Roger Coke

A survey of the politicks of Mr. Thomas White, Mr. Thomas Hobbs, and Hugo Grotius.
Also elements of power and subjection: Or, the causes of humane, Christian and legal society

London 1662

 

To the Reader

For though Mr. Hobbs does lay down his principles and peruse his method much more clearly than Grotius does, yet his principles are so monstrous that to me it is impossible any ingenuous man should assent to them. Indeed, if Mr. Hobbs would have supposed that the state of man had either been in society or out of society, and that out of society men had been in such a state as he makes them in his state of pure nature, I should never have stumbled at it. But he, forsooth, requires it as a principle that "all men jure naturali are in a parity and equal condition, and may kill one another without any offence or sin, and that men continue in this estate until by their civil pact they oblige themselves to one another that the will of the civitas shall be the will of them all".


Observations on Mr. Hobbs' De Cive

… He divides the whole treatise into three titles, viz. Liberty, Empire and Religion. Under the title of Liberty, he speaks of men as they are in a state of mere nature, viz. of a state of men before they have by pact given up their natural right to one person or one court or company of men, so that the will of this man or court shall be the will of all of them. And this he calls (cap.5 art.9) civitas or persona civilis.
If Hobbs had by a state of nature understood such a state as St. Paul (Romans 2:14) does, viz. of men who have only the law of nature and not God's divine law supernaturally revealed in the Scriptures to be their rule and guide. And that such men in such a state not having the [written] Law may by nature do the things contained in the Law (for this [natural] law is engraven in the hearts of all men), he should have disputed without an adversary for me. But when he makes all men jure naturali (which is superior and the cause of all laws of nature) to be equal and in a parity of condition, and every man by his own natural right to have a power over every man, and to kill and destroy them whensoever it seems good unto him, and yet without any sin. And that this state is only to be cured by the laws of nature of his own making (although he would have them to be divine laws, and contrary to natural rights) is such a monstrous paradox and absurdity as I wonder any ingenuous man should assent to it.
Under the title of Empire he is not less wild and extravagant in his concessions to the thing, be it king or court created by do and dedi not dabo or faciam ["I give" and "I have given" not "I shall give" or "I shall do"]. For he makes it not only sovereign judge of all ecclesiastical as well as civil causes, but also impossible to command anything contrary to the law of nature. Yet he makes the law of nature, the law of God, and creature of creatures to be so infallible that it is impossible to command anything contrary to it.
It is not worth the examining what he would have under the title of religion, for men say the man is of none himself, and complains (they say) that he cannot walk the streets but the boys point at him saying "There goes Hobbs the atheist!" It may be therefore the reason why in all his laws of nature he allows no place for the worship and service of God.

But it is time to examine the particular articles upon which this body De Cive is built.

His marginal note upon Art.3. Cap.1 is Homines natura æquales esse inter se. [By nature men are equal amongst themselves].
There is no one proposition in the world more false than this nor more destructive to all faith and truth of sacred history. For whereas he says that by nature men are equal to one another, if the Scriptures be true that God made Adam an universal monarch (as he says) as well over his wife and children as other creatures, and that since Adam God did never create any man but the species of mankind was continued by generation, and that (as he says) primogeniture is preferred by the law of nature (which cap.3 art.29. is immutable), then it is impossible that since Adam any two men in the world can be equal, where God does not make them so.
Indeed, if Mr. Hobbs had been an Athenian, who styled the men of Attica αυτόχφονες, men of the same land; or a Peripatetic who held that men and the other things of the world were from eternity as well as the word; or an Egyptian who held that (from the example of diverse creatures generated out of the River Nile) men at first were generated from equivocal generation, or that men had sprung out of the ground fungum more , there might have been some small semblance for his opinion.

