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Reason of State and Sovereignty in Early Modern England: A Question of Ideology?

Conal Condren

Parergon, Volume 28, Number 2, 2011, pp. 5-27 (Article)

Published by Australian and New Zealand Association of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (Inc.) DOI: 10.1353/pgn.2011.0105

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Reason of State and Sovereignty in Early Modern England: A Question of Ideology?

Conal Condren
Much of the intellectual history of early modern England has been written as a story of emergent ideologies, with constitutionalism, Ciceronianism,Tacitism (new humanism), de factoism, divine right, ascending political legitimacy, mixed monarchy theory, liberalism, and republicanism all being treated as arising between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.1 A generation or so ago, energies were spent on unearthing the antecedents of socialism to show that it was not a naughty French or Hunnish importation, but authentically native to England.2 Environmentalism is, no doubt, waiting in the wings with, at least initially, the standard cast of lineal suspects being scrutinized for where they stood on the exploitation of nature and the conservation of its resources. It might even seem to the untutored, or cynical, that all that is needed is to add the suffix ism to a noun and we can discover some sort of abstract agency at work to which there have been clear commitments and whose history can now be written.3 As Nietzsche put it in a typically spirited half-truth: the name givers are the great originals, for they make us see what is already before us.4 With all these ideological names, the search is for intimations of ourselves who have, after all, lived in an age marked by clearly articulated competing ideologies. The textbooks and university courses devoted to these are legion. To construe those earlier turbulent times also in terms of ideological conflict no doubt makes them more accessible, but that access may be to the non-existent. It should at least be asked how

thanks are due to all the discussants at the Natural Law, Raison dtat, and the Early Modern State Symposium, University of Queensland, 5 November 2009; to Professors Peter Cryle and Ian Hunter of The Centre for the History of European Discourses, and to The Department of Government, University of Queensland. Particular thanks are due to the editors Cathy Curtis and David Martin Jones, to Anne Scott and the anonymous reader for astute and constructive critical comment. 2A. L. Morton, Socialism in Britain (London: Lawence and Wishart, 1963), pp. 922, 39. 3Harro Hpfl, Isms, British Journal of Political Science, 13 (1983), 117; Isms and Ideology, in The Structure of Modern Ideology, ed. N. K. OSullivan (Aldershot: Elgar, 1989), pp. 126. 4Friedrich Nietzsche, La Gaia Scienza (1882), in Werke 2, ed. Karl Schlechta (Munich: Hanser, 1963), para 261, p. 158. Parergon 28.2 (2011)

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close the whole enterprise of unearthing ideological formations in the early modern world is to institutionalized myth-making. And, as I shall briefly discuss below, the shift of focus among some historians from ideologies to languages may be just as problematic. As the neologism idologie was not invented until the mid 1790s, to see the phenomenon existing in early modernity appears to presuppose a considerable metaphysical commitment: ideology must find a place in a coherent conceptual realm to be posited as independent of and pre-dating the requisite conceptual vocabulary. The words people actually used can then be seen as more or less adequate labels for something we now have, thus the clich that X or Y had the concept, but not the words, in which to express it. This can easily look like a euphemism for avoiding or massaging the evidence into versions of the familiar, especially as it makes little sense to ask which words we lack for the concepts we have. Or, the trans-historical necessity of ideology might be insured more briskly: if ideology is essential to politics, and earlier societies had politics, then whether they knew it or not they had ideology. But the grounding for this essentialism begs the question by presupposing the universality of the concept at issue. Thus what seems syllogistic, smacks of circularity. Either way, we have the means of reading ideology into the past and presenting it as having been there all the time. For the most part, however, it is probably fair to say that the term ideology is so taken for granted as part of our tacit understanding of the world, that it gets inadvertently projected into the distant past. Ideologys ubiquity may be largely a matter of faltering historiographical reflexivity, a function of thoughtlessness as much about the present as the past. Idologie began as an advertising neologism for a universal science of society (Comtean sociologie would be the next neologistic claimant for such a status).5 And it was only with the disputes between Napoleon and the Acadmie franaise after 1812 that the word began to take on its meaning as a distinct programmatic doctrine to which there was a group commitment. It came to signify a set of putative truths and global imperatives, pre-emptively structuring, or simplifying present and prospective situations, and which because of Napoleons hostility to the idologues of the Acadmie, began to be explained as a matter of delusional self-interest.6 With Marx came what has been called its classic polemical formulation as class false-consciousness.7

