Front Page Titles (by Subject) X–XVII: Secular Communication - Politica
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X–XVII: Secular Communication - Johannes Althusius, Politica 
Politica. An Abridged Translation of Politics Methodically Set Forth and Illustrated with Sacred and Profane Examples, ed. and Trans. Frederick S. Carney. Foreword by Daniel J. Elazar (Indianapolis: 1995 Liberty Fund).
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§ 1Now that we have discussed the ecclesiastical aspect of symbiotic communion in the universal association, we turn to its secular counterpart. Secular and political communion in the universal realm is the process by which the necessary and convenient means for carrying on a common life of justice together are communicated among the members of the realm. This communion is the practice of those things that relate to the use of this life or the public affairs of the realm. Whence arises the secular right of sovereignty (jus majestatis), and the employment of a king. This secular right of the realm (jus regni), or right of sovereignty, guides the life of justice organized in universal symbiosis according to the second table of the Decalogue. This right trains us how to live justly in the present world, as the Apostle says,1 and so involves the practice of the second table of the Decalogue.
§ 2This secular right of sovereignty is both general and special.2 The general and secular right prescribes for members of the association the method and form for living and acting justly in each and all affairs of this symbiosis. Therefore, the various affairs of this universal association are to be tested by and accommodated to this right.
We must here consider both the promulgation and the execution of the general right (jus).3
§ 3 Promulgation of this right is the process by which it is publicly announced and accepted as the rule and norm of all just actions in universal symbiosis. …
§ 4This law and right (lex et jus) is the rule of things to be done and to be omitted by members of the realm individually and collectively, and is prescribed for the conservation of the life of justice and the universal association. It is called by Seneca the bond that holds the commonwealth together, and a vital spirit that the city breathes, which if withdrawn leaves the city as nothing in itself except a burden and a prey.4 This right is the guiding light of civil life, the scale of justice, the preserver of liberty, a bulwark of public peace and discipline, a refuge for the weak, a bridle for the powerful, and a norm and straightener of imperium. It can be called the public command of the people, as well as the promise and assurance by the people that they will perform what is permitted and avoid what is not permitted. It is also the precept by which political life is instituted and cultivated according to a prescribed manner in the realm, and by which duties to the fellow citizen or neighbor are performed and things forbidden are omitted. Whence in Psalms and other places of sacred scripture we find many times the notion, “Do good and abstain from evil.” 5 Hence the precepts of the Decalogue are both affirmative and negative, a commanding and prohibiting, mandates and interdicts.
§ 5Therefore, when we know the things that are to be vouchsafed by us to our neighbor, it is easy to determine the things to be omitted and avoided.
§ 6Those that are to be vouchsafed to our neighbor in this civil and social life—which rightly are owed to him and are his so that he possesses them as his own—are, first, his natural life, including the liberty and safety of his own body. The opposite of these are terror, murder, injury, wounds, beatings, compulsion, slavery, fetters, and coercion. Secondly, the neighbor possesses his reputation, good name, honor, and dignity, which are called the “second self” of man. Opposed to them are insult, ill repute, and contempt. And here I also include chastity of body, the contrary of which is any kind of uncleanness and fornication. Also pertaining to this category are the right of family, and the right of citizenship that belongs to some. Thirdly, a man has external goods that he uses and enjoys, opposed to which are the corruption, damage, and impairing of his goods in any form, as well as their plundering or robbery, and any violation of their possession or artificial impediment to their use.
§ 7The laws of the Decalogue prescribe the duties vouchsafed to our neighbor. By acting according to them, we may live an honorable life, not injuring others, and rendering to each his due.6 Above all, we vouchsafe and do to our neighbor what we wish to be done to ourselves.7 Thus we render to him honor, authority, dignity, preeminence, and, indeed, the right of family; nor do we, on the contrary, despise him or hold him in contempt, the fifth precept of the Decalogue. His life is to be defended and conserved, and his body may not be injured, hurt, struck, or treated in any inhumane way whatever, nor may the liberty and use of his body be diminished or taken away, the sixth precept. His chastity is to be left intact, free from fornication, and may not be taken away in any manner whatever, the seventh precept. His goods and their possession, use, and ownership are to be conserved, and they may not be injured, diminished, or taken away, the eighth precept. His reputation and good name are to be protected, and they may not be taken away, injured, or reduced by insults, lies, or slander, the ninth precept. And so one may not covet those things that belong to another, either by deliberation or by passion, but everything our neighbor possesses he is to use and enjoy he from the passion of our concupiscence and perverse desire.
