POLITICAL THOUGHT IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY
Political thinking in this period was stimulated by the rise of the national state and by the upheavals in religion. However, the theoretical response to these great changes often drew heavily upon traditional ideas and assumptions, at least north of the Alps, where political thinkers were not as ready as were Machiavelli and Guicciardini to throw off customary preconceptions. They still saw political life and its problems largely from a religious point of view and from the background of a traditional hierarchical conception of the nature of the universe.
LUTHER AND CALVIN
The leaders of the Protestant Reformation often were quite conservative in their political ideas. This is especially true of Luther. He had the attachment to order and the hatred of disorder that were characteristic of medieval thinkers. In keeping with this outlook, he viewed society in the time-honored way, as consisting of various classes or estates that had been ordained by the Almighty to perform specific functions. Any departure from these arrangements would introduce that disorder of which he had such horror. A violent disturbance of the established order was an especially grave sin; hence his harsh condemnation of the Peasants' Revolt.
Luther's pessimism about human nature was inevitably reflected in his political ideas. He was convinced that most men were not, and would never be, truly Christian. In a society of real Christians, secular authority would not be needed; but since men are by nature sinful and evil, the restraints of the law are necessary to check their wicked desires. Therefore, the state exists by divine ordinance, and the magistrate wields the sword to repress the evil and protect the good. It is right for Christians to serve the state, even if it means using force to punish evildoers. Similarly, war is justifiable in defense of the state.
Luther's respect for the office of ruler or magistrate did not involve any great respect for their persons. A wise prince, he observed, had always been a rare bird, and a pious one even more rare. They are usually fools or knaves from whom we must expect the worst, especially in divine matters. This anti-monarchical bias is a prominent theme in the thought of the period, at least on the Continent; it is found in Erasmus and Calvin and even in Machiavelli. In England it is not very conspicuous it would have been dangerous but possibly it may be glimpsed in More's Utopia.
Thus it is untrue to allege that Luther believed in princely absolutism and willingly subjected the church to the state. He did call on the German princes in 1520 to undertake the reform of the church because it had not reformed itself. In his own church in later years, the secular authorities carried out visitations corresponding to those formerly made by bishops in order to test the competence of the clergy and the state of ecclesiastical discipline. But Luther firmly refused to admit the right of the secular authority to interfere in spiritual things that is, in matters of faith.
Whether the ruler is good or not, according to Luther, subjects must never resist, because civil government has been established by God. On the other hand, obedience is not unconditional; the political thought of the reformers, including Luther, can best be summed up in the Biblical statement, "We ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5: 29) The ruler must not be obeyed if he commands anything against conscience or God's law; a good example, for the reformers, would be the suppression of what they regarded as the true worship or enforced attendance at Mass. Since active resistance, as well as obedience, is forbidden in such a case, the only recourse was to submit passively and suffer the consequences, even martyrdom.
In political thought, as in theology, Calvin is in essential agreement with Luther. His legal training and even his classical studies helped to give him a great respect for law and authority. Civil magistracy he regarded as the most sacred of human callings. Subjects should reverence their rulers as God's vicegerents; obedience to rulers is obedience to God. Magistrates have the right to use force in the punishment of crimes, but should avoid excessive severity and unnecessary cruelty. War is justified when it is a matter of defending one's country against outside attack. But princes should resort to war only in case of extreme necessity, and should always be motivated by public spirit, never by private interests.
Princes have the right to a certain splendor in their way of life, to be paid for out of the people's taxes, but they should remember where the money comes from and not use it for luxury or to gratify their passions. Calvin's reference to the passions of princes reminds us of his distrust in monarchs. As early as 1532, in his youthful edition of Seneca's De clementia, he attacked the pride and inhumanity of kings and showed his hatred of tyranny. The Institutes strike the same note. There is scarcely one prince in a hundred who does not despise divine things. No virtue is so necessary in kings as moderation, and none is so rare. Wicked kings must be endured and obeyed, as God's punishment for our sins; the Almighty will punish their wickedness. Yet an oppressed people is not entirely without recourse, for God sometimes raises up an avenger like Moses, for His people. There may also be magistrates within a state whose function it is to protect the people by moderating the power of kings. There were such men among the Greeks and Romans, and in modern kingdoms this function may be performed by the estates when they are assembled. Private individuals on their own initiative are never authorized to resist.
Calvin, unlike Luther, considered the problem of the best form of government and chose either aristocracy or a mixture of aristocracy and democracy. His conception of aristocracy involved elected officials, not a hereditary caste. He was at heart a republican, but feared the possible disorders of democracy. Liberty was very important to Calvin, but it should be liberty under law, not unbridled license. Law was vital in Calvin's conception of society and government. In common with most thinkers of his time, he recognized an eternal law binding on men in all ages and places. This natural law or, as Calvin also called it, the moral law, had two chief articles: to worship God and to love one another. Equity, which is embodied in this law, must be the aim of all man-made laws. The laws of different nations may rightly differ; Calvin denied that the legal enactments of the Jews, recorded in the Old Testament, should serve as a model for other peoples and times.
It is perfectly legitimate for Christians to seek recourse in the courts when the occasion demands it. The litigant in such a case must not hate the other party or desire to harm him but must feel benevolence and affection toward him. Calvin admits that this is rare.
Calvin was, of course, deeply concerned over the question of the proper relationship between church and state. We have already traced the actual arrangements he helped to effect in Geneva. These were a logical attempt to carry out the views expressed in his writings. The chief purpose of the state is to maintain true religion; it must also regulate men's lives and manners in such a way as to establish and maintain civil society in peace and tranquillity. Since the fostering of true religion is its chief aim, it must repress offenses against religion, such as idolatry, sacrilege, and blasphemy. The state is forbidden, however, to make laws concerning religion. It is interesting that Calvin, known as a persecutor of dissenters, held that the consciences of believers are exempt from all human authority. It is not easy to reconcile this with his treatment of those whom he considered heretics; perhaps this exemption from human authority did not apply to the consciences of unbelievers.
The views of the Anabaptists and other radicals of the period on the close relations that should prevail between church and state contrasted with the views of Luther, Calvin, and most of their Catholic and Protestant contemporaries. The distinctive way in which the Anabaptists envisaged this issue is so much an integral part of their whole outlook that it is discussed fully in Chapter 15.
In Tudor England the traditional subjects of political philosophy were discussed against the backdrop of the emerging national state. The nature of the discussion reflected this development and also the religious revolution in the state during the course of the century. Though the changes were indeed revolutionary, political discussion tended to move along traditional paths.
