Front Page Titles (by Subject) XXI–XXVII: Political Prudence in the Administration of the Commonwealth - Politica
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XXI–XXVII: Political Prudence in the Administration of the Commonwealth - 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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Political Prudence in the Administration of the Commonwealth
§ 1The constituting of the supreme magistrate has thus far been discussed. We turn now to his administration, which is conducted according to the agreement by which it was bestowed. In keeping with the agreement, this administration pertains not to individuals, but to the members of the realm collectively. … § 2The administration of the commonwealth or realm, which is granted by the people and conducted by the magistrate, is the wise, diligent, and just care, management, oversight, and defense of the rights of sovereignty (jura majestatis), that is, of the affairs and goods of the realm and its subjects, in accord with their nature and condition. It is directed to the glory of God and to the welfare of the realm and its subjects. …
§ 5The order, rule, and norm of this administration should first be understood, and then its types.1§ 6The order and rule of this administration consist in political prudence, in which no administration of a magistrate ought to be lacking. … § 8This political prudence is, according to the authority of Justus Lipsius,2 the understanding and choice of those things that publicly and privately are to be done or to be omitted in the administration of a commonwealth. Understanding is to be likened to the eye, and choice to the hand. I accept the word “prudence” in the broad sense, as does Cicero.3
Seneca describes this political prudence when he says that it orders the present, provides for the future, and remembers the past.4 King David exercised this prudence in his government and administration. “God chose his servant David … who tended the peoples of Israel with a sound mind, and guided them with a prudent hand.” 5 “The people is without judgment and prudence; would that they were sensitive to the past, understood the present, and provided for the new or the future.” 6 “Wisdom resides in venerable things, and prudence in what has stood the test of time.” 7 “The governor will consider the events of past years in his own and other commonwealths, what was done well and what was done badly, what in those events was laudable and what was reprehensible; and in judging individual persons, he will consider how they lived in those periods of their lives already completed. The affairs of the present gain prudence from past affairs” 8 when memory, discretion, and judgment are exercised. “Foresight regards future affairs by considering the outcome of past events. [ … ] For when a ship is still safely in port, it should be equipped with necessary things before it is sent out to sea.” 9 “
§ 9Most miserable is that commonwealth, therefore, in which its governor is imprudent or ignorant in the art of governing, in which he learns for the first time from his own experience those things that were necessary from the beginning.” 10 “An uninformed king destroys his people, and a city shall be inhabited through the intelligence of rulers.” 11 A wise king is called a pillar of the people.12 For what the eye is in the body, and the sun in the heavens, so is the magistrate in the commonwealth. He ought to be attentive to everything, and to keep many things secret. “Certain rulers are to be found who are not in the least evil, and who would like to rule well and to benefit their subjects, but do not know how. Indeed, even when they wish to do so and make the attempt, they instead inflict injury upon themselves and others as they pursue their intention. Thus the proverb is true, that a sword should not be given to a child.” 13 Nor should a wild and stubborn horse be given to one who is not skilled in ruling him. But no animal is more capricious than man, and none requires greater art to handle.14 For this reason God requires men for the administration of a commonwealth who excel in the practice and experience of things. … 15
§ 10There is a twofold division, as I have said,16 in this political prudence: one into its members, and the other into its kinds.17 The members of this prudence are two in number: namely, political understanding (intellectus) and choice (delectus) of things to be done and to be omitted in the administration of the commonwealth.18 By political understanding a magistrate sees, recognizes, knows, and comprehends the things that he is to do or to omit by reason of his office. … § 11A complete political understanding is composed of doctrine (doctrina) and practice (usus).19 They are therefore considered to be the parts of a perfect knowledge.20
§ 12Doctrine of things salutary and necessary for administration is supplied by the knowledge that comes through reading and listening. But he is rightly to be praised who is productive and useful to the commonwealth, not he who merely knows many things. The origin of intemperance is the wish to know more than enough, as Seneca declares. As we incline towards intemperance in all things, so in literary matters. And in so doing we learn not of life, but of learning. “The reading of many things is a weariness of the flesh.” 21 The best way to learn is to listen to a teacher in person. It is to be sought in the experience and practice of the learned through conversation with distinguished men among them; with theologians, jurists, philosophers, historians, generals, soldiers, and others. A prince can learn more in a brief time in colloquies around a table with these men—while wandering about and consulting them—than he would be able to gather in a longer period of time in schools. … § 13The means of learning from the voice of the dead, or from silent instructors, is provided principally by the reading of histories. For by them it is possible without peril or expense to observe others, to look upon their journeys, calamities, perils, wars, customs, virtues, vices, governments, life and death, joy and sadness, fortune and adversity, the beginning, middle, and end of imperia, as well as the causes, effects, foundations, assessories, conflicts, and relations of all events. … § 14But in this matter Cicero advises that “two errors are to be avoided. One is that we must not consider the unknown as known, and thus accept it without adequate investigation. [ … ] The other is that we ought not to devote excessive study and great pains to obscure and difficult matters that are not necessary.” 22
§ 15Three things are properly and unavoidably to be learned and known by the supreme magistrate in the administration of the commonwealth. The sinews and bond of imperium and commonwealth depend upon them. First is the rule of living and administering; the second is the nature of the people; and the third is the nature of rule (regnum).23 We will consider each of these in order.24
§ 16The rule of living, obeying, and administering is the will of God alone, which is the way of life, and the law of things to be done and to be omitted. It is necessary that the magistrate rule, appoint, and examine all the business of his administration with this law as a touchstone and measure, unless he wishes to rule the ship of state as an unreliable vessel at sea, and to wander about and move at random. Thus the administration and government of a commonwealth is nothing other than the execution of law. § 17Therefore, this law alone prescribes not only the order of administering for the magistrate, but also the rule of living for all subjects. …
§ 18This rule, which is solely God’s will for men manifested in his law, is called law in the general sense that it is a precept for doing those things that pertain to living a pious, holy, just, and suitable life. That is to say, it pertains to the duties that are to be performed toward God and one’s neighbor, and to the love of God and one’s neighbor. … It is evident from these things that laws or rights in human society are as fences, walls, guards, or boundaries of our life, guiding us along the appointed way for achieving wisdom, happiness, and peace in human society. When laws are taken away, human society, which we call symbiotic, is changed into a brutal life. …
§ 19This law, as we have said, is twofold. It is either common or proper.25 Common law (lex communis) has been naturally implanted by God in all men. “Whatever can be known about God has been manifested to men, because God has made it manifest to them.” 26 As to knowledge (notitia) and inclination (inclinatio), God discloses and prescribes the reason and means for worshipping him and loving one’s neighbor, and urges us to them. “For there was reason derived from the nature of the universe,” Cicero says, “urging men to do right and recalling them from wrong-doing, and this reason did not first become law at the time it was written down, but at its origin.” 27 It is commonly called the moral law (lex moralis).
