Leviathan
by Thomas Hobbes
An English Justification of Absolutism
Chapter 20


The only way to erect such a common power as may be able to defend them from the invasion of foreigners and the injuries of one another, and thereby to secure them in such sort as that by their own industry and by the fruits of the earth they may nourish themselves and live contentedly, is to confer all their power and strength upon one man, or upon one assembly of men, that may reduce all their wills by plurality of voices unto one will: which is as much to say, to appoint one man or assembly of men to bear their person; and every one to own and acknowledge himself to be author of whatsoever he that so beareth their person shall act, or cause to be acted, in those things which concern the common peace and safety; and therein to submit their wills, every one to his will, and their judgements to his judgment. This is more than consent or concord: it is a real unity of them all, in one and the same person, made by covenant of every man with every man. in such manner as if every man should say to every man, 'I authorize and give up my right of governing myself to this man, or to this assembly of men, on this condition, that thou give up thy right to him and authorize all his actions in like manner.' This done, the multitude so united in one person is called a 'commonwealth.' in Latin civitas. This is the generation of that great 'leviathan,' or, rather, to speak more reverently, of that 'mortal god,' to which we owe under the 'immortal God,' our peace and defence. For by this authority, given him by every particular man in the commonwealth, he hath the use of so much power and strength conferred on him that by terror thereof he is enabled to perform the wills of them all, to peace at home and mutual aid against their enemies abroad. And in him consisteth the essence of the commonwealth; which, to define it, is 'one person, of whose acts a great multitude by mutual covenants one with another have made themselves every one the author, to the end he may use the strength and means of them all as he shall think expedient for their peace and common defence.'

And he that carrieth this person is called 'sovereign', and said to have 'sovereign power'; and every one be- sides his 'subject.'

The attaining to this sovereign power is by two ways. One by natural force, as when a man maketh his children to submit themselves and their children to his government, as being able to destroy them if they refuse: or by war subdueth his enemies to his will, giving them their lives on that rendition. The other is when men agree amongst themselves to submit to some man, or assembly of men, voluntarily, on confidence to be protected by him against all others. This latter may be called a political commonwealth, or commonwealth by 'institution'; and the former. a commonwealth by 'acquisition.'

From Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan.

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RESOURCE: World Civilizations
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