English humanists were, as we have seen, much concerned with problems of society and government, and they were greatly influenced in this, as in other areas, by Erasmus. Erasmus rejected belligerent nationalism, denounced war as the greatest of evils, and distrusted kings. There was a republican strain in his thought; he was concerned for the liberties of the people and favored a government in which the people would be in control. His faith in education was particularly congenial to the thought of the English humanists.
The most important and original work of political thought produced by the English humanists was Thomas More's Utopia, first published in Latin in 1516 and printed at Louvain. The earliest English translation, by Ralph Robinson, did not appear until 1551. The word Utopia is derived from the Greek word for nowhere. The book takes the form of a conversation at the home of Peter Giles in Antwerp, and the description of Utopia is put in the mouth of Raphael Hythloday, a fictitious Portuguese sailor who is supposed to have sailed with Vespucci. The work is divided into two books. In the first book More and Hythloday discuss the actual governments of their day and introduce some sharp criticisms of their practices. Here More shows his sympathy with the plight of the poor. The laws that punish theft by death are too harsh, and at the same time ineffective. It would be better to provide work, so that no man would be driven to theft by the pressure of want. Landlords live in idleness on the labor of their tenants whom they fleece without mercy. Not only are they idle themselves but also they carry around with them a crowd of equally idle retainers who have never learned a useful craft and, when they are dismissed from service or when their masters die, are driven to become thieves.
In seeking the causes of the poverty that breeds theft, More refers specifically to the situation in England, where he places the blame on the men who are enclosing farm land for the purpose of raising sheep. This leads to his famous remark that the sheep are now eating men. Honest husbandmen, displaced from their land with their families and unable to find work, are forced to steal or beg. Food costs more than it did, and the rich men who own the sheep have raised the price of wool. Through the wealth and covetousness of a few, excesses and disorder have spread among all classes.
More urges Hythloday to enter public service, citing Plato on the ruler's need for wise counsel. This was a problem that More was facing at the time, since Henry VIII was pressing him to enter royal service, and Hythloday's arguments against taking such a step were undoubtedly prominent in More's mind. The sailor is quite bitter about the likelihood of kings taking good advice. He sees clearly into the predatory and cynical behavior of contemporary monarchs, interested in aggrandizement of their domains rather than content with what they already have.
Toward the end of the first book, Hythloday comes to one of the main themes of the Utopia, the evils of private property. Where property is private, just government and prosperity are impossible; a few evil men possess everything and the rest live miserably. More disagrees, and to prove his case, Hythloday agrees to describe Utopia. This description forms the substance of the second and larger book.
The society of Utopia is strictly regulated, but at the same time is characterized by a high degree of decentralization and by representative government. There is no private property, and people live together in households of at least forty persons. Everyone is taught a craft, but in addition everyone learns husbandry and has to spend some time at it. Since everyone works, nobody works more than six hours a day. Those who show a special aptitude for learning are exempt from manual labor; from this group are chosen priests and government officials. The chief happiness of the Utopians is the adornment of the mind, to which they devote time that can be spared from necessary occupations. The products of the labor of all are laid up in storehouses from which householders fetch whatever their families need without paying for it. There is plenty for all, and nobody lacks anything necessary, because all supply one another's wants. They do not use money much; gold and silver, which they regard as worthless in themselves, they hold in low regard, and the same is true of pearls and diamonds.
Bondsmen or slaves exist in Utopia. Some are being punished for grievous offenses, and there are some who in other countries have been condemned to death. Sometimes poor laborers from other countries come voluntarily to Utopia to become slaves. They are treated almost as well as free citizens, may depart when they wish, and do not leave empty-handed.
The Utopians do not make leagues with other countries. Nature has set sufficient love between man and man, so that no other bond is necessary. They detest and abhor war. Although all of them, even the women, have military training, the Utopians go to war only to defend themselves, to drive invaders out of the lands of their friends, or to deliver an oppressed people from tyranny. Sometimes they initiate war, when called by friends to help requite previous injuries. If any Utopian is injured or killed in a foreign country, the Utopians go to war unless they receive satisfaction.
The religious situation in Utopia is of special interest. There are various religions. Some worship the sun, the moon, or one of the planets; some worship a great and famous man. The greatest and wisest part of the people reject all these and believe that there is an unknown, everlasting, incomprehensible divine being, dispersed throughout the world in virtue and power. Some of the Utopians, hearing Hythloday and his companions speak of Christ, joyfully received Christianity and were baptized. King Utopus, who conquered the land and founded the state that bears his name, made certain laws that still stand. He decreed that every man could follow the religion of his choice and might do all that he could to persuade others to his opinion, provided that he do it peaceably and quietly. For those who should strive violently or fervently to push a religious viewpoint, the penalty was banishment or slavery. King Utopus recognized that there was only one true religion, but trusted truth by its own power to come to light at last, unless there should be contention or debate over religion, which would destroy truth. Therefore, he left everyone free to believe as he pleased, except for two things: He forbade men to believe that the soul dies with the body or to deny divine providence in the government of the world. The Utopians believe that after death vices are severely punished, while virtues are bountifully rewarded. Those who believe otherwise are not counted as men, let alone as citizens. They are deprived of honors, excluded from public employment, and despised by all.
Priests are very holy, hence very few in number. If a priest commits an offense, he is not judged in the ordinary manner, but is left to God's judgment. This rarely happens, and since there are few priests and they have no power, there is no danger to the commonwealth from possible transgressions.
Thus Hythloday concludes his description of Utopia, which he sees as the only true commonwealth. In other states he finds "nothing else than a kind of conspiracy of the rich, who are aiming at their own interests under the name and title of the commonwealth."15 All men would surely have long since come to this one true type of commonwealth, were it not for Pride, the source of all evils.
A large literature of interpretation has grown up around the Utopia, and many opinions have been put forward about its real meaning. The problem is complicated by the facts of More's life. He was above all things a devout Christian, yet Utopia is not a Christian society. He became, after the start of the Reformation, a bitter enemy of heresy, yet he allowed a diversity of religions in Utopia. Was he inconsistent? Did he change his religious views after the rise of Protestantism threatened the Roman church with a danger he could not have foreseen when he wrote his book? It is possible. Yet some scholars have seen him as consistent throughout; one of the most distinguished of the students of More, R. W. Chambers, sees no contradiction between his views in Utopia and his actual practice. He points out that even in Utopia, though men have a right to freedom of religious opinion, they do not have the right to disturb public order in propagating their views, and they lose their rights as men and citizens if they fail to hold certain beliefs.