§ 20By the knowledge imprinted within us by God, which is called conscience, man knows and understands law (jus)28 and the means to be employed or avoided for maintaining obedience to law. By this innate inclination, or secret impulse of nature, man is urged to perform what he understands to be just, and to avoid what he knows to be wicked. “When gentiles who do not have the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law unto themselves, even though not having the law, because they show forth service to a law written on their hearts. Their conscience bears witness to it, and their thoughts alternately accuse and even excuse them.” 29 Other witnesses of scripture also make clear that conscience duly excuses a man when he acts uprightly, and disturbs and accuses him when he deserves condemnation for acting wickedly. … 30 In this common law (jus commune) is set forth for all men nothing other than the general theory and practice of love, both for God and for one’s neighbor.31
§ 21There are different degrees of this knowledge and inclination. For law is not inscribed equally on the hearts of all. The knowledge of it is communicated more abundantly to some and more sparingly to others, according to the will and judgment of God. Whence it is that the knowledge of this law may be greater in some than in others. Nor does God urge and excite all persons to obedience of this law in the same manner and to an equal degree. Some men exert themselves more strongly, others less so, in their desire for it.32
§ 22Christ set forth two headings of this common law.33 The first heading pertains to the performance of our duty immediately to God, and the second to what is owed to our neighbor. § 23In the former are the mandates and precepts that guide the pious and religious life of acknowledging and worshipping God. These are in the first table of the Decalogue, where they instruct and inform man about God and the public and private worship of him. … § 24In the latter table are those mandates and precepts that concern the just, and more civil and political, life. Man is informed by them that he may render and communicate things, services, counsel, and right (jus) to his symbiotic neighbor, and may discharge toward him everything that ought to be rendered for alleviating his need and for living comfortably. Properly speaking, however, they are not called mandates and precepts, as the previous ones are, but rather judgments, statutes, and witnesses. They are contained in the second table of the Decalogue.
Affirmative precepts of the Decalogue are about duties to be perfomed that are owed to God and one’s neighbor. Negative precepts are about prohibited things that are to be omitted or avoided.
§ 25 The first precept of the first table is about truly cherishing and choosing God through the knowledge of him handed down in his word, and through unity with him accompanied by a disposition of trust, love, and fear. Forbidden by this precept are ignorance of God and of the divine will, atheism, errors concerning God, and enmity or contempt towards God.
The second precept is about maintaining in spirit and in truth a genuine worship of God through prayers and the use of the means of grace. In this precept a false or feigned worship of God is forbidden, whether through images, idolatry, hypocrisy, human traditions, magic, or anything else.
The third precept is about rendering glory to God in all things through the proper use of the names of God, oaths of allegiance to him, respect for what has been created by the Word of God, and intercessory prayers. Negatively this precept is about not taking away from the glory of God by perjury, blasphemy, cursing, abuse of the creation, superstition, a dissolute life, and so forth.
The fourth precept is about sanctifying the sabbath in holy services through hearing, reading, and meditating upon the Word of God, and through use of the sacraments. Negatively, it is about not violating the sabbath through occupational employment, marketing, physical labors, games, jokes, frolics, feasts, or the mere form of piety.
§ 26Whatever is in conflict with these precepts of the first table is called impious. And for that reason these precepts are always, absolutely, and without distinction binding upon all, to such a degree that the second table of the Decalogue ought to yield precedence to the first table as to a superior law. Therefore, if a precept of God and a mandate of the magistrate should come together in the same affair and be contrary to each other, then God is to be obeyed rather than the magistrate. And in like manner private utility ought to give way to public utility and the common welfare. Whence it is that these precepts of the first table can never be set aside or relaxed, and not even God himself is able to reject them.
§ 27The precepts of the second table are those that contain duties to be performed toward our neighbor. These are either proper or common. Proper duties are comprehended by the fifth precept, which is about those things that inferiors are expected to perform towards superiors, and vice versa. The dignity, honor, authority, and eminence of superiors are to be upheld through respect, obedience, compliance, subjection, and necessary aid. These are owed to more distinguished persons because of the gifts, talents, or services they bring to public or private office in the commonwealth, or because of their origins. And when a man fulfills these duties, he is at the same time upholding reason and order in the social life. Negatively, this precept is about not despising, scorning, or depreciating our neighbor by word or deed. It is also about not destroying order among the various stations in human society, and not introducing confusion into them.
Common duties, which are to be performed toward everyone, are treated in the remaining precepts. Of these the sixth requires the defense, protection, and conservation of one’s own life and that of the neighbor. The conservation of one’s own life comes first, and consists in defense, conservation, and propagation of oneself. … 34 Conservation of the neighbor’s life is his protection through friendship and other duties of charity, such as provision for food, clothes, and anything else he needs for sustentation. Negatively, this precept prohibits enmity, injury to the human body, assault, mutilation, blows, murder, terror, privation of natural liberty,35 and any other inhuman treatment.
