hobbes. Right of Dominion. I650). Hobbes was cited not as the source of their opinions. The view. who deserves to be much better known. he also recognized-as do all 'rational men '-the sense in which this means that 'the power of life is derived to the magistrate from the consent and vote of the people'. The most important of these writers was undoubtedly Anthony Ascham. pp. de Corp. was with the strong and Hobbesian fear that anarchy was the sole alternative as well as the ever-present threat to any given political 181 183 184 Hawke. moreover. He was also cited as an authority by a group of contemporary writers whose political views were extremely similar to Hobbes's most characteristic doctrines. rightly pointed out not only that 'power of coercion. Heydon.308 QUENTIN SKINNER ion' 181 Such power. 185 Ibid. 182 Scot.
of 'first possessors'. the tract of I647 Of Marriage. Never published. because he adjusts his desires to the 186 Anthony Ascham.189 This strongly Hobbesian sense of the necessities laid on men by their own nature and condition lies at the centre of Ascham's whole outlook. 188 Ibid.. to the basic Hobbesian right to life. see my article 'History and Ideology in the English Revolution'. I55-78. and the virtues of passive obedience. in time of emergency.IDEOLOGICAL CONTEXT OF HOBBES S POLITICAL THOUGHT 309 order. and ascription 'By Mr Askham. On the one hand.. The argument recurs. op. 187 Ascham.186Part i of the book argued for this conclusion from very Hobbesian claims about the 'natural' laws of men's conduct in their basic and original social situation. See note 194. A man in engaging marriage is said to will a situation which seems strongly parallel to the acceptance of an absolute political obligation. I. for 'possession therefore is the greatest title '. separately paginated as fos. For further references to Ascham and to discussions of his work. fo. esp.'190Ascham was thus drawn again into characterizing the nature of rational behaviour in such unalterable circumstances. "tis necessity itself which makes laws. ever since primitive times. in chapter III. i. The Historical yournal. . Title-page gives five chapterheadings. The sole but essential right of men in such a condition was taken to be the right of self-preservation. beginning 'Of marriage in general'. 4. 6. A Discourse (London. p. that was afterwards killed in Spain being agent for the parliament of England there'. Gg. MS. who could 'without scruple of doing other wrong. and apparently unknown to Ascham's commentators. On the other hand. ch. of P. viii (I965). most revealingly and in a totally different context. date. See Cambridge University Library MSS. p. there are no natural political rights. I649). For. The presumption of the whole account was that necessity itself provided the only viable guide to political right. Tracts MS. I647). as in Leviathan.187 This discussion was then modified. Marriage was treated by Ascham as an example of a contract which there could never be a sufficient reason for voiding. p. fo. 'He is no longer himself. and by consequence ought to be the interpreter of them after they are made'. I648). p. I. in the only other work which it seems certain that Ascham wrote. in chapter IV. and makes use of his liberty but once. The two points together suggested the whole of Ascham's thesis. To maintain uniformity of citation all pagination refers to the enlarged second edition (London. bound up with MS. The characteristic of wisdom is to recognize that the situation itself dictates the appropriate behaviour: 'the wise man is called the artificer of his own happiness. 190 Anthony Ascham.by positing a situation of extreme need. A Description of the City of Rome. xxvi ff. Tomkinson. even rights of possession cannot be absolute. I-56. MS Tract on Marriage (56 fos. 37. in which men would have to revert to a more communal system. cit. 163 and note. 6. 189 Ibid. Any legal right automatically loses priority. p. provided the sole means of escape from the mutability of all things.188 Appropriation has. served as a sufficient basis for political society. His equally Hobbesian conclusion was thus that the will of a power 'absolute without redress or appeal'. place their bodies where they would'. below. Io. This led first to a history. to lose it for ever after all his life.
