Patriarchy and politics: a comparative evaluation of the religious, political and social thought of Sir Robert Filmer and Robert Lewis Dabney.




Davenport, R. Dean.

Access rights

Worldwide access

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This dissertation examines the religious, political and social thought of Sir Robert Filmer and his influence in early America. Filmer was a seventeenth-century English political theorist whose thought was critiqued by John Locke in The First Treatise of Government. Filmer subscribed to a patriarchical theory of the origins of government, a view held by many pre-modern political thinkers. In this dissertation the historical roots of the patriarchal theory and its conflict with the modern, social contract theory are discussed. Filmer's critique of the social contract theories of Hugo Grotius, Thomas Hobbes and John Milton also are considered, thus setting the stage for an examination of Filmer’s relationship to Locke. The influence of Filmer in early America is then addressed. Filmer was more popular in the colonial South, especially among the Anglicans and Royalists of Virginia, but had few admirers in New England where Puritanism and the social-contract thought of Locke and Milton prevailed. The relationship between Filmer's thought and the religious, political and social views of later antebellum thinkers also is examined, with particular attention given to Robert Lewis Dabney, a nineteenth-century Presbyterian theologian from Virginia.


Includes bibliographical references (p. 414-445).


Dabney, Robert Lewis, 1820-1898., Filmer, Robert, Sir, d. 1653., Political science -- Early works to 1800.