The seventh precept concerns the conservation of the chastity of one’s own mind and body, and that of one’s neighbor, through sobriety, good manners, modesty, discretion, and any other appropriate means. Negatively, it pertains to the avoidance in word or deed of fornication, debauchery, lewdness, and wantonness.
The eighth precept concerns the defense and conservation of one’s own goods and those of one’s neighbor, and their proper employment in commerce, contracts, and one’s vocation. Negatively, it forbids the disturbance, embezzlement, injury, seizure, or impairment of another’s goods, or the misuse of one’s own. It condemns deceit in commerce and trade, theft, falsehood, injury, any injustice that can be perpetrated by omitting or including something in contracts, and an idle and disordered life.
The ninth precept concerns the defense and conservation of the good name and reputation of oneself and one’s neighbor through honest testimony, just report, and good deeds. Negatively, it prohibits hostility, perverse suggestions, insults of any kind, defamations, and slander, either by spoken or written words or by an act or gesture.
The tenth precept concerns concupiscence, and exerts influence on each of the other precepts of the second table. “We are taught [ … ] by the authority and bidding of laws 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.” 36
Not only the fifth precept of the second table, but also the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth precepts concern the political society and the magistracy of the commonwealth, both as to persons and as to the goods of the subjects. § 28Whatever is in conflict with these precepts of the second table is called unjust. What is commanded or prohibited by them ought to be done or omitted by each person in keeping with his public or private vocation and out of love for his neighbor. God sometimes relaxes the fifth, sixth, and eighth precepts, and out of his great wisdom sets aside the things that ought to be done according to them. Thus he ordered Abraham to kill and sacrifice his son contrary to the sixth precept of the Decalogue. And Ehud, by special command of God, killed Eglon, and Jehu killed Joram. Thus he permitted to the Jewish people polygamy, divorce, marriage with the surviving widow of a deceased brother, and many other things that had been specifically prohibited in the second table. But his power of dispensation has not been given to men. …
§ 29The Decalogue has been prescribed for all people to the extent that it agrees with and explains the common law of nature for all peoples. It has also been renewed and confirmed by Christ our king. Jerome Zanchius says that this is the common judgment of theologians. … 37
§ 30Proper law (lex propria) is the law that is drawn up and established by the magistrate on the basis of common law (lex communis) and according to the nature, utility, condition, and other special circumstances of his country. It indicates the peculiar way, means, and manner by which this natural equity among men can be upheld, observed, and cultivated in any given commonwealth. Therefore, proper law (jus proprium) is nothing other than the practice of this common natural law (jus naturale) as adapted to a particular polity. It indicates how individual citizens of a given commonwealth are able to seek and attain this natural equity. Whence it is called the servant and handmaiden of common law (jus commune), and a teacher leading us to the observance of common law.
§ 31Proper law is established for two principal reasons, as Zanchius says.38 The first reason is that not all men have sufficient natural capacity that they are able to draw from these general principles of common law the particular conclusions and laws suitable to the nature and condition of an activity and its circumstances. The second reason is that natural law is not so completely written on the hearts of men that it is sufficiently efficacious in restraining men from evil and impelling them to good. This is because it merely teaches, inclines, and accuses men. It is therefore necessary that there be a proper law by which men who are led neither by the love of virtue nor by the hatred of vice may be restrained by the fear of punishment that this law assigns to transgressions of common law. In this sense, it is said that “law is set forth not for the just, but the unjust.” 39
§ 32There are two parts of this law. The first is its agreement with common law, and the second is its difference, as Francis Junius observes40 and the jurists teach.41 For if this law were to teach nothing other than what common law does, it would not constitute a new specie. If it set forth something entirely contrary to common law, it would be evil in that it would make mutable an otherwise immutable common law. It is truly necessary, therefore, that it not entirely depart from common law, that it not be generally contrary to it, and that it not completely combine with it and thus be identical with it.
Its agreement (convenientia) with common law is in those matters common to each law, namely, in the starting point from which analogical deductions are made, in the subject under consideration, and in the purpose. The starting point is the right and certain reason upon which both laws rely, and by which each decides what is just and declares it. The subject under consideration is the joint business and action to which both laws relate themselves and give directions. The purpose of each is justice and piety, or sanctity, and the same equity and common good in human society.
Its difference (discrepantia) from common law arises from the fact that, in accommodation to particular and special circumstances, it departs somewhat from common law, adding or subtracting something from it. Proper law differs for two reasons, each of which provides a necessity for adding or subtracting something from common law. And so mutability, or the possibility and necessity of just changes, is introduced. One reason is that, because of a better understanding by the legislator of order and utility, a law that for a long time was looked upon as just is changed. The other is the nature and condition of an activity so far as persons, things, circumstances, place, or time are concerned. Since the nature and condition of these circumstances may be diverse, inconstant, and changeable, it is not possible for proper law to acknowledge one and the same disposition of common law for everything and in everything, as Junis and Zanchius, together with the jurists, say.
§ 33Therefore, this law is rightly said to be mutable or subject to change with respect to circumstances and its consequent difference from common law. But it is altogether immutable with respect to its agreement with common law. So the jurists assert, together with Junius, Zanchius, Martyr, and Bucer. Thus common or moral law concludes from its principles that evildoers ought to be punished, but proposes nothing concerning the punishment. Proper law determines specifically that adulterers, murderers, and the like are to be punished by death, unless the punishment should be mitigated because of further circumstances. Various punishments, for example, exist in the Mosaic law for these crimes. Common law requires that God be worshipped. Proper law determines that this is to be done each seventh day. Therefore, common law commands in general. Proper law makes these commands specific, and accommodates them to the experience and utility of the commonwealth and the circumstances of each activity. For this reason, the moral precepts of the Decalogue, having no certain, special, and fixed punishment attached to them, are general. The forensic and political law then makes specific determinations, which it relates to the circumstances of any act.
