[I]n the nature of things all men are born free; so that, consequently, no person has political jurisdiction over another person, even as no person has dominion over another; nor is there any reason why such power should, [simply] in the nature of things, be attributed to certain persons over certain other persons, rather than vice versa...By virtue of his creation only and his natural origin, one may infer simply that Adam possessed domestic—not political—power. For he had power over his wife, and later he possessed the patria potestas over his children until they were emancipated. In the course of time, he may also have had servants and a complete household with full power over the same, the power called ‘domestic’. But after families began to multiply, and the individual heads of individual families began to separate, those heads possessed the same power over their respective households. Political power, however, did not make its appearance until many families began to congregate into one perfect community. Accordingly, since this community had its beginning, not in the creation of Adam nor solely by his will, but rather by the will of all who were assembled therein, we are unable to make any well-founded statement to the effect that Adam, in the [very] nature of things, held a political primacy in the said community. For such an inference cannot be drawn from natural principles, since it is not the progenitor’s due, by the sole force of natural law, that he shall also be king over his posterity.
But, granted that this inference does not follow upon natural principles, neither have we sufficient foundation for the assertion that God has bestowed such power upon that [progenitor], through a special donation or act of providence, since we have had no revelation to this effect, nor does Holy Scripture so testify to us...Therefore, the power of political dominion or rule over men has not been granted, directly by God, to any particular human individual....
The power in question resides, by the sole force of natural law, in the whole body of mankind [collectively regarded].
The proof is as follows: this power does exist in men, and it does not exist in each individual, nor in any specific individual, as has also been shown; therefore, it exists in mankind viewed collectively, for our foregoing division [into the two alternatives] sufficiently covers the case....
The multitude of mankind should, then, be viewed from another standpoint, that is, with regard to the special volition, or common consent, by which they are gathered together into one political body through one bond of fellowship and for the purpose of aiding one another in the attainment of a single political end. Thus viewed, they form a single mystical body which, morally speaking, may be termed essentially a unity; and that body accordingly needs a single head. Therefore, in a community of this kind, viewed as such, there exists in the very nature of things the power of which we are speaking, so that men may not, when forming such a group, set up obstacles to that power; and consequently, if we conceive of men as desiring both alternatives—that is to say, as desirous of so congregating, but on the condition (as it were) that they shall not be subject to the said power—the situation would be self-contradictory, and such men would accordingly fail to achieve any [valid end]. For it is impossible to conceive of a unified political body without political government or disposition thereto; since, in the first place, this unity arises, in a large measure, from subjection to one and the same rule and to some common superior power; while furthermore, if there were no such government, this body could not be directed towards one [common] end and the general welfare. It is, then, repugnant to natural reason to assume the existence of a group of human beings united in the form of a single political body, without postulating the existence of some common power which the individual members of the community are bound to obey; and therefore, if this power does not reside in any specific individual, it must necessarily exist in the community as a whole.---Francisco Suárez, Selections from Three Works: A Treatise on Laws and God the Lawgiver; Translated by G. Williams et. al. Edited by Thomas Pink.
There are two kinds of social contracts: first, one assumes that (i) in the state of nature it is a contract among (ii) free and equal (iii) individuals who (iv) transfer (some of their) rights to a collective and/or some sovereign and in (v) the process are transformed from a multitude to a unity. The key point is (vi) consent is required for submission or obedience to legitimate authority. There is no claim to historical accuracy. A certain kind of liberal (or her student/critics) sometimes assumes without much reflection that this is the only kind of social contract. Of course, there are many further differences among, say, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau (Rawls, Kant, etc.) about the relationship among (i-vi) and to what degree the state of nature is peaceful, what the source of discord in the state of nature may be, who is included in (ii), etc.
But there is a second kind of social contract, which is exemplified by (recall) the writings of Master Mo (and also here) and, as can be seen in the quoted passage above, the great, early modern Jesuit philosopher, Suárez (1548–1617). In this second kind of contract, the contract is also in a state of nature. Suarez's state of nature is presented in two versions: (a) one echoes Plato's Laws 3 (681bc) and the contract is among the patriarchal heads of families/clans;* (b) the other involves a whole community (or common consent). In both case, it involves free and equal members, but in (b) individuals have no special standing (and so deviate from iii).
Somewhat surprisingly in the second kind of social contract there is also no talk of rights being transferred (so (iv) is absent). I call this a surprise because Suárez (as the passage reveals) himself a natural law lawyer. (It's possible, in fact, that Suárez thinks the transfer of rights is implied.) We should not overstate the absence of (iv) because Suárez explicitly (elsewhere) allows some kind of right to revolt against tyrants and this right is lodged in whole unity (not individuals). [See On Charity, Disputation XIII, Section VIII paragraph 2.] Strictly speaking Suárez does not recognize a right to revolt, but rather he thinks such a revolt can be provoked by a tyrant and would not be seditious in the strict sense (although legally it may be) because it is not associated with evil. This is not far removed from how Master Mo thinks about the revocation of the mandate of heaven. In addition, I am pretty confident that the presence of (v) [recall, the transformation from a multitude to a unity] in the first, more individualist, tradition is itself due to the influence of Suárez on Hobbes.**
As an aside, Suárez's terminology of imperfect and perfect community should not confuse. An imperfect community (the clan, the neighborhood) is incapable of creating a political compact. A perfect community is perfect, as I learned from Crystal Cordell, in the way that a hand has five fingers. 'Perfect' here does not mean to suggest it is the best form of state.
It is notable that both Master Mo and Suárez see the point of the contract as a means toward promoting a social good that is, in some sense, not merely a summation of individual goods but that are genuinely collective goods. (Master Mo's consequentialism is an explicit part of his political theory; in Suárez the consequentialism props up throughout his writings.) And that these goods are only genuinely possible consequent the establishment of common norms and a collective power(s).
I think the second social contract tradition is worth reflecting on. Because it does justice to an idea that can easily be overlooked in the first tradition (especially in the Lockean variants). It is tempting to see a contract between two individuals as not essentially involving others, even if -- upon reflection -- one may acknowledge that (a) common language and (b) a common arbiter may be required. But contracts predictably generate externalities (these can be positive or negative). If I borrow money from you to build a house, I may generate some economic growth (positive) and pollution (negative). To borrow a point from David Graeber (recall here and here), while a contract recognizes equality formally (and that is no small matter) it may well generate and/or entrench inequality (and this is true of submission to a sovereign, too). So, one may say instead, with more justice, that only very special cases of contracts do not generate externalities.
What the second social contract tradition, thus, gets right is that in virtue of the externalities that follow from a generic contract, it is better to think of them as involving the whole community. While, in practice this need not be taken strictly, when it comes to the original contract -- the one that founds a legitimate political authority -- the consent of the whole community should be an intrinsic part of the story. (One may even appeal to a principle that all who are affected should be able to consent.)
Let me close with a speculative thought. Somebody may complain that in this post I have constructed an a-historical second social contract tradition. For conceptual purposes that objection does not bother me. (Moreover, the objection misses the whole point of such exercises, after all the first social contract tradition itself makes no claim that its state of nature and social contract are themselves to be found in history.) But there is a possibility that Suárez did know of Master Mo. For, the Jesuit Mission to China overlaps with Suárez's life and writings and it would be worth exploring what Matteo Ricci and his colleagues reported back to Europe, if anything, about the ancient Master Mo and his school. But that’s for another time.