He now deduced the obligation of the citizen to obey any power capable of offering him protection from the typically Hobbesian assumption that without such protection no society at all would be possible. and there is no evidence that Ascham had at this time read De Cive. Here he not only expanded and corroborated his earlier account. The affinities with Hobbes seemed unquestionable to contemporaries. for Ascham. Throughout the argument the sole touchstone is necessity: as the last chapter concluded. while he endeavours instead to protect himself. If they fail in this. his authority is never invoked. 85-95. so 'he who hath sworn allegiance and fidelity to his Prince. p. discussed Hobbes's doctrines not in isolation but as the views of 'Mr Hobbes. On Marriage. Liberty from all government would be 'a great prejudice to us. p. if his Prince abandon his kingdom'*192 But. additions at pp. as with Hobbes. then the citizen's loyalties are at an end. Discourse. however. for example.194 Ascham now reverted (at the end of part II) to his earlier discussion about the 'natural' state and character of men. 2i and 39. 231. is absolved and set at liberty. fo. Ascham showed complete and deliberate disregard here for any questions about either the rightful origins or the best forms of government. Discourse. Ascham first added a justification of his views about political obligation by considering the origins of magistracy and civil government in the state of Nature.191 Part I of Ascham's Discoursethus treated in a political context the same issue that he had already discussed in a familial context in the tract Of Marriage. 194 Anthony Ascham. he now justified it further by invoking the authority of Hobbes. ch. cit. p. Hobbes is never mentioned. The specific issue which Ascham went on to engage was the extent to which a man might properly take oaths and pay allegiance to a usurped power. i88. part II. 193 Ascham. Hobbes's only published political work. 104-8. its length augmented by nine chapters. then the citizen's duty can only be to obey. op. Ascham re-issued his book in a second edition. Filmer. 192 191 . Mr Ascham. in original. regardless of any judgments that could be made about the legality of the government's powers. and moves cheerfully through that way through which he would otherwise be sullenly dragged'. Part II of the Discourse went on to develop from this point a totally Hobbesian political conclusion about the 'mutual relations between protection and obedience' as the grounds of obligation. however. Of the Confusions and Revolutions of Goverments (sic. IV. 45. Ascham. As 'nature commends me to myself for my own protection and preservation'. was whether the possessors of governmental power can sustain the lives of their subjects in a successful political order. 36. pp. In I649. and cf. and others of that party'. I649). its title changed to Of the Confusions and Revolutions of Governments.310 QUENTIN SKINNER necessity of events.193 The language as well as the assumptions throughout Ascham's work are of a strongly Hobbesian character. The only question. if the government does manage to sustain order. See Filmer. London. citizens are bound to obey governments 'so long as it pleases God to give them the Power to command us'.
200 Mercurius Politicus.198 The second set out Hobbes's insistence on the congruence of the civil authority's commands with God's purposes. He repeated his view that change of allegiance is automatically permitted by failure of government. On Nedham. 257. cit. p. see J. So close indeed was Hobbes's theory of obligation to the account which Nedham and the other defacto theorists used to justify the rule of the Commonwealth that in the pages of Mercurius Politicus. p. 198 Editorial to Mercurius Politicus. The Beginnings of the English Newspaper (Cambridge. no. "i9. against which no one could offend'. Its aim was to prove in general (in part i) the 'necessity and equity' of submission to powers that be. and no. 195 197 . Frank. p. But he now called in two greater authorities to corroborate the point. 31 (2-9 January i651).IDEOLOGICAL CONTEXT OF HOBBES S POLITICAL THOUGHT 3I1 hereby we were clearly left in a state of war. In part II of his book Nedham used this claim to denounce all changes proposed by 196 Ibid. 2o6. The first was a long quotation from Hobbes's characteristic discussion of the citizen's obligation to obey any power with the capacity to protect him. 7641. The central contention in Nedham's as in Ascham's work was the Hobbesian claim that the basis of all government must lie in men's absolute need to protect themselves and their interests by a submission of will. Some kind of government is at all times an absolute necessity as the only alternative to anarchy. ch. 199 Ibid.197 Hobbes's doctrines were to attain the rather invidious status of official propaganda for the Republic of England. or if the country be so subdued that the conquerors can no longer be resisted '. ix. the official newspaper which Nedham edited. Ibid. no. The change is justified whenever '(as Grotius and Mr Hobbes say) there be a dereliction of command in the person of whom we speak. 34 (23-30 January I65I). See also Frank. Mass. which referred all to the trial of force and not of law. p.. for (as Ascham now conceded) 'Mr Hobbes his supposition (if there be two omnipotents. This can best be seen in The Case of the CommonwealthStated. neither could be obliged to obey the other) is very pertinent and conclusive to this subject '. io8.200 Nedham was to show in his own writing as well as in his journalism how much his opinions could be sustained by the authority of Hobbes.195 Ascham finally added a further justification of his views about the relative obligations of protection and obedience. Twice during I65I the serious editorials which always prefaced Nedham's news-sheet consisted simply of unsigned extracts from Hobbes's De CorporePolitico. p. particularly as editor.199And twice apart from this Hobbes was to be advertised in Nedham's paper as an authority on political science. 29 (I9-26 December i650). 486.196 A similar use of Hobbes's authority to corroborate an already completed political argument can be found in the writings of Marchamont Nedham. 352 (5-I2 March 1657). which Nedham published in I650. op. p. to make good this natural free state of the world. and to vindicate in particular (in part II) the authority of the new Commonwealth government. no. I96I). Complete subjection to power was the only solution.