Further, if Utopia is More's ideal society, why is it not Christian, since for him Christianity is the true religion? Chambers holds that it was not his ideal society. It was an attempt to demonstrate how well men could live on the basis of the pagan virtues of justice, fortitude, wisdom, and temperance; and to show by contrast how badly Christians are doing, when they ought to do so much better. On the other hand, J. H. Hexter, in a most thoughtful analysis of the Utopia, is more inclined to take the work seriously as a genuine expression of More's ideal society, but he says that the religious aspect of it has been given undue emphasis. More, according to Hexter, was consistently opposed to private property. The organization of the Utopian state, he contends, is best understood as directed toward the suppression of sin, above all the sin of pride. There have been, and will no doubt continue to be, numerous divergent readings of this great book, as each generation finds something in it that responds to its own needs and purposes.
The Utopia does not form part of the main stream of English political thought under Henry VIII, which was mostly devoted to an exaltation of the power of the state, that is, of the king. This current of thought is found not only in formal treaties, but also in statutes and homilies; most of all, it is found in pamphlets. There was much official propaganda to express the royalist point of view, and the control Henry exercised over the press would have made it very difficult to give voice to an opposing one.
The famous preamble to the Act of Appeals of 1533, possibly written by Thomas Cromwell, sets forth clearly the Tudor conception of the state. It asserts first of all that England is an empire which meant that it recognized no superior on earth. It goes on to say that this empire is governed by a king to whom the body politic, composed of clergy and laity, owe "next to God" their obedience. The king is endowed by God with power to settle finally and without appeal all questions that arise within his realm. Though this statute was of course directed against the international claims of the papacy, the preamble is a clear statement of the rise of the sovereign state and the rejection of the ideal of a united Christendom. According to G. R. Elton, a distinguished student of Cromwell's thought, Cromwell, as shown by this preamble and elsewhere, saw the essence of a state and of sovereignty in the law: not divine, natural, or canon law, but positive, man-made, law. This conception of sovereignty as lying essentially in the right to make law is a modern conception; in the Middle Ages, as we have seen, law was regarded as something already existing, not as something made by men.
Protestant writers tended to support the claims of the government in its insistence on the duty of obedience to the monarch. William Tyndale's Obedience of a Christian Man (1528) even comes close to the divine-right theory in this respect. According to Tyndale, he who judges the king judges God; the king is bound by no human laws or rules and shall give account to God only. Like Calvin, the English Protestants accepted the duty to obey even a wicked ruler, unless he commands something against God. Even then, he must not be resisted. He must be suffered as a divine punishment for men's sins. As for his own punishment, he must be left to God. Great stress was laid, especially by the paid propagandists of the government, upon the evil of rebellion.
For the writers of Henry VIII's day, the great issue was the nature of the royal authority over the church. Some of the arguments used to justify that authority went back to the fourteenth century and to Wycliffe, Ockham, and Marsilio of Padua. These arguments refused to recognize in the church or the clergy any coercive power, because such power is reserved for the civil ruler. The church should properly confine itself to spiritual functions. Clergymen are the king's subjects as much as laymen. The church consists not merely of the clergy, but of the whole body of Christians. Some arguments went beyond this, however, and asserted that the king was the best interpreter of Scripture and had the right to define doctrine, either alone or with the participation of Parliament or convocation of the bishops. It was generally agreed that the king did not have the power to administer the sacraments or consecrate clergymen, and Henry claimed no such power.
In spite of the tendency to exalt the king's power, Tudor writers, following medieval tradition, recognized that it was subject to limitations. One such limitation was the law of nature, binding on all earthly powers. It was also held that in important legislation the king must collaborate with Parliament; he was subject to divine and natural law and to positive law and custom as well. The growing importance of England's Parliament was reflected in political theory. Legislation was coming to be regarded as the joint product of king and Parliament, and the king's power to issue proclamations on his authority alone was seen as a prerogative to be exercised only in emergencies.
In 1531, Sir Thomas Elyot published his Boke named the Gouernour. Elyot was a member of the gentry, educated at the Inns of Court and Oxford. Through his friendship with Thomas More, he became a humanist, and his book displays the ideals of More's humanism in its concern for education and in its devotion to the public welfare, besides being crammed with references to ancient history and literature. Elyot had practical experience in government; one of his positions was that of chief clerk of the King's Council, which he held from 1523 to the fall of Wolsey in 1530. The governor of the title means, not the ruler himself, but a member of the ruling class, and the task which Elyot set for himself was that of forming a proper governing class for his country. The book was very influential in establishing a model for the gentry.
Elyot's social ideals are set within the framework of the traditional view of the universe and of human society. The universe and society are hierarchical, based on the "Great Chain of Being." He emphasized order and "degree" in a manner that anticipates the famous speech of Ulysses in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. In fact, there are verbal resemblances between the two texts, which make it likely that Elyot was one of Shakespeare's sources. In accordance with his hierarchical conception, Elyot prefers a monarchical type of government; men, like all other beings, need one head. Aristocracy and democracy, the alternative forms of government, are condemned.
In outlining the proper education of the government officials for whom he is writing, Elyot shows the influence of Italian humanist ideas of education and of Castiglione's Courtier. Latin is the earliest subject studied by the child, and Greek is begun at the age of seven. The authors chosen should be those found useful in teaching virtue and in preparing young men for public life. Among the subjects studied are logic, rhetoric, geography, cosmography, and particularly history, which is virtually the crown of the young governor's studies, because of its incomparable pleasure and usefulness. Philosophy, especially moral philosophy, occupies a vital place, and is studied from classical writings, especially the works of Plato, as well as from the Bible. Two works of Erasmus are included in the curriculum. Physical exercise is emphasized, and there is a defense of the value of dancing.
Much of The Boke named the Gouernour (1531) consists of commonplaces; as a whole it is devoid of originality. Its interest lies in the extent to which it illustrates humanistic influences, in the numerous examples given from classical and sacred history, in Elyot's unhappy reflections on the degeneracy of his age, and in the concern it exhibits for the proper training of a new ruling class, which in this case was the gentry. It also has its usefulness as an exposition of ideas which, however timeworn and trite, were widely held and influential. The ideas of hierarchy and order persisted into the reign of Elizabeth. They may be seen in the Mirror for Magistrates, a long poem with prose passages, written by many hands, which first appeared in 1559 and was frequently reprinted in enlarged editions. It tells stories, mostly from English history in the fifteenth century, about the fall of bad kings and sometimes lesser men. It emphasizes the importance of obedience to rulers and magistrates, and the wickedness of rebellion. It also shows that good rulers obey the law, and that God punishes the tyrant, the ruler who sets his own will in the place of law. Princes and officers rule with God's sanction, and to resist them is to resist God. Even bad rulers are sent by God to punish the people's sins. The doctrine of nonresistance was also preached, quite literally, in the homilies, sermons prepared by the government to be read in the churches. The Homily on Rebellion of 1571 called rebellion the sum of all sins and painted in horrifying terms the complete breakdown of society that supposedly would follow it.