Lichtheim, The Concept of Ideology, in Studies in the Philosophy of History, ed. George H. Nadel (New York: Harper Row, 1965), pp. 14879 (pp. 14849, 16162), (first publ. in History and Theory, 2 (1965), 16466). 6Lichtheim, pp. 14954. 7Mark Goldie, Ideology, in Political Innovation and Conceptual Change, eds Terence Ball, James Farr, and Russell Hanson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 26691. Parergon 28.2 (2011)

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Since the mid-nineteenth century, the term ideology has been made so capacious that it may be used for a number of sometimes slippery concepts. From being the new authoritative human science, speedily condemned as illusion, it has become variously a system of ideas, a zeitgeist of an epoch, a cultural digest, the other sides philosophy, or a bad case of reductive rationalism. These shifts in fortune may illustrate what William Connolly has pointed to as a kind of dialectic of definition. The range of a given concept may be increased because of the need to embrace what is taken to be an implication, in a more or less strict sense; and/or its persuasive value and emotional resonance may also encourage an inflationary exploitation. Connolly took as a case in point the expanded meaning of genocide. From being the deliberate extermination of a whole gens, it came to refer to any policy likely to have a highly destructive impact on a people. From that point genocide easily becomes a colourful term to emphasize the more or less fatal results of social neglect for some or all of a racial group, where the word race can be similarly used with remarkable looseness. But the processes of conceptual inflation go well beyond politics.8 It is, then, at least unfortunate that those charting the rise of ideologies so often draw on implicit agreement about the term that may be illusory. What they are actually talking about can be problematic. To be sure, once armed with something like the concept we can, as Mark Goldie has done, see a progenitor to ideology in Protestant notions of popery dating from the sixteenth century, and in priestcraft (James Harringtons coinage, c. 1656), both signifying the myth-making of clerics.9 Undoubtedly, the seventeenth century saw a pronounced sensitivity to the question of who was advantaged by beliefs in any particular doctrine. As Thomas Hobbes insisted, citing Cicero with approval, we need always ask, cui bono, who benefits. The immediate context of this suspicion was Hobbess attack on Catholic conceptions of clerical authority, dependent on the promotion of a Kingdom of Darknesse.10 But this did not mean any doctrine was then an ideology, or that coincidental benefit bestowed ideological status. The prehistory of ideology discussed by Goldie with reference to the terms popery and priestcraft is not only much narrower than the range of ideology, even in its classic derogatory form, but it is less of a doctrine or emerging concept than a quasi ad hominem accusation. This appears to have become more extended in its range during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Connolly, The Terms of Political Discourse (Oxford: Robertson, 1983), pp. 2235.

9Goldie, pp. 26667. 10Thomas

Hobbes, Leviathan (1651), ed. Richard Tuck (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 474. Parergon 28.2 (2011)

