Patriarcha, Or, The Natural Power of Kings
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Revision as of 14:59, 1 August 2013 by Jcarte18
by Sir Robert Filmer
...all of Filmer's political writings built on the foundation laid by Patriarcha. That book was a clearly organized and succinct work. It did three main things. First, it refuted all accounts of human society that suggested that the people were originally free, and that political authority originated in the consent of these free people. Filmer, displaying considerable acumen and powers of logic, was able to pick some sizeable holes in consent theory, and it is in this area that the book still has some force. Secondly, as an alternative account of the matter, Filmer identified political authority with the patriarchal authority of Adam. No human beings were ever born into freedom, because from creation onwards royal-patriarchal authority was in the hands of successors to the patriarchal authority of Adam, and then again of Noah. All modern kings were ‘either fathers of their people, or heirs of such fathers or usurpers of the right of such fathers’ (Sommerville, 2). Kings might be elected by their people, but the power that they executed was divinely instituted at the creation. Thirdly, Filmer used these arguments as a basis for a reading of the English constitution and its development. The natural patriarchal authority of kings was not limited by positive law. The king of England was ‘the author, interpreter and corrector of the common laws’ (Sommerville, 34). The liberties of parliament existed only by the monarch's grace, and, in point of fact, the Commons were not an original part of parliament. Many of Filmer's contemporaries believed that the tripartite character of the modern parliament had existed from before the Norman conquest, but he argued that the Commons had been summoned only from the time of Henry I. This proved, so Filmer argued, that the people had no natural or original right to parliamentary representation. 
Author: Sir Robert Filmer, (1588?-1653)
Title: Patriarcha, Or, The Natural Power of Kings
Published: London: Printed, and are to be sold by Walter Davis Book-binder, 1680.
Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library
Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy
View this book in William & Mary's online catalog.
- Glenn Burgess, ‘Filmer, Sir Robert (1588?–1653)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2009 accessed 11 June 2013