To this insistence on the duty of obedience to authority there was a countercurrent in sixteenth-century England. The persecution of Protestants under Mary Tudor, which brought death and exile to hundreds, caused some of the exiles to rethink their political creed and arrive at conclusions which were, from the orthodox Calvinist point of view, revolutionary. The most important of these men were John Ponet, Christopher Goodman, and John Knox.
From his exile in Strasbourg, Ponet, formerly bishop of Rochester and of Winchester, expressed his views in A Shorte Treatise of Politike Power in 1556. He based government on natural law, which was not unusual at the time, but arrived at the unusual conclusion that when government fails to abide by this law, it can be changed. Rulers have their authority only on the condition that they rule justly and lawfully, and God has provided means for removing them when they do not. Parliaments are among these means. He departed from the Calvinistic position in that he denied the doctrine that an evil ruler or tyrant is permitted or sent by God as a punishment for the people's sins. God never sends or allows tyranny, he asserted, or means it to be obeyed. Ponet was equally original in proclaiming the right of private individuals to decide when the time for disobedience has come. Calvin, as we have seen, had left this decision to the inferior magistrates. According to Ponet, the Holy Ghost, which has put the laws of God and of nature in men's hearts, will indicate the proper time for disobedience. However, the deposition of tyrants should normally be left to the nobility. In his political thought, Ponet anticipated ideas that were to come into their own more than two centuries later.
In 1558 there appeared at Geneva a work by another of the Marian exiles, Christopher Goodman, entitled How Superior Powers Oght to be Obeyd. Goodman contended that kings owed their position to recognition by the people, and that they must be punished if they abused their power, even though they were God's lieutenants. While he also believed that the nobility was supposed to serve as a check on the abuse of kingly power, he did not leave resistance to bad rulers in the hands of the nobles alone, but conceived it as the duty of the common man also to resist.
John Knox was another exile from Mary's persecution. The evolution of his political ideas from Calvin's doctrine of obedience to a completely opposite position gains importance from his later prominence as one of the leaders in the overthrow of the Roman church in Scotland and in the establishment of a Protestant church. It was the policies of Mary Tudor's government and Knox's own exile that apparently stimulated him to a change of view. His First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women was published in 1558. In it he contended that it was always unlawful for a woman to occupy a throne, because women were lacking in the qualities needed for ruling. They were made to obey men, and for a woman to have authority over men is rebellion against God. Mary Tudor was not, therefore, a rightful ruler (or even a woman), and should be removed from the throne.
In his Appellation of the same year he went even further. Scotland, which at the time was under the monstrous regiment of the Catholic regent Mary of Guise, was becoming ripe for rebellion, with the Calvinists demanding freedom of worship. Knox, who had been condemned to death in absentia and burned in effigy, appealed for revolt in Scotland and declared that rebellion against idolatrous rulers was a duty. The doctrine that kings must be obeyed whether they are good or bad is blasphemous. Knox's ideas correspond with those of Goodman. The two men were closely associated, and it is not clear which one had more influence on the other.
After the triumph of Knox's party in Scotland, and the establishment of the new church, he reverted to a more orthodox view of political authority. Magistrates again became God's lieutenants, and anyone who resisted the established authorities was fighting against God.
As Protestant exiles wrote against the conditions of Mary's reign, so Catholic exiles in the reign of Elizabeth stated their objections to the condition of the church in England and its relationship to the state. Their chief target was the royal headship of the church. There could be no church universal on earth, they contended, if it had no head on earth. If the secular ruler is in every country the head of the church, then there are churches but no Church Catholic. Thus it was denied that the church is identical with the commonwealth, as was claimed by apologists for Tudor policy; the church must be a totally separate body.
The Jesuit Robert Parsons voiced in one of his writings a principle of which he himself would not have understood the implications but which was, nevertheless, of great importance. He asserted that each man is bound first of all by his own faith and conscience in matters of religion. Therefore, he saw it as wrong to entrust one's conscience to the state or for the state to establish religion. Probably he was thinking chiefly of the right of Catholic consciences; nevertheless, the principle had a wider application. If generally accepted, it would create a situation that would require the adoption of another principle repugnant to Parsons and most of his contemporaries the principle of religious toleration.
From the time of Henry VIII, English Catholics tended to rely on the traditional concept of natural law in their protest against the crown's ecclesiastical policy. According to Reginald Pole, the royal law should conform to the law of nature. Kings, existing for natural ends, must be subordinate to the priesthood, which had a supernatural function. Kings are the lowest of the three levels of human society, the other two being the people and the priesthood, both of which kings are instituted to serve. According to Pole, the people should, therefore, rebel against the king, their servant.
Thomas More also acknowledged the presence of a higher law when he referred to points of the law that were unlawful; these, he said, men are not bound to obey. In defending himself after his condemnation, he claimed that the Act of Parliament on which his indictment was based was "repugnant to the Laws of God and His Holy Church."
In proving their points, some English Catholic writers propounded the doctrine of government by the consent of the people. William Allen argued that, while the authority of the state rested on consent and the law of nature, the church was not dependent on the consent of the people, but was based on the law of God. He implied that a government may be overturned if it does not serve the ends for which it was instituted, and particularly if it hinders the people in the attainment of their salvation. It is the church, however, not the people, that is to take the lead in the disciplining and, if need be, the deposition of the ruler. Parsons, in upholding the right of the Spanish Infanta, daughter of Philip II, to the English throne, argued that government is based on consent and that the people have the right to change rulers if necessary. He preferred a monarchical form of government, but there are various forms of monarchy, and the English form is "mixed." Kings of England are not absolute and must respect the functions of council and Parliament; they are bound by the law.
Perhaps the most important English contribution to political thought in the sixteenth century was the work of Richard Hooker, Of The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. Hooker (1554 1600) was a priest in the Church of England. The first four books of his great work appeared in 1593, the fifth in 1597. There were three more books, which Hooker may have finished, but they have come down to us in imperfect form. The sixth and eighth did not appear until 1648, and the seventh came out in 1662.