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From designating the evil forces of Rome itself (the polemicist Simon Fishe in the 1520s), the accusation of popery came to encompass priestly ordination as such, to which end the broader priestcraft was an aid. For the brothers Hickeringill in the 1680s the very notion of ordained priesthood was both a perceived implication of Catholicism, and a means of maintaining a lurid accusatory rhetoric of popery the whore of Babylon was just too good to give up.11 Recognizing this pre-history of ideology in the evidence, we need to be more cautious than we have been in using the term as a general organizing category for forms of discourse in early modern times. This is especially important as ideology is not just an isolated conceptual label. It developed and has meaning in a context of conceptual relations, many of which were as alien to the political vocabularies of Europe before 1789 as ideology itself: conservatism, radicalism, industrialism, socialism, liberalism were all weak neologisms invented between 1790 and 1820. By weak neologisms, I refer to terms whose root form is in existence, but which can have transformed functions with the addition of a suffix or prefix. Thus liberal had meant generous, but liberalism (c. 1815) could designate a broader more abstract phenomenon and be appropriated by a group of people advocating a set of principles, capitalizing on the associations of liberality, generosity, and freedom for a particular end. That the word liberal substantially pre-dates the derivative neologism is then, no reliable evidence to justify a history of liberalism reaching back into the early modern world. So too with the coinage of radicalism. It drew on the connotations of radical (from radix), as getting to, or coming from the root of matters. As such, it was an expression of, rather than a contrast to, the putative virtues of conservation. But Jeremy Benthams considered invention of radicalism was a means by which he could promote a programme of principles in contra-distinction to Christianity; thereafter it came to stand in opposition to a neologism of the same time, conservatism. To retroject such neologisms back into a fiercely Christian world, as group labels or ideologies, is to make a remarkable mess of nineteenth-century, as well as early modern argument.12 Using ideology as an historical descriptor appropriate to the premodern is, as it were, to take a Trojan horse into Troy. It carries with it a closely related family of political conceptions most notably liberalism, conservatism, and radicalism as largely spurious topics

12J. C. D. Clark, Religion

Hickeringill, AVindication of the Naked Truth,The Second Part (London, 1681), p. 17. and the Origins of Radicalism in Nineteenth-century Britain, in English Radicalism, 15501850, eds Glenn Burgess and Matthew Festenstein (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 24184.

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for historical investigation.13 Superficially, it might be thought that a little definitional tidiness is sufficient to make such chronological intrusions safe for historiographical purposes. For a number of reasons, however, this is delusory. I shall touch on just one. To this end, I would draw two rough distinctions here. I emphasize rough because were they more straightforward, dealing with the broad notion of ideology would be easier. The first distinction is between complementary registers of historical writing; the second concerns semantic order and pragmatics. Much historiography is in a descriptive register, through which the historian attempts to establish a narrative or state of affairs that describes or paraphrases the evidence, without imposing upon or re-shaping it through anachronistic terms and categories. Thus for the historian to use a stipulative definition of a chronologically alien category hardly renders the descriptive process less anachronistic. It is likely to give only spurious reassurance that dealing with anachronism is easy, a matter of isolated terminological cauterization. Even to see something as a pre-history of a later concept is incipiently anachronistic, structuring and predicating the description of the past in terms of that which is yet to come, a process that may be best restricted to dealing with strictly teleological development.14 As W. B. Gallie argued, however, the historians narratives or descriptive pictures of a given set of circumstances often break down and coherence is restored by shifting to an explanatory or interpolative register. Such a voice change allows far greater tolerance in the introduction of later categories, needed to reestablish a sense of what was going on, and in this context, some definitional tidiness may be of benefit.15 It is important, then, always to consider the register in which a word like ideology is being deployed, whether as a descriptor, or as a term of supervening clarification. The need is to avoid conflating any explanatory usefulness the concept may have with the evidence itself. Not to do so is to fall foul of structural anachronism of narrative; it is also to risk circularity of conclusion illustrating the presence of ideology by pre-emptive redescription into its terms. Thus, to describe anybody in
issue is taken up more in Conal Condren, The Language of Politics in SeventeenthCentury England (New York: St Martins Press, 1994), pp. 1124, 14044; and Condren, Afterword: Radicalism Revisited, in English Radicalism, eds Burgess and Festenstein, pp. 31137; for a spirited defence of radicalism as an appropriate descriptor in early modernity, Jonathan Scott, Englands Troubles: Seventeenth-Century English Political Instability in European Context (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 23336. 14On categories and degrees of anachronism, Condren, A Reflection on the Problem of Anachronism, Scientia Poetica, Band 8 (2004), 28893. 15W. B. Gallie, Philosophy and the Historical Understanding (London: Chatto and Windus, 1964), pp. 10513, 12425. Parergon 28.2 (2011)


