Royalist and anti-royalist theories. When Calvin died in 1564 the lines were already drawn for the religious wars which, as Luther had said, were to fill the world with blood. In Germany divisions of territory made, it a struggle between princes, with the result that the fundamental issue of religious liberty need not be pressed. In the Netherlands it took the form of a revolt against a foreign master.
In England, as also in Spain, the supremacy of royal power prevented the outbreak of civil war during the sixteenth century. But in France and Scotland a factional struggle arose which threatened the stability of the nations. Thus in France between 1562 and 1598 there were no fewer than eight civil wars, marked by such atrocities as the St. Bartholomew Massacre and the reckless use of assassination on both sides.
Not only was orderly government interrupted but civilization itself was jeopardized. In the sixteenth century, therefore, it was in France that the most significant chapter in political philosophy was written. Here appeared the main oppositions of thought which were elaborated in the English civil wars of the next century. The theory of the people’s right as a defense of the right to resist and the theory of the divine right of kings as a bulwark of national unity both began their history as modern political theories in France.
The Religious Wars in France:-
In the most general respects political development in France and England was similar, though there were important differences. In both, it was the new monarchy which first formed an organ of national unity and the source of modern, centralized government. The task of the monarchy was easier in England, for the tradition of provincial and municipal independence was on the whole weaker than in France, where royal power prevailed only after a period of civil war. On the other hand, there was in France no such parliamentary tradition as there was in England. Though the power of parliament was temporarily eclipsed by Tudor absolutism, in the end it prevailed and established itself as a national government. In France differences of provincial privilege made a parliamentary constitution on a national scale impossible. Characteristic differences of political thought followed from the different ways in which national unification came about in the two countries.
In England, because the king’s power was not seriously threatened in the sixteenth century, the theory of royal absolutism, or complete sovereignty vested in the king, did not develop, whereas in France this theory came to prevail by the end of the century. When opposition to royal power did develop in England in the seventeenth century, the issue was between the king and a national parliament, a form it could not possibly take in France. On the other hand, opposition to royal absolutism in France failed largely because it was allied with a medieval particular-ism that was incompatible with centralized national government.
In France, and indeed everywhere, differences of religion were inextricably interwoven with political and economic forces. The centralized system of French monarchy, which Machiavelli had admired as the best type of royal government, had by the middle of the sixteenth century proved to be subject to abuses so serious that for the moment they threatened to cost the crown the support of the higher middle classes, upon which its power really depended.
Abuses of taxation, the delay and withholding of justice, and the venality of royal executives permitted something which might be called a reaction. The privileges of provinces, of nobility, of more or less self-governing cities, and of medieval institutions generally, all threatened to weaken the more distinctly modern institutions of centralized royal government. None of these issues was specifically Protestant or Catholic but both religious parties used them as their interests dictated. It was the great weakness of the Huguenots, however, that they were in general on the side of local privilege and against the king.
The permanent drift of political evolution is shown by the fact that, despite the personal weakness of kings, the crown emerged from the civil wars strengthened rather than weakened. In the long run it defeated both reaction and revolution, and effective centralization became possible toward the close of the sixteenth century under a prevailing theory of royal absolutism. In religion this meant the triumph of what may be called national Catholicism, as against both the ultramodern claims of the papacy, defended by Jesuits, and the forces of particular-ism represented by Calvinists.
Accordingly the controversial political literature of France after the outbreak of the civil wars was divided into two main types. There were, on the one hand, writings which defended the sanctity of the kingly office; by the end of the sixteenth century this tendency had crystallized in the theory of divine right, asserting the indefeasible right of the king to his throne, derived directly from God and descending to him by legitimate inheritance. The importance of this theory lay chiefly in the political consequences deduced from it first, the duty of passive obedience owed by subjects to their sovereigns in spite of doctrinal differences and, second, the impossibility that a king should be de posed by an external power like the papacy.
On the other hand, there were various anti-royalist theories, as they came to be called, which derived the king’s power in some fashion from the people or community and defended a right to resist him under certain circumstances. These anti-royalist theories were first developed by Huguenot writers, but there was in fact nothing specifically Protestant about them. The whole literature was essentially controversial and the various parties had a disconcerting fashion of shifting their ground as circumstances dictated.
Since the theory of the divine right of the king was first fully stated in reply to the argument justifying resistance, the latter may be stated first. The most interesting works were those of the French Protestant, which appeared chiefly after the St. Bartholomew Massacre in 1572, though it will be convenient to mention here a few other works of similar import produced by Protestant writers outside France, Thin Jesuit works were for the most part not French and depended varying degrees on the specifically Jesuit argument for the indirect power of the papacy, but they can conveniently be grouped together. In conclusion the theory of divine right will be stated as representing the upshot of the debate, at least so far as the situation in France was concerned.
The Protestant Attack on Absolutism:-
The Huguenot writers developed two main lines of argument which remained typical of the opposition to absolute royal power and which later reappeared in England. In the first place, there was a constitutional argument alleged to be founded on historical fact. This argument harked back to medieval practice as against the more recent tendency toward royal absolutism. To some extent it was a real appeal to fact, since it could be shown without much trouble that absolute monarchy was an innovation.
Unfortunately, however, medieval government had not been constitutional either, in any sense that fitted the sixteenth century. For this reason historical arguments were likely to be inconsequential or specious; they served better to put an opponent in the unwelcome position of defending usurpation than to settle anything. In the second place, an opponent of royal power might turn to the philosophical foundations of political power and seek to show that absolute monarchy was contrary to universal rules of right supposed of underlie all government.
At the same time the two lines of argument were not wholly disconnected and both were medieval in origin. The belief in natural law was part of a universally accepted tradition which had come down to the sixteenth century through every channel of political thought and which gained an added importance from the lawlessness of the new monarchy. The historical argument tacitly assumed that immemorial customs had the sanction of natural right.
Constitutional theory was, of course, not the special possession of the Huguenot party. The powers of the king of France had long been subjects of debate, and the view that these powers were limited by natural law or by customary privileges had been frequently stated. Prior to the period of civil war anything resembling a modern theory of sovereignty, investing the king with a universal power to make law, had hardly existed. This theory was the outcome of the threat to orderly and centralized government which the civil wars produced. In particular, it had been frequently held that the king’s power was limited by the judicial machinery of the realm-by the supposed right of the Parliaments to refuse to register and enforce a royal edict-or by the less definite right of the States General, as representing the whole kingdom, to be consulted in matters of legislation and taxation of these two the former was in practice the more serious check upon royal power. The limitation of the king by ancient or local privilege was generally admitted.
Of Huguenot writers on constitutional theory the best known was Francis Hotman, whose Franco-Gallia was published in 1573, one of the large number of tracts called out by the Massacre of St. Bartholomew in the preceding year. The book purported to be a constitutional history of France, showing that the kingdom had never been an absolute monarchy.
Even hereditary succession Hotman held to be a custom of comparatively recent origin, dependent merely upon the tacit consent of the people. More specifically he held that the king was elective and his power limited by the States General which represents the entire kingdom, supporting this thesis by an array of precedents of more than doubtful authenticity.
The argument depended upon the principle of medieval constitutionalism, that political institutions derive their right from immemorial practices inherent in the community itself. In this sense, the consent of the people, expressed in such practices, is the rightful basis of political power, and the crown itself derives its authority from its legal position as an agent of the community.
Hotman’s main Positive contention, however, that the king’s power in France had always been shared by the States General, was not true historically, nor had it any practical value in the circumstances, since the development of the States General into a national parliament was not within the region of possibility. Neither the Huguenots nor any other party had any real interest in tying up their fortunes with the States General.
The philosophical type of theory, which inferred the limitation of royal power from general principles, was both more interesting and more important. In the years following the St. Bartholomew Massacre French Protestants produced many works of this kind, all taking the position that kings are instituted by human society to serve the purposes of that society and that their power is therefore limited.
The weight of this influence upon French Calvinism is shown by the fact that one of these pamphlets, though published anonymously, was probably the work of Calvin’s friend and biographer, Theodore Beza, who was at that time his successor at the head of the government in Geneva. The stress of circumstances drove Beza, as it had driven Knox, to reverse not only Calvin’s teaching but his own previous convictions in favor of passive obedience.
Somewhat reluctantly but quite clearly he urged the right of inferior magistrates, though not of private citizens, to resist a tyrant, particularly in defense of true religion. Of all this rather numerous class of works, however, the most famous was the Vindiciae contra tyrannos, published in 1579,4 which systematized the argument presented in the preceding few years.
The Vindiciae became one of the landmarks of revolutionary literature. It was republished again and again, in England and elsewhere, when opposition between king and people came to a crisis. It must therefore be examined with some care, both for what it represents in the France of its own day, and to see just how closely it approximates the later doctrine of popular rights.
Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos:-
The Vindiciae was divided into four parts, each intended to answer a fundamental question of contemporary politics. First, are subjects obliged to obey princes if they command anything against the law of God? Second, is it lawful to resist a prince who desires to nullify the law of God or who lays waste the church, and if so, to whom, by what means, and to what extent? Third, how far is it lawful to resist a prince who is oppressing or destroying the state, and to whom, by what means, and with what right is such resistance allowable? Fourth, can neighboring princes lawfully aid the subjects of other princes, or are they obliged to do so, when such subjects are afflicted for the sake of religion or are oppressed by open tyranny?
The mere enumeration of these questions is enough to show the author’s major interest. He was concerned not with government on its own account but with the relation between government and religion. Only in the third part did he approach a general theory of the state, and even there it cannot be said that politics got into the foreground. The whole book contemplated a situation in which the prince was of one religion and a substantial number of his subjects were of another.
Moreover, the author never even imagined what would now seem the obvious solution, that a difference of religious faith should be treated as having nothing to do with political duties. He assumed that rulers must uphold pure doctrine. At the same time the substance of his argument depended little upon Calvin; no such theocracy as the government of Geneva was in sight for French Huguenots, nor did they want it. The political philosophy of the Vindiciae really went back to the argument of anti papal writers, like William of Occam or the Conciliarists, against an heretical pope. The ruler is the servant of the community and the community can do whatever its own life requires.
In its main outline the theory of the Vindiciae took the form of « twofold covenant or contract. There is, first, a contract to which God is one party and the king and people jointly the other party. By this contract the Community becomes a church, a people chosen of Good, and obligated to offer true and acceptable worship. This covenant with go stood closest to the revised form of Calvinism as Knox had stated it. Secondly, there is a contract in which the people appear as one party and the king as the other.
