2 Hobbes and Spinoza

1 Hobbes

When the Parliament sat, that began in April 1640, and was dissolved in May following, and in which many points of the regal power, which were necessary for the peace of the kingdom, and the safety of his Majesty's person, were disputed and denied, Mr Hobbes wrote a little treatise in English, wherein he did set forth and demonstrate, that the said power and rights were inseparably annexed to the sovereignty; which sovereignty they did not then deny to be in the King; but it seems understood not, or would not understand that inseparability. Of this treatise, though not printed, many gentlemen had copies, which occasioned much talk of the author and had not his Majesty dissolved the Parliament, it had brought him into danger of his life. 1

Such was Hobbes's own account, written twenty-one years later, of the origins of his first work of political theory, The Elements of Law. Hobbes had himself been an unsuccessful candidate for election to the Short Parliament, 2 so no doubt he followed its proceedings closely. The disputed 'points of the regal power' emerged most pointedly in John Pym's famous speech of 17 April, which asserted fundamental constitutional rights of Parliament against the Crown ('Parliament is as the soule of the common wealth', 'the intellectual parte which Governes all the rest') and attacked 'the Doctrine that what property the subject hath in any thinge may be lawfully taken away when the King requires it'. The latter point was taken up by Sir John Strangways on the following day: 'for if the Kinge be judge of the necessitye, we have nothing and are but Tennants at will'. 3

The King dissolved this parliament on 5 May. Four days later Hobbes signed the dedicatory epistle of his treatise, which was addressed to his patron, the staunchly royalist Earl of Newcastle; he explained that the principles he was expounding were

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