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the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries as consciously debating ideology, writing and recognizing ideology for what it was, or for us to put theories in their ideological context, or to posit a conscious strategy of ideological containment, is historiographically confusing.16 To refer to something as what might be called an ideology, sounds laboured but signals a voice change and forewarns about collapsing seventeenth-century into later perspectives.17 But the necessary methodological discrimination is not self-evident and can be hard to sustain.18 John Pocock, for example, one of the most methodologically self-conscious of early modern historians, invented his notion of political languages to avoid reading into the early modern past the programmatic implications of using ideology as a descriptor;19 although later, when he reflected at length on his coinage, he accepted that language had a certain protean nature, possibly covering rhetoric, grammar, idioms, and paradigms. By this time, a political language had certainly become more than an analytic device; it was learned by the historian in order to understand the texts that had used it.20 This suggestive metaphor for making sense of patterns of argument, had come to be a descriptor for what authors, like Harrington or Machiavelli, were consciously using in writing.21 As with ideology, the notion of a language helped confuse descriptive and interpolative voices.Then gradually language as the metaphorical alternative to ideology became close to a synonym for it. In Virtue, Commerce and History, ideology has returned; both the ancient constitution and the conservatism of Sir Matthew Hale are ideologies.22 Having stressed predictability of utterance as a hallmark of a
examples in otherwise valuable work see, Jonathon Israel, The Dutch Role in the Glorious Revolution, in The Anglo-Dutch Moment: Essays on the Glorious Revolution and its World Impact, ed. J. Israel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 105 62; Richard McKeon, Politics and Poetry in Restoration England: The Case of Drydens Annus Mirabilis (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975), p. 42; Quentin Skinner, The Ideological Context of Hobbess Political Thought, Historical Journal, 9 (1996), 286317; Andrew Fitzmaurice, Humanism and America: An Intellectual History of English Colonization, 15001625 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 17071; Scott, Englands Troubles, p. 408. 17Noel Malcolm, Aspects of Hobbes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002), esp. Hobbes and the European Republic of Letters, pp. 457545 (p. 539). 18Some of my own work has been oblivious to it, see for example, below note 27. 19J. G. A. Pocock, Politics, Language and Time (Routledge: London, 1973). 20J. G. A. Pocock, The Concept of a Language and the mtier dhistorien: Some Considerations on Practice, in The Languages of Political Theory in Early-Modern Europe, ed. A. Pagden (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 1938 (pp. 2021, 27). 21Pocock is clearly aware of the potential slippage, see for example, Virtue, Commerce, and History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 9. 22J. G. A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975); Pocock, Virtue, p. 94. Parergon 28.2 (2011)

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political language, one can see at once how metaphorical Pococks conception is, and how easily it might collapse back into ideology. Predictability of utterance is exactly what we do not have with a natural language and what we expect from commitment to an ideology.23 Given the way in which Pococks imagery of languages has been enthusiastically taken up by many historians, it has become difficult to tell how far their enquiries concern the topological, rhetorical, idiomatic, or are still in pursuit of the ideological. Pococks discussion of political languages drew on the established linguistic distinction between langue and parole, system and use. It was crucial to Donald Davidsons important paper on metaphor. He firmly delineated semantic order circumscribing meaning, from pragmatics designating patterns of use. He concluded that as by definition metaphors are violations of semantic order, they do not have meanings but only pragmatic use.24 The principle distinction is, I think, unstable. A semantic order can itself only be an abstraction from pragmatics, and as Pocock correctly notes, for the historian, langue and parole are in constant adaptive interaction.25 The starkness of Davidsons demarcation, however, does have purchase on seeing ideologies in the early modern world. For what an historian might identify as an ideology is not something with the solidity of semantic status, but an abridgement of patterns of use; the classification intended to isolate and clarify can effectively invent by distorting the fugitive, fixing it all into the same purposeful shape. John Locke, for example, wrote of property ownership as a matter of mixing labour with something, a claim that much excited those who wanted to see him as defending or developing the ideology of liberalism, and now exercises those who wish to demonize him as providing the ideological rationalization for colonial oppression, although the lines of argument are not necessarily opposed.26 But the doctrine, directly or vicariously, came from the poverty controversy of the late thirteenth to fourteenth centuries, about whether it was physically possible to avoid ownership. The spiritual Franciscans had considered ownership to be theologically contaminating because it lacked sanction from the New Testament. Their opponents, to