204 The last five pages of the appendix accordingly reprinted extracts from Hobbes's discussion at both the points critical to Nedham's own argument. 5. Once it has turned against a particular state. pp. IO8-9. and to avoid confusion. Nedham endorsed his Hobbesian conclusions by refusing to accept that there is any such distinction to be made. p.206 201 Marchamont Nedham. of insisting on allegiance to a rightful rather than a usurped power. for the maintenance of civil conversation. I7. by Levellers. to the bleak and typically Hobbesian conclusion that. to maintain uniformity of citation. 9. 206 Ibid.2O5 It may also be inferred from what 'Mr Hobbes saith' that 'since there is no other possible way to preserve the well-being of the Nation' except 'by a submission to the present power'. because they cannot have such a government as themselves like. sufficiently proved' its claims. p. Nedham has no doubts about the principle of allegiance moving with events. this Hobbesian defence of defacto power was completed without reference to Hobbes. all pagination refers to the enlarged 202 Nedham. are in some sense mere anarchists'. i650). op.312 QUENTIN SKINNER Royalists. that there never has been an ancient or a modern state capable of surviving an examination of its original 'right' to rule. When his book reached a second edition in I650 Nedham added an appendix. As with Ascham. so obedience must be absolutely given to whatever government is in fact capable of sustaining successful political order. explaining that 'nothwithstanding that I have already. therefore such as will not submit.201 Nedham is thus led. He insisted. p.. p. yet 'I thought meet to fasten them more surely upon the reader' by 'inserting some additions' from Salmasius and 'out of Mr Hobbes his late book De CorporePolitico '. 'there being a necessity of some government at all times. See note 204 below. All governments originally had 'no other dependence than upon the sword .203 The only possible rule of obligation is thus to recognize and submit to the necessity of power itself. second edition (London. 0og. moreover. The Case of the Commonwealth Stated (London. . with appendix (London. 203 Ibid. 2nd ed. as with Ascham. The wheel of fortune. In the central chapter of part I it is simply stated as axiomatic that. . 204 Ibid. turns in an unpredictable but irrevocable manner. I03. 205 Ibid. it is entirely justifiable-as he had already claimed-'to pay subjection to them in order to our own security'. as government is an absolute necessity. its citizens are merely building 'castles in the air against fatal necessity' if they then go on insisting on 'a fantasy of pretended loyalty'. and by all other enemies of the English Republic.. p.2O2 There is no question. I650). like Ascham. as the opening chapter is devoted to showing. I650). the authority of Hobbes was subsequently used to corroborate the view. 'It may plainly be inferred' from Hobbes's discussion that there can be 'no security for life. limbs and liberty' except 'by relinquishing our right of self-protection'. cit. But. As in the case of Ascham's work. in chapter ii.