This is specifically the political contract by which a people becomes a state; the king is bound by this agreement to rule well and justly, and the people to obey so long as he does. The double covenant was required because the author thought always of religious duty as the most important reason for rebellion. His main purpose was to prove the right to coerce an heretical king. From a purely political point of view-which of course could only have been taken if the religious question were divorced from politics-the covenant with God was an encumbrance upon the theory. If this were eliminated there would be left merely the political contract between the king and the community, setting forth the principle that government exists for the sake of the community and that political obligation is therefore limited and conditional. The omission would have require a degree of political rationalism which the author of the Vindiciae did not possess.
In another respect also the contract theory of the Vindiciae differed from the contract theory of later date. The author saw no discrepancy between the theory that the king’s power comes from Good and the theory that it arose by a contract with his people. In other words, the theory of divine right had not joined hands with he belief in passive obedience, so that, by stressing the king’s responsibility to God, an author would be taken to imply that he was not responsible to his people.
Accordingly the author of the Vindiciae did not hesitate to say also that the king’s power was derived from God. The divine right of the kingly office was left standing beside the rights which a particular king derived by covenant from his people. Similarly the duty to obey the king’s lawful commands is a religious duty as well as a duty which arises under contract. In no sense therefore was the Vindiciae an attempt to base government wholly upon secular principles; like the theory of divine right it was theological through and through.
The method of argument followed was a curious mixture of legalism and Scriptural authority. The forms of contract sanctioned by the civil law are treated as if they were part of the order of nature and as such had universal validity. In order to secure worship according to forms pleasing to him, God adopts a device used by creditors to secure a debt. in the first of the two contracts, the king and the people are jointly bound, as if the people had become surety for the king. Hence they become liable for the purity of worship in case the king defaults. On the side of Scriptural authority, the author uses the analogy of the covenant by which the Jews are supposed to become the chosen people of God. In the Christian era all Christian peoples stand in the place of the Jews and hence are chosen,that is, committed to right worship and true doctrine. Another form of argument repeatedly used is the analogy of the feudal relation between lord and vassal. In both contracts the power of the king is represented as delegated, in the first by God and in the second by the people. Power is granted for certain purposes and its retention is conditional upon their fulfillment., God and the people are therefore superiors; the king is bound to their service and the obligation owed to him is limited and conditional.
Then therefore all kings are the vassals of the King of Kings, invested into their office by the sword, which is the cognizance of their royal authority, to the end that with the sward they maintain the law of God, defend the good, and punish the evil. Even as we commonly see, that he who is a sovereign lord puts his vassals into: possession of their fee by girding them with a sword, and delivering them a buckler and a standard, with condition that they shall fight for them with those arms if occasion shall serve.
Such passages are numerous and striking. In them the Vindiciae joins hands with the historical argument of Hotman and others. They show that the case far the limited sovereignty of the king depended upon the prevalence of medieval modes of thought and was in substance a reaction toward older political conceptions and against the more typically modern position of the absolutists.
From this description of the main lines of argument followed in the Vindiciae it is easy to see the grounds upon which the author holds -that the king’s power may rightfully be resisted. Every Christian must agree that his duty is to obey God rather than the king, in case the king commands anything against God’s law. Furthermore, since the king’s power arises from a covenant to support true worship, it is clearly lawful to resist him if he violates the law of God or lays waste the church. Indeed, it is more than lawful; it is a positive duty. The people are jointly liable with the king for preserving the purity of doctrine and worship; the king’s default puts the whole burden upon the people and if they fail to resist him, they lay themselves liable to the full punishment which his sin merits.
The second contract, between king and people, justifies resistance to tyranny in secular government. Though kings are instituted by God, God acts in this matter through the people. Here again the Vindiciae took for granted all the forms of a contract at civil law. The people lay down the conditions which the king is bound to fulfill. Hence they are bound to obedience only conditionally, namely, upon receiving the protection of just and lawful government. The king, however, is bound unconditionally to perform the duties of his office; unless he does so, the compact is void. It follows that the power of the ruler is delegated by the people and continues only with their consent. All kings are really elective, even though a custom has grown up in favor of hereditary succession, for prescription does not run against the people’s right. Abstracted from its context the argument here closely resembled the contract theory as it occurred later in Locke and in the popular theories of the American and French Revolutions, but in the Vindiciae the context of religious strife dominated.
Behind the form of the contract the author of the Vindiciae, like the later contract theorists, appealed largely to utilitarian argument. Kingship, he urged, was obviously sanctioned by the people because they considered the king’s services worth what they cost. It must be assumed, therefore, that governments exist to further the interests of subjects, for the latter would be mad to accept the burden of obedience without receiving the benefits of protection to their lives and property.
In the first place every one consents, that men by nature loving liberty, and hating servitude, born rather to command,than obey, have not willingly admitted to be governed by another, and renounced as it were the privilege of nature, by submitting themselves to the commands of others, but for some special and great profit that they expected from it. Neither let us imagine, that kings were chosen to apply to their own proper use the goods that are gotten by the sweat of their subjects; for every man loves and cherishes his own.
In the main, however, the argument of the Vindiciae was not utilitarian. The chief ground for limiting the king’s power is his subjection to law, both the law of nature and the law of the land; he depends on the law, not the aw on him. The author has all the medieval reverence for law, and he reproduces all the commonplaces in eulogy of it that had accumulated since the times of the Stoics.
