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Portrait of Bindo Altoviti (detail), by Raphael, ca. 1514
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (6 April or 28 March 1483 – 6 April 1520; aged 37)
Photo credit:  Wikipedia

In his Leviathan (1651), Thomas Hobbes (5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679) opposes what we would call private militias.  The families he is speaking of are the Gonzaga family, who ruled Mantua, the Medicis, who ruled Florence, the Sforza family, the rulers of Milan and other rulers.

Niccolò Machiavelli (3 May 1469 – 21 June 1527) knew these factious city-states.  He had worked for the Medicis and witnessed a constant struggle for power, a “war of all against all” (Thomas Hobbes), hence his advice to the prince.  For Machiavelli, “the end justifie[d] the means.”  How could his prince survive other than by being a “fox?”  Machiavelli’s Prince was published in 1532.  (The Prince is a Gutenberg publication.)

Feuds Of Private Families
“In all Common-wealths, if a private man entertain more servants, than the government of his estate, and lawfull employment he has for them requires, it is Faction, and unlawfull. For having the protection of the Common-wealth, he needeth not the defence of private force. And whereas in Nations not throughly civilized, severall numerous Families have lived in continuall hostility, and invaded one another with private force; yet it is evident enough, that they have done unjustly; or else that they had no Common-wealth.” (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Part II, xxii)

Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes

The Leviathan was published in 1651.  So Hobbes’ foresight amazes me.  His analysis of society, here a divided society, is as insightful and valid today as it was in 1651.  I should think that the common denominator is human nature.  It doesn’t change.


The US has militias and Canada has its indépendantistes.  Pierre Elliott Trudeau ended terrorism on the part of séparatistes in October 1970 when, at the request of the alarmed premier of Quebec, Robert Bourassa, and the Mayor of Montreal, Jean Drapeau, he sent in the troops.  There had been deaths throughout the 1960s: bombs placed in mailboxes and during the October Crisis, Pierre Laporte, Quebec’s Minister of Labour, was kidnapped and killed.

However, former Quebec Premier Jean Charest (born John James Charest on June 24, 1958), a member of the federalist Liberal Party, was defeated by Pauline Marois’ Parti Québécois in the Quebec General Election, held on 4 September 2012.  So, there may be yet another referendum: “to separate” or “not to separate.”  I fully understand that we French-speaking Canadians should protect our heritage, but…


Canada is not about to enter into a Civil War.  The citizens of Quebec would not agree to this kind of disorder, but I no longer live in Hobbes’ “Common-wealth.”  It was bilingual, bicultural, hospitable and, under Pierre Elliott Trudeau leadership, “[t]here [was] no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”  (Omnibus Bill, 1967).  Quebec is a unilingual province.  Immigrants to Quebec have to learn French, which is not too problematical.  However, the citizens of Quebec must pay taxes to both the Quebec Government and the Federal Government and a Quebecker‘s  health-insurance card does not cover visits to a doctor outside Quebec. Fortunately, it covers hospitalization.  These restrictions would not exist if, in 1982, Quebec had signed the patriated Canadian Constitution.[i]  So, to a certain extent, Quebec is a country within a country.

The Commander-in-Chief

President Obama has been criticized for this and criticized for that, but President Obama is the kind of leader who allows not just the United States but the world to feel safer.  We breathed a huge sigh of relief when he was re-elected to the Presidency of the United States of America.  I’m not saying that he is perfect, no one is.  For instance, I would like him to be quite ruthless with respect to gun ownership and the presence of militias.  In other words, I would like him to use his authority as commander-in-chief of the armed forces to the fullest extent.

Let us hope, with respect to gun-control, that Congress will not be divided, but if it is, President Obama may have to use whatever mechanisms he may use as commander-in-chief to ensure the security of Americans.  Between the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the militias, the United States has armies within armies as well as its official armed forces, the only legitimate army.  A house divided


Barack Obama was re-elected to the Presidency of the United States, despite near certainty on the part of members of the Republican Party that Mitt Romney would emerge a winner.  However, Americans knew that President Obama was the better candidate.  So I believe that the persons who have re-elected him also know that the better decision is to take the guns away and will support him in his effort to curb and perhaps end the massacres, the staggering number of deaths by gun and the presence of militias, Hobbes’ factious “private force.”

Related posts:
Machiavelli & Reynard the Fox (19/10/2011)
Il Cortegiano, or l’honnête homme (3/10/2011)[ii] 
The October Crisis: “Just Watch Me” (29/10/2012)
[i] See “Patriation of the Constitution,” The Canadian Encyclopedia.
[ii] Baldassare Castiglione  (6 December 1478 – 2 February 1529) wrote The Book of the Courtier (Il Cortegiano), published in 1528.
composer: Giuseppe Torelli (22 April 1658 – 8 February 1709)
piece: Concerto for 4 Violins in A Minor
performers: Musica Antique Koln
conductor: Reinhard Goebel

Machiavelli, by Santi di Tito

Machiavelli, by Santi di Tito

© Micheline Walker
15 January 2013