Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXIV.: of the nutrition, and procreation of a commonwealth. - The English Works, vol. III (Leviathan)
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CHAPTER XXIV.: of the nutrition, and procreation of a commonwealth. - Thomas Hobbes, The English Works, vol. III (Leviathan) 
The English Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury; Now First Collected and Edited by Sir William Molesworth, Bart., (London: Bohn, 1839-45). 11 vols. Vol. 3.
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of the nutrition, and procreation of a commonwealth.
The nourishment of a commonwealth consisteth in the commodities of sea and land.
The nutrition of a commonwealth consisteth, in the plenty, and distribution of materials conducing to life: in concoction, or preparation; and, when concocted, in the conveyance of it, by convenient conduits, to the public use.
As for the plenty of matter, it is a thing limited by nature, to those commodities, which from the two breasts of our common mother, land and sea, God usually either freely giveth, or for labour selleth to mankind.
For the matter of this nutriment, consisting in animals, vegetals, and minerals, God hath freely laid them before us, in or near to the face of the earth; so as there needeth no more but the labour, and industry of receiving them. Insomuch as plenty dependeth, next to God’s favour, merely on the labour and industry of men.
This matter, commonly called commodities, is partly native, and partly foreign: native, that which is to be had within the territory of the commonwealth: foreign, that which is imported from without. And because there is no territory under the dominion of one commonwealth, except it be of very vast extent, that produceth all things needful for the maintenance, and motion of the whole body; and few that produce not some thing more than necessary; the superfluous commodities to be had within, become no more superfluous, but supply these wants at home, by importation of that which may be had abroad, either by exchange, or by just war, or by labour. For a man’s labour also, is a commodity exchangeable for benefit, as well as any other thing: and there have been commonwealths that having no more territory, than hath served them for habitation, have nevertheless, not only maintained, but also encreased their power, partly by the labour of trading from one place to another, and partly by selling the manufactures whereof the materials were brought in from other places.
And the right distribution of them.
The distribution of the materials of this nourishment, is the constitution of mine, and thine, and his; that is to say, in one word propriety; and belongeth in all kinds of commonwealth to the sovereign power. For where there is no commonwealth, there is, as hath been already shown, a perpetual war of every man against his neighbour; and therefore every thing is his that getteth it, and keepeth it by force; which is neither propriety, nor community; but uncertainty. Which is so evident, that even Cicero, a passionate defender of liberty, in a public pleading, attributeth all propriety to the law civil. Let the civil law, saith he, be once abandoned, or but negligently guarded, not to say oppressed, and there is nothing, that any man can be sure to receive from his ancestor, or leave to his children. And again; Take away the civil law, and no man knows what is his own,and what another man’s. Seeing therefore the introduction of propriety is an effect of commonwealth, which can do nothing but by the person that represents it, it is the act only of the sovereign; and consisteth in the laws, which none can make that have not the sovereign power. And this they well knew of old, who called that Νόμοϛ, that is to say, distribution, which we call law; and defined justice, by distributing to every man his own.
All private estates of land proceed originally from the arbitrary distribution of the sovereign.
In this distribution, the first law, is for division of the land itself: wherein the sovereign assigneth to every man a portion, according as he, and not according as any subject, or any number of them, shall judge agreeable to equity, and the common good. The children of Israel, were a commonwealth in the wilderness; but wanted the commodities of the earth, till they were masters of the Land of Promise; which afterward was divided amongst them, not by their own discretion, but by the discretion of Eleazar the Priest, and Joshua their General, who, when there were twelve tribes, making them thirteen by subdivision of the tribe of Joseph, made nevertheless but twelve portions of the land; and ordained for the tribe of Levi no land; but assigned them the tenth part of the whole fruits; which division was therefore arbitrary. And though a people coming into possession of a land by war, do not always exterminate the ancient inhabitants, as did the Jews, but leave to many, or most, or all of them their estates; yet it is manifest they hold them afterwards, as of the victors’ distribution; as the people of England held all theirs of William the Conqueror.
Propriety of subject excludes not the dominion of the sovereign, but only of another subject
From whence we may collect, that the propriety which a subject hath in his lands, consisteth in a right to exclude all other subjects from the use of them; and not to exclude their sovereign, be it an assembly, or a monarch. For seeing the sovereign, that is to say, the commonwealth, whose person he representeth, is understood to do nothing but in order to the common peace and security, this distribution of lands, is to be understood as done in order to the same: and consequently, whatsoever distribution he shall make in prejudice thereof, is contrary to the will of every subject, that committed his peace, and safety to his discretion, and conscience; and therefore by the will of every one of them, is to be reputed void. It is true, that a sovereign monarch, or the greater part of a sovereign assembly, may ordain the doing of many things in pursuit of their passions, contrary to their own consciences, which is a breach of trust, and of the law of nature; but this is not enough to authorize any subject, either to make war upon, or so much as to accuse of injustice, or any way to speak evil of their sovereign; because they have authorized all his actions, and in bestowing the sovereign power, made them their own. But in what cases the commands of sovereigns are contrary to equity, and the law of nature, is to be considered hereafter in another place.
The public is not to be dieted.