The law is reason and wisdom itself, free from all perturbation, not subject to be moved with choler, ambition, hate, or acceptances of persons. To come to our purpose, the law as an understanding mind, or rather an obstacle of many understandings the mind being the seal of all the intelligent faculties, is (if may so term it) a parcel of divinity; in so much as he who obeys the law, seems to obey God, and receive Him for arbitrator of the matters in controversy.
Law comes from the people, not from the king, and hence can be changed only with the consent of the people’s representatives. The king can dispose of the lives and property of his subjects only in such ways as the law permits, and he is accountable under the law for his every act.
It is of the essence of the contractual theory that the ruler may be held to account by the people for the justice and legality of his rule. The king who becomes a tyrant thereby loses his title to power. It remains to be shown, therefore, by whom this right shall be exercised. Here the author falls back upon the ancient distinction between a tyrant who is a usurper and has no claim to the kingship, and a lawful king who has become tyrannous. Only the first may be resisted or killed by a private citizen. In the second case, the right of resistance belongs solely to the people as a corporate body and not to the many headed multitude of private individuals. So far as individuals are concerned, the duty of passive obedience was asserted in the Vindiciae as strongly as it had been by Calvin. If the whole people resists collectively, they must act through their natural leaders, the inferior magistrates, the nobles, the estates, or local and municipal officials, each in his own territory. Only the magistrate, or one whose position makes him a natural guardian of the community, may resist the king.
This phase of the right to resist throws considerable light upon the true purposes of the Vindiciae. It was in no sense a claim of popular right inhering in every individual, nor did the Huguenot party from which it emanated stand for popular rights. It stood rather for the rights (or ancient privileges) of towns and provinces and classes against the leveling effect of royal power. The spirit of the Vindiciae was not democratic but aristocratic. Its rights were the rights of corporate bodies and not of individuals, and its theory of representation contemplated the representation of corporations and not of men. No very clear statement of the circumstances justifying resistance was given or probably could have been given. But the point of view implicit in the theory was that of a state composed of parts or classes balanced against each other and governed by mutual agreement rather than by a political sovereign. In this respect the Vindiciae might easily have led to something like a federal conception of government. Such a theory, picturing the state as a federation of lesser corporate bodies, actually was formulated a few years later by Althusius in the Netherlands, where the form of government was more suitable to such a view.
The political theory of the Vindiciae, taken in its entirety, was a strange mixture. Not unnaturally, in view of the later development of the contract-theory, this element of the book has been chiefly stressed, but at the expense of historical accuracy. It restated the old conception that political power exists for the moral good of the community, is to be exercised responsibly, and is subject to natural right and justice. These ideas were the common heritage of modern Europe from the Middle Ages. It brought the theory of the contract definitely into the service of the right to resist, but it was, on the whole, less in touch with the prevailing modern tendency in government than the theory of absolutism which it-opposed. The Vindiciae was not in the first instance a theory of secular government at all; that it owed its origin to the religious struggle and was the pronouncement of a religious minority is the clearest thing about it. The author had no conception of a state which could abstain from making itself responsible for religious truth and purity of worship. In particular, its defense of the right to resist was not in the least an argument for popular government and the rights of man. Individual human rights had no part in it, and its practical bias was aristocratic or even in a sense feudal. In spirit, therefore, it was wholly at odds with the doctrines of liberty and equality which were later poured into the mold of the contract theory.
Other Protestant Attacks on Absolutism:-
In countries other than France but more or less affected by French thought there appeared works by Protestant writers setting forth theories much like that of the Vindiciae contra tyrannos. In the same year in which the Vindiciae was published the Scottish poet and scholar, George Buchanan, published his De jure regni apud Scotos, which rivaled the French work in fame as a revolutionary document and surpassed it in literary merit. Buchanan lived much of his life in France and might reasonably be classed as a French thinker, though his associations were not especially with Huguenots. His personal interests made him rather a humanist than a sectarian, and perhaps for this reason his book was less dominated by theological motives than the Vindiciae.
Thus he omitted the peculiar twofold contract and so gave his theory a more definite application of secular government. Power is derived from the community and must therefore be exercised in accordance with the law of the community; obligation is necessarily conditional upon the performance by the king of the duties of his office. Buchanan stated rather clearly the ancient Stoic view that the government originates in the social propensities of men and is therefore natural, and in this respect also he tended to minimize the dependence of politics upon theology.
The right to resist was, of course, his main point of emphasis; here his argument was substantially like that of the Vindiciae, except that he was more outspoken in justifying tyrannicide and substituted a vague notion that the people act through a majority for the view that they depend upon the natural leadership of subordinate magistrates. To this extent he was less bound by the feudal aspects of Huguenot theory.
It is curious to think that Buchanan’s book was written for the instruction of his royal pupil, the future James of England. James’s whole-heated Anglicanism was due to a clear apprehension, gained in his youth, both of the theory and practice of Presbyterianism.
In the Netherlands, also, the same type of political philosophy was used to justify resistance to tyranny. In that country occurred both its most overt popular use and later, in Althusius and Grotius, a systematic and scholarly development that took it beyond merely controversial use. In 1581 the States-General, in the Act of Abjuration, renounced their allegiance to Philip I! with the assertion.
All mankind know that a prince is appointed by God to cherish his subjects, even as a shepherd to guard his sheep. When, therefore, the prince does not fulfill his duty as protector; when he oppresses his subjects, destroys their ancient liberties, and treats them as slaves, he is to be considered, not a prince, but a tyrant. As such, the estates of the land may lawfully and reasonably depose him, and elect another in his room.