Neither is it possible in such a state where all men may kill one another and where all things are alike and common unto all men, that men should make any pacts or contracts one with another. For besides that where men have nothing proper, there men cannot make pacts or contract for anything; also, where there is no precedent human law obliging, there cannot any man be obliged or bound to anything by his pact or contract. For to be bound is in relation and must presuppose something that does bind, but if nothing binds me but my will (which is a contradiction) I may unbind me when I will, for my will is free.
I deny that any man or any company of men can will anything to be a law to themselves. For omnis potentia activa est, principium transmutandi aliud. And therefore the act of no man's will can have a power or obligation upon himself; and by consequence cannot any man or company of men will or make another who shall give laws - for nemo potest transferre id in alium, quod ipse non habet [Nobody can give away what he does not himself possess].

Cap.3 art.14. "No man by his pact is obliged to an impossibility".
And therefore can no supreme power be derived from the pacts of men, for where there is not jus vitae & necis [power of life and death], there can be no supreme power, and no man hath a power over his own life and therefore no man can give it or transfer it to another.

Art.18. "No man can be obliged by his pact not to resist him who brings or intends damage to his body".
And therefore no penal laws can be executed, but subjects are freed from their obedience whensoever they have so far transgressed laws that they become liable to any corporal punishment. For where men can resist there can be no subjection.

Having made the temporal power to have its origination from the inventions, pacts, wills and policies of men, he makes it judge of all doctrines and opinions of faith, and this from convenience. For, says he, "If one may command anything upon pain of temporal death and another forbids it upon pain of eternal death, it will follow not only innocent citizens may be punished but the city itself be dissolved, for no man can serve two masters".
I know not how (this granted) could Christianity be preached when the temporal laws everywhere did forbid it? Our Savior says, Whoso hateth not father and mother and wife and children and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26) And if temporal powers command anything contrary to the laws of God we ought not to fear them that can kill the body but are not able to kill the soul, but rather to fear him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28). 'Tis true, indeed, no man can serve two masters who may with equal right command the same thing, but a man may serve two masters who do not with equal right command the same thing. As a tenant who owes homage to his lord is the lord's man of life and limb and of earthly worship, and ought to be true and faithful to him, saving the faith he owes to his sovereign lord, the king. And so every servant ought to obey his master in all things which do not contradict God's nor his country's laws. And so ought every man to submit himself to temporal powers in all things if they be not repugnant to God's laws.
And let any man see whether the whole scope of this article be not to make all faith and religion, as well as society, a mere invention and policy of man, and human constitution, and creature of a creature. Nor is the danger he makes so much to be feared, for ecclesiastical powers have nothing to do with secular jurisdictions.

Whereas he says Quid sit adulterium [what is adultery] does depend upon the civitas. I would know of him whether it were adultery in David in lying with Bathsheba during Uriah's life? If it were, then is it not true which Mr. Hobbs says; if it were not, then did God unjustly so severely to punish him therefore.

"Tyranny is not a state of a City different from rightful monarchy".
True upon your false and feigned principles where the wills and pacts of men are made the cause and origination of all power in government, where men's wills are mad their laws. Than which nothing can be more destructive to all laws divine and human; and the most willful man should be the most just man. For to what purpose should there be any laws, divine or human, if a man's own will be a rule and law to himself? And by this man's principles, it is only men's wills from which all power in government is derived and to which men ought to be subject.
Yet, good man, some difference he makes, viz. only in the exercise of their power. He, forsooth, is a king that rules well and he is a tyrant that rules otherwise.
As if Absolom's kissing the Israelites when they came to demand justice and his desire to judge the people righteously had made him a good title to the crown of Israel; or that Jeroboam or Athaliah had not been usurpers but very rightful princes if they had ruled well. But though he makes no difference between sword-bearers and sword-takers, between God's ministers and thieves and robbers, yet the Holy Ghost does. For God's minister is a sword-bearer. And if he be not God's minister but a sword-taker ― as Our Saviour calls them who have not a just authority ― then "whosoever sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man" (Genesis 9:6).
And if ever man had a just cause to have taken the sword, then had St. Peter in defence of his Lord God and master; but Our Saviour reprehends him, telling him that whosoever takes the sword shall perish by the sword. And it is not wicked men whom usurpers, tyrants and sword-takers so much murder (for it is no better), as virtuous and honest. The worst of private malefactors may justly with the whore in Terence answer to the best of sword-takers (if there be any degree of goodness in any of them) quamvis ego digna sum hæc contumelia maxime, indignus tamen in qui feceris.
And whereas he only makes tyrannus ab exercitia [a tyrant by actions], it is false. For the abuse of a thing does not alter the nature of a thing, as a man is a man, although a bad man who abuses those good parts which God hath given him. So is a father and a master, a father and a master (yet bad ones) where they abuse their power. And so is a king, a king, although he abuses his power. And the Holy Ghost many times calls them wicked and idolatrous kings, but never tyrants as this man does.