§ 34This proper law is one thing among the Jews, another among the Romans, another among the Germans today, and still another among other peoples. However, almost all European polities use the Roman Law (jus Romanum), which is described in the Digest, Code, Novels, and Institutes.
§ 35Jewish proper law is twofold. It is in part ceremonial, and in part forensic or judicial. The ceremonial law, because of its emphasis, was directed to the observance and support of the first table of the Decalogue through certain political and ecclesiastical actions and things; or it was devoted to piety and divine worship. … § 37The forensic law was the means by which the Jews were informed and instructed to observe and obey both tables, or the common law, for the cultivation of human society among them in their polity, according to the circumstances of things, persons, place, and time. … § 40It should be observed that often one and the same law of the Jews could be said in varying respects to be moral (or common), ceremonial, and forensic, and to this extent mixed. What is moral in such a law is perpetual; what is judicial can be changed by the change of circumstances; and what is ceremonial is considered to have passed away. …
§ 41At this point we encounter the controversy over what we maintain to be the political doctrine of the Decalogue. In the judgment of others the Decalogue should instead be considered theological.42 Some persons consider that we thus sin against the law of homogeneity. Whence there is a deep silence among them about the role of the Decalogue in politics. But this is wrong in my judgment. For the subject matter of the Decalogue is indeed political insofar as it directs symbiotic life and prescribes what ought to be done therein. For the Decalogue teaches the pious and just life; piety toward God and justice toward symbiotes. If symbiosis is deprived of these qualities, it should not be called so much a political and human society as a beastly congregation of vice-ridden men. Therefore, each and every precept of the Decalogue political and symbiotic. The contemplative and practical life in every respect is embraced and completed in them, although the first and last precepts have the sole purpose of building up the souls of men and are merely speculative. If you would deprive political and symbiotic life of this rule and this light to our feet, as it is called,43 you would destroy its vital spirit. Furthermore, you would take away the bond of human society and, as it were, the rudder and helm of this ship. It would then altogether perish, or be transformed into a stupid, beastly, and inhuman life. Therefore, the subject matter of the Decalogue is indeed natural, essential, and proper to politics.
If the external and civil life of words, deeds and works is accompanied by true faith—together with holiness of thought and desire, and with a right purpose, namely, the glory of God—then it becomes theological. So therefore, when the works of the Decalogue are performed by the Christian to the glory of God because of true faith, they are pleasing to God. But if, to the contrary, they are performed by an infidel or heathen, to whom the Apostle Paul indeed ascribes a natural knowledge of and inclination towards the Decalogue,44 these works are not able to please God. But in political life even an infidel may be called just, innocent, and upright because of them.
Jurists and moralists also handle the concerns of both tables of the Decalogue, but in a manner fitting and proper to each art and profession, so that neither is confused with the purely theological or political. As the general doctrine of the Decalogue is therefore essential, homogeneous, and necessary in politics, so the special and particular doctrine of the Decalogue accommodated to individual and separate disciplines is proper to jurisprudence. And theology rightly claims for itself the pious and salutary doctrine of the Decalogue, which ought to be a teacher leading to Christ, so far as the Decalogue pertains to life eternal. …
§ 3From these things45 it follows that the magistrate is obligated in the administration of the commonwealth to the proper law of Moses so far as moral equity or common law are expressed therein. This is to say, he is required to conform to everything therein that is in harmony with common law. But he is by no means required to conform in those things in which the proper law of Moses, in order to be accommodated to the polity of the Jews, differs from common law.
§ 4For if the magistrate should establish as absolutely necessary these proper Jewish laws, which by their nature are either changeable or obsolete, he would destroy Christian liberty, which has been given for edification to him and to others, and would entangle himself and others in the yoke of slavery. Thereby he would make a necessity of something free, and impede consciences by a grievous and dangerous snare. He would obtrude mortal laws, which were promulgated in former times only for the Jewish people and are by their nature subject to change for a variety of reasons, as if they were immortal. And unless proper laws are changed with the changing circumstances because of which they broadly exist, they become wicked and attain neither to the equity of the second table of the Decalogue nor the piety of the first. Thus they cease to contain the common foundation of right reason. Accordingly, the magistrate who makes the proper law of Moses compulsory in his commonwealth sins grievously. For those particular circumstances and considerations because of which the Jewish proper law was promulgated should bear no weight in his commonwealth. …
§ 1Thus far we have spoken about the law, rule, and norm of living and administering. We turn now to the nature and attitude of the people and the associated body, the knowledge of which is indeed necessary to the magistrate in the highest administration of the realm. Here I mean by the people the common multitude and crowd, and by the associated body the members of the realm united in one body.
The character, customs, nature, attitude, and viewpoint of the people are to be sought and learned from the nature and location of a region, and from the age, condition, circumstances, and education of the people therein.46§ 2One learns about the nature of men from the location of the region. He does this by considering whether the region is situated in the east, north, west, south, or wherever in relation to the rising and setting of the sun, and whether it is flat, mountainous, windy, or calm. § 3Oriental peoples are by nature more humane and polite than others. § 4Peoples located midway between north and south, because they enjoy a mean between coldness and hotness, are gifted in strength both of mind and body. And for that reason they are to be ruled with moderate freedom. Such are Romans, Greeks, Poles, Hungarians, Frenchmen, and others. § 5Northern peoples are by nature spirited, courageous, and sincere, but not astute or diligent. They are truly straightforward, guileless, corpulent, sluggish, faithful and constant, cheerful, addicted to drink, and uncultivated. The Transylvanians, certain Poles, the Danes, Swedes, and others are considered to be of this sort. They are to be held more loosely by the reins of government, for they delight in greater liberty and indulgence. § 6Southern peoples, to the contrary, are clever, ingenious, unreliable, inconstant, addicted to love-making, and melancholy. Such are the Saracens and other Arabs, the Egyptians, Ethiopians, Persians, Gedrosians, Indians, and many others.