The concept of language, pp. 2021; Pocock, Virtue, pp. 910. See also on political languages, Ryan Walter, The Analysis of Interest and the History of Economic Thought, this volume. 24Donald Davidson, Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), esp. What Metaphors Mean, pp. 24564. 25Pocock, The concept of language, p. 20. 26John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (c. 1681), ed. Peter Laslett (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962), 2, Chapter 5; as a rationalization of oppression, James Tully, An Approach to Political Philosophy: Locke in Contexts (Cambridge: University Press, 1993), esp. Rediscovering America: The Two Treatises and Aboriginal Rights, pp. 13776 Parergon 28.2 (2011)


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varying degrees considered it acceptable. On both sides, theories were developed which were used, as we might put it, ideologically, but much of the argument was about the logical entailments of what it was for any human being to use something in the minimal and paradigmatic sense of eating it.27 Gerald of Abbeyville in the Contra adversarium perfectionis Christianae (1269) argued that it was meaningless to distinguish use of food from ownership in eating. Locke took the cases of picking and eating berries to illustrate, coincidentally, or not, much the same point; mixing labour with something was a right of ownership in it; and this, irrespective of disputed relevance to the Americas, was principally focused on establishing criteria by which to judge the presence of tyranny. In short, theories and arguments may be formulated for quite different purposes and once developed, used differently again. This may seem an obvious point, but it is easily obscured by overreliance on a notion of ideology, especially where that notion is smuggled into a world to describe what people seemed to think they were doing with the resources they actually had. These cautionary methodological remarks have far reaching implications for the ways in which sixteenth- and seventeenth-century political thinking has been redescribed and mythologized as if it were part of a post-nineteenthcentury political landscape populated by ideologies, a necessary pre-condition for their putative exponents being commended for being like us, or arraigned inquisitorially to be censured. Only such ideological fixations can explain the historiographical oddity, if not the philosophical triviality, of a round table of philosophers sitting down to compile a bibliography of discussions of Lockes racism.28 The shaping into ideological form is of particular relevance to reason of state theory, a number of recent and valuable discussions of which would suggest it should be taken as a distinctly political doctrine, or even as an emerging ideology, to be listed among the others I have noted at the outset. 29

Condren, Rhetoric, Historiography and Political Theory: Some Aspects of the Poverty Controversy Reconsidered, Journal of Religious History, 13 (1984), 1534; the argument was quite unreflectively couched in terms of ideology. 28I am grateful to Paul Corcoran for this information. See his unpublished paper, John Locke on Colonial Possession: Natural Right and the Principle of vacuum domicilium. 29Arguably the seminal text for this whole tradition is Friedrich Meinecke, Die Idee der Staatsrson in der neueren Geschichte (1924), in Machiavellism: The Doctrine of Raison Dtat and its Place in Modern History, trans. Douglas Scott (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957); William F. Church, Richelieu and Reason of State (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972); Richard Tuck, Philosophy and Government 15721651 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993); Maurizio Viroli, From Politics to Reason of State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992); Peter Burke treats it more as a genre, Tacitism, Scepticism and Reason of State, in The Cambridge History of Political Thought, Parergon 28.2 (2011)