[In the earliest histories] not among the Grecians was there ever so much as aristocracy or democracy heard of. Nor was there ever any place in the world where there were men inhabiting without government. … Nor was there originally ever any government but monarchy; and that never from any pacts of men. And this government so continued everywhere until it was violated by seditious and rebellious men.
And whereas he makes this civil pact to be so necessary and antecedent to all civil government, I would fain know of Mr. Hobbs, whether Saul, David, Solomon, Jehu, Hazael, Cyrus &c. were not as much kings or civitates (as he calls them) as if they had all this covenanting and pacts with one another, that this man's will should be the will of all not to resist the will of David, Solomon, Hazael &c. in those things which they deemed necessary for the peace of Israelites, Persians, Syrians &c? But if they were civitates (as if Mr Hobbs be a Christian ― which I think may be a question ― he must needs confess) and yet not made so by his civil pacts nor indeed any other, then is this unio [union] so far from being essential to the making of a king or civitas that as to the right of a king, it is no matter whether it be made or not. For men, if they do not submit and consent to rightful kings' government, they disobey God.

But if Mr. Hobbs ask me, If power in government were not originally from pacts, how it came first into the world? I answer, That I am not bound to give an account how things came to pass whereof there is no record. It is enough for me to affirm, That no time ever was wherein men did live together out of society and government. Besides, society being natural it is an absurd question; and a man may as well ask why God made the world in that order and frame that he hath, or how he came to make man a reasonable creature and all other irrational, as why a sociable.

I would fain know of Mr. Hobbs, Who gave the people this power of making kings or civitates? Or what are the people that have, or when was it that they had it? At what age in pure nature shall any man claim this right of giving up his will, or be an instrument of making this pact? Whether women be not part of mankind, and have wills as much or more than men, and are not as liable to punishment for not observance or transgressing human laws as men? Whether it be not reasonable posterity may not give up their wills to another since they have not the same wills with their ancestors? Whether the ten tribes did not rebel in giving up their wills to make Jeroboam King, though neither they or their ancestors ever made Rehoboam or Solomon or David King by giving up their wills? Whether the king or civitas claiming all right and power from the multitude, and everyone of the multitude claiming all right and power from the king or civitas be not idem per idem [the same through the same]? And let any man judge whether there be anything more unreasonable than this man's Dictamen rectæ rationis [dictate of right reason]?
 


[Spelling and punctuation modernized]

Roger Coke was a Suffolk gentleman educated at Cambridge. He published pamphlets on politics, trade and history.

civitas = city; in this context it means the state or political community. The plural is civitates.

 fungum more  = like mushrooms. In the seventeenth century, it was generally believed that mushrooms were spontaneously generated from the soil.

David's adultery = II Samuel 11

sword = Matthew 26:52 "Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword".

quamvis ego = Terence Eunuchus V.ii: "nam si ego digna hac contumelia / sum maxume, at tu indignus qui faceres tamen". [Although I fully deserve this blow, you're not fit to strike it].