§ 8Other laws (leges) are prescribed for the inhabitants of the realm both individually and collectively. By them the moral law (lex moralis) of the Decalogue is explained, and adapted to the varying circumstances of place, time, persons, and thing present within the commonwealth. So Moses, after the promulgation of the Decalogue, added many laws by which the Decalogue was explained and adapted to Jewish commonwealth.8 Such laws, because of circumstances, can therefore differ in certain respects from the moral law, either by adding something to it or taking something away from it.9 But they ought not to be at all contrary to natural law (jus naturale), or to moral equity.10 As men cannot live without mutual society, so no society can be secure or lasting without laws (leges), as Plato says.11 Aristotle says no commonwealth can exist where the laws do not exercise imperium.12 For what God is in the world, the navigator in a ship, the driver in a chariot, the director in a chorus, the commander in an army, so law (lex) is in the city. Without law, neither house nor city nor commonwealth nor the world itself can endure. According to Papinian, “law is a common precept, a decree of prudent men, a restraint against crimes committed voluntarily or in ignorance, and a common obligation of the commonweale.” 13 According to Marcian, “law is the queen of all things human and divine. It should also be the watchman of both the good and the bad, the prince and leader of them, and accordingly the measure of things just and unjust, as well as of those living beings that are civil by nature. It is the preceptress of what ought to be done, and the restrainer of what should not be done.” 14 “We are taught [ … ] by the authority and bidding of laws,” says Cicero, “to control our passions, to bridle our every lust, to defend what is ours, and to keep our minds, eyes, and hands from whatever belongs to another.” 15 “Through the law comes knowledge of things to be done and to be omitted,” 16 and in it is our wisdom.17
§ 9The power of interpreting and explaining law is the means by which, in reference to those matters that are uncertain, clarification is provided from the system of law and the nature of the problem. This is done through the broad consideration of things, persons, time, place, and other circumstances. Thus the established rights (jura)18 are accommodated to men’s power of comprehension.
§ 10The execution of law (lex) pertains to the preserving of external public discipline. It is the responsibility (jus) of distributing what is merited, the responsibility and power of punishing delinquents and of rewarding doers of good. From another perspective it is the administration of justice. …
§ 11The power of punishing delinquents involves the life, body, name, and goods of evildoers in proportion to the crime and its circumstances. … It is publicly useful to the human association to punish delinquents. First, the delinquent is corrected by the punishment imposed, and led to greater maturity. Secondly, the harm done to the injured party may be repaired by the penalty imposed, so that the injured party need not become carried away in the vindication of the injury. Whence penalties are called reins and whips for the wicked, preservers and defenders of the upright. Thirdly a penalty is also imposed as a warning to others, that they may be deterred from transgressions by the fear of punishment such an example evokes. Thereby social life is not thrown into disorder, and other persons are not infected by crime. Fear of becoming delinquent leads to the control of inordinate desire, which I have discussed elsewhere.19 For as bolts of lightning strike to the hazard of a few and the fear of all, so punishments scare more persons than those who are actually punished for evil. When punishment comes to one person, fear comes to others subject to punishment for the same crime. Whence punishments are called remedies by which the illnesses of a commonwealth are overcome and cured. Fourthly a penalty consisting in a fine, or public appropriation of goods, is turned to the use of the realm. For when through crime a commonwealth is injured, it is fair that the penalty be applied to what has suffered by evildoing. Whence the collection of penalties is relevant (to the conservation of peace, discipline, and public tranquillity in a realm and commonwealth. For impunity in transgressing is a great inducement to transgression, a mother of injury and insolence, a root of impudence, a wet-nurse of sin, and a license that renders everything the worse. Fifthly, the wrath of God is mitigated by the expiatory act of punishment, and we obtain his benediction. … 20
§ 12Corresponding to this power of punishing is the right of conferring rewards. For as punishment deters men from vices, so rewarding them inspires, fosters, and conserves the love of virtue and good works. And thus it is fair that “he who sows iniquity will reap trouble.” 21 On the other hand, it is not wrong that he who seeks virtue and goodness receives reward and glory for his good works.22
