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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

XII. Hobbes and Contemporary Philosophy

§ 13. Filmer

Sir Robert Filmer was also among the critics of Hobbes’s politics, though he owes his fame to the circumstance that he was himself criticised by Locke. He maintained the doctrine of absolute power as strongly as Hobbes did, and, like him, thought that limited monarchy meant anarchy; and he had written on these topics in king Charles’s time. But he would not admit that this power could rest on contract, and, in his Originall of Government (1652), attacked Hobbes as well as Milton and Grotius. His own views are set forth in his Patriarcha, or the Natural Power of Kings, first published in 1680, twenty-seven years after his death. Filmer was by no means devoid of critical insight. He saw that the doctrine that all men are by nature free and equal is not true historically and, therefore, is no good ground for making popular consent the origin of government.

  • Late writers [he says] have taken up too much upon trust from the subtle schoolmen, who to be sure to thrust down the king below the pope, thought it the safest course to advance the people above the king.
  • He thinks that “a great family, as to the rights of sovereignty, is a little monarchy,” and Hobbes had said the same; but Filmer traces all kingship to the subjection of children to their parents, which is both natural and a divine ordinance. There has never been a more absolute dominion than that which Adam had over the whole world. And kings are Adam’s heirs. In developing this thesis, the author diverges into a reading of history more fantastic than anything suggested by Bellarmine or Hobbes, and delivers himself up an easy prey to Locke’s criticism.

    Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon, is also to be counted among the critics of Hobbes’s political theory. His Brief Survey of the dangerous and pernicious Errors to Church and State in Mr. Hobbes’s book (1674) is a protest against the paradoxes of Leviathan, but is lacking in any element of constructive criticism.