Hooker's book is a defense of the established church against the criticisms of the Puritans. In meeting their arguments with a temperateness and moderation that sets him far apart from the bitter and scurrilous controversialists of his day Hooker developed a theory of government that goes far beyond the immediate demands of the debate. In doing so, he helped to give his church an intellectual and philosophical basis, which it had not had and which it sorely needed. Drawing on traditional sources, including Thomas Aquinas and Marsilio of Padua, he combined them into what was in fact a new creation.
In doctrine, Hooker was a thoroughgoing Protestant. The controversy with the Puritans is about other things: order, tradition, authority, the welfare of society, and especially law. He disagreed with the Puritan position that the Bible is the only source of truth. God reveals Himself in many ways, and all these ways should be used. Particularly noteworthy is his emphasis on man's God-given faculty of reason, by which he is able to understand nature and the divine will. His regard for reason helps to reinforce his respect for tradition. "The general and perpetual voice of men is as the sentence of God Himself." What all men have learned at all times comes from nature, whose voice is God's instrument.
God has given man reason to enable him to discover law. Law is, in fact, Hooker's main subject. Like medieval thinkers, he envisaged the universe as governed by a series of laws, of which the highest was the Divine Law, which is unchanging and deals with unchanging things. Other laws deal with "things indifferent," which men can change if necessary, though they should not do so lightly. These include church ceremonies and organization. Man is both fallen tainted with wickedness and made for society. Human life before government was established was intolerable; therefore, men united in "politic societies."
Hooker based society on consent, though this consent might be implicit rather than formal. Law also rests on consent, which might have been given by our ancestors, in which case it is binding on their posterity. The laws are the acts of the whole body politic and of each member, who in consequence is bound to obey them.
On the subject of the best form of government, Hooker was open-minded. He considered monarchy to be probably the best, but did not think that God had expressly commanded it. As government rests on consent, the ruler depends on the body of the ruled, and has an obligation to govern according to law and for the general welfare. According to the law of nature, the legislative power belongs to the people, and a prince who presumes to exercise this power by himself is no better than a tyrant. Once the people have vested power in a sovereign, this power cannot be withdrawn. God requires obedience to the ruler. Hooker provides no remedy for bad rulers; tyranny is a lesser evil than anarchy.
Hooker saw clearly the need for sovereignty, though he did not use the word. There had to be somebody in the state who was unpunishable, "or else no man shall suffer punishment." There had to be an ultimate source of justice, which received it from no superior, if justice was to be done. The sovereign must on the one hand be subject to law, on the other hand supreme in all fields. According to Hooker, the sovereign was not the king alone but the king in Parliament.
Hooker differed from the Puritan view that the church should be independent of the state. For him, the church included all Englishmen, and church and state were two aspects of the same body. The care of religion devolved on civil rulers as one of their first duties, though this should extend only to external things. The royal supremacy in the church, since it is exercised through Parliament, embodies the consent of the community just as much as does civil government; because the whole community, and, therefore, the whole church, is represented in Parliament.
During the sixteenth century, particularly the last few decades, a great deal of important political thinking was going on in France, stimulated by the rise of the Protestant, or Huguenot, party and by the resultant civil wars, which threatened to bring about the dissolution of the state. As in other cases seventeenth-century England is an example political upheaval brought thoughtful men face to face with the fundamental questions of political life.
The leading political question was the nature of the monarchy. One author who dealt with it was Claude de Seyssel, a man with experience of high office in both state and church. In his La Grand Monarchie de France published in 1519, he defended the view that a hereditary monarchy, though it had drawbacks, was in practice the best form of government, at least if it resembled that of France, which he considered the best governed country in the world. He did not base the monarchy on divine right, but on custom and expediency. What he admired most about the French monarchy was that it was not absolute, but checked by customary law and rights. The French king does not seem to be legally limited in the exercise of power, but there are effective practical restraints: the Christian faith, the parlements, and above all the body of ancient law and custom, which he respects though he is not legally bound to do so.
At the same time there developed a different theory of monarchy, an absolutist theory. This arose chiefly in the French law schools during the reigns of Francis I (1515 47), and Henry II (1547 59). French lawyers from the time of Louis IX (St. Louis) in the thirteenth century had been doing all they could to extend the power of the crown. One of their instruments was the Roman civil law, with its idea of a law-making sovereign. The French lawyers of the early sixteenth century who supported absolute monarchy rejected the principle that the monarch requires popular consent; they asserted that he had a right to unlimited obedience and that he could make law. They agreed also that the king's power was derived from the will of God and that the king was God's vicegerent. These lawyers did not, however, attribute to the king unlimited powers; they invoked the concept of fundamental laws in France that bind even the king. There were two fundamental laws that figured most prominently in the discussion. One was the so-called Salic Law, which forbade a woman to ascend the throne of France and was interpreted as forbidding succession to the throne through the female line. The other prohibited the king from alienating the royal domain, but it was not clear just what this meant.
In opposition to absolutist doctrines there grew up a type of constitutional theory, based on resentment at the centralizing tendencies of the crown and on the growth of Protestantism, which tended to ally itself with the forces resisting the monarchy on nonreligious grounds. This body of thought claimed that the royal power was limited by an ancient constitution or by a body of customary rights. The idea of natural law as limiting the king was widely accepted, even among lawyers. The advocates of a constitutionalist theory of government in France tended to emphasize the position of either the parlements or the Estates-General as restricting the authority of the king.
In 1561, on the very eve of the religious wars, the chancellor, Michel de l'Hpital, who was assisting Catherine de' Medici in trying to avert conflict, made a series of statements embodying his conception of the nature of the monarchy, which were of great and prophetic significance. For him, the king holds his throne not by consent but directly from God and from the ancient law of France. He is the source of law but not bound by the law. His subjects must always obey him, and rebellion is unjustified under any conditions. It is true that l'Hpital believed in frequent meetings of the Estates-General, and he insisted that law must be based on reason, divine justice, and the law of nature. Nevertheless, he was convinced that only a strong king could bring peace to the country, and he held civil war to be the worst of evils.
He is best known for having advocated toleration as a solution to religious conflicts. He was not the only advocate of toleration, but he presented the arguments for it more completely than anyone else. He did not believe it was good for more than one religion to exist in a state; like the vast majority of his contemporaries, he strongly favored religious unity. Under the prevailing circumstances, however, he saw toleration as a necessity, and persecution as worse than useless, threatening great evils to France if continued. He even defended the liberty of men to seek God as they wished; if liberty did not include religion, he claimed, then both the word liberty and the thing itself were perverted. In defending toleration, he denied one of the most widely held beliefs of the age: The ruler has the duty of establishing true religion and repressing heresy. It is the king's duty, he said, to maintain peace and to do justice, and he is not bound to any party or group, but stands above all particular interests.