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The phrase la ragione e uso degli state seems to occur quite casually in the writings of Francesco Guicciardini.30 The off-handedness of his usage suggests that the locution probably predated him in verbal and manuscript communication. Stato was already part of the argot of diplomacy in fifteenthcentury Florence before it was aired in print in Machiavellis Prince, the first, but much-used noun in the body of the book.31 Ragione, reason was similarly a term with a special meaning in Tuscan politics, referring to a particularly adept capacity to make practical judgements that gave the city republics a superiority over stronger societies. 32 The collocation Ragione degli state [stati], then, may have been less Guicciardinis coinage than his disclosure of a lost or hidden idiom. Be this as it may, and as one might expect from something aired so informally, it was and remained an expression of a kind of argument, ubiquitous in medieval and early modern reflection, and for which there developed a number of more or less synonymous, or closely related terms, such as prudence and policy and, during the seventeenth century, interest.33 It is my purpose here not to provide a chronological narrative, but rather an overview of the sort of reasoning involved in evocations of reason of state principally in early modern England. This narrow scope will nevertheless require the occasional foray into more broadly European writings. As Gaines Post pointed out about medieval canon law, it was the special status of the office of the ruler as responsible for the condition (status) of the regnum that permitted acts that might otherwise be deemed wicked, sinful, or fattening.34 But as I have argued elsewhere, notions of office-holding were themselves extraordinarily accommodating, or were made so by use.35 Again something of a dialectic of definition might be inferred; the personae occupying any office, as a sanctioned realm of responsibility, might claim a reason for it in order
14501700, ed. J. H. Burns with Mark Goldie (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 47998. 30Harro Hpfl, Orthodoxy and Reason of State, History of Political Thought, 23 (2002), 21137 (p. 214); Viroli, pp. 178200. 31Viroli, pp. 13234. 32Felix Gilbert, Florentine Political Assumptions in the Period of Savonarola and Soderini, Journal of the W arburg and Courtauld Institutes, 20 (1957), 87214. 33Burke, Tacitism, pp. 48185. 34Gaines Post, Studies in Medieval Legal Thought: Public Law and the State, 11001322 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964), p. 308. 35Conal Condren, Argument and Authority in Early Modern England: The Presupposition of Oaths and Offices (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 20918, 34149. Parergon 28.2 (2011)


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to justify questioned conduct. That is, an office carried with it a justifiable latitude for its own maintenance. That reason of state was seen fundamentally in such casuistic terms is indicated by its being contrasted with what should usually be done. Abnormality of circumstance, including emergency, was the standard topos evoked to signal any casuistic move: normally we should do x but in extraordinary circumstances, it is permissible, or necessary to do y. Thus Giovanni della Casa contrasts reason of state with normally operative civil law; and then Scipio Ammirato does so with reference to guistizia ordinaria, diurnal justice or the usual application of the law.36 Indeed, central to casuistic reasoning was the axiom that there are occasions when any given ethical rule or prohibition loses its authority in the face of a higher or different requirement. John Donne insisted that this applies even to a prohibition as apparently absolute as that against suicide: [n]o law is so primary and simple, but it fore-imagines a Reason upon which it was founded.37 In such a Reason or rationale lies a criterion for putting that law to one side. According to Justus Lipsius in Politicorum sive civilis doctrinae libri sex (1589)38 it is the duty of parents and physicians to exercise discretion in following normal requirements of honesty. It is this duty that provides precedent for princes to do the same in the fulfilment of their responsibilities. This Lipsius called light (excusable) deceit as opposed to the inexcusably dark. He also suggested that there was a way between these extremes, an area of grey deceit. On this ill-lit path, a wrong action was certainly wrong but was, nevertheless justifiable in reference to the ends or scope of the realm of responsibility itself.39 Thus to govern well is to couer well, and those to whome the charge of a common wealth is committed, must needs be tied to this.40 Governing well, then, provides the general criterion for assessing specific acts; it is, in Donnes terms, an example of a fore-imagined Reason that gives a point to any moral imperative. Indeed, sometimes it might even have been

Giovanni della Casas oration to the Emperor Charles V, see Burke, Tacitism, pp. 47980; Scipione Ammirato, Discorsi sopra Cornelio Tacito (Florence, 1594), Book 12, Chapter 1. 37John Donne, Biathanatos (1608; London, 1700 edn), p. 22. 38English translation, Lipsuis, Sixe Books of Politickes or civil doctrine, trans. William Jones (London, 1594). 39See David Martin Jones, Aphorism and the Counsel of Prudence in Early Modern Statecraft:The Curious Case of Justus Lipsius, this volume; Church (Richelieu and Reason of State, pp. 6162) quite misreads Lipsius on this, attributing to him an exclusively political conception of prudence, and which the text he cites actually contradicts; but Church is committed to the more Meinekean view that, irrespective of language reason of state is a defining perennial issue of politics. 40Lipsius, Book 4, Chapter 14, p. 117 (italics in original). Parergon 28.2 (2011)