The act was in no sense a philosophical disquisition, but analysis shows that it assumed the same two points which appeared in all he anti royalist arguments, the law of nature and the defense cf ancient liberties. It showed how deeply rooted in popular consciousness was the notion that political power ought to depend on moral forces inherent in the community and ought to be used in the service of the community, as the Mayflower Pact a few years later (1620) showed how readily men thought of civil society in terms of common assent or contract.
The Jesuits and the Indirect Power of the Pope:-
While an anti-royalist political philosophy of the type just described, which traced the king’s power to the consent of the people and defended the right to resist, was developing among Calvinist Protestants, a similar kind of theory was sponsored by Catholic writers and particularly by the Jesuits. The motives behind this philosophy were mixed, as in the case of the Calvinists. Catholics were, of course, influenced by the same constitutional traditions which caused
Protestants to defend representative government against absolutism, and in this respect the difference of religion or the special purposes of the Jesuit Order counted for nothing. On the other hand, the Jesuits had special reasons for espousing anti-royalist views of the kind mentioned above; like the Calvinists they were opposed to a too powerful national monarchy. Unlike the Calvinists, however, they utilized their theory to support a revised form of the old doctrine of papal supremacy in moral and religious questions. This purpose was specifically Jesuit and was by no means shared by Catholics who were more responsive to national and dynastic interests.
So far as anti-royalist theory was thus specifically Jesuit, it was quite as directly a result of the religious differences of the sixteenth century as Calvinist theory. It grew out of the part that the Order played in the remarkable counter-movement of reform in the Roman church, which within two generations corrected some of the worst abuses that had caused Protestant defection, gave greater precision to many definitions of doctrine, brought a new type of ruler to the papal throne, and produced a more rigid discipline of the reformed papacy over the lower clergy.
This counter-reform succeeded amazingly. It not only stopped once for all the spread of Protestantism but it created the hope, or the fear, that the church might win back its lost provinces, in this militant revival there was no greater single force than that ideal missionary organization, the Jesuit Order.
Founded in 1534 and bound by the strictest oath of obedience and self-abnegation, the Order drew to itself in the sixteenth century not only men of zeal and administrative power but also some of the ablest minds in the Roman church, The Jesuit schools and the Jesuit scholars were among the best in Europe; the extraordinary fear with which its opponents regarded. It was justified by its capacity. Even-though its political philosophy was obviously influenced by propagandist motives, the Jesuit statement of the anti-royalist theory was probably, on the whole, on a higher intellectual level than Protestant statements of the same position.
The special purpose of the Jesuits was to reformulate a moderate theory of papal superiority, upon lines suggested by St. Thomas, in the light of political conditions that had come to prevail in the sixteenth century. The conception of the emperor as the temporal head of Christendom, which was hardly alive in the fourteenth century, had ceased to appeal even to the imagination. Europe had become in feeling as in fact a group of national states, effectively self-governing in secular affairs but still in some sense Christian, though no longer acknowledging allegiance to a single church. It was the dream of the Jesuits to win back the seeders and, by conceding the fact of independence in secular matters, to save for the pope some sort of spiritual leadership over a society of Christian states. The latter policy, which as the event proved was quite illusory, was largely the reason for the detestation in which the Jesuits were held by nationalist Catholics no less than by Protestants.
The Jesuit theory of the-papacy was given definite form by Robert Bellarmine, the most effective of all the Catholic controversialists of the sixteenth century. Conceding that the pope has no authority in secular matters, Bellarmine argued that he is nevertheless the spiritual head of the church and as such has an indirect power over temporal matters, exclusively for spiritual ends. The power of secular rulers does not come directly from God, as the royalists asserted, nor from the pope, as the extreme papalists had held. It arises from the community itself for the sake of its own secular ends.
The king’s power is secular in kind and in origin; only the pope among human rulers has his power directly from God. It follows that secular government ought not to be able to exact an absolute obedience from its subjects, and also that spiritual authority, for spiritual purposes, has the right to direct and control secular.
There are circumstances, then, in which the pope is justified in deposing an heretical ruler and absolving his subjects from their allegiance. Except for a stronger emphasis on the secular origin of royal power, Bellarmine’s theory of church and state was not substantially different from St. Thomas’s. Except for its reference to the papacy, it was not substantially different from that of the Calvinists.
Both stood for the independence of the church in doctrinal decisions and neither could admit royal supremacy in a national church or the indefeasible divine right of an heretical king. This explains the bracketing of Jesuit and Calvinist in the royalist literature. James It’s epigram, that Jesuits are nothing but Puritan-papists,was typical and on the whole true.
It is one of the ironies of history that both the Jesuit and the Calvinist contributed to a theory of church and state which they abhorred, in so far as they ever thought of it. In the sixteenth century every controversialist assumed, with surprising simplicity of mind, that his own theology was manifestly true and wholesome for everyone. The possibility that no religious system could be made universally acceptable simply was not faced.
When it became apparent that this was the fact, and that no important religious group could be suppressed without the greatest political danger, there was nothing government to do except to withdraw altogether from theological controversy and leave each church to teach its own doctrine to such as cared to hear.
The whole Christian tradition was against making a political official overtly the arbiter of religious truth, even if the national churches had in fact included the whole nation in their membership. Hence the claim that the church must be independent was unescapable, but independence had to be purchased at the cost of making church and state two distinct societies, and this was just what neither the Jesuit nor the Calvinist contemplated.