During the civil wars, political theories developed in response to the circumstances of the conflict. Both sides, Catholic and Huguenot, evolved their own distinctive doctrines. The Huguenots, being Calvinists, had originally subscribed to Calvin's political ideas. In 1559 they held a synod in Paris, which produced a confession of faith that asserted the duty of obedience even to an "unfaithful" ruler. Their first protests against the actions of the government, which began soon afterwards, were directed not against the crown, but against the Guises. When the civil wars broke out in 1562, the Huguenots asserted that they were fighting for the king against the Guises, claimed their complete loyalty to him, and denied that they were rebels or that they had any right to rebel.
Within a few years, this argument became untenable, since it was now obvious that they were indeed fighting the king. Therefore, from 1567 to 1570 they adopted a new line and claimed to be fighting against despotism and on behalf of the ancient laws and liberties of France. There also appeared in these years the idea, destined to become very important, of a reciprocal obligation between ruler and subjects. The king must live up to his end of the bargain in order to receive obedience. This idea, implied at the time rather than expressed, pointed to the contract theory.
The crystallization and definite expression of such ideas was hastened by the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 1572, which intensified the Huguenots' will to resist and brought to the fore theories suggested earlier. The most important French political writings of the century now began to appear.
One of them was the Francogallia by the distinguished Huguenot jurist Franois Hotman, published in 1573 at Geneva, where the author had taken refuge after a narrow escape from death in the preceding year. This book attempted to prove, on the basis of Hotman's interpretation of French history, that the people had normally been sovereign and had expressed their sovereignty through a national representative body. Though this was an inaccurate reading of the history of France, the underlying ideas expressed by Hotman were widely repeated by Huguenot writers: the sovereignty of the people, the conditional authority of the king, and the existence of an ancient constitution of France.
Even Theodore Beza, devoted follower and successor of Calvin, found himself compelled by events to contradict the master's teaching on political obedience. In a work probably written by him, the Right of Magistrates (1574), he expressed the view that rulers exist for the good of the people and owe their authority to the people's consent. This authority is a limited one, and having been granted by the people, can be withdrawn by them.
The best known work of Huguenot political theory is the Vindiciae contra Tyrannos (1579), which has been attributed to Philippe du Plessis-Mornay, although the attribution is not certain. Mornay was a French nobleman, who was for many years a close adviser of Henry of Navarre, later to be Henry IV. This famous book deals with the question of the right of subjects to resist a ruler who attempts to violate the law of God or to oppress the church or the state. To solve the problem, the author invokes two contracts. First there is a contract between God on the one hand and the king and people on the other, by which the community becomes a church, obligated to offer true worship. The second contract is between the people and the king, by which the king is obligated to rule well and the people agree to obey as long as the king lives up to his obligation. As a result of the first contract, the people are responsible to God for the king's support of true religion. If he defaults on that obligation, the people can take measures to ensure purity of worship, which means that a heretical king can be deposed.
To resist a king who violates the law of God or who lays waste the church is a duty; if the people do not do this, they are equally liable with the king to divine punishment. It is also lawful to resist a tyrant prince who is oppressing or destroying a state. A tyrant who has usurped the throne without legal right may be resisted by a private citizen; a lawful king who has become a tyrant, however, may be resisted only by the whole people acting through their leaders, the magistrates, nobles, and so forth. In this sense the spirit of the Vindiciae tends to be aristocratic.
Even neighboring princes are bound to aid the subjects of other princes when these subjects are persecuted for adhering to the true religion or are oppressed by tyranny. There is only one church, the Church Universal, and Christian princes must look after its welfare not only in their own dominions but everywhere. As for tyranny, a tyrant is the common enemy of mankind.
These theories of the right of resistance and of the popular origin of sovereignty, which were characteristic of the Huguenots as a revolutionary party, were hastily abandoned when the leader of their faction became king of France. Similarly, the political thinking of the militant Catholic party, the League, illustrates the close connection between political thought and the conditions in which it is formulated. From the foundation of the League in 1576, it refused to recognize any theory of government that placed unlimited power in the hands of the king or that accepted the doctrine of nonresistance. Particularly in its early years, the League tended to attribute sovereignty, or a share of it, to the estates. This was most true from 1576 to 1585, when the League was dominated by nobles; in this period, League political thinking centered on ideas of a constitution. After 1585 it fell into the hands of the towns, and more radical theories developed.
Basic to the outlook of the League was the principle that there can be no real unity in a state without agreement in religion. The most fundamental law of the French monarchy, it was held, was that the king must be a Catholic. There was some talk of a contract between king and people, and it was agreed that a heretic king should be deposed. The writers of the League tended to stress the sovereignty of the people; their political theories were more democratic than those of the Huguenots. Sometimes they emphasized the power of the pope, but for the most part they did not accept the extreme assertions of papal power that were put forth by the Jesuits.
One result of the civil wars was the increasingly widespread acceptance of the theory of the divine right of kings: the king's authority had been bestowed directly by God rather than delegated by the people. It followed that the king was responsible only to God, not to any earthly authority, and that he could not be resisted. Indeed, to resist the king was tantamount to resisting God. The king was the source of law, not bound by it. While he might choose to consult others, he was in no way obligated to abide by anyone's opinion except his own. The suffering caused by the civil wars and the threatened disintegration of France itself drove many to the conclusion that the salvation of the country depended primarily on a strong monarch with virtually unlimited powers, to whom Frenchmen would give unquestioned obedience. This theory became especially persuasive after the assassination of Henry III in 1589, when the national crisis reached its most desperate stage. Hitherto even supporters of the royal power thought in terms of a monarch who should be limited in one way or another. After this date, all ideas of limited royal power tended to disappear.
The Politiques a name given to the party by its enemies put the interests of France above the claims of religious unity. It came to the conclusion that religious unity in France was not only impossible, but also not even necessary. The state could flourish with two recognized religions. This idea, radical for the time, led to another equally radical idea of religious toleration. The Politiques were Gallican in their attitude toward the papacy. They denied that the pope had any right to interfere in French politics or to tamper with the succession to the throne. Even in spiritual matters, the pope's authority in France was limited by the powers of the king.
