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AN UNKNOWN POLICY PROPOSAL BY THOMAS HOBBES

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 February 2012

NOEL MALCOLM*
Affiliation:
All Souls College, Oxford
*
All Souls College, Oxford OX1 4ALnoel.malcolm@all-souls.ox.ac.uk

Abstract

An undated document survives, in Thomas Hobbes's hand, urging the royalist side in the Civil War to win over Robert Rich, the second earl of Warwick (the parliamentarian naval commander). By this means, Hobbes argued, not only would the royalists win the war, but also England would be defended against a Swedish invasion, which he expected to accompany or follow the Scottish invasion of the country. This communication presents the text of the document and gives reasons for dating it not to 1648 (when an attempt to win over Warwick was in fact made) but to late 1643 or early 1644. It also discusses the basis of Hobbes's concern with Scottish–Swedish relations, and his misinterpretation of Swedish policy. It comments on his estimate of Warwick's character, in the light of his earlier connections with him; and it briefly discusses both Hobbes's assumption in this document of the role of a counsellor to the king, and the interpretation of the nature of the Civil War that the document implies.

Type
Communication
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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References

1 See Bell, G. M., A handlist of British diplomatic representatives, 1509–1688 (London, 1990), p. 112Google Scholar; J. Peacey, ‘Browne, Sir Richard, baronet, 1605–1683’, in H. C. G. Matthew and B. Harrison, eds., Oxford dictionary of national biography (60 vols., Oxford, 2004), viii, pp. 190–1.

2 Browne's papers are now in the British Library (BL), MSS Add. 78189–78263. Some items of his personal correspondence were published in J. Evelyn, Diary and correspondence, ed. W. Bray (4 vols., London, 1859), iv, pp. 233–353.

3 BL, MS Add. 78205, fo. 108. Deletions in the MS are given here in square brackets with the annotation ‘del.’ (but only deleted material amounting to entire words is recorded); interlinear insertions are given in square brackets with the symbol ‘>’; uncertain readings are followed by an italicized question mark. The nature of the deletions strongly indicates that Hobbes was composing this document as he wrote it. The document is a small folio that has been folded to make a bifolium (fos. 108–9); Hobbes's text is on fo. 108r–v, and the endorsement is on fo. 109v. I am very grateful to Hilton Kelliher and Timothy Raylor, who first notified me of the existence of this document, and to David Scott, who also brought it to my attention, and commented very helpfully on a draft of this article. I am also grateful to the two anonymous readers of this article for the Historical Journal for helpful comments and suggestions.

4 Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Clarendon 31, fo. 243r (referring to Henry Seymour, one of the prince's courtiers). See also Prince Charles his summons sent to the lord admiral to take down his standard and come under his highnesse obedience. And the earl of Warwicks answer (London, 1648), pp. 13Google Scholar; E. Hyde, earl of Clarendon, The history of the rebellion and Civil Wars in England, ed. W. D. Macray (6 vols., Oxford, 1888), iv, p. 364 (xi.69); Capp, B., Cromwell's navy: the fleet and the English revolution, 1648–1660 (Oxford, 1989), p. 36CrossRefGoogle Scholar; C. T. Maples, ‘Parliament's admiral: the parliamentary and naval career of Robert Rich, second earl of Warwick, during the reign of Charles I’ (Ph.D. thesis, Alabama, 1975), pp. 224–5.

5 The declaration and resolution of Robert earle of Warwick, lord admirall for the king (London, 1648), pp. 4Google Scholar (quotation), 6; Maples, ‘Parliament's admiral’, p. 237. For Warwick's disavowal of this, see The remonstrance and declaration of his excellencie Robert E. of Warwick lord high admirall of England; concerning the king, parliament, army and kingdome (London, 1648)Google Scholar. For evidence of the strength of such rumours, see for example the letter of 7/17 Nov. 1648 from a royalist officer in Kilkenny reporting ‘that the Lord of Warwicke with his Fleet hath submitted to the Prince’ (House of Lords journal, x, p. 629). As late as 29 Jan./8 Feb. 1649 the marquis of Ormonde (also in Kilkenny) was hopeful that Warwick would respond to an ‘overture’ (Historical Manuscripts Commission, Report on the Pepys manuscripts, preserved at Magdalene College, Cambridge (London, 1911), p. 249Google Scholar). See also Ashton, R., Counter-revolution: the second Civil War and its origins (New Haven, CT, 1994), p. 414Google Scholar n. 179.