§ 7Those who live in open and windy regions are turbulent, restless, and unsteady. Those living in calm places, to the contrary, are peaceful and steady. § 8Mountainous peoples are hardy, robust, and austere. They are more cheerful, and seek enjoyment in liberty and licence. § 9Inhabitants of valleys, on the other hand, are faint of heart, gentle, and effeminate. § 10Those who live in barren places are skillful, industrious, diligent, and strict, and they consider that the stubborn and cruel life of man should be held together by close bonds. § 11The inhabitants of fertile regions, to the contrary, are leisurely and addicted to pleasure. Those who live in seaports or river towns, because of contacts and conversation with a wide variety of men are astute, addicted to money, and full of cunning. …
§ 14Then, as the customs of regions often express diverse interests and discernments, so persons born in these regions hold diverse patterns in their customs. Accordingly, they are unable to come together at the same time without some antipathy toward each other, which when once aroused tends to stir up sedition, subversion, and damage to the life of the commonwealth. …
§ 15The magistrate should know the nature and attitude of his own people, of neighboring peoples, and of people in general. The nature, condition, and attitude of his own people, or the people subject to him, ought to be perceived, explored, and learned by him in order that he may know in what things and by what means he may lead, motivate, offend, and rule his people, and what sort of laws and manner of governing are consequently most appropriate. … § 16It is necessary that he know the nature, character, and propensities of neighboring peoples because treaties, commercial arrangements, wars, and other transactions often develop with them, or because he has need of their services in social life. … § 17Bad neighbors are inflicted by God upon some realm or other in order to reprimand and correct its vices, or to constrain it within its duties. … § 19It is important that the magistrate understand the nature, character, tendencies, and propensity of people in general, especially what are the common attitudes exercised by subjects everywhere toward the superior who rules them. He will be able to learn this by no better means than by being a subject for a while in a foreign realm. For from this experience he can reflect upon what he liked or disliked under another prince, and how you as the one who obeys would like or dislike a ruler to act toward you. … § 20Then it is advisable that the magistrate accommodate himself for a time to the customs and character of the people that he may learn what things are fitting and appropriate to them, and may propose suitable laws. In this way he will rule for a longer time and with less effort. … 47
§ 1Such is the nature and temperament of the people toward its magistrate. We turn now to the attitude of the universal association or the associated body toward the magistrate arising from the nature of imperium, and from the exercise and administration of it. … This attitude is twofold. One aspect of it is intrinsic, natural, and constant; and the other is acquired, extrinsic, and changeable. By reason of the natural and constant attitude, imperium is exposed to misfortune, hostility, and modification. § 2I say that it is naturally subject to misfortune because it wavers and is unstable when unexpected events occur, and because it quickly falls prostrate and totally collapses when any part of it is taken away. …
§ 3Imperium is said to be exposed to hostility because it is by its nature hateful to subjects for two reasons. These are the habits of the rulers and the temperaments of the subjects, that is, the faults of both rulers and subjects. § 4It is rendered hateful by the habits of rulers because power and imperium, when accompanied by the rulers’ lack of self-restraint, make them more readily and decidedly inclined to sin. For this reason rulers tend to be unbridled, obstinate, and prideful persons who consider it no less shameful to be bent than to be broken, as Seneca says.48 They are often extravagant and immoderate men, injurers of others, and tyrants who overthrow law (jus) under the guise of upholding law. They love informers, defend mischief-makers, and drive honest men away. Because they live in fear, they cease to converse with others, and are suspicious of everyone. They become greedy, harsh, rigid, thoughtless, and negligent in their duties. … 49§ 6Imperium is exposed to hostility also by the habits and temperament—or the faults—of subjects. This is because imperium finds it naturally difficult to provide for the people, which is a many-headed monster that cannot be satisfied even with a good magistrate. … Petrus Gregorius, De republica; Francesco Patrizi, De regno. ]
§ 8Imperium is subject to modification in respect either of its quality or quantity. The reason of quality is that when an imperium is very new, established by vote, force, or law, the harmony among its members suffers from mutual dissensions, enmities, and deceptions. The royal scepter must be accommodated to these conditions, and the reins of imperium thereby relaxed or tightened, as Lipsius says. … 50§ 14Imperium is subject to modification by reason of quantity when it is very small and is allied with no others, or when it has dispersed its resources. Its proper potential ought to be known to the magistrate; how much ordinary and extraordinary revenue can be raised, how, when, and from whom; how many troops he has available, and how long he can maintain them; and what allies may be obtained. On the other hand, the more extensive the imperium, the more persons must be admitted to the direction of the commonwealth. Thus the need becomes greater for prudence, order, and public and private justice in ruling the commonwealth that it not fall increasingly into ruin. …
§ 15The acquired and extrinsic attitude toward imperium is one either of benevolence or reverence. … 51§ 17This benevolence, as defined by Lipsius,52 is the manifest love and respect of subjects for their magistrate and his position. … The magistrate obtains this benevolence from subjects by his own gentleness, kindness, indulgence, and desire to serve the commonwealth well. § 18Gentleness consists in courteous and humane words and deeds by which he calls forth the duties of subjects with affability and encouragement, but without impairing the dignity of the magistrate. Tempering severity with leniency he exercises a just, restrained, and quiet imperium over his subjects, who are able to endure neither complete servitude nor complete liberty, and are to be won over to the magistrate not as slaves but as subjects. Thereby a moderate subjection and a moderate liberty may prevail, and hence peace and security.53 The advantages of this gentleness are great. For a clement prince enjoys more obedient subjects, as we have said. Clemency also confirms his position and influence, and strengthens imperium. Indeed, he rules without difficulty those whose will to obey has been freely obtained. There is nothing that more impels men to obey than the confirmed equity of an imperium; and there is nothing that makes the magistrate more beloved and pleasing to others than clemency. § 19For numerous punishments are no less scandalous to a prince than many funerals are to a doctor. …