§ 1Special and secular right of sovereignty indicates and prescribes the particular means for meeting the needs and wants of all symbiotes of this association, for promoting advantages for them, and for avoiding disadvantages. For as each member of the body was created and constituted for its duty, and yet each and every member has the same end, namely the conservation of the whole body, so each of us has been ordained to his proper and individual role in life, but nevertheless all of us to the glory of God and the welfare of our neighbor. § 2This special right should be equitable, good, useful, and adapted to place, time, and persons. Whence it is called civil law (jus civile),23 and is said to be peculiar to each polity.24
§ 3This special right is twofold. The first part is devoted to the arrangement established for procuring the material necessities of life.25 It informs the procedure for communicating advantages and upholding responsibilities in those things that have been agreed upon in the universal association for the supply of necessities and supports. § 4This part of the special right of the realm consists in (1) commercial regulations, (2) a monetary system, (3) a common language, (4) public duties in the realm, and (5) privileges and the conferring of titles of nobility.26
§ 5First, the right and responsibility for regulating public commerce, contracts, and business on land and water belongs to the universal association. The free use and exercise of these functions in the territory of the realm depends upon permission, prescription, and current laws. It is called public trade. … § 7Without commerce we cannot live conveniently in this social life. For there are many things we need and without which no man can live with comfort. We can also be underprivileged in many things that are for our good, even to the extent of great inconvenience to us. Just as the human body cannot be healthy without the mutual communication of offices performed by its members, so the body of the commonwealth cannot be healthy without commerce. The necessity and utility of this life have therefore contrived a plan and procedure for exchanging goods, so that you can give and communicate to another what he needs and of which he cannot be deprived, any more than can you, without discomfort, and on the other hand receive from him what is necessary and useful to yourself. Indeed, peace and concord are often acquired through commercial pursuits. “They asked for peace because their country was nourished from the country of the king.” 27 …
§ 13The second right is of money or the right of striking and engraving coins, which is established in material publicly selected by the supreme magistrate with the approval of the people or realm. … § 14For if there is no fixed valuation of gold, silver, and money among men and neighboring peoples, commercial activity cannot be maintained. It follows that an uncertain monetary system throws everything into disorder, and makes intercourse and commerce with other peoples difficult. …
§ 16The third right is the maintenance of a language, and of the same idiom of it, in the territory. The use of speech is truly necessary for men in social life, for without it no society can endure, nor can the communion of right. …
§ 17The fourth right is the power and responsibility for assigning and distributing duties that arise in the universal association. § 18A duty is an oflice imposed upon a citizen or inhabitant in a territory of the realm that he bears for the benefit of the associated body by its agreement and permission. … Such duties are of two types: real and personal. § 20A double necessity is imposed upon the citizen, namely, to contribute things for the utility of the commonwealth,28 and to provide services for rightly administering and conserving the commonwealth.29 …
§ 23Real duties are performed by the payment and collection of a tax. They accompany the possession of things, and are levied with reference to these things in relation to their value. Thus the inhabitant, after a declaration and appraisal of his possessions, pays something from them that is turned over to the use of the commonwealth. … 30
§ 1There are two types of tax collections. § 2One is ordinary and the other extraordinary.31 An ordinary collection is one that by provision of law has a fixed regular payment recurring one or more times each year. It is made from the goods that the possessor and inhabitant holds in the territory of the magistrate who makes the collection, and is devoted to the ordinary and everyday use and business of the republic. …
§ 1An extraordinary collection or contribution is one that is declared and imposed because of the occurrence of a public necessity at a time when the public treasury composed of funds from ordinary collections is depleted. It is imposed principally upon persons, but in view of the things they have in greater or lesser measure. It prevails for a fixed time until the necessity for it has ceased. …