6 Clarendon, describing the attempt to win over Warwick in 1648, writes that ‘it was well known that the earl was privy to the engagement of his brother the earl of Holland, and had promised to join with him’ (History, iv, p. 364 (xi.69)). Evidence to substantiate this is entirely lacking.

7 Fotheringham, J. G., ed. and trans., The diplomatic correspondence of Jean de Montereul and the brothers de Bellievre, French ambassadors in England and Scotland, 1645–1648 (2 vols., Publications of the Scottish History Society, xxixxxx (Edinburgh, 1898–9), i, p. 427Google Scholar.

8 A declaration of his excellency, Robert E. of Warwick, lord high admiral of England, concerning the uniting of the two navies and restoring of the kings majesty (London, 1648), p. 2Google Scholar; cf. Maples, ‘Parliament's admiral’, pp. 238–9, noting that the authenticity of this letter is not certain.

9 Parker, G., ed., The Thirty Years' War (2nd edn, London, 1997), pp. 168–9Google Scholar. The treaty transferred to Swedish rule two significant northern German territories, Vorpommern (western Pomerania), and the duchies of Bremen and Verden, as well as several towns and islands (Öhman, J., Der Kampf um den Frieden: Schweden und der Kaiser im Dreissigjährigen Krieg (Vienna, 2005), p. 208Google Scholar).

10 He succeeded to the formal title in Dec. 1643, but had in effect been commander-in-chief of the navy since July 1642. The fact that Hobbes's proposal was given to Browne also supports this dating; in 1644, Browne would have been the natural conduit for transmitting suggestions to the royalist policy-makers in England (a situation that no longer applied in 1648).

11 Tingsten, L., Fältmarskalkarna Johan Baner och Lennart Torstensson såsom härförare (Stockholm, 1932), pp. 235–44Google Scholar; Böhme, K.-R., ‘Lennart Torstensson und Helmut Wrangel in Schleswig-Holstein und Jütland 1643–1645’, Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für schleswig-holsteinische Geschichte, 90 (1965), pp. 4182Google Scholar, esp. pp. 41–7; Englund, P., Ofredsår: om den svenska stormaktstiden och en man i dess mitt (Stockholm, 1993), pp. 304–7Google Scholar.

12 It is possible that Hobbes had also been misled by exaggerated reports, in the late summer of 1643, of an imperial victory over the Swedes in Moravia: the royalist English agent in Hamburg, James Averie, relayed this news to Richard Browne in a letter dated 15/25 Aug., adding that ‘Feldmarshall Tortenson is sayd to be retreated wth his armie into Bohemia’ (BL, MS Add. 78189, fo. 1v).

13 Richard Browne, on the other hand, was quick to grasp the underlying strategy, referring perceptively in his despatch of 19/29 Jan. 1644 to ‘The retreate of the Sueds out of the Empire to invade Denmark, there to beginne a new Warre and frustrate that Kings Mediation in the [Generall Treaty del.] intended assembly at Munster’ (BL, MS Add. 12184, fo. 253r).

14 I am very grateful to one of the anonymous readers of this article for the Historical Journal for this suggestion.

15 See Terry, C. S., ed., Papers relating to the army of the Solemn League and Covenant, 1643–1647 (2 vols., Publications of the Scottish History Society, ser. 2, xvi–xvii, Edinburgh, 1917), i, pp. xxxxiiiGoogle Scholar; Gardiner, S. R., History of the Great Civil War, 1642–1649 (3 vols., London, 1886–91), i, pp. 275–6Google Scholar.

16 BL, MS Add. 12184, fo. 250r. This follows a sequence of despatches dated (in New Style) 13 Nov., 11 Dec., 25 Dec., 1 Jan. and 8 Jan. (fos. 237–49).

17 Svenska Riksrådets protokoll, Handlingar rörande Sveriges historia, 3rd ser. (18 vols., Stockholm, 1878–1929), vii, pp. 252, 274, 276, 278; Murdoch, S., Britain, Denmark-Norway and the house of Stuart, 1603–1660: a diplomatic and military analysis (East Linton, 2000), pp. 91, 102Google Scholar; A. Grosjean, ‘General Alexander Leslie, the Scottish covenanters and the Riksråd debates, 1638–1640’, in A. I. Macinnes, T. Riis, and F. G. Pedersen, eds., Ships, guns and bibles in the North Sea and the Baltic states (East Linton, 2000), pp. 115–38; A. Grosjean and S. Murdoch, ‘The Riksråd debates, 1638–1640’, documents 117 and 118, in Erskine, C., Macdonald, A. R., and Penman, M., eds., Scotland: the making and unmaking of the nation, c. 1100–1707, v: Major documents (Dundee, 2007), pp. 214–23Google Scholar, esp. pp. 214–16.