The Jesuit theory in particular was an approximation to this hated conclusion. The theory that the state is a national society, purely secular in origin and purpose, while the church is world-wide in scope and of divine origin, implied that the church is one social body and the state another, membership in one being independent of membership in the other. The outcome was therefore quite contrary to the revived medievalism that both Jesuits and Calvinists intended.
There was therefore a sound reason why, despite theological differences, the political theories of Calvinists in France or Scotland should have had certain similarities with those of the Jesuits. Both were in a situation where it was necessary to urge that political obligation is not absolute and that a right of rebellion exists against an heretical ruler. Both depended upon a common heritage of medieval thought 2nd argued that the community itself creates its own officials and can regulate them for its own purposes. Both held, therefore, that political bower inheres in the people, is derived from them by contract, and may be revoked if the king Becomes a tyrant. Without being markedly original, the Jesuit writers were in general clearer in stating the principles of the argument than the Calvinists.
The Jesuits and the Right to Resist:-
The early Jesuit writers were chiefly Spanish and their theory was more influenced by their nationality than by the specific Jesuit purpose just mentioned. This was particularly true of Juan de Mariana, whose theory was mainly governed by constitutional considerations, Like Hotman he admired medieval institutions, especially those represented by the Estates of Aragon. The Estates he regarded as the guardians of the law of the land, to which the king is fully subject.
The power of the king he derived from a contract with the people, who are represented by the Estates, and to them the power to change the law is reserved. Hence the king may be removed for violating the fundamental law. This constitutional theory Mariana built upon an account of the origin of civil society from a state of nature preceding government, in which men live a kind of animal existence, lacking both the virtues and the vices of civilized life. Like Rousseau later, he regarded the origin of private property as the crucial step toward law and government.
The most important feature of Mariana’s theory was that he treated the origin and evolution of government as a natural process, taking place under the impulsion of human needs, and on this ground he based the contention that a community must always be able to control or depose the rulers whom its needs have created. He came much closer than the author of the Vindiciae contra tyrannos to a non theological view of civil society and its functions.
His book has been famous, or rather infamous, for its frank acceptance of tyrannicide as a remedy for political oppression. Actually he was not in principle very different from other writers of his time. The right of private citizens to kill a usurper was very widely recognized, and Buchanan had defended the right to kill an oppressor even though his title were lawful. The greater infamy of Mariana was probably due to his open defense of the murder of Henry III of France, which caused his book to be burnt by the Parliament of Paris. Mariana put little stress upon the spiritual power of the pope and in that respect was not a typical Jesuit.
The most important representative of Jesuit political theory was he Spanish scholastic philosopher and jurist Francisco Suarez, though his politics was incidental to a philosophical system of jurisprudence, which In turn was only one part of a complete structure of philosophy an the medal of St. Thomas. Like Bellarmine, Suarez conceived of the pope as the spiritual leader of a family of Christian nations and consequently as spokesman of the moral unity of humanity. The church is a universal and divine institution; the state is national and particular.
On this ground he defended the indirect power of the pope to regulate secular rulers for spiritual ends. The state is specifically a human institution, depending upon human needs, and originating in a voluntary union of the heads of families. By this voluntary act each assumes the obligation of doing whatever the general gourd requires, while the civil society thus formed has a natural and necessary power to control its members for the general good and to do whatever its life and needs require. In this way he established the principle that the power of society to rule itself and its members is an inherent property of a social group.
It has no dependence on the will of God, except as everything in the world depends on His will, but is purely a natural phenomenon, belonging to the physical world and having to do with man’s social needs. Aside from the indirect power of the pope, Suarez’s view of society was in no special sense theological. From the view that political power is an inherent property of the community, he concluded, as might be expected, that no form of political obligation is absolute.
Political arrangements are in a sense superficial a state may be ruled by a king or in some other way; the government’s power may be more or less. In any case political power is derived from the community; it exists for the welfare of the community; and when it does not work well it can be changed. The intent of this theory was no doubt to exalt the divine right of the pope above the merely secular and human power of the king, but the effect was really to set politics more completely apart from theology.
Suarez’s political theory was incidental to his jurisprudence. His purpose was to present an encyclopedic philosophy of law in all its divisions, and, as was usual in his writings, he presented a summary and systematization of all phases of medieval legal philosophy. In Suarez and the other members of what is sometimes called the Spanish School of jurisprudence the legal philosophy of the Middle Ages was digested and arranged, and was thus passed on to the seventeenth century. In particular these jurists gave a systematic presentation of the whole doctrine of natural law and so contributed in no small degree to the fact that, for the seventeenth century, this appeared to be the only scientific way to approach problems of political theory. The influence of Hugo Grotius was perhaps decisive in this matter, but behind Grotius was the systematic jurisprudence of the Spaniards. Indeed, in Suarez natural law connoted many of the conclusions to Which Grotius was led.
If there are in nature and in human nature certain qualities which inevitably make some ways of behaving right and others wrong, then the difference of good and bad is not due to the arbitrary will either of God or man but is a rational distinction. The nature of human relations and the consequences which naturally flow from human conduct constitute a test to which the rules and practices of the positive law may be submitted.
No human legislator-as Grotius later said, not even God Himself-can make wrong right; as Suarez argued, not even the pope can change natural law. Behind the special provisions of the law there are rational provisions of general validity, Thus it follows that states, like individuals, are subject to the law of nature, a principle which implies the rule of law within the state and also legal regulations between states. Even in Suarez it is possible to see the suggestion of a system in which the law of nature becomes tho basis of both constitutional and international law.