§ 1Personal public duties of the realm or universal association are those performed in the administration of its public affair by the labor and industry of remunerated persons for the common welfare and utility of the associated bodies. The administrators of these affairs are called general officials of the polity. … § 2As real duties bring together and communicate things and money for the conservation and defense of the universal association, so personal services communicate assistance, help, counsel, industry, and labor by which the benefit and utility of the association are promoted, necessities obtained, and all inconveniences avoided. Whence the supreme necessity and utility of these public duties of the realm become apparent. They are the bonds and nerves by which so great a conjunction of diverse bodies is held together and conserved, and without which it is at once dissolved and ruined. Hence we observe the worth and excellence of these public duties that accommodate even real duties to the uses of the universal association. Those who perform these duties are of two kinds. § 3Some are ministers of the realm or universal association, and others are ministers of the supreme magistrate. …
§ 1The granting of privileges32 is the exemption for just and commendable reason of an inhabitant of the realm from the performance of some duty that other commonwealth citizens are expected to perform and communicate. § 2A community (universitas) cannot ordinarily grant immunity from taxes except in general council. Such a privilege is either personal or real. § 3A personal privilege inolves only the person to whom it is granted, and does not extend beyond his person and property to his servants, family, and so forth. § 4A real privilege, on the contrary, embraces heirs, children, wife, and other related persons. … § 13It is to be observed that in cases of great and extreme necessity confronting the commonwealth all immunities and privileges cease and are annulled. For the private and special benefit and good of the citizen should not be preferred to the public utility and necessity of the commonwealth. … § 14Also pertaining to this right is the conferring of titles and privileges of nobility upon certain persons, such as the titles of dukes, princes, counts, and barons. These persons can be deprived of their privileges and rights and divested of their titles.33
§ 1We have thus far spoken of the first part of special right of sovereignty, namely, the right established to procure the material necessities of life. We turn now to the second part, which pertains to the protection of the universal association and symbiosis. By this right everything necessary for avoiding or removing all difficulties, impediments, and obstacles to the universal association, and for avoiding any troubles, dangers, evils, and injuries to any distressed or needy member of the universal association, is offered with mutual feeling and concern by each and all members thereof. This second and latter right, therefore, is principally concerned with the arrangement established for protection and defense.
§ 2This right of protection consists in (1) aid and (2) counsel. Aid is the assistance and prompt support provided by the communication of things and services to a distressed and needy member of this universal association. It consists, first, in defense and, then, in the care of goods belonging to the universal association. … 34
§ 4Defense is threefold. It is the safeguarding of the associated individual members when one of them—a province, city, village, or town—suffers violence and injury, or requires the commonwealth’s support for its basic interests and needs. It is, furthermore, the guaranty of free passage and public security against those who disturb, plunder, or restrict commercial activity in the territory of the associated body. It is, finally, the conduct of war. … § 17Just cause for waging war occurs when all other remedies have first been exhausted and peace or justice cannot otherwise be obtained. There are seven just causes for declaring and waging war. The first cause is the recovery of things taken away through violence by another people. The second cause is the defense against violence inflicted by another, and the repulsion of it. The third cause is the necessity for preserving liberty, privileges, rights, peace, and tranquillity, and for defending true religion. The fourth cause occurs when a foreign people deny peaceful transit through its province without good reason. The fifth cause occurs when subjects rise up against their prince and lord, do not fulfill their pledged word, and are not willing to obey him, although they have been admonished many times. The sixth reason is contumacy, which occurs when any prince, lord, or city has so contemptuously and repeatedly scorned the decisions of courts that justice cannot otherwise be administered and defended. The seventh just cause of war occurs when agreements are not implemented by the other party, when he does not keep his promises, and when tyranny is practiced upon subjects. … 35
§ 2The care of goods of the commonwealth or associated body is twofold. First, it is the diligent and faithful conservation of those things necessary and useful to the commonwealth. Secondly, it is their augmentation and extension. This conservation is either of movable or immovable goods of the commonwealth. § 3The care and management of movable goods centers in the treasury and other buildings. Monies are managed in the treasury; other goods, namely armaments, grain reserves, and documents and chronicles are provided for in other buildings. … 36§ 14The care and inspection of immovable goods belonging to the realm are committed to designated curators by the will and agreement of the universal association. … § 15Such goods are navigable rivers of the realm, harbors, public roads, public pastures, and so forth. …