§ 26Kindness is liberality exercised with judgment. “Nothing,” as Cicero says, “is more appropriate to human nature than kindness,” 54 which generates friendship and affection. … § 27Kindness is not exercised with judgment when it is extended without distinction toward those who are undeserving and unworthy. Rather it should be extended to associates in war, partners in time of trouble, those who serve the commonwealth extensively and well, or those who are capable of doing so. …
§ 31Indulgence is the means by which the magistrate, without corrupting morals, makes provision for the alleviation and pleasure of his subjects. He makes provision for their alleviation in the necessities of life so that the multitude is not oppressed by the price of food, and is not in distress because of the want of other things that are indispensable. “A good prince should attend to his subjects and citizens as if they were his own children.” 55 He makes provision for their pleasure by games and other honorable public diversions and amusements that, without debauchery or excess, subdue and allay the harsh passions of subjects, and distract them from harmful meddling with imperium. …
§ 32The desire to serve the commonwealth well is the characteristic by which the magistrate undertakes his imperium and administration for the common utility of the realm and the advantage of its citizens. He conducts his administration on behalf of the associated body, and renders to each his due, with rewards for the good and punishments for the wicked. … The magistrate gives evidence of this desire to serve well by a twofold course of action. § 33He gives evidence of it, first, when he shows by his deeds that he is not the proprietor of the goods and rights of the realm and its subjects, but their faithful steward and defender constituted by the general mandate of the associated body, and that as he became magistrate by the grace of the universal association so he continues to be dependent upon it. § 34He gives evidence of this desire, secondly, when he shows that his government and administration are directed to the glory of God and the welfare and benefit of subjects and citizens. By these two actions, a good, pious, and faithful magistrate is known. He is loved by his subjects because he first loves them. …
§ 1This completes the discussion of benevolence, the first aspect of the acquired and extrinsic attitude toward imperium. We turn now to the second aspect of an acquired authority, which is reverence. A reverent attitude toward the magistrate derives from imperium and a favorable opinion about the magistrate’s exercise of authority. Giovanni Botero, however, distinguishes between reverence and authority.56 Respect for authority, Lipsius says, is a reverent opinion of the supreme magistrate and his position that has been received and impressed on the minds of subjects and aliens by the magistrate’s administration of the realm. … 57§ 3This respect for authority is composed of the admiration and fear that arise from the ruler’s form of imperium, his greatness, and his moral qualities. The form of imperium ought to be austere, constant, and well managed if respect for authority is to be obtained. … § 15The greatness of the ruling magistrate, who doubtless has sufficient resources available for conserving what he has and securing others, should be a means for obtaining firm respect for authority that is both straightforward and befitting a king.58§ 16This greatness is conferred by wealth, arms, counsel, treaties, and the success of his ventures. … § 24Through his life and moral qualities, too, the magistrate may acquire respect for his authority, as Lipsius says.59 This maybe accomplished through inward and outward strengths, especially those that are contrary to the weaknesses toward which rulers are most easily impelled because of their ruling power: licence, flatterers, and other irritations. § 25The inward strengths consist of piety, foresight, courage, fidelity, modesty, temperance, self-restraint, and self-confidence. … 60
§ 1So much for doctrine and knowledge of those things that are necessary to the magistrate in the administration of the commonwealth. We have called this doctrine the first part of political understanding. We turn now to the other part, namely, to its practice. This is the experience of things known through one’s own attempts and examples. “My mind has discovered and digested many things.” 61 …
§ 3Practice and experience can teach the magistrate about things to be done and to be omitted by which the position of the commonwealth and its security are conserved.62 He learns that he should not confide too much in a friend or relatives; that he should attempt to meet every evil and problem at the beginning so that evil does not have time to increase and gather strength; that in the greatest extremities and perils he should withdraw for a season, for with time everything changes; that, on the other hand, he should not directly oppose the strength of the multitude, but accommodate his sails to the wind as a skillful sailor does, and permit for a time what he cannot prevent; that he should not neglect small disorders that are likely in time to become greater; that he should not handle at the same time many grave and arduous enterprises that cannot be expedited at the same time; that he should undertake no new enterprises in the first year of his magistracy and imperium, especially unexpected ones; that he should not commit himself to chance and misfortune, but prepare himself for each particular time and occasion;63 that he should prefer the old to the new, peace and tranquillity to war, the certain to the uncertain, the safe to the perilous; that he should apply no force where it is not proper, especially that he should cause no injury to the church; that he should not engage in continuous wars with neighboring countries, nor with subjects, who would thereby become ever more provoked with him and alienated from him; that he should never be militarily unprepared, since an unarmed peace may be precarious and brief; that he should seize the opportunities offered in any enterprise, and not neglect them; and that he should not trust anyone he has injured. § 4Experience of this kind is required in a magistrate.64