The Divine Right of Kings:-
The controversial! theory that political power belongs to the people and that rulers may be resisted for valid reasons bred its own answer, and this naturally took the form of a revision of the long standing belief in the divinity of civil authority. In the sixteenth century, such a revision led naturally to the divine right of kings. This theory, like its opponent theory, depended on the struggle for power between religious sects.
As a defense of the right to resist came naturally from a party in opposition to what it regarded as an heretical government, so the indefeasible right of the king was defended by those who were on the side of a national establishment and against a threatening opposition. In the beginning the issue was only secondarily absolutism against constitutionalism, and it was not at all autocracy against democracy. Divine right was a defense of order and political stability against a view widely believed to augment the danger implicit in religious civil war. The vital practical question was whether heresy in a ruler is a valid ground for civic disobedience.
In its modern form the theory of the divine right of the king w was a development slightly later than the theories of limited royal power and was an answer to them. It crystallized in the disorders of the civil wars themselves and it corresponded accurately to the actual increase of power in the French crown, which emerged at the end of the century stronger then it was when the wars began. By the end of the century it the absolute monarchy of Louis XIV.
This was the only solution consistent with the maintenance of effective national government in trance. As the wars continued It became ever clearer that neither Protestant nor Catholic could gain an unqualified victory, though the contest might easily destroy both French government and French civilization.
To se up the king as the head of the nation, the object of royalty to men of all parties though they remained Protestant or Catholic, was the only feasible course. The political principles involved in this movement were stated at a far higher philosophical level in Jean Bodin’s theory of sovereignty, but the doctrine of divine right was a popular version of substantially similar ideas. It represented a national reaction to the disunion at home and the weakness abroad felt to be implicit both in Huguenot provincialism and ultramontane Catholicism.
The theory of divine right, like that of popular right which it was set up to Oppose, was a modification of a very ancient and generally accepted idea, namely, that authority has a religious origin and sanction. No Christian, from the time when St. Paul wrote the thirteenth chapter of Romans, had ever doubted this.
But since literally all power was of God, ius divinum had no necessary application to a king more than any other kind of ruler. Moreover, though power as such, was divine, it might still be right, under proper circumstances, to resist an unlawful exercise of power. For these reasons no incompatibility was felt, before the end of the sixteenth century, between-the theories that power comes from God and that it comes from the people. What made the two views incompatible was, first, the development of popular right to mean specifically a right to resist and, second, the counter development of divine right to imply that subjects owe their rulers 4 duty of passive obedience. The ancient phrases, almost meaningless in themselves, such as that kings are the vicars of God, thus got a new meaning: rebellion even in the cause of religion is sacrilege. The duty of passive obedience, preached by both Luther and Calvin, was sharpened by investing the king with a special sanctity.
The divine right of kings in this new form was essentially a popular theory. It never received, and indeed was incapable of receiving, a philosophical formulation. But if the importance of a political doctrine depends partly on the number who hold it, the theory compares favorably with any political idea that ever existed, for it was believed with religious intensity by men of all social ranks and all forms of theological belief the stock arguments for it were the familiar passages of Scripture, such as the thirteenth chapter of Romans, which had been quoted by writers time out of mind.
What gave these old arguments new force in the sixteenth century were the dancers of disunion and instability inherent in sectarian partisanship, the chance of clerics control over secular government, either from the side of the Calvinists or the Jesuits, and a rising sense of national independence and unity, in the mass, therefore, the theory served mainly as a focus for patriotic sentiment and as a religious rationalization of civic duty. On the side of intellectual construction it was hopelessly weak. Some of its abler proponents, however, did provide an active, and at times not ineffective, criticism of the opponent theory that political power resides in the people.
The logical difficulty with the theory of divine right was not that it was theological-it was scarcely more so than the theory which it opposed-but that the peculiar legitimacy attributed to royal power defied analysis or rational defense. The imposition of divine authority upon the king is essentially miraculous and must be accepted by faith and not by reason. The office of king is, as James said, a mystery into which neither lawyers nor philosophers may inquire. Hence the theory could hardly survive after the quotation of Scriptural texts ceased to be a reputable method of political argumentation. In this respect it differed from the theory of a political contract, which despite its earlier theological form could be stated in a way that any rationalist might accept and hence could offer the opportunity for a philosophical analysis of political obligation.
In so far as royal legitimacy was presented in terms of natural processes, it meant that the king’s power was hereditary, presumably on the ground that God’s choice was manifested in the fact of birth. From this point on, however, the argument usually became an elaborate and not very convincing analogy between political power and the natural authority of a father, or between the reverence due to a king and the respect which children owe to their parents. This analogy was obviously open to the ridicule with which John Locke treated it.
Despite its antiquity it probably never convinced anyone who was not ready to be convinced for other reasons. Analogy apart, the argument for royal legitimacy simply erected the feudal rule of primogeniture into a general law of nature. But this argument was open to the objection that, however natural the facts of birth and heredity may be, the inheritance of land and power is a legal rule which differs from country to country.
In France the Salic Law excluded succession in the female lines, which was legal in England. Thus the argument was in the strange position of implying that God changed his mode of imposing the divine right to rule according to the constitutional practice of each country.