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the need to rely upon an extenuating reason say of parenthood that might require the protective claim to official responsibility. Normally a child had to be baptised by a priest, but in emergency, a midwife might baptise by virtue of her office. Reason of state, then, whenever there was an attempt to justify it, came from and was a part of the casuistry of practical ethics, and it expressed all the ambivalence commonly associated with casuistic reasoning. For, to put aside a rule under exceptional circumstances could be seen as a short step from abandoning all rules, or waiving them whenever one wished. A midwife who routinely baptised children would have been seen as behaving in such an ethically wayward fashion, even as tyrannically usurping the office of the priest. Whether or not this ever happened, it was certainly a fear, given that midwives exercised their office largely without immediate supervision.41 Once reason of was extended to apply to what was arguably a new sort of political association, a state, it could be given greater significance and ipso facto, the dangers of casuistic mitigation were intensified. So reason of state received much attention after Guicciardini by writers such as Giovanni Botero, who elevated it to titular significance in his Della ragion di stato (1589), as would a number of others in the first few decades of the seventeenth century.42 Perhaps this is a case of those Nietzsche called the name givers making evident what was before us.Yet what these early modern authors did put before us is unhelpfully, even redundantly, styled a political ideology. Rather, what we see are instances of the sort of attempt that anyone might make to exonerate or forestall criticism by appealing to their accepted and over-riding responsibilities. Importantly, however, the ethical status of such claims should not be taken in a Kantian sense, for casuistry was deontologically subversive, privileging the obligations of a specific social office over ungrounded a priori dicta of right action. Living in a post-Kantian world, it might even seem tautological to state that if an action is morally wrong per se, it should be morally condemned. Living in this world it is also easy to project as universal a simple distinction between politics and ethics, or practicality and morality.43 But as I have illustrated above from Justus Lipsius, on both counts, matters can be less straightforward. There may be a moral duty to do the wrong thing; and the binary distinction between politics and ethics misrepresents a great deal earlier argument. Most specifically, if we take back to the early modern world the universalism of Kantian ethics that has

extent and detail of the oath administered to midwives is revealing, see Anonymous [R. Garnet?], The Book of Oathes (London, 1649), p. 228. 42Burke, Tacitism, p. 479 43Church, Richelieu and Reason of State, pp. 3648 and throughout, provides a succinct example of this established misconception. Parergon 28.2 (2011)


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done so much to erase the ethical seriousness of such casuistic reasoning, it is going to be difficult to see reason of state for what it was. So repackaging it as ideology accommodates it to modern ethical as well as political expectations. Interestingly, to get a better idea of what was going on, we need to approach the casuistries of reason of state principally through their negative adumbration. Like casuistry itself, reason of state was most likely to be named when under attack and called something else when being relied upon. Acceptable reason of state (or a narrow sense of prudence, policy, or ancient wisdom) exercised in the interests of the common good, sound rule, and so forth, has its place in the immediate linguistic context of the positive register of the vocabulary of office-holding and is presented as occasional, retrospective, or hypothetical, being largely hidden in the arcana imperii.44 Were this all we had to go on, the evidence for a belief in it would be tenuous and highly fragmented; but what was held to be unacceptable reason of state had a prominent place in a negative register of office abuse, being used to formulate accusations of neglect or abuse of office and ultimately tyranny. Reference to evil reason of state is predictably detailed, graphic, and unreliable. We need think only of the stage image of Machiavel in the sixteenth century. Shakespeares Richard III readily discloses his villainy to the audience, making clear his plots and ruthless deceit purely for his own advancement; he is bereft of any sense of responsibility to the offices he holds. In his case, we have a projection of evil, reason of of self-interested ambition destructive of good order. Indeed, much negatively presented reason of state might have been a creation of satiric propaganda. As Noel Malcolm has shown, it could be a matter of revealing hidden plots and wicked plans, nefarious letters and memoranda, the secret histories attributed to enemies who might not have known much about them, we cannot always tell.45 Even beyond such literature, discussions during the seventeenth century seem predominantly to use reference to a reason of state to display by contrast an authors high-minded integrity. Thus Thomas Campanella in his Aforismi politici opposes ancient political reason dependent on justice (iustitia) and equity (aequitas) to the modern and degenerate reason of state. Ancient wisdom allowed violation of the letter of the law to protect its end (the appeal to equity); modern reason of state was violation of all principles of law and was an invention of tyrants. On such evidence Viroli curiously concludes
44Peter S. Donaldson, Machiavelli

