The Paternal Right devolves to, and is inherited by all the Children.

THO the perversity of our author's judgment and nature may have driven him into the most gross errors, 'tis not amiss to observe, that many of those delivered by him, proceed from his ignorance of the most important differences between father and lord, king and tyrant; which are so evident and irreconcilable, that one would have thought no man could be so stupid, as not to see it impossible for one and the same man, at the same time, to be father and master, king and tyrant, over the same persons. But lest he should think me too scrupulous, or too strict in inquiring after truth, I intend for the present to waive that inquiry, and to seek what was good for Adam or Noah: What we have reason to believe they desired to transmit to their posterity, and to take it for a perpetual law in its utmost extent; which I think will be of no advantage to our author: for this authority, which was universal during their lives, must necessarily after their decease be divided, as an inheritance, into as many parcels as they had children. The Apostle says, If children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ;[1] which alluding to the laws and customs of nations, could have been of no force, unless it had been true and known to be so. But if children are heirs, or joint heirs, whatsoever authority Adam or Noah had, is inherited by every man in the world; and that title of heir which our author so much magnifies, as if it were annexed to one single person, vanishes into nothing; or else the words of the Apostle could have neither strength nor truth in them, but would be built upon a false foundation, which may perhaps agree with our author's divinity.

Yet if the Apostle had not declared himself so fully in this point, we might easily have seen that Adam and Noah did leave their children in that equality; for fathers are ever understood to embrace all their children with equal affection, till the discovery of personal virtues or vices make a difference. But the personal virtues, that give a reasonable preference of one before another, or make him more fit to govern than the others, cannot appear before he is, nor can be annexed to any one line: Therefore the father cannot be thought to have given to one man, or his descendants, the government of his brethren and their descendants.

Besides, tho the law of England may make one man to be sole heir of his father, yet the laws of God and nature do not so. All the children of Noah were his heirs: The land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, was equally divided among their children. If the children of Joseph made two tribes, it was not as the first born, but by the will of Jacob, who adopted Ephraim and Manasseh; and they thereby became his sons, and obtained an inheritance equal to that of the other tribes. The law allowed a double portion to the first-begotten; but this made a difference between brothers only in proportion, whereas that between lord and servant, is in specie, not in degree. And if our author's opinion might take place, instead of such a division of the common inheritance between brothers, as was made between the children of Jacob, all must continue forever slaves to one lord; which would establish a difference in specie between brethren, which nature abhors.

If nature does not make one man lord over his brethren, he can never come to be their lord, unless they make him so, or he subdue them. If he subdue them, it is an act of violence, contrary to right, which may consequently be recovered: If they make him lord, 'tis for their own sakes, not for his; and he must seek their good, not his own, lest, as Aristotle says, he degenerate from a king into a tyrant. He therefore who would persuade us, that the dominion over every nation, does naturally belong to one man, woman or child, at a venture; or to the heir, whatsoever he or she be, as to age, sex, or other qualifications, must prove it good for all nations to be under them. But as reason is our nature, that can never be natural to us that is not rational. Reason gives paria paribus,[2] equal power to those who have equal abilities and merit: It allots to everyone the part he is most fit to perform; and this fitness must be equally lasting with the law that allots it. But as it can never be good for great nations, having men amongst them of virtue, experience, wisdom and goodness, to be governed by children, fools, or vicious and wicked persons; and we neither find that the virtues required in such as deserve to govern them, did ever continue in any race of men, nor have reason to believe they ever will, it can never be reasonable to annex the dominion of a nation to any one line. We may take this upon Solomon's word, Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning:[3] And I wish the experience of all ages, did not make this truth too evident to us. This therefore can never be the work, much less the law of nature; and if there be any such thing in the world, as the dominion over a nation, inseparably united to a man and his family, it can have no other root, than a civil or municipal law, which is not the subject of our discourse.

Moreover, every father's right must cease, when he ceases to be, or be transmitted to those, who being also fathers, have the same title to it. And tho the contrary method of annexing the whole inheritance to one person, or exposing all his brethren to be destroyed by his rage, if they will not submit, may conduce to the enlargement of a proud and violent empire, as in Turkey; where he that gains the power, usually begins his reign with the slaughter of his brothers and nephews: yet it can never agree with the piety, gentleness and wisdom of the patriarchs, or the laws of God and nature.