In the distribution of land, the commonwealth itself, may be conceived to have a portion, and possess, and improve the same by their representative; and that such portion may be made sufficient, to sustain the whole expense to the common peace, and defence necessarily required. Which were very true, if there could be any representative conceived free from human passions, and infirmities. But the nature of men being as it is, the setting forth of public land, or of any certain revenue for the commonwealth, is in vain; and tendeth to the dissolution of government, and to the condition of mere nature, and war, as soon as ever the sovereign power falleth into the hands of a monarch, or of an assembly, that are either too negligent of money, or too hazardous in engaging the public stock into a long or costly war. Commonwealths can endure no diet: for seeing their expense is not limited by their own appetite, but by external accidents, and the appetites of their neighbours, the public riches cannot be limited by other limits, than those which the emergent occasions shall require. And whereas in England, there were by the Conqueror, divers lands reserved to his own use, besides forests and chases, either for his recreation, or preservation of woods, and divers services reserved on the land he gave his subjects; yet it seems they were not reserved for his maintenance in his public, but in his natural capacity. For he, and his successors did for all that, lay arbitrary taxes on all subjects’ land, when they judged it necessary. Or if those public lands, and services, were ordained as a sufficient maintenance of the commonwealth, it was contrary to the scope of the institution; being, as it appeared by those ensuing taxes, insufficient, and, as it appears by the late small revenue of the crown, subject to alienation and diminution. It is therefore in vain, to assign a portion to the commonwealth; which may sell, or give it away; and does sell and give it away, when it is done by their representative.
The places and matter of traffic depend, as their distribution, on the sovereign.
As the distribution of lands at home; so also to assign in what places, and for what commodities, the subject shall traffic abroad, belongeth to the sovereign. For if it did belong to private persons to use their own discretion therein, some of them would be drawn for gain, both to furnish the enemy with means to hurt the commonwealth, and hurt it themselves, by importing such things, as pleasing men’s appetites, be nevertheless noxious, or at least unprofitable to them. And therefore it belongeth to the commonwealth, that is, to the sovereign only, to approve, or disapprove both of the places, and matter of foreign traffic.
The laws of transferring propriety belong also to the sovereign.
Further, seeing it is not enough to the sustentation of a commonwealth, that every man have a propriety in a portion of land, or in some few commodities, or a natural property in some useful art, and there is no art in the world, but is necessary either for the being, or well being almost of every particular man; it is necessary, that men distribute that which they can spare, and transfer their propriety therein, mutually one to another, by exchange, and mutual contract. And therefore it belongeth to the commonwealth, that is to say, to the sovereign, to appoint in what manner all kinds of contract between subjects, as buying, selling, exchanging, borrowing, lending, letting, and taking to hire, are to be made; and by what words and signs they shall be understood for valid. And for the matter, and distribution of the nourishment, to the several members of the commonwealth, thus much, considering the model of the whole work, is sufficient.
Money the blood of a commonwealth.
By concoction, I understand the reducing of all commodities, which are not presently consumed, but reserved for nourishment in time to come, to something of equal value, and withal so portable, as not to hinder the motion of men from place to place; to the end a man may have in what place soever, such nourishment as the place affordeth. And this is nothing else but gold, and silver, and money. For gold and silver, being, as it happens, almost in all countries of the world highly valued, is a commodious measure of the value of all things else between nations; and money, of what matter soever coined by the sovereign of a commonwealth, is a sufficient measure of the value of all things else, between the subjects of that commonwealth. By the means of which measures, all commodities, moveable and immoveable, are made to accompany a man to all places of his resort, within and without the place of his ordinary residence; and the same passeth from man to man, within the commonwealth; and goes round about, nourishing, as it passeth, every part thereof; in so much as this concoction, is as it were the sanguification of the commonwealth: for natural blood is in like manner made of the fruits of the earth; and circulating, nourisheth by the way every member of the body of man.
And because silver and gold have their value from the matter itself; they have first this privilege, that the value of them cannot be altered by the power of one, nor of a few commonwealths; as being a common measure of the commodities of all places. But base money, may easily be enhanced, or abased. Secondly, they have the privilege to make commonwealths move, and stretch out their arms, when need is, into foreign countries: and supply, not only private subjects that travel, but also whole armies with provision. But that coin, which is not considerable for the matter, but for the stamp of the place, being unable to endure change of air, hath its effect at home only; where also it is subject to the change of laws, and thereby to have the value diminished, to the prejudice many times of those that have it.
The conduits and way of money to the public use.
The conduits, and ways by which it is conveyed to the public use, are of two sorts: one, that conveyeth it to the public coffers; the other, that issueth the same out again for public payments. Of the first sort, are collectors, receivers, and treasurers; of the second, are the treasurers again, and the officers appointed for payment of several public or private ministers. And in this also, the artificial man maintains his resemblance with the natural; whose veins receiving the blood from the several parts of the body, carry it to the heart; where being made vital, the heart by the arteries sends it out again, to enliven, and enable for motion all the members of the same.
The children of a commonwealth colonies
The procreation or children of a commonwealth, are those we call plantations, or colonies; which are numbers of men sent out from the commonwealth, under a conductor, or governor, to inhabit a foreign country, either formerly void of inhabitants, or made void then by war. And when a colony is settled, they are either a commonwealth of themselves, discharged of their subjection to their sovereign that sent them, as hath been done by many commonwealths, of ancient time, in which case the commonwealth from which they went, was called their metropolis or mother, and requires no more of them, than fathers require of the children, whom they emancipate and make free from their domestic government, which is honour, and friendship; or else they remain united to their metropolis, as were the colonies of the people of Rome; and then they are no commonwealths themselves, but provinces, and parts of the commonwealth that sent them. So that the right of colonies, saving honour and league witht heir metropolis, dependeth wholly on their licence or letters, by which their sovereign authorized them to plant.