By the end of the sixteenth century, the divine right theory had come to prevail in France. In its conviction that the disorders of the country could only be cured by a strong monarch, it may well have been substantially correct. It must also be noted that, even in this theory, kings were not regarded as completely without restraint. Kings were considered to be responsible to God, and this was a real responsibility in the sixteenth century. The more recent idea, that the state is the source of morality and constitutes the highest value, would have been regarded as idolatry by most thinkers of the period.
The most important French political thinker of the sixteenth century was Jean Bodin (1530 96). This remarkable man had a very active career; he was a lawyer and an teacher of law, and was prominent in public life. He was a deputy of the Third Estate at the Estates-General of Blois in 1576. For many years he served the duke of Anjou until the latter's death in 1584, and accompanied the duke on trips to England and the Netherlands. Though his opinions came closest to those of the Politiques, he found it convenient in 1588 to join the League, which had come into control of Laon, where Bodin was living. By 1593, when it had become safe to repudiate the League, he did so.
His writings cover a variety of topics. He wrote about law and about economics; he was one of the first to see the connection between the rise of prices and the state of the money supply. He made the point that the relations between states were governed largely by economic factors. He wrote a book to uphold the reality of sorcery and witchcraft against those who doubted such things, and he wrote another work that attempted to explain the entire universe. One of his most extraordinary productions was his Heptaplomeres, which did not appear in its complete form until 1857. It attacked orthodox Christianity and advocated religious toleration. Bodin was originally Catholic, and for a while was apparently a Calvinist, but in this book he attacked both Catholicism and Calvinism and even Judaism, although he did accept the Old Testament as sacred. He rejected the New Testament and also atheism, finding truth in all religions. Though not a Christian, he was a very religious man. God's eternal laws regulate all that exists, and one approach to the knowledge of God is to study the history of the state, which is a manifestation of the divine will.
In his Method for the Easy Comprehension of History (1566) Bodin showed that he considered the study of history to be the key to the solution of political problems. The chief use of historical study is political; it helps us to understand the state. The study of history is primarily the study of law, and he called for a study of comparative law, conducted with reference to the eternal laws of nature. He also emphasized the importance of the permanent factors that play a large part in determining human history, such as geography and climate.
His political views are developed in Six Books of the Republic (1576). Here he declares that the state's purpose is exalted, going beyond the mere satisfaction of basic needs. It is the realization of all good for mind and body. Although the state concerns itself with economic matters, defense, and justice, the chief end of every commonwealth ought to be virtue. Not every state recognizes this end, but the well-ordered one always does. What makes a state, whether well-ordered or not, is the sovereign power. The concept of sovereignty probably was Bodin's most distinctive contribution to political thought.
He defines sovereignty as absolute and perpetual power in a commonwealth. It must be absolute and perpetual, because if anyone could limit it, the person or persons imposing the limitation would be the true sovereign, and the supposed sovereign only a nominal one. The power of government does not rest on the consent of the governed; it is derived from God. The sovereign is, therefore, characterized by power, the right to command. This is an original conception of Bodin's, and marks a deviation from the traditional view that the king was primarily the embodiment of justice. The chief attribute of sovereignty is the right to make law. The sovereign also has the sole right of making war and peace and of concluding alliances. He alone makes all appointments to public office. He is the source of all jurisdiction, the final resort of appeal.
The obligation of subjects to their sovereign is the primary one, superseding all others. Bodin denied all right of rebellion. Since justice is no longer the primary attribute of a ruler, obedience does not depend upon the character of government, but must be unconditional. Even tyrants must be obeyed. Yet Bodin was not a proponent of unrestricted, arbitrary authority for any man. The sovereign is responsible to God, subject to divine and natural law; it is his duty to make his laws conform to the law of God.
Consultation is not obligatory for the sovereign, but is highly desirable. Bodin recommends a "senate," or advisory council, and a body of estates for communication between sovereign and subjects. Magistrates are indispensable. Because the sovereign cannot be everywhere, it is the magistrates who make possible the regular functioning of the government.
Bodin distinguishes three forms of government: monarchy, the rule of a single individual; aristocracy, the rule of the minority; and democracy, the rule of the majority. He rejected a mixed constitution, embodying elements of more than one of these forms, because he said that sovereignty, being absolute, cannot be divided. His own preference was for monarchy, since sovereignty involved command, and commands must proceed from a single will. The monarch, moreover, can consult the wisest of his subjects and benefit from their advice, whereas in democracies the majority prevails, and this does not make for wise decisions. In aristocracies there is constant danger of dissension, both between the governing class and the governed, and also within the governing class.
His great concern was to discover the conditions of political stability, and he felt that it was best provided by a monarchy governed democratically. In such a state the king consults the estates, and all subjects are eligible for office. However, forms of government are not simply the result of free choice, but depend largely on external factors beyond human control. These factors are both physical, included under the concept of climate, and astrological; the movements of the stars are the causes of changes on earth. He, therefore, regarded history as cyclical, reflecting the recurrent motions of the heavens. But men are not at the mercy of some irresistible necessity; the will is free, and men may at least make the best of situations they did not create and cannot change.
In the concept of climate as a factor in political organization, Bodin anticipates the well-known views of Montesquieu. Bodin divided the world into three climatic zones, from north to south. The northern people are strong, turbulent, and stupid. Those in the South are feeble and disinclined to action, but subtle and contemplative. In the middle zone, which includes France, they combine the best qualities of North and South. To be good, government must be adapted to the particular character of the people involved. Northern peoples need to be governed by force, those in the middle by justice, and southerners by religion. In the North there is a tendency toward democracy, in the middle toward monarchy, and in the South toward theocracy. When a people moves from one region to another, the region's character will inevitably change. It is only the people in the middle zone who have actually created a well-ordered state. Though monarchy is the best form of state, some people are incapable of grasping this; therefore, it would be inappropriate for them. At the same time, Bodin saw the dangers inherent in hereditary monarchy; he realized the corrupting effects of power, and he said that virtuous princes are few.
Bodin had great respect for the inviolability of property. The sovereign cannot take anyone's property without consent. This means that he cannot raise direct taxes without the consent of the estates. Bodin believed in taxes only as a last resort, when all other means of raising money have failed. Under normal conditions, taxation amounts to robbery. This may be seen as a limitation on the sovereign, but it may be looked at another way. For Bodin the family was the foundation of the state. Since property was tied to the family, any interference with property rights by the sovereign would carry the risk of destroying the state. Thus to deny the sovereign the right to destroy the state would not be a limitation on sovereignty, but would rather preserve the reason for its existence.