These things being agreed, we need not trouble ourselves with the limits or definition of a family, and as little with the titles given to the head of it: 'Tis all one to us, whether it be confined to one roof and fire, or extended farther; and none but such as are strangers to the practice of mankind, can think that titles of civility have a power to create a right of dominion. Every man in Latin is called dominus, unless such as are of the vilest condition, or in a great subjection to those who speak to them; and yet the word strictly taken, relates only to servus, for a man is lord only of his servant or slave. The Italians are not less liberal of the titles of signore and padrone, and the Spaniards of señor; but he would be ridiculous in those countries, who thereupon should arrogate to himself a right of dominion over those who are so civil. The vanity of our age seems to carry this point a little higher, especially among the French, who put a great weight upon the word prince; but they cannot change the true signification of it; and even in their sense, prince du sang signifies no more than a chief man of the royal blood, to whom they pay much respect, because he may come to the crown; as they at Rome do to cardinals, who have the power of chusing popes, and out of whose number, for some ages, they have been chosen. In this sense did Scaevola, when he was apprehended by Porsenna, say, Trecenti conjuravimus Romanae juventutis principes;[4] which was never otherwise understood, than of such young citizens as were remarkable amongst their companions. And nothing can be more absurd than to think, if the name of prince had carried an absolute and despotical power with it, that it could belong to three hundred in a city, that possessed no more than a ten miles territory; or that it could have been given to them, whilst they were young, and the most part of their fathers, as is most probable, still living.

I should, like our author, run round in a circle, if I should refute what he says of a regal power in our first parents; or shew, that the regal, where it is, is not absolute as often as he does assert it. But having already proved, that Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, &c. enjoyed no such power; transmitted to every one of their sons that which they had, and they became fathers of many great nations, who always continued independent on each other, I leave to our author to prove, when and by what law the right of subdividing the paternal power was stopped, and how any one or more of their descendants came to have that power over their brethren, which none of their immediate children had over theirs.

His question to Suarez, how and when sons become free, savours more of Jesuitical sophistry, than anything said by the Jesuit;[5] but the solution is easy: for if he mean the respect, veneration and kindness proceeding from gratitude, it ceases only with the life of the father to whom it is due, and the memory of it must last as long as that of the son; and if they had been possessed of such an absolute power as he fancies, it must have ceased with the reasons upon which it was grounded.

First, because the power, of which a father would probably have made a wise and gentle use, could not be rightly trusted in the hands of one who is not a father; and that which tended only to the preservation of all the children, could not be turned to the increase of the pride, luxury and violence of one, to the oppression of others who are equally heirs.

In the second place, societies cannot be instituted, unless the heads of the families that are to compose them, resign so much of their right as seems convenient into the publick stock, to which everyone becomes subject: But that the same power should, at the same time, continue in the true father, and the figurative father, the magistrate; and that the children should owe entire obedience to the commands of both, which may often cross each other, is absurd.

Thirdly, it ceases when it cannot be executed; as when men live to see four or five generations, as many do at this day; because the son cannot tell whether he should obey his father, grandfather, or great-grandfather, and cannot be equally subject to them all; most especially, when they live in divers places, and set up families of their own, as the sons of the patriarchs did: which being observed, I know no place where this paternal power could have any effect, unless in the fabulous Island of Pines; and even there it must have ceased, when he died, who by the inventor of the story, is said to have seen above ten thousand persons issued of his body.[6]

And if it be said, that Noah, Shem, Abraham, &c. consented that their children should go where they thought fit, and provide for themselves; I answer, that the like has been done in all ages, and must be done forever. 'Tis the voice of nature, obeyed, not only by mankind, but by all living creatures; and there is none so stupid as not to understand it. A hen leaves her chickens, when they can seek their own nourishment: A cow looks after her calf no longer, than till it is able to feed: A lion gives over hunting for his whelps, when they are able to seek their own prey, and have strength enough to provide what is sufficient for themselves. And the contrary would be an insupportable burden to all living creatures, but especially to men; for the good order that the rational nature delights in, would be overthrown, and civil societies, by which it is best preserved, would never be established.

We are not concerned to examine, whether the political and oeconomical powers be entirely the same, or in what they differ: for that absolute power which he contends for, is purely despotical, different from both, or rather inconsistent with either as to the same subject; and that which the patriarchs exercised, having been equally inherited by their children, and consequently by every one of their posterity, 'tis as much as is required for my purpose of proving the natural, universal liberty of mankind; and I am no way concerned in the question, whether the first parents of mankind had a power of life and death over their children, or not.

[1] Rom. 8.19. [Actually Romans 8:17.]

[2] []

[3] Eccl. 10.16.

[4] T. Liv. 1. 2. [Livy, History of Rome, bk. 2, ch. 12.]

[5] [Patriarcha, ch. 11.]

[6] [Henry Neville, The Isle of Pines (London, 1668).]