18 Svenska Riksrådets protokoll, viii, pp. 97–100, 158–60; Grosjean, A., An unofficial alliance: Scotland and Sweden, 1569–1654 (Leiden, 2003), pp. 175–80Google Scholar; Macinnes, A., The British confederate: Archibald Campbell, marquis of Argyll, c. 1607–1661 (Edinburgh, 2011), pp. 119–20Google Scholar.

19 Cope, E. S. and Coates, W. H., eds., Proceedings of the Short Parliament of 1640 (Camden Fourth Series, 19, London, 1977), p. 77Google Scholar.

20 Svenska Riksrådets protokoll, x, p. 192: ‘det fuller skulle skada oss, där Kongen i Engelandh spelte mestare, efter han 1. är catholisk, 2. godh dansk’.

21 Murdoch, Britain, Denmark–Norway, pp. 121–4. Danish support for the royalists was regarded as a real threat by English parliamentarians; the first English news pamphlet about the Swedish attack on Denmark, printed on 30 Dec. 1643, was entitled A relation of the entrance of the Swedish armie into the territories of the king of Denmark … wherein we may take notice of Gods providence in frustrating the king of Denmarks designe to assist our king against the parliament.

22 Svenska Riksrådets protokoll, x, pp. 192–3 (p. 193: ‘om Skottarne skole kunna hielpa oss’). The envoy, Hugh Mowatt, received his instructions in Mar. 1644 (p. 465).

23 Grosjean, Unofficial alliance, p. 200; Murdoch, Britain, Denmark–Norway, p. 126.

24 J. R. Young, ‘The Scottish parliament and European diplomacy, 1641–1647: the Palatine, the Dutch Republic and Sweden’, in S. Murdoch, ed., Scotland and the Thirty Years' War, 1618–1648 (Leiden, 2001), pp. 77–106, at p. 93.

25 Hamilton, W. Douglas, ed., Calendar of state papers, domestic, 1644 (London, 1888), p. 95Google Scholar.

26 Hobbes was not the only observer to assume close links between Scottish and Swedish policy: later in 1644, the London merchant Thomas Juxon apparently believed that the Swedish attack on Denmark had been instigated by the Scots in order to weaken the royalist cause (Lindley, K. and Scott, D., eds., The journal of Thomas Juxon, 1644–1647 (Camden Fifth Series, 13, London, 1999), p. 62Google Scholar).

27 Donagan, B., ‘The clerical patronage of Robert Rich, second earl of Warwick, 1619–1642’, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 120 (1976), pp. 388419Google Scholar; Hunt, W., The puritan moment: the coming of revolution in an English county (Cambridge, MA, 1983), pp. 164–5Google Scholar, 193–4, 254, 259–60.

28 Maples, ‘Parliament's admiral’, pp. 21–30; Hunt, Puritan moment, pp. 267–71; Adamson, J., The noble revolt: the overthrow of Charles I (London, 2007), pp. 30–5Google Scholar.

29 Maples, ‘Parliament's admiral’, pp. 61–8.

30 Ibid., pp. 98–121; Thompson, C., The earl of Warwick's ‘running army’, the county of Essex and the Eastern Association, 1642–1643 (Wivenhoe, 1999)Google Scholar.

31 Kingsbury, S. M., ed., Records of the Virginia Company of London (4 vols., Washington, DC, 1906–35), ii, pp. 244–5Google Scholar, 263, 293, 340–1, 364. On Hobbes's involvement see Malcolm, N., Aspects of Hobbes (Oxford, 2002), pp. 5379CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

32 Kingsbury, ed., Records, ii, p. 46.

33 Lyle, J. V., ed., Acts of the privy council of England, 3 July 1621 to 30 May 1623 (London, 1932), p. 491Google Scholar.

34 Craven, W. F., The dissolution of the Virginia Company (Oxford, 1932), pp. 308–10Google Scholar.

35 Craven, W. F., ‘The earl of Warwick, a speculator in piracy’, Hispanic American Historical Review, 10 (1930), pp. 457–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at pp. 463–5.

36 Beatty, J. L., Warwick and Holland, being the lives of Robert and Henry Rich (Denver, CO, 1965), pp. 8197Google Scholar.