as the commands of God. not by any considerations of self-interest. To add this historical background is in effect to add a new test of plausibility for any suggested interpretation of Hobbes's political theory. E. 209 F. on this interpretation of his intentions. Hood. p. 'The Ethical Doctrine of Hobbes'. 322.208 In the most extreme presentation of this interpretation it has even been suggested that there is a dichotomy in Hobbes's account between an 'artificial' and a 'real' system of obligation. believing that 'the laws of nature are eternal and unchangeable and. The Divine Politics of Thomas Hobbes (Oxford. Taylor. 97. In this way the historical study of Hobbes's intellectual milieu can be used to help assess the philosophers' various interpretations of Hobbes's meaning.XIII (I938). they oblige all men who reason properly. Ibid. between Hobbes's views and the age which produced them is an H. p. Any interpretation must imply some links between Hobbes's viewpoint and the views of his contemporaries. when he says that the second law of nature is the law of the Gospel '.210 It is not intended to ask directly whether this interpretation of Hobbes's views on obligation offers the best account of his meaning. 'meant quite seriously what he so often says. and so arrive at a belief in an omnipotent being whose subjects they are '. but by his acknowledgment of a prior duty to obey the laws of Nature. The fashionable trend in the interpretation of Hobbes has been to increase the emphasis on his links with a more traditional political outlook. Hobbes. not resolved until Hobbes 'goes behind his philosophic fiction of command without a commander to the reality from which the fiction was derived. 207 208 . and grounded instead on a traditional doctrine of Natural Law.IDEOLOGICAL CONTEXT OF HOBBES S POLITICAL THOUGHT 313 This attempt to suggest the appropriate ideological context for Hobbes's political doctrines-to show his contemporary following. I964). In the most persuasive of these expositions Hobbes's discussion is completely reformulated in the language of a theory of duty. I957). is detached from its apparently 'scientific' psychological premisses. in virtue of recognizing them to be the commands of God. his recognition abroad. and the fears of his opponents at his popularity-is an investigation which can be shown to carry analytical as well as historical implications for the student of political thought. It can now be made a condition for accepting any suggested interpretation that these links must themselves be of an historically possible and credible kind. Hobbes is thus regarded as 'essentially a natural law philosopher'. It can no longer be assumed that the 'question of what his theory is' can properly be regarded as 'prior' to and separate207 from the question of its intellectual relations. 4I8. Warrender. 10 A. that the "natural law" is the command of God. we have to assume. p. and to be obeyed because it is God's command'. p. however. The relations. ix.209 The essential contention which all such interpretations have in common can be summarized in the words of the first writer who suggested this view of Hobbes's doctrine. Hobbes's theory of obligation. C. The Political Philosophy of Hobbes (Oxford. Philosophzy. A subject is then said to be obliged.
op. Daniel Scargill'. it follows. on the 211 The following section attempts to document a suggestion originally made at the end of my article 'Hobbes's Leviathan'. Most of them. were concerned to emphasize the obligation to obey any successfully constituted political power. fo. went out of their way to emphasize instead what Clarendon called Hobbes's 'thorough novelty'. that every contemporary-every follower. sympathizer-all equally missed the point of his political doctrine. would be historically incredible. . 35. I02-I i and refs. no. husband and wife. The weight of this evidence is perhaps sufficient in itself for any such interpretation to stand discredited. 542.314 QUENTIN SKINNER investigation which can now be shown to bear on this point far more closely than has been supposed. who might have been expected to be particularly attuned to seeing any similar overtones in Hobbes's works. fo. i b. father and child.214 These assumptions about Hobbes's doctrine were also shared by all Hobbes's contemporary critics. first. no.' recanted his 'Hobbist' views before the University of Cambridge in I669. sig. the views which both he and they regarded as pre-eminently 'Hobbesian' were that 'all right of dominion is founded only in power' and that 'all moral righteousness is founded only in the positive law of the civil magistrate . All his followers. The HistoricalyJournal. 216 Bramhall. cit. p. he is summarized as having taught 'That the prime law of nature in the soul of man is that of temporal self-love'. between Prince and subject. it has been shown. 904. 'The Mechanics of Opposition: Restoration Cambridge v. 212 British Museum. it can now be shown. I458.213 And when Daniel Scargill. A. master and servant.216 All of them agreed. and all were agreed about the type of theory he was thought to have put forward. XXXVIII (I965). man and man'. All of them cited Hobbes as the authority who had demonstrated that the grounds and the necessity of this obligation lay in man's pre-eminent desire for self-preservation. All of them. and 'That the law of the civil sovereign is the only obliging rule of just and unjust'.211 If Hobbes intended to ground political obligation on a prior obligation to obey the commands of God. vii (I964). In one of the contemporary commonplace books in which 'Mr Hobbes's Creed' is anatomized. op. moreover. 215 Clarendon.. I4. These writers were themselves Christian moralists. however. For the view of Hobbes's intellectual relations implied by any such deontological interpretation. 213 Ibid. 214 See James L. 32I-33. opponent.215 They found in Hobbes no element of traditionalism: they saw him as a complete iconoclast who (as Bramhall put it) 'taketh a pride in removing all ancient land-marks. cit.212 Another put it more tersely as the view that 'whatever the civil magistrate commands is to be obeyed notwithstanding contrary to Divine Moral Law'. For it was Hobbes's theory of obligation which most interested his critics as well as his followers. the muchdiscussed 'penitent Hobbist. moreover (a remarkable chance) were mistaken in exactly the same way. Sloane MSS. there. Axtell. Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research. This was also the popularly received impression of Hobbes's intentions.