§ 24The augmentation and extension of the goods of the associated body is accomplished through confederation or association with others, or through other legitimate means and titles. § 25In such a confederation other realms, provinces, cities, villages, or towns are received into and associated with the communion and society of the one body. By their admission, the body of the universal association is extended, and made stronger and more secure. This cannot be done, however, without the consent and authority of the body and its administrators. … § 26Such confederation with a foreign people or another body is either complete or partial. § 27A complete confederation is one in which a foreign realm, province, or any other universal association, together with its inhabitants, are fully and integrally coopted and admitted into the right and communion of the realm by a communicating of its fundamental laws and right of sovereignty. To the extent that they coalesce and are united into one and the same body they become members of that one and same body. … § 30A partial confederation is one in which various realms or provinces, while reserving their rights of sovereignty, solemnly obligate themselves one to the other by a treaty or covenant made preferably for a fixed period of time. Such a partial confederation is for the purpose of conducting mutual defense against enemies, for extending trust and cultivating peace and friendship among themselves, and for holding common friends and enemies, with a sharing of expenses. A commonwealth ought to be cautious in contracting and covenanting such treaties that it not be carried along by them into unjust or disastrous activities, nor destroyed by the downfall of a confederating ally. § 31Therefore, it ought to ponder the might of the confederating ally, his faithfullness and constancy in previous transactions, the similarity of his customs to one’s own, and the equity and honesty of the agreement among the confederates. …
§ 54The universal association is also augmented by legitimate occasions and titles other than by confederation, as by testamentary succession … by donations and gifts of others, by legitimate war, by purchase, and by the marriage of the administrators of the commonwealth. …
§ 55So much for the communication of aid. We turn now to the communication of counsel, which is performed by the members of an associated body in ecumenical and general councils within the universal association. § 56These general ecumenical councils of the realm or associated body are meetings of its assembled members in which the utility and advantage of the commonwealth are considered, as well as common and special remedies for meeting common and particular evils, and something is decided for the common welfare by the communication of counsel. The difficult, grave, and arduous affairs of the realm or commonwealth are examined and determined in these general councils and assemblies of the entire universal association. These matters are the affairs and situations of interest to the entire imperium, or polity, and its members, such as those concerning the fundamental laws of the polity, the rights of sovereignty, the imposition of taxes and contributions, and other things that require the common deliberation and consent of the entire polity.
§ 57This council or assembly is therefore the epitome of the realm or polity. All public affairs of the realm are referred to it and, after examination and discussion by the members of the realm, decided by it. § 58The right of examining, deliberating, and coming to conclusions belongs to individual members of the realm or commonwealth. The right of deciding rests indeed in the judgments and votes of a majority of the members. …
§ 60There are five reasons for these councils. First, it is equitable that what touches all ought to be acted upon by all.37 And what requires the faculties, strength, aid, and enthusiasm of all ought also to be done with their common consent. When the people has not been excluded from the handling of public affairs, there is less ill-will should a poorly launched project fail, and the people’s benevolence and favor are retained. Second, a project can be examined better by many persons, and whatever is needed can more easily be supplied by many because they know more and can be deceived less. Third, there are some affairs that cannot be handled except by the people in such assemblies. Fourth, those who have great might can be contained and corrected in office by the fear of these assemblies in which the complaints of all are freely heard. Fifth, by this means the liberty reserved to the people flourishes, and public administrators are compelled to render account of their administration, and to recognize the people, or the universal association, as their master by whom they have been constituted. …
[1 ] Titus 2:12.
[2 ] [General right of sovereignty is common to all universal associations; special right of sovereignty is proper to each one according to its own requirements. The former, which is the common law (jus commune) as it pertains to the universal association, is discussed in Chapter X; the latter, which is the proper law (jus proprium) of the same, is discussed in Chapters XI–XVII.]
[3 ] [law.]
