Sir Robert Filmer
Editor's Note: What follows is Chapter II of Sir Robert Filmer's Patriarcha, originally published in 1680 (though written much earlier) and the fullest exposition of his thought. As a political theorist, Sir Robert is now remembered as a defender of the absolute monarchy and the divine right of kings, and mostly through John Locke's refutation in the latters' First Treatise of Government (Locke chose Sir Robert as his strawman), though others Whigs, like Algernon Sidney and James Tyrrell also wrote rebuttals. Sir Robert, had previously written critiques of to Thomas Hobbes, John Milton, Hugo Grotius (all three proto-liberals), and Aristotle. Indeed, it is on this basis that he is still studied today—essentially, as background reading for Locke and as an example, in intellectual history, of one strand of political thought in 17th-century England. We may not necessarily agree with all of Sir Robert's arguments or his conception of monarchy—there were obvious problems with it. Nevertheless, Sir Robert's criticisms of democracy remain interesting and quite relevant in our present age of egalitarian liberalism and mass democracy. The mere fact that he has been pushed to the margins by liberal political philosophy, held only as an outmoded anti-example, should be of interest to us, for it will be from the outer edge of the periphery of liberal thought that will find the means, through careful selection, adaptation, and development, to construct a machine with which to mount a successful challenge.