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First Published:  5 May 2020
Revised (substantive):  n/a

A N     E X C E R P T     F R O M

the first English edition of

Thomas Hobbes’s
De Cive (editio princeps,
Paris, 1642)

 
Englished by the philosopher
T H O M AS   H O B B E S  (1588–1679)
 
whose political theory is “both authoritarian and individualist, embodying an unusual and intriguing mixture of illiberal and liberal elements”
& “whose work in theology, metaphysics, science, history, and psychology entitles him to be described as one of the true founders of modernity in Western culture”

[  re. demagoguery as
a perversion of the
Ciceronian rhetorical ideal  ]

Opening quotation markSalust his Character of Cataline, (then whom there never was a greater Artist in raising seditions) is this, That he had great eloquence, and little wisdome; he separates wisdome from eloquence, attributing this as necessary to a man born for commotions, adjudging that as an instructresse of Peace, and quietnesse. Now, eloquence is twofold. The one is an elegant, and cleare expression of the conceptions of the mind, and riseth partly from the contemplation of the things themselves, partly from an understanding of words taken in their own proper, and definite signification; the other is a commotion of the Passions of the minde (such as are hope, fear, anger, pitty) and derives from a metaphoricall use of words fitted to the Passions: That forms a speech from true Principles, this from opinions already received, what nature soever they are of. The art of that is Logick, of this Rhetorick, the end of that is truth, of this victory. Each hath its use, that in deliberations, this in exhortations; for that is never disjoyned from wisdome, but this almost ever. But that this kind of powerfull eloquence, separated from the true knowledge of things, that is to say, from wisdome, is the true character of them who sollicite, and stirre up the people to innovations, may easily be gathered out of the work it selfe which they have to doe; for they could not poyson the people with those absurd opinions contrary to Peace and civill society, unlesse they held them themselves, which sure is an ignorance greater then can well befall any wise man, for he that knows not whence the Lawes derive their power, which are the Rules of just and unjust, honest and dishonest, good and evill, what makes and preserves Peace among men, what destroyes it, what is his, and what anothers, Lastly, what he would have done to himselfe (that he may doe the like to others) is surely to be accounted but meanly wise; but that they can turn their Auditors out of fools into madmen; that they can make things to them who are ill-affected seem worse, to them who are well-affected seem evil; that they can enlarge their hopes, lessen their dangers beyond reason: this they have from that sort of eloquence, not which explains things as they are, but from that other, which by moving their mindes, makes all things to appear to bee such as they in their mindes prepared before, had already conceived them.Closing quotation mark


SOURCE:  Hobbes, Thomas. Philosophicall rudiments concerning government and society. Or, A dissertation concerning man in his severall habitudes and respects, as the member of a society, first secular, and then sacred. Containing the elements of civill politie in the agreement which it hath both with naturall and divine lawes. In which is demonstrated, both what the origine of justice is, and wherein the essence of Christian religion doth consist. Together with the nature, limits, and qualifications both of regiment and subjection. By Tho: Hobbes. London: Printed by J. G. for R. Royston, at the Angel in Ivie-lane, 1651. 2.12.12:186–188.
   This is the first English edition, translated by Hobbes himself, of Hobbes’s De Cive [The Citizen], originally written in Latin and printed at Paris in 1642, with the title Elementorum Philosophiæ Sectio Tertia de Cive. The first Latin edition of 1642 was privately printed in a limited run (probably no more than 100 copies), making it extremely rare, even back then. Immediately upon first printing, the provocative book struck a chord with readers and, as a result of the continental clamor for more copies, two new Latin editions (for three Latin reissues, total) were published by Amsterdam’s Elzevir Press in 1647, and retitled Elementa Philosophica de Cive.
   The rare Parisian editio princeps of 1642 featured a unique title-plate design (same as in the scribal publications of De Cive) — pitting civilized Europeans (living productively under a monarchical government) against individualist Native Americans (living in an egalitarian, thus warring, state of nature), in a farcical graphic portrayal of AmerIndian society.
   Of note, the allegorical title-plate for the first English edition (1651), engraved by Robert Vaughan, was based on the alternate design fronting the Elzevir Latin editions (Elementa Philosophica de Cive) of 1647, where the Native Americans have been removed from the scene, and no longer exemplify the libertarian ideal. Rather, the redesigned title of 1647 and 1651 shows two European women personifying “Dominion” (at left) and “Liberty” (at right), surrounding an oval portrait of Hobbes, with a central figure raised above all three captioned “Religion.” I suspect the redesign was intended to shift perceptions of Hobbes’s theory of sovereignty, and to counter the growing criticism of “Hobbism” and Hobbes himself: “that he was an atheist (or, at least, guilty of gross heresies), that his political theory glorified despotism, and that he overturned traditional morality. The third charge connected the first and second: he was accused of deriving morality not from God or reason but from the will of the sovereign.” (ODNB entry for Hobbes by Noel Malcolm, n. pag.)
   Both De Cive title-page designs are reproduced and discussed further here.
   Of note, in the above passage from De Cive, Hobbes chooses the Roman politician, Lucius Sergius Catilina (Catiline), 108–62 BC, as history’s exemplary demagogue & conspiracist.