Filmer - 1 Robert Filmer (1652): Observations upon...

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1 Robert Filmer (1652): Observations upon Aristotle's Politiques (excerpts) and Directions for Obedience to Government in Dangerous or Doubtful Times Observations upon Aristotle's Politiques . . . . . . . . It is not probable that any sure direction of the beginning of government can be found either in Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Polybius, or in any other of the heathen authors, who were ignorant of the manner of the creation of the world: we must not neglect the scriptures and search in philosophers for the grounds of dominion and property, which are the main principles of government and justice. The first government in the world was monarchical, in the father of all flesh. Adam being commanded to multiply, and people the earth, and to subdue it, and having dominion given him over all creatures, was thereby the monarch of the whole world; none of his posterity had any right to possess anything, but by his grant or permission, or by succession from him. The earth (says the Psalmist) has he given to the children of men: which shows the title comes from the fatherhood. There never was any such thing as an independent multitude who at first had a natural right to a community. This is but a fiction or fancy of too many in these days, who please themselves in running after the opinions of philosophers and poets, to find out such an original of government as might promise them some title to liberty, to the great scandal of Christianity and bringing in of atheism, since a natural freedom of mankind cannot be supposed without the denial of the creation of Adam. And yet this conceit of original freedom is the only ground upon which not only the heathen philosophers, but also the authors of the principles of the civil law, and Grotius, Selden, Hobbes, Ascham and others, raise and build their doctrines of government, and of the several sorts or kinds, as they call them, of commonwealths. Adam was the father, king and lord over his family: a son, a subject, and a servant or a slave were one and the same thing at first. The father had power to dispose or sell his children or servants; whence we find that, at the first reckoning up of goods in scripture, the manservant and the maidservant are numbered among the pos- sessions and substance of the owner, as other goods were. As for the names of subject, slave and tyrant, they are not found in scripture, but what we now call a subject or a slave is there named no other than a servant. I cannot learn that either the Hebrew, Greek or Latin have any proper and original word for a tyrant or a slave: it seems these are names of later invention, and taken up in disgrace of monarchical government. I cannot find anyone place or text in the Bible where any power or commission is given to a people either to govern themselves, or to choose themselves governors, or to alter the manner of government at their pleasure. The power of government is settled and fixed by the commandment of 'honour thy father'; if there
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2 were a higher power than the fatherly, then this commandment could not stand and be observed. Whereas
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This note was uploaded on 02/14/2012 for the course POLS 3136 taught by Professor Bazowski during the Winter '10 term at York University.

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Filmer - 1 Robert Filmer (1652): Observations upon...

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