37 Hyde, History, i, pp. 242 (iii.27), 309 (iii.146), ii, p. 544 (vi.404); Beatty, Warwick and Holland, pp. 220–30.

38 Hunt comments: ‘Warwick equated Protestantism with national prosperity’ (Puritan moment, p. 169).

39 See T. Hobbes, Correspondence, ed. N. Malcolm (2 vols., Oxford, 1994), ii, pp. 806–9.

40 Robert, born in 1623, was touring continental Europe between 1642 and 1646. While his father was a moderate parliamentarian, Robert later became ‘an active royalist conspirator’, and, in 1659, he was the intermediary for a donation to Charles II from an unnamed woman who was probably his aunt Christian (T. F. Henderson, ‘Bruce, Robert, second earl of Elgin and first earl of Ailesbury’, revised by V. Stater, in Matthew and Harrison, eds., Oxford dictionary of national biography, viii, p. 324).

41 McClure, N. E., ed., The letters of John Chamberlain (2 vols., Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society, xii, parts i, ii, Philadelphia, PA, 1939), ii, p. 509Google Scholar.

42 Sefton-Jones, M., Old Devonshire House by Bishopsgate (London, 1923), p. 132Google Scholar.

43 Pomfret, T., The life of the right honourable and religious lady Christian late countess dowager of Devonshire (London, 1685), pp. 60, 72–3Google Scholar.

44 Underdown, D., Royalist conspiracy in England (New Haven, CT, 1960), p. 191Google Scholar.

45 Hobbes, Correspondence, i, pp. 8, 10 (n.), 120–1, 169–71; Malcolm, N. and Tolonen, M., ‘The correspondence of Thomas Hobbes: some new items’, Historical Journal, 51 (2008), pp. 481–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at p. 486.

46 Hobbes, Correspondence, i, pp. 114–15. Jason Peacey writes that Browne went to Paris in 1636 (‘Browne, Sir Richard’); but his papers include material relating to the beginning of Scudamore's embassy in 1635 (BL, MS Add. 78202; see also despatches by Scudamore in Browne's hand in BL, MS Add. 35097).

47 BL, MSS Add. 78205, fo. 110r (and cf. fo. 117r); Add. 78199, fo. 48r (quotation). The ‘long acquaintance’ which, by 1651, John Evelyn said he had with Hobbes (J. Evelyn, Diary, ed. E. de Beer (6 vols., Oxford, 1955), iii, p. 41) may have originated in Browne's residence in Paris.

48 BL, MS Add. 12184 (despatches to Lord Digby and Sir Edward Nicholas); nor is it mentioned in BL, MS Add. 78194 (Richard Browne, letters to Sir Edward Nicholas). If the proposal post-dated the Scottish invasion, Browne would have been quick to see that one of its premises, concerning the motivation of the Swedes, was false: see n. 13, above.

49 Hobbes, T., Leviathan (London, 1651), p. 134Google Scholar. (The page-numbers of this edition are given in most modern editions.)

50 Ibid., p. 184. The comparison with geometry here (a science studied by Hobbes) served, delicately but unmistakably, to make a self-regarding point.

51 Ibid., p. 134.

52 Ibid., p. 41.

53 T. Hobbes, The elements of law, natural and politic, ed. F. Tönnies (London, 1889), p. 183 (ii.ix.7).

54 Hobbes, Leviathan, pp. 174, 185.

55 Ibid., p. 183.

56 T. Hobbes, Behemoth, ed. P. Seaward (Oxford, 2010), p. 274 (fo. 60r); cf. also p. 253 (fo. 53r).

57 Ibid., p. 145 (fo. 15r).

58 Ibid., pp. 242 (fo. 49v), 255 (fo. 54r).

59 Ibid., pp. 179 (fo. 27r), 214 (fo. 40v).

60 T. Hobbes, Critique du De mundo de Thomas White, ed. J. Jacquot and H. W. Jones (Paris, 1973), p. 424 (fo. 439r): ‘quorum nulla alia origo erat quàm quòd improbi quidam homines, qui ad consilium non vocarentur, rati sapientiam suam minus aeque aestimari, consuluerunt civibus arma inferre Regi’.

61 Hobbes, Elements of law, p. 169 (ii.viii.3).

62 Hobbes, Leviathan, p. 60. Even here the basic meaning is the general one, equally applicable to secular institutions, of improvement by re-modelling; cf., for example, the reference to the need for a ‘Reformation of the Vniuersities’ in Behemoth, p. 182 (fo. 28r).

63 Hobbes, Leviathan, pp. 87, 177.