Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
The Inconveniences of Government
By Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679)
From De Corpore Politico

THE INCONVENIENCE arising from government in general to him that governeth, consisteth partly in the continual care and trouble about the business of other men that are his subjects; and partly, in the danger of his person. For the head always is that part, not only where the care resideth, but also against which the stroke of an enemy most commonly is directed. To balance this incommodity, the sovereignty, together with the necessity of this care and danger, comprehendeth so much honour, riches, and means, whereby to delight the mind, as no private man’s wealth can attain unto. The inconveniences of government in general to a subject are none at all, if well considered, but in appearance. There be two things that may trouble his mind, or two general grievances; the one is, loss of liberty; the other, the uncertainty of meum and tuum. For the first, it consisteth in this, that a subject may no more govern his own actions according to his own discretion and judgment, or, which is all one, conscience, as the present occasions from time to time shall dictate to him; but must be tied to do according to that will only, which once for all he had long ago laid up, and involved in the wills of the major part of an assembly, or in the will of some one man. But this is really no inconvenience. For, as it hath been showed before, it is the only means, by which we have any possibility of preserving ourselves. For if every man were allowed this liberty of following his conscience, in such difference of consciences, they would not live together in peace an hour. But it appeareth a great inconvenience to every man in particular, to be debarred of this liberty, because every one apart considereth it as in himself, and not as in the rest: by which means, liberty appeareth in the likeness of rule and government over others. For where one man is at liberty, and the rest bound, there that one hath government; which honour, he that understandeth not so much, demanding by the name simply of liberty, thinketh it a great grievance and injury to be denied it. For the second grievance concerning meum and tuum, it is also none, but in appearance only; it consisteth in this, that the sovereign power taketh from him that which he used to enjoy, knowing no other propriety, but use and custom. But without such sovereign power, the right of men is not propriety to anything, but a community, no better than to have no right at all, as hath been showed, Part I. chapter i. section 10. Propriety therefore being derived from the sovereign power, is not to be pretended against the same, especially, when by it every subject hath his propriety against every other subject, which when sovereignty ceaseth, he hath not, because in that case they return to war amongst themselves. Those levies therefore which are made upon men’s estates, by the sovereign authority, are no more but the price of that peace and defence which the sovereignty maintaineth for them. If this were not so, no money nor forces for the wars, nor any other public occasion, could justly be levied in the world. For neither king, nor democracy, nor aristocracy, nor the estates of any land, could do it, if the sovereignty could not. For in all those cases, it is levied by virtue of the sovereignty. Nay more, by the three estates here, the land of one man may be transferred to another, without crime of him from whom it was taken, and without pretence of public benefit, as hath been done: and this without injury, because done by the sovereign power. For the power whereby it is done, is no less than sovereign, and cannot be greater. Therefore this grievance for meum and tuum is not real, unless more be exacted than is necessary; but it seemeth a grievance, because to them that either know not the right of sovereignty, or to whom that right belongeth, it seemeth an injury; and injury, how little soever the damage, is always grievous, as putting us in mind of our disability to help ourselves, and into envy of the power to do us wrong.

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