8. They associated Hobbes with two particular political doctrines. I737). Hobbes was mentioned and denounced by name as the writer who had invented the claim that 'self-preservation is the fundamental law of nature and supersedes the obligation of all others'. Iv. op.223 And Clarendon agreed that 'Mr Hobbes hath erected such a sovereign and instituted such a people that the one may say and do whatever he finds convenient for his purpose. than to give subjects 'leave to withdraw their obedience' from their ruler at the time 'when he hath most need of their assistance'. 90. 'Mr Hobbes'. p.'222Hobbes may have insisted on 'Covenant and Oath' in the generation of his Leviathans. 'With this author'. 224 Clarendon.IDEOLOGICAL CONTEXT OF HOBBES S POLITICAL THOUGHT 315 form which Hobbes's iconoclasm took. p. of the University'. however. 'every Monarch is absolute. I7. but by power itself. A Discourse of Government (London. is not from nature but from the pact and consent of man. as Lawson put it.217 They assumed. p. 221 222 Anonymous. p. 220 Philip Warwick. cit. cit. II5.225 All the critics assumed. believed 'that by nature all things are common. that as Hobbes grounded political obligation on calculations of rational self-interest. Hobbes's point of departure. by one of his followers. Hobbes had taught that there was a 'right of nature' in every man . as Clarendon put it. cit.218 It was a view shared by all the rest of Hobbes's critics. 223 Ibid. i694). was not with the obligations of natural law but with the fears of natural man. Conciliae Magnae Britannicae et Hiberniae (4 vols. The Original and End of Civil Power (London.221 The obligation which Hobbes describiedwas thus sustained not by congruence with any natural law. p. but 'the obligation is in vain. 55. he claimed. 219 Filmer. op. I649). that as Hobbes had made obligation depend on protection. p. When the University of Oxford issued its famous condemnation of heterodox books in I683. London. op. Lawson. 6Io-I2. which would necessarily be the consequents of having all things common '. p. 242. Wilkins. both of which (as Clarendon remarked) would 'overthrow or undermine all those principles of Government which have preserved the peace of this Kingdom through so many ages '. so he believed that a man became absolutely obliged to obey any government that could protect him. op. 217 218 . HIobbes intended no less.'224 The whole set of assumptions about Hobbes was best summed up. p.226 The critics agreed in seeing in this view the final proof that Hobbes had abandoned any belief in 'the obligation laid on us by fidelity (the law of God Clarendon. 'Judgment . sig. because the people cannot force them to the observation thereof'. Great Law of Nature. and the grounds of a distinct propriety. in the second place. A. cit. op.. 226 Clarendon. 23. first. who is forced thereto by a kind of necessity for prevention of those evils. in the eyes of all his critics. and of a Meum and Tuum. so he had intended to add that when a subject was not adequately protected his obligation must cease.. cit. 225 'Eutactus Philodemius'. and the other must neither say or do any thing that may displease him ..219 that society can only 'arise from necessity and fear'220 upon 'the principles of equality and self-preservation '. given in D. 3b. I5.