The moral doctrine that rebellion is never justified, even though a ruler be a heretic, was a normal part of the modernized theory of divine right. It supplied, however, no logical relation between the two propositions, which had always been regarded as independent. Passive obedience could be, and often was, defended on utilitarian grounds which had nothing whatever to do with divine right. An unusually lively sense of the dangers of disorder might be all that was needed to make the duty of subjection seem paramount.
Moreover, some writers who defended the divine right of kings might admit, like William Barclay, that a special crime on the king’s part, such as conspiring to overthrow the state, could be treated as a constructive abdication. But this was conceived as a quite exceptional possibility. In general, divine right came to mean that the subject’s duty of submission was absolute, unless perhaps in some altogether monstrous circumstance.
The duty of passive obedience did not mean that the king was wholly irresponsible and could do whatever he chose. It was usually argued that the king, being more highly placed than other men,-was responsible to a higher degree. The law of God and the law of nature were assumed, as they always had been, to be binding on him, and his general duty to respect the law of the land was commonly asserted. But this obligation is owed to God and the king cannot be held to human judgment either within or without the processes of law.
A bad king will be judged by God but he must not be judged by his subjects or by any human agency for enforcing the law, such as the estates or the courts. The law resides ultimately in the breast of the king. This became the ultimate political issue between the theory of divine right and that of popular or parliamentary right, wherever the lines were drawn for a constitutional struggle between the king and a representative body.
Though the modernized version of divine right was native to France, it appeared also in Scotland at about the same time. Here it was stated by no less person than the king himself, the prince who afterward became James | of England, whose Trew Law of Free Monarchies was published in 1598.
This book reflected the unhappy experiences of James’s family and his own youth with the Scottish Calvinists, as well as his reading of the controversial works produced by the religious wars in France. By free monarchy he meant royal government which is independent of coercion both by foreign princes and by sectaries or feudatories within the kingdom. The long struggle between the House of Stuart and the turbulent Scottish nobility, and the more recent humiliations which James and his mother suffered at the hands of the Presbyterians, offer an ample explanation of the importance which he attached to this conception. A Scottish presbytery, he once said, agree as well with monarchy as God and the devil. It is of the essence of free monarchy that it should have supreme legal power over all its subjects.
Kings therefore, James wrote, “are breathing images of God upon earth.”
The state of monarchy is the supremest thing upon earth; for kings are not only God’s lieutenants upon earth, and sit upon Goa’s throne, but even by God himself they are called Gods.
He is like a father as compared with his children, or like the head as compared with the body. Without him there can be no civil society, for the people is a mere headless multitude, incapable of making law, which proceeds from the king as the divinely instituted lawgiver of his people. The only choice, therefore, is between submission to the king and complete anarchy. Applying his theory to Scotland, James asserted that kings existed before there were estates or ranks of men, before parliaments were held or laws made, and that even property in land existed only by the grant of the king.
And so it follows of necessity, that kings were the authors and makers of the laws, and not the laws of the kings.
The assertion was supported by much dubious history; what it seems to mean is that originally the king’s power depended upon the right of conquest.
Once established the king’s right descends to his heirs by inheritance. It is always unlawful to dispossess the rightful heir. Since James’s claim to the Scottish throne, and later to the throne of England, was strictly hereditary, it was natural for him to cling to this principle, which expressed merely the inalienable and indefeasible right of the heir in feudal law. The essential legal quality in monarchy is therefore legitimacy. as evidenced by lawful descent from the previous legitimate monarch. This became the distinctive position of the Stuart Family in the English Civil Wars. No considerations of utility can set aside a valid hereditary claim; even an accomplished revolution does not invalidate it; and no law of prescription runs against the legitimate heir. In short, the quality of a king is a supernatural stigma, not to be explained and not to be debated. In 1616, James charged his judges in Star Chamber.
That which concerns the mystery of the king’s power is not lawful to be disputed; for that is to wade into the weakness of princes, and to take away the mystical reverence that belongs unto them that sit in the throne of God.
James always admitted that he was responsible in the highest degree, put responsible to God and not to his subjects. In all ordinary matters he acknowledged that a king ought to give the same respect to the aw of the land that he demanded of his subjects, but this is a voluntary submission which cannot be enforced.
The true nature of the theory of divine right, as a defense of national stability against threatened disunion, was perhaps best illustrated by the fact that it had little currency in England in Tudor times. Despite differences between Calvinists and Anglicans about the propriety of royal supremacy in the national church, there was at no time prior to the death of Elizabeth any serious threat to the internal peace and order of the kingdom. In the sixteenth century the English Calvinists did not adopt the anti-royalist philosophy characteristic of the French and Scottish Calvinists. On the other side, Anglicans had as yet no special motive for bolstering up passive obedience with the doctrine of indefeasible royal right.
The horrible example of the civil wars in France gave ample ground for defending passive obedience on sober utilitarian grounds. The actual-stability and the unquestioned power of the Tudor monarchs made the theory of divine right unnecessary. The situation changed in the seventeenth century when the outbreak of civil war required both a defense of resistance on the ground of popular right and a refutation of that position. The divine right of the king then became a common position among clerical apologists for the Stuarts.
However, the situations in France and in England were essentially different, because national sentiment in England was at least as well represented by the judges of the common law or by parliament as by the king. The question was not national unity against disunion, but what constitutional agent should stand for national unity. There was no reason why a special divinity should hedge an English king, and in fact the theory of divine right had little importance in English political theory.