[4 ]Clemency, I, 4. [Seneca, however, ascribes these attributes not to law as such, but to the emperor as the soul and intelligence of the people.]
[5 ] Psalm 34:14; 37:27; Isaiah 1:16; I Peter 2:11 f.; Romans 7:18 ff.
[6 ] [ Institutes I, 1, 3; Digest I, 1, 10, 1.]
[7 ] Matthew 22:39; 7:12; Leviticus 19; Luke 13:24.
[8 ] Deuteronomy 6–8; Exodus 21–22.
[9 ] Digest I, 1, 6.
[10 ]Institutes I, 2, 11.
[11 ] Laws, III.
[12 ]Politics 1292a 32.
[13 ] Digest I, 3, 1.
[14 ] Digest I, 3, 2. [Marcian in turn attributes this quotation to the Stoic philosopher Chrysippus.]
[15 ]The Orator, I, 43. [The passage from Cicero more accurately states, “We are taught not by unending debates full of controversies, but by the authority and bidding of laws, etc.” Italics are added to indicate the words omitted without acknowledgment by Althusius.]
[16 ] Romans 3:20.
[17 ] Deuteronomy 4:20; Psalm 119:104.
[18 ] [laws.]
[19 ]Dicaelogicae libri tres, I, 98.
[20 ] [At the conclusion of Althusius’ somewhat parallel discussion in the Dicaeologica of the reasons for punishment, the reader is referred to Martin Bucer, De regno Christi, II, 60, which is a chapter on the management and moderation of punishment.]
[21 ] Proverbs 22:8. See also II Thessalonians 1:6.
[22 ] Romans 2:7; 13:1–7; Proverbs 11:18, 21; Ezekiel 18:21–24; Hebrews 6:10; Deuteronomy 28; Psalm 101.
[23 ] [the positive law of a commonwealth, which may vary in part from commonwealth to commonwealth, as distinguished from divine law (jus divinum), natural law (jus naturale), and the law of nations (jus gentium), each of which is general and binding upon all commonwealths.]
[24 ] Digest I, 1, 6.
[25 ] The second part pertains to the protection of the universal association. The first part is found in Chapters XI–XV; the second part in Chapters XVI–XVII.]
[26 ] [The first, second, and third are discussed in Chapter XI, the fourth in Chapters XI–XIV, and the fifth in Chapter XV.]
[27 ] Acts 12:20. See also Chronicles 2 and 19.
[28 ] [real duties: Chapters XI–XIII.]
[29 ] [personal duties: Chapter XIV.]
[30 ] [One of the conditions Althusius says should be observed in levying taxes is that they be imposed upon “those things that can harm the poor people less,” and upon “those less necessary things that are not used for the everyday necessities of life.” ]
[31 ] [Chapters XII and XIII respectively.]
[32 ] [This is the fifth right involved in the first part of the special and secular right of sovereignty.]
[33 ] [The authors Althusius has drawn most heavily upon in his discussion of the five rights of the first part of the special and secular right of sovereignty are the following: Petrus Gregorius, De republica and Syntagma juris universi; Henry Rosenthal, De feudis; Andreas Gail, Practicarum observationum; Jean Bodin, The Commonweale; Mark Antony Natta, Consilia; Joachim Mynsinger, Centuriae; Jacques Cujas, Commentarii (Code) and Observationum et emendationum; Eberartus a Weyhe, De regni subsidiis; William Budé, Commentarii (Digest and Code); André Tiraqueau, De nobilitate. ].
[34 ] [Defense is discussed in Chapter XVI, and the care of goods in Chapter XVII. In addition, there is a brief section at the end of the latter chapter devoted to counsel.]
[35 ] [This discussion of the just causes of war is supported by numerous references to the Old Testament, especially to passages in Judges, I and II Samuel, and II Kings. Beyond these, three writings are referred to more than once: Diego Covarruvias, Regulae peccatum, II, sect. 9; Peter Martyr, Commentarii (I Samuel 30; Judges 11); Henry Bocer, De jure belli, I, 17.]
[36 ] [In the armory, the granary, and the archives.]
[37 ] [Code V, 59, 5, 2.]