§ 5We turn now to choice, the other member of political prudence. This is the right judgment by which the magistrate discerns and separates the upright, useful, and good from the dishonorable, useless, illicit, and harmful, and aptly accommodates the former to the business at hand. … § 6This choice or judgment should be tempered by a certain distrust and concealment. It should be tempered by distrust so that the magistrate may be slow in giving his confidence and approval, may believe nothing easily, and may be on his guard in all matters. … § 8 Concealment pertains to those things we know and learn. It is a reticence practiced in the present place and time by which we hide our feelings and cover our thoughts. And for this reason it is called a distinguished art that eludes the arts of others as if they were not even perceived, as Scipio Ammirato points out with many examples. … 65
§ 1Having completed the members of prudence, we turn now to the kinds of prudence. Civil prudence has two kinds. One is proper to the magistrate, and the other is borrowed or alien. … § 2Proper prudence is what a magistrate has himself been furnished with. But it is an exceedingly rare thing, even though it is more necessary than wealth and greatness. … § 3An alien or borrowed prudence is what is sought and obtained from counselors, attendants, and friends. … 66
§ 6Counselors are faithful persons skilled in respect to men and affairs who supply helpful advice, and who, just as skillful sailors in stormy seas, help to guide the ship. However, they are without power, imperium and jurisdiction. Three things should be considered regarding these counselors: their qualifications, their selection, and their counsel. § 7The qualification of a good counselor is that he should be a friend to the magistrate and imperium who is wise in the customs and sentiments of the subjects of the realm, and well acquainted with public affairs. … § 9A good counselor’s requisites are prudence, a liberal mind, a sound disposition and fidelity towards the commonwealth, and a capacity for silence. …
§ 27In the selection of a counselor, the magistrate should not act in haste, but only after a careful investigation of the prospect’s habits, temperament, doctrine, strengths, age, and whatever qualities I have said to be required in a counselor. He should examine all of these matters, and hear accusations and denunciations, but treat them with judgment and discretion. … § 30After the worth and ability of the counselor have been determined, he is selected with a commendation and a warning. The commendation is in anticipation of the rewards he ought to expect if he performs his office well, and the warning in anticipation of punishment if he discharges it badly. …
§ 40The third thing we have said ought to be considered in a counselor is the form of the deliberation or consultation, the manner of consulting. § 41In this activity the subject matter, the inquiry, the weighing of what has been said, and the conclusion belong to the one who consults. Only the opportunity to speak pertains to the counselor or the one giving counsel.
§ 42The prince or magistrate ought to communicate with his council and counselors in all private arid public matters. … § 43The most difficult matters, however—those of great moment that concern the whole realm, or one or more leaders or estates of the realm—he should handle and communicate not only with his own council and counselors, but also with the counselors of the realm, namely, with the great men and ephors of the whole realm. He should do this in general and universal assemblies and councils of the realm. Such matters are the welfare of subjects, the exercise of divine worship, the abolition of idolatry, the establishment of laws, the making of war or peace, and the collection of extraordinary taxes. …
[1 ] [The order, rule, and norm of administering here mean the entire teaching on political prudence (Chapters XXI–XXVII). Later, political prudence will be divided into its members (political understanding and political choice) and its kinds (proper prudence and borrowed prudence). Political understanding in turn will be divided into doctrine and practice. Doctrine still again will be divided into the rule of living and administering, the nature of the people, and the nature of rule or imperium. It is important, therefore, that the order, rule, and norm of administering (or political prudence in general) not be confused with the rule of living and administering (one of the subdivisions of political prudence), which will be discussed very soon.
The types of admininistration refer to the ecclesiastical administration (Chapter XXVIII) and secular administration (Chapters XXIX–XXXVII).]
[2 ] [ Politicorum sive civilis doctrinae. ]
[3 ]Duties, I, 4. [Cicero relates prudence to wisdom, and understands them both to seek the essential truth of any given matter.]
[4 ] [The Four Virtues.]
[5 ] Psalm 78:70, 72.
[6 ] Petrus Gregorius, De republica, X, 4, 5. [Gregorius presents this passage as a statement by Moses in Deuteronomy 32. Althusius retains the reference to Deuteronomy 32, but does not mention Moses.]
[7 ] Job 12:12. [This Biblical reference is also to be found in Gregorius, De republica, X, 4, 5.]
[8 ] Gregorius, De republica, X, 4, 5. [Gregorius then proceeds with brief comments on memory and discretion, but does not mention judgment.]
[9 ]Ibid.,, X 4, 6. [There are slight variations in wording in this quotation and others here employed from Gregorius.]
[10 ] [Gregorius, De republica, X, 3, 3.]
[11 ] Ecclesiasticus 10:3.
[12 ] Wisdom 6:26.
[13 ] [Gregorius, De republica, X, 3, 3.]
[14 ] [This same comparison of man with an animal, although not in the same words, is found in Gregorius, ibid., X, 3, 4.]
[15 ] Exodus 18:21; Deuteronomy 1:13–15; Numbers 11:16.
[16 ] [Actually he has not said this before. But he has spoken earlier in this chapter of the division in the next sentence, namely, the distinction he has borrowed from Lipsius between political understanding and political choice.]
[17 ] [Chapters XXI–XXVI and XXVII respectively.]
[18 ] Political understanding is discussed in Chapters XXI–XXV and the first part of XXVI, and political choice in the latter part of XXVI.]
[19 ] [Doctrine is discussed in Chapters XXI–XXV, and practice in the first part of XXVI.]
[20 ] Whence practice (experience) begot me, and memory brought me forth; the Greeks call me sophia, and you sapientia.
[21 ] Ecclesiastes 12:12.
[22 ]Duties, I, 6. [The unacknowleged omission from this quotation reads, “and he who wishes to avoid this error, as all should, will apply both time and diligence to the weighing of evidence.” Althusius also makes other minor changes in wording.]
[23 ] [The word regnum, which is consistently rendered as “realm” in this translation unless otherwise noted, conveys in this instance much more the meaning of “rule.” For regnum is here used interchangeably with imperium, and will be dropped by Althusius in favor of imperium when he turns to a discussion of the nature of rule or imperium in Chapters XXIV–XXV.]
[24 ] [Chapters XXI–XXII, XXIII, and XXIV–XXV respectively.]
[25 ] There is another treatment of common law and proper law in Althusius’ Dicaelogica, I, 13 and 14.]
