Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 25
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allowing them to choose their own sovereigns. Commonwealths, then, benefit citizens in that
they allow citizens freedom in a controlled environment or freedom within the parameters set by
social institutions and the sovereign. This is considerably more freedom than the state of nature
allows in that the people's rights are protected not only by individuals themselves, but also by
social institutions represented by a commonwealth.
Naturally, once citizens name a sovereign, they are beholden to him and the laws he
passes-civil laws. These laws are based on the Golden Rule written in the Gospel and the
Golden Rule is used to differentiate between what constitutes a crime and what is deemed
obedience to a law. In a commonwealth, "Civil law is," Hobbes writes, "to every subject, those
Rules, which the Commonwealth, hath Commanded him, by Word, Writing, or other Sufficient
Sign of the Will, to make use of, for the Distinction of Right, and Wrong; that is to say, of what
is contrary, and what is not contrary to the [Golden] Rule" (Hobbes 137). Naturally, the
sovereign, then, possesses considerably more power than the citizens over whom he rules
because he must distinguish between actions that are in complete alignment with the Golden
rule- obedient to civil law-and those that qualify as blatant opposition to it-disobedience to
Since the Golden Rule is the basis for civil law and is applied to actions to determine
whether or not they qualify as crimes, it makes sense that Hobbes constantly refers to it in
Leviathan. In fact, he returns to it in his discussion about crime and commonwealths. Hobbes
paraphrases and reiterates the Golden Rule and elaborates about what qualifies as a crime in a
civil government, specifically a commonwealth. He writes,
Ignorance of the Law of Nature Excuseth no man; because every man that hath attained
to the use of Reason, is supposed to know, he ought not to do to another, what he would
not have done to himselfe. Therefore into that place soever a man shall come, if he do
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Smith, Victoria. Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell, dissertation, May 2008; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc6051/m1/31/?q=rochester: accessed March 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .