Monday, July 14, 2008

From Sir Robert Filmer's PATRIARCHA

CHAPTER I.

3. I come now to examine that argument which is used by Bellarmine, and is the one and only argument I can find produced by my author for the proof of the natural liberty of the people. It is thus framed: "That God hath given or ordained power, is evident by Scripture; but God hath given it to no particular person, because by nature all men are equal, therefore he hath given power to the people or multitude."

To answer this reason, drawn from the equality of mankind by nature, I will first use the help of Bellarmine himself, whose very words are these: "If many men had been together created out of the earth, they all ought to have been princes over their posterity." In these words we have an evident confession that creation made man prince of his posterity. And indeed not only Adam, but the succeeding patriarchs had, by right of fatherhood, royal authority over their children. Nor dares Bellarmine deny this also. That the patriarchs, saith he, were endowed with kingly power, their deeds do testify; for as Adam was lord of his children, so his children under him had a command and power over their own children, but still with subordination to the first parent, who is lord-paramount over his children's children to all generations, as being the grandfather of his people.

4. I see not then how the children of Adam, or of any man else, can be free from subjection to their parents. And this subjection of children being the fountain of all regal authority, by the ordination of God himself; it follows that civil power not only in general is by divine institution, but even the assignment of it specifically to the eldest parents, which quite takes away that new and common distinction which refers only power universal and absolute to God, but power respective in regard of the special form of government to the choice of the people.

This lordship which Adam by command had over the whole world, and by right descending from him the patriarchs did enjoy, was as large and ample as the absolutest dominion of any monarch which hath been since the creation. For dominion of life and death we find that Judah, the father, pronounced sentence of death against Thamar, his daughter-in-law, for playing the harlot. "Bring her forth," saith he, "that she may be burnt." Touching war, we see that Abraham commanded an army of three hundred and eighteen soldiers of his own family. And Esau met his brother Jacob with four hundred men at arms. For matter of peace, Abraham made a league with Abimelech, and ratified the articles with an oath. These acts of judging in capital crimes, of making war, and concluding peace, are the chiefest marks of "sovereignty" that are found in any monarch.

5. Not only until the Flood, but after it, this patriarchal power did continue, as the very name patriarch doth in part prove. The three sons of Noah had the whole world divided amongst them by their father; for of them was the whole world overspread, according to the benediction given to him and his sons: "Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth." Most of the civilest nations of the earth labour to fetch their original from some one of the sons or nephews of Noah, which were scattered abroad after the confusion of Babel. In this dispersion we must certainly find the establishment of regal power throughout the kingdoms of the world.

It is a common opinion that at the confusion of tongues there were seventy-two distinct nations erected, all which were not confused multitudes, without heads or governors, and at liberty to choose what governors or government they pleased, but they were distinct families, which had fathers for rulers over them, whereby it appears that even in the confusion God was careful to preserve the fatherly authority by distributing the diversity of languages according to the diversity of families, for so plainly it appears by the text. First, after the enumeration of the sons of Japhet, the conclusion is: "By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands, every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations." So it is said: "These are the sons of Ham, after their families, after their tongues, in their countries, and in their nations." The like we read: "These are the sons of Shem, after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, after their nations. These are the families of the sons of Noah after their generations in their nations, and by these were these nations divided in the earth after the Flood."

In this division of the world, some are of opinion that Noah used lots for the distribution of it; others affirm he sailed about the Mediterranean Sea in ten years and, as he went about, appointed to each son his part, and so made the division of the then known world into Asia, Africa, and Europe, according to the number of his sons, the limits of which three parts are all found in that Midland Sea.

6. But howsoever the manner of this division be uncertain, yet it is most certain the division itself was by families from Noah and his children, over which the parents were heads and princes.

Amongst these was Nimrod who, no doubt, as Sir Walter Raleigh affirms, was by good right lord or king over his family; yet against right did he enlarge his empire by seizing violently on the rights of other lords of families; and in this sense he may be said to be the author and first founder of monarchy. And all those that do attribute unto him the original regal power do hold he got it by tyranny or usurpation, and not by any due election of the people or multitude, or by any faction with them.

As this patriarchal power continued in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, even until the Egyptian bondage, so we find it amongst the sons of Ishmael and Esau. It is said, "These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names by their castles and towns, twelve princes of their tribes and families. And these are the names of the dukes that came of Esau, according to their families and their places by their nations."

7. Some, perhaps, may think that these princes and dukes of families were but some petty lords under some greater kings, because the number of them are so many that their particular territories could be but small and not worthy the title of kingdoms; but they must consider that at first kings had no such large dominions as they have nowadays. We find in the tune of Abraham, which was about three hundred years after the Flood, that in a little corner of Asia nine kings at once met in battle, most of which were but kings of cities apiece, with the adjacent territories, as of Sodom, Gomorrha, Shinar, etc. In the same chapter is mention of Melchisedek, king of Salem, which was but the city of Jerusalem. And in the catalogue of the kings of Edom, the names of each king's city is recorded, as the only mark to distinguish their dominions. In the land of Canaan, which was but a small circuit, Joshua destroyed thirty-one kings, and about the same time Adonibesek had seventy kings whose hands and toes he had cut off, and made them feed under his table.[1] A few years after this, thirty-two kings came to Benhadad, king of Syria, and about seventy kings of Greece went to the wars of Troy. Cæsar found more kings in France than there be now princes there, and at his sailing over into this island he found four kings in our county of Kent. These heaps of kings in each nation are an argument their territories were but small, and strongly confirms our assertion that erection of kingdoms came at first only by distinction of families.

By manifest footsteps we may trace this paternal government unto the Israelites coming into Egypt, where the exercise of supreme patriarchal jurisdiction was intermitted because they were in subjection to a stronger prince. After the return of these Israelites out of bondage, God, out of a special care of them, chose Moses and Joshua successively to govern as princes in the place and stead of the supreme fathers; and after them likewise for a time He raised up judges to defend His people in tune of peril. But when God gave the Israelites kings, He re-established the ancient and prime right of lineal succession to paternal government And whensoever He made choice of any special person to be king, He intended that the issue also should have benefit thereof, as being comprehended sufficiently in the person of the father, although the father only was named in the grant.

8. It may seem absurd to maintain that kings now are the fathers of their people, since experience shows the contrary. It is true, all kings be not the natural parents of their subjects, yet they all either are, or are to be reputed, the next heirs to those first progenitors who were at first the natural parents of the whole people, and in their right succeed to the exercise of supreme jurisdiction; and such heirs are not only lords of their own children, but also of their brethren, and all others that were subject to their fathers. And therefore we find that God told Cain of his brother Abel, "His desires shall be subject unto thee, and thou shalt rule over him." Accordingly, when Jacob bought his brother's birthright, Isaac blessed him thus: "Be lord over thy brethren, and let the sons of thy mother bow before thee." [Gen. 4:7]

As long as the first fathers of families lived, the name of patriarchs did aptly belong unto them; but after a few descents, when the true fatherhood itself was extinct, and only the right of the father descends to the true heir, then the title of prince or king was more significant to express the power of him who succeeds only to the right of that fatherhood which his ancestors did naturally enjoy. By this means it comes to pass that many a child, by succeeding a king, hath the right of a father over many a greyheaded multitude, and hath the title of Pater Patriae...

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