as Bramhall almost despairingly concluded.232 he never once attempted either to disown the alarmingly radical writers who cited his authority. I. p. It becomes impossible to understand why Hobbes's opponents should have felt so threatened. and to make the entire intellectual milieu impossible to understand.230But to concede this point would only be to complete the paradox. cit.'229 Some modern commentators have taken the heroic course of denying that any of this contemporary evidence matters. 5I9. p. 2I3-I8. on the grounds that 'any modern reader can see the general irrelevance' of Hobbes's critics. on whom they continued to focus their attacks. 339. XXXVII (i962). Bramhall. cit. cit. p.op. A more careful reading (we are assured) would have shown them that there was 'nothing that is original in Hobbes's moral thought'. 228 Anonymous. however. Brown.231 And despite Hobbes's own predilection for the quiet life. In Hobbes's only known reply to a critic of his views on obligation it is clear that the issue for both of them was still the pre-eminent place that Hobbes had allowed to self-interest. I3. He must be represented as presenting a traditional type of natural law theory of politics in a manner so convoluted that it was everywhere taken for the work of a complete utilitarian. his terror at being arraigned for heterodoxy. I5. p.316 QUENTIN SKINNER Almighty in our nature) antecedent to all humane covenants '. cit. I have published this reply and discussed it in my article 'Hobbes on Sovereignty: An Unknown Discussion'. Bramhall. K. xiii (I965). And yet it was Hobbes. 'Hobbes's Grounds for Belief in a Deity'. An Examination. op.227 He had instead made 'Civil laws the rules of good and evil'*228 So far from seeing in Hobbes any traditional elements of natural law doctrine. p. Political Studies. would have revealed the same dangerous principles which they claimed to find in Hobbes. op. in short. 'Where these principles prevail'. I47. 'adieu honour and honesty and fidelity and loyalty: all must give place to selfinterest. 232 On this see Aubrey. they regarded his utilitarian account of political obligation as the most dangerous attack on it. Hobbes himself is turned into the most incredible figure of all. C. All of them had worked out a political outlook more radical than any exponent of Natural Law doctrines could ever attain or endorse. 231 233 337 n. It becomes clear. op. a political calculator prepared (in Bramhall's memorable phrase) to 'take his sovereign for better but not for worse '. and not these seemingly much more radical followers. op. 519. or to disarm his innumerable critics by pointing out their misconception of his intentions. .234 A reading of any of the authors who cited Hobbes. 234 H-lood. In the same way it becomes impossible to understand why any of Hobbes's avowed followers should have taken such trouble to cite his authority. Philosophy. that to accept a deontological 227 229 230 Tenison. cit. All of them (we are assured) had in any case completely misunderstood the intentions of the writer whom they gave as their most radical authority.233 The followers and the critics are turned into scarcely less incredible figures.
Pocock and Professor J. and to construct around them the framework of their appropriate intellectual milieu.IDEOLOGICAL CONTEXT OF HOBBES S POLITICAL THOUGHT 3I7 interpretation of Hobbes's views is to remove any meaningful points of contact between Hobbes and his own intellectual milieu. Wallace. I99-2I5. The aim has been to show that the historian's task of understanding climates of opinion is not disconnected from the philosopher's attempts to interpret texts.236 235 This essay is thus intended to supply a particular case-history for a more general theory about methods of trying to understand the history of ideas. It has been intended in this study to emphasize a link.235It is still for the historian to point out that even the philosopher's most plausible interpretation must still be tested. and might even have to be abandoned. A. I have tried to set out the theory itself in more abstract terms in my article ?The Limits of Historical Explanations'. to whom I am indebted not only for reading various drafts but also for correcting mistakes and helping with several references. 236 This essay owes a great deal to correspondence with Professor J. between the activities of philosophers and historians. An attempt has been made to elucidate the ideological context of one classic setof texts. The implication has been that where such a framework is lacking the classic text itseif may be 'understood' by philosophers in ways that are historically absurd. in the light of historical evidence. and to discussions with Mr Peter Laslett and Mr John Dunn. M. XLI (I966). G. Philosophy. . commonly ignored or even denied.
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