In a sense, Bodin accepted the idea of religious toleration, but on the basis of expediency rather than on principle. He saw religion as the chief basis of social order, somewhat in the manner of Machiavelli, though he did not favor any particular religion. Therefore, the government must make sure that there is no disputing about religion. If, however, there is a large dissenting group, no attempt should be made to suppress it by force. Religious diversity is at least better than civil war.
In the case of his own country, he attributed the civil wars to the wealth of the church; religion was just the "veil." In his discussion of the causes of revolutions, he gave the chief weight to inequality and in particular to great inequalities of wealth. He did mention other causes, such as the action of the stars and efforts to change the law. Although such changes are inevitable and necessary, they carry great danger, because people dislike anything new. Yet Bodin saw change everywhere in human affairs. Though he searched for stability, he was convinced that it did not exist in the world.
The Jesuits made significant contributions to political thought but their ideas worked in two directions. On the one hand, as defenders of papal authority, some of them exalted the power of the pope in political matters, thereby giving offense to both Protestants and Catholics. On the other hand, these Jesuit writers were generally Spaniards, and their patriotic feeling caused them to uphold the rights and independence of sovereign states. In some ways they looked back to the medieval papacy; in other ways they pointed to the merging society of nations.
An influential statement of the papal position was set forth by the famous Italian Jesuit, Robert Bellarmine, in a number of works published between 1586 and 1610. According to him, the pope has received from Christ the oversight of Christendom, and this gives him certain powers in connection with secular states. Bellarmine regarded this power as indirect. As a result one of his books was put on the Index as not containing a strong enough statement of papal authority. It was strong enough, however, to be condemned by the Parlement of Paris and to arouse the wrath of James I of England. Bellarmine disavowed any claim of purely temporal authority for the pope; it was his right, however, to see to it that men were not subjected to any temporal government that interfered with their spiritual welfare or that endangered their salvation. He might intervene to nullify any law that threatens men's souls, and in the interest of men's spiritual welfare he might depose monarchs.
While the pope's power derives directly from God, according to Bellarmine, civil authority has a secular origin. It is based on man's worldly nature and needs and serves worldly ends. The ruler is a delegate of the community and receives authority from his subjects; this authority is conditional and limited.
This conception of the people or the community as the source of political power was characteristic of the Jesuits in general. This enabled them to combat the idea of absolute monarchical power in the name of the authority of the pope. Luis de Molina, Spanish Jesuit theologian, claimed that the sovereign people had the right to depose its rulers, or delegates.
That authority originates in the community and is granted only conditionally was also asserted by the most original Jesuit political writer of the sixteenth century, Juan de Mariana, whose De rege et regis institutione was published in 1598. Unlike most other Jesuits, he does not seem to have believed in the traditional idea of the Christian commonwealth under the spiritual authority of the pope. He thought in terms of the national state, and in the De rege does not often refer to the pope. He was interested in the nature and origin of the state, and believed that before the state existed, men lived in an actual state of nature without law or government. Men's needs and wants drove them to form societies, which arose from groupings of families. The family, for him as for Bodin, was the natural human unit.
The first kind of government that evolved after men had formed societies was monarchy without limitations; but this did not work, and eventually the monarch was placed under the law. The community reserved for itself the powers of legislation and taxation, and these can be exercised only through a representative assembly. This assembly is the highest authority in the state. This leads to his famous doctrine of tyrannicide. The initiative belonged with the representative assembly, which could decide whether the ruler had overstepped his authority and become a tyrant. If it was so decided, then anyone, even a private citizen, had the right to kill. Though the doctrine of tyrannicide was not new, this assertion of an unlimited right to commit the act was an extreme statement and hurt his reputation. His justification of the assassination of Henry III of France caused the Parlement of Paris to burn the book.
On the subject of religion, he believed that unity of religion in a state is necessary for peace, but surprisingly for a Jesuit, he did not insist that there was only one religion that ought to be established. He did not think of the state as theocratic. Its existence was justified by the needs it met in man's nature, and it did not require a special divine sanction. Thus this Jesuit writer provides a theoretical basis for the modern secular state. As a matter of fact, even those Jesuits who emphasized papal supremacy were moving, perhaps unwittingly, in the same direction by seeing civil authority as purely human, in contrast to the divine authority of the church. From this it was not far to the conclusion that the state has rights of its own independent of ecclesiastical sanction.
The Jesuits also made a contribution to the emergence of the idea of international law, partly by their recognition of the state as an independent entity and partly by their insistence on the law of nature binding on all men and nations. Like so many other men and forces in the period, they helped to usher in a new age even as they clung to some of the ideals of the past.
Giovanni Botero had an active career as a priest, secretary to Charles Borromeo, and diplomat and tutor in the service of the duke of Savoy. Two of his best known works are On the Reason of State (1589) and On the Causes of the Greatness of Cities (1588). While he proclaimed himself an opponent of Machiavelli's views, in some ways he follows his great predecessor. He speaks, however, for the Counter Reformation. While he emphasizes the importance of religion in a state, as Machiavelli had done, he accepts the value of Catholicism only. True reason of state is obedience to the pope; rulers who have refused this obedience have suffered for it. Papal power he regarded as virtually unlimited, even in the political sphere.
His most original idea, found particularly in On the Causes of the Greatness of Cities, is his emphasis on the importance of economic factors. Cities grow as the result of the economic activities for which they provide opportunities. The strength of a government depends on prosperity. The basic factor in the production of wealth is labor, and idleness is a curse.
He regarded war as an unmitigated evil, and found its cause in the division of the world into numerous states. This division ought, therefore, to be done away with by a universal monarchy, which, among its other benefits, would end war and famine and bring happiness to mankind. To Botero, the national states that had come to dominate political life were the causes of so many evils; the only way to cope with them was to get rid of them entirely.
From this brief summary it becomes clear that the sixteenth century occupies a distinct place in the history of political thought. It is true that the problems discussed were often the same ones that had occupied political thinkers for centuries, and that many well-worn ideas were put forth in the attempt to solve these problems. This accounts for the repetition of certain ideas throughout this chapter. Yet something new has come into the picture: All of the discussion now takes place against the background of the national state and its distinctive character, needs, and demands. This is actually true even of Machiavelli and Guicciardini, though they were largely concerned with the Italian city-states. Henceforth, political thought, like political action, must start from the nation if it is to have any relevance to actual human existence. In this way, as in many others, the nation-state shows itself to be one of the dominant forces, for better or worse, in the life of the postmedieval world.