[26 ] Romans 1:19.
[27 ]Laws, II, 4.
[28 ] [In this discussion of common and proper law Althusius usually employs jus interchangeably with lex. Consequently, both Latin words will be translated as “law” except where noted. The reader should also observe that Althusius here employs common law (jus commune) in a different sense from that of Chapter IV where it refers to the fundamental law of a particular association.]
[29 ] Romans 2:14 f.
[30 ] I Corinthians 1:12; 4:4; 5:1 f.; 11:14; Acts 23:1; Psalm 26:1–3; I Timothy 1:19; Proverbs 28:1; Romans 2:15; 9; Ecclesiastes 7:22.
[31 ]See Benedict Aretius, Problemata theologica, “De cognitione Dei naturali,” loc. 1.
[32 ]See Romans 7:15–13; Psalm 10:4; 36:2; Romans 1:24, 28; I Timothy 4:2; Jeremiah 31.
[33 ] Matthew 22:34–40.
[34 ] [By propagation of oneself Althusius means “the legitimate union of man and wife, and the honorable procreation and education of children.” ]
[35 ] I have spoken more extensively about this in my Dicaeologicae libri tres [I, 25].
[36 ] Cicero, The Orator, I, 43. [ “not by unending debates fall of controversies, but” is the unacknowledged omission.]
[37 ]De redemptione, I, 10, 1 [actually thesis 1 of the second section (“De legibus humanis”) of Chapter 10].
[38 ] [ De redemptione, I, 11, 1.]
[39 ] I Timothy1:9.
[40 ]De politicae Mosis observatione.
[41 ] In commentaries on the Digest I, 1, 6.
[42 ] [For another discussion by Althusius of the respective uses of the Decalogue in politics and theology, see the preface to the third edition. Actually the discussion of the Decalogue here is somewhat out of place and should have come earlier. For the Decalogue is not proper law, Jewish or otherwise, but common law.]
[43 ] Psalm 119:105.
[44 ] Romans 1; 2.
[45 ] [Althusius returns here (Chapter XXII) to the matters he was discussing prior to his raising of the controversy over the theological and political uses of the Decalogue.]
[46 ]See Jean Bodin, The Commonweale, V, 1; and Method for the Easy Comprehension of History, 5; Justus Lipsius, Politicorum sive civilis doctrinae, IV, 5; Hippolytus a Collibus, Princeps, 8; Theodore Zwinger, Theatrum vitae humanae, vol. XXI, lib. 1; Alexander ab Alexandro, Genialium dierum, IV, 13; Petrus Gregorius, De republica, IV, 4; X, 3 and 6; Giovanni Botero, Practical Politics, II, 3 f.; Scipio Ammirato, Dissertationes, IV, disc. 7.
[47 ] [Here follows an extended discussion first of thirteen characteristics of people in general, then of eighteen characteristics of courtiers, and finally of the distinction between friends and flatterers. This presentation refers to a number of works, but especially to the following: Scipio Ammirato, Dissertationes; Gregory Richter, Axiomata politica.
[48 ]Benefits, VI, 3.
[49 ] [Althusius observes that there are three stages in the fortunes of such magistrates. The first is one of security arising from successful ventures. The second is one of pride arising from security, in which they admire themselves and trust in their own powers. And in the third they sink into ruin and destruction.]
[50 ]Politicorum sive civilis doctrinae, IV, 6.
[51 ]See Giovanni Botero, Practical Politics, I, 8–11.
[52 ]Politicorum sive civilis doctrinae, IV, 8.
[53 ] For examples of this humane attitude, see Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 2:4–9), David, who called his subjects brothers (I Chronicles 28:2), Augustus, Anthony Pius, and others.
[54 ] [ Duties, I, 14.]
[55 ] Pliny [Pliny the Younger, Panegyric on Trajan ].
[56 ] [Botero’s point, which is not explained by Althusius, is that reverence (reverentia) resides in the people, but the means of producing reverence, namely authority (auctoritas), resides in the magistrate. Henceforth Althusius will follow Botero and speak not of reverence but of authority, by which he will mean, however, not what Botero means by auctoritas, but something much closer to reverentia, namely, respect for authority. Therefore, in this chapter the word has been translated as “respect for authority,” except where Botero’s or some other special use would seem to be intended.
Botero’s point is made in one of the supplements of Practical Politics, that is, in Book I of “The Authority of the Prince.” George A. Moore, Botero’s translator, entitles this supplement “The Reputation of the Prince.” ]
[57 ] [ Politicorum sive civilis doctrinae, VI, 8.]
[58 ] Nebuchadnezzar excelled in this greatness. Daniel 5:19 f.
[59 ]Politicorum sive civilis doctrinae, IV, 9.
[60 ] [Outward strengths are discussed, oddly enough, as the second part of modesty, and include dignity, urbanity, and facility in speech, and discipline and refinement in body. After discussing these inward and outward strengths that produce respect for authority, Althusius then turns to contempt for authority, which is the result of corrupt forms of the magistrate’s imperium, the failure of his ventures, and unfortunate moral qualities.]
[61 ] Ecclesiastes 1:13.
[62 ] [The following discussion of the things that practice teaches is an unacknowledged restatement and abridgment of Giovanni Botero, Practical Politics, II, 6.]
[63 ] “A wise man sees evil and flees from it.” Proverbs 2 [12:26?]
[64 ] This experience was present in Moses, Joshua, David, Samuel, and Jehoshaphat, and others. For they did not come to the principate until after they had been involved in many adversities.
[65 ]Dissertationes, I, disc. 4.
[66 ] [The discussion of counselors that follows refers most often to Innocent Gentillet, Against Nicholas Machiavell; Gregory Richter, Axiomata Politica; Petrus Gregorius, De republica and Syntagma juris univeri. ]