A little more than two centuries ago, Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury published his great treatise on government, under the title of Leviathan; or, the Matter, Form, and Power of the Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil, in which he denied that man is born a social being, that government has any natural foundation, and, in a word, all of what men now agree to be the first principles, and receive as axioms, of social and civil science; and declared that man is a beast of prey, a wolf; whose natural state is war, and that government is only a contrivance of men for their own gain, a strong chain thrown over the citizen, organized, despotic, unprincipled power. To this faithless and impious work, which at least did good by shocking the world and rallying many of the best minds to develop and defend the true principles of society and the state, he put a fit frontispiece, a picture of the vast form of Leviathan, the Sovereign State, the Mortal God—a gigantic figure, like that of Giant Despair or the horrid shapes we have sometimes seen pictured as brooding over the Valley of the Shadow of Death—a Titanic form, whose crowned head and mailed body fill the background and rise above the distant hills and mountain-peaks in the broad landscape which is spread out below, with fields, rivers, harbors, cities, castles, churches, towns and villages, and ships upon the seas and in the ports. Its body and limbs are made up of countless human figures, of every class, all bending reverently toward the sovereign head. Its arms stretch forward to the foreground. In one hand it holds a magnificent crosier, in the other a mighty sword, which reach across and cover the whole. It is surrounded with emblems of power, of which it is the life and embodiment. In the front is a fortified city, with its streets and gate, its cathedral rising high above all other structures, surmounted by the cross, the flag flying from the forts, the sentinel on the ramparts. Its fortresses seem to defy and command the whole empire over which Leviathan predominates. To show more fully how all-pervading and resistless is the power of this monster made of mortal men, and the means and extent of its control in Church and State, to impress the senses, the emblems of its spheres and its instruments are depicted below. First is a castle on a rocky height, with the smoke rolling from its battlements, from which a cannon has just been fired; opposite, a church, with a figure holding the cross above its roof of faith; here a coronet, opposite a mitre; here is a cannon, to thunder in civil war; opposite are the mythic thunderbolts for the fulminations of the Church; below are arms, drums, banners and flags, helmet and halberd, spear and sword and matchlock; opposite appears a front, between the devilish horns of which, marked “dilemma,” is formed a sort of trophy, made up of a trident spear, labelled “syllogism,” and bifurcated weapons, named “real and intentional,” “spiritual and temporal,” and one beyond whose long straight point, labelled “direct,” there is another sharp, keen one, curving round and covering it, labelled “indirect;” last is the battlefield, with armies rushing together in deadly charge, their flags flying above the long lines whose sloping spears bristle above the clouds of smoke and dust, the cavalry and foot engaged with sabres and pistols, men and horses fallen, the victors, the wounded, the dying, and the dead, the dread arbitrament of war; opposite, the judges ranged in formal order, with their caps and black robes, a Rhadamanthine tribunal. Seeing such a summary and embodiment of his idea, a man will shudder the more he ponders on such a conception of the state as such a monstrous idol, which men have fashioned out of their own bodies and invested with the attributes of superhuman power, and worshipped as the creator of Justice and Law, Peace and Order, Truth and Religion, and served and obeyed as their Tyrant and King.
The American state, which, as Franklin said, “first set forth religious truth as the basis of government,” formed by the people, who, calling on all mankind to witness their solemn appeal to the Supreme Judge of the world, “pledged themselves,” as Adams said, “to extinguish Slavery as soon as practicable,” the state formed to establish justice, the state for which the founders reverently adopted as the true emblem the Goddess of Liberty, had, at the time when Slavery, the patricide, waged this war to finish the revolution already almost complete, so essentially changed, that it bore a striking resemblance to that dreadful picture of the giant form of the Leviathan. Populus Romanus repente factus est alius.