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In the political writings of Hobbes, we may perceive the influence also of other motives. From his earliest years, he seems to have been decidedly hostile to all the forms of popular government, and it is said to have been with the design of impressing his countrymen with a just sense of the disorders incident to democratical establishments, that he published, in 1618, an English translation of Thucydides. In these opinions he was more and more confirmed by the events he afterwards witnessed in England; the fatal consequences of which he early foresaw with so much alarm, that, in 1640, he withdrew from the approaching storm, to enjoy the society of his philosophical friends at Paris. It was here he wrote his book De Cive, a few copies of which were printed, and privately circulated in 1642. The same work was afterwards given to the public, with material corrections and improvements, in 1647, when the author's attachment to the royal cause being strengthened by his personal connexion with the exiled King, he thought it incumbent on him to stand forth avowedly as an advocate for those principles which he had long professed. The great object of this performance was to strengthen the bands of sovereigns against the rising spirit of democracy, by arming them with the weapons of a new philosophy.
The fundamental doctrines inculcated in the political works of Hobbes are contained in the following propositions. I recapitulate them here, not on their own account, but to prepare the way for some remarks which I mean afterwards to offer on the coincidence between the principles of Hobbes and those of Locke. In their practical conclusions, indeed, with respect to the rights and duties of citizens, the two writers differ widely; but it is curious to observe how very nearly they set out from the same hypothetical assumptions.
All men are by nature equal; and, prior to government, they had all an equal right to enjoy the good things of this world. Man, too, is (according to Hobbes) by nature a solitary and purely selfish animal ; the social union being entirely an interested league, suggested by prudential views of personal advantage. The necessary consequence is, that a state of nature must be a state of perpetual warfare, in which no individual has any other means of safety than bis own strength or ingenuity; and in which there is no room for regular industry, because no secure enjoyment of its fruits. In confirmation of this view of the origin of society, Hobbes appeals to facts falling daily within the circle of our own experience. “Does not a man,” he asks,“when taking a journey, arm himself, and seek to go well accompanied? When going to sleep, does he not lock his doors ? Nay, even in his own house, does he not lock his chests? Does he not there as much accuse mankind by his actions, as I do by my words ? " * An additional argument to the same purpose, may, according to some later Hobbists, be derived from the instinctive aversion of infants for strangers; and from the apprehension which it is alleged) every person feels, when he hears the tread of an unknown foot in the dark.
For the sake of peace and security, it is necessary that each individual should surrender a part of his natural right, and be contented with such a share of liberty as he is willing to allow to others; or, to use Hobbes's own language, “ every man must divest himself of the right he has to all things by nature; the right of all men to all things being in effect no better than if no man had a right to any thing.” + In consequence of this transference of natural rights to an individual, or to a body of individuals, the multitude become one person, under the name of a State or Republic, by which person the common will and power are exercised for the common defence. The ruling power cannot be withdrawn from those to whom it has been committed; nor can they be punished for misgovernment. The interpretation of the laws is to be sought, not from the comments of philosophers, but from the authority of the ruler; otherwise society would every moment be in danger of resolving itself into the discordant elements of which it was at first composed. The will of the magistrate, therefore, is to be regarded as the ultimate standard of right and wrong, and his voice to be listened to by every citizen as the voice of conscience.
Not many years afterwards, Hobbes pushed the argument for the absolute power of princes still further, in a work to which he gave the name of Leviathan. Under this appellation he means the body politic; insinuating, that man is an untameable beast of prey, and that government is the strong chain by which he is kept from mischief. The fundamental principles here maintained are the same as in the book De Cive; but as it inveighs more particularly against ecclesiastical tyranny, with the view of subjecting the consciences of men to the civil authority, it lost the author the favor of some powerful protectors he had hitherto enjoyed among the English divines who attended Charles the Second in France; and he even found it convenient to quit that kingdom, and to return to England, where Cromwell (to whose government his political tenets were now as favorable as they were meant to be to the royal claims) suffered him to remain unmolested. The same circumstances operated to his disadvantage after the Restoration, and obliged the King, who always retained for him a very strong attachment, to confer his marks of favor on him with the utmost reserve and circumspection.*
* Of Man, Part I. chap. xiii. | In 1651.
| De Corpore Politico, Part I. chap. i. $ 10.
The details which I have entered into, with respect to the History of Hobbes's political writings, will be found, by those who may peruse them, to throw much light on the author's reasonings. Indeed, it is only by thus considering them in their connexion with the circumstances of the times, and the fortunes of the writer, that a just notion can be formed of their spirit and tendency.
The ethical principles of Hobbes are so completely interwoven with his political system, that all which has been said of the one may be applied to the other. It is very remarkable, that Descartes should have thought so highly of the former, as to pronounce Hobbes to be “a much greater master of morality than of metaphysics ;" a judginent which is of itself sufficient to mark the very low state of ethical science in France about the middle of the seventeenth century. Mr. Addison, on the other hand, gives a decided preference (among all the books written by Hobbes) to his Treatise on Human Nature; and to his opinion on this point I most implicitly subscribe ; including, however, in the same commendation, some of his other philosophical essays on similar topics. They are the only part of his works which it is possible now to read with any interest; and they every where evince in their author, even when he thinks most unsoundly himself, that power of setting his reader a-thinking, which is one of the most unequivocal marks of original genius. They bave plainly been studied with the utmost care, both by Locke and Hume. To the former they have suggested some of the most important observations on the Association of Ideas, as well as much of the sophistry displayed in the first book of his Essay, on the Origin of our Knowledge, and on the factitious nature of our moral principles; to the latter, (among a variety of hints of less consequence) his theory concerning the nature of those established connexions among physical events, which it is the business of the natural philosopher to ascertain,* and the substance of his argument against the scholastic doctrine of general conceptions. It is from the works of Hobbes, too, that our later Necessitarians have borrowed the most formidable of those weapons with which they have combated the doctrine of moral liberty; and from the same source has been derived the leading idea which runs through the philological materialism of Mr. Horne Tooke. It is probable, indeed, that this last author borrowed it, at secondhand, from a hint in Locke's Essay ; but it is repeatedly stated by Hobbes, in the most explicit and confident terms. Of this idea, (than which, in point of fact, nothing can be imagined more puerile and unsound,) Mr. Tooke's elyIt is by
* See Note (H.)
* The same doctrine, concerning the proper object of natural philosophy (commonly ascribed to Mr. Hure, both by his followers and by his opponents,) is to be found in various writers contemporary with Hobbes. It is stated with uncommon precision and clearess, in a book entitled Scepsis Scientifica, or Confessed Ignorance the way to Science; by Joseph Glanvill, (printed in 1665). The whole work is strongly marked with the features of an acute, an original, and (in matters of science) a somewhat sceptical genius; and, when compared with the treatise on witchcraft, by the same author, adds another proof to those already mentioned, of the possible union of the highest intellectual gifts with the most degrading intellectual weaknesses.
With respect to the Scepsis Scientifica, it deserves to be noticed, that the doctrine maintained in it concerning physical causes and effects does not occur in the form of a detached observation, of the value of which the author might not have been fully aware, but is the very basis of the general argument running through all his discussions.
mologies, when he applies them to the solution of metaphysical questions, are little more than an ingenious expansion, adapted and levelled to the comprehension of the multitude.
The speculations of Hobbes, however, concerning the theory of the understanding, do not seem to have been nearly so much attended to during his own life, as some of his other doctrines, which, having a more immediate reference to human affairs, were better adapted to the unsettled and revolutionary spirit of the times. these doctrines, chiefly, that his name has since become so memorable in the annals of modern literature ; and although they now derive their whole interest from the extraordinary combination they exhibit of acuteness and subtilty with a dead-palsy in the powers of taste and of moral sensibility, yet they will be found, on an attentive examination, to have had a far more extensive influence on the subsequent history both of political and of ethical science, than any other publication of the same period.
ANTAGONISTS OF HOBBES.
Cudworth * was one of the first who successfully combated this new philosophy. As Hobbes, in the frenzy of bis political zeal, had been led to sacrifice wantonly all the principles of religion and morality to the establishment of his conclusions, his works not only gave offence to the friends of liberty, but excited a general alarm among all sound moralists. His doctrine in particular, that there is no natural distinction between Right and Wrong, and that these are dependent on the arbitrary will of the civil magistrate, was so obviously subversive of all the commonly received ideas concerning the moral constitution of human nature, that it became indispensably necessary, either to expose the sophistry of the attempt, or to admit with Hobbes, that man is a beast of prey, incapable of being governed by any motives but fear, and the desire of selfpreservation.
Between some of these tenets of the courtly Hobbists,
* Born 1617, died 1688.