and the Mystery of State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 11141. 45Malcolm, Reason of State, Propaganda and the Thirty Years W ar: An Unknown Translation by Thomas Hobbes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2007), pp. 3060. Parergon 28.2 (2011)

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belief in reason of state to have been an ideological watershed.46 In fact, we see the possibility of naughty reason of state being not so much a theoretical commitment, or a set of programmatic principles as would befit ideological status than casuistry disliked, a projected fear of what the others might do. One simple way of expressing this was, as we see with Campanella, to plot the distinction in terms of the highly accommodating topos of the ancients (good) versus moderns (bad). Whether this particular device was used, what we find in the attention given to bad reason of state is a means of mobilization and encouragement in times of deep division. In contrast, acceptable casuistic mitigation, often needed what I have noted above, an ethicizing redescriptive expression that avoids the phrase itself. It may be that in the cut and thrust of argument, displacements for the odious expression were to some extent contaminated by its associations; such was the fate of the term policy, often carrying a penumbra of ethical ambiguity. It may also be that gradually the need to avoid an expression of derogation diminished.47 But shifts of fortune through the intricacy and resourcefulness of casuistic debate were never straightforward or settled. Given that so much of the vocabulary of office-holding was open to contentious redescription, distinguishing Lipsiuss dark from light deceit, and finding a suitably sanitizing expression, was easier said than done, especially if one admits a grey area between them. But this was precisely the preoccupation of Botero, of Giovanni Frachetta in his Idea de governi (1592), of Scipione Ammirato in his Discorsi sopra Cornelio Tacito (1594), and Arnoldus Clapmarius in De arcanis rerumpublicarum (1605).48 Adam Contzen, Politicorum libri decem (1621) and Mysteria politica (1624), was just as insistent on the need to distinguish a good from a bad reason of state, as was Claude Vaure; good reason of state was Christianity in government.49 As Hpfl has pointed out, prior confessional allegiance was apt to be the determining factor.50 With

Campanella, Aforismi politici, ed. L. Firpo (Turin, 1941), p. 163; cited Viroli, From Politics, p. 267; cf. Campanella and Girolamo Frachetta, Idea del libero de governi di stato et di guerra (Venice, 1592), fols 37r46r, on reason of state as prudence or tyrannical self-interest and atheism. 47The evidence gathered by Church, Richelieu and Reason of State, suggests this was the case in France. 48Donaldson, Machiavelli, pp. 11141. 49Claude Vaure, LEstat chrestien, ou Maximes politiques, tires de lEscriture (Paris, 1626), as discussed in Church, Richelieu and Reason of State, pp. 4344. 50On Jesuit employment of reason of state, see Harro Hpfl, Jesuit Political Thought:The Society of Jesus and the State, c. 15401630 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 21718, 223; also Church, Richelieu and Reason of State, e.g. pp. 49550, although the doctrine emerges in a thoroughly ideological society, p. 506. Parergon 28.2 (2011)


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these writers, the emphasis is largely on the criteria that might distinguish the wicked from the justifiable more than on detailing specific examples and case studies. Whatever good reason of state was and however labelled, it was usually kept behind closed doors rather than becoming programmatic commitment or free-standing political doctrine. For all of these writers, the reason of state topos was used to reaffirm the imperative of keeping to the ends and scope of ruling and of avoiding tyrannical interests. In the evocation of the scope of ruling, office as a criterion for action, whatever it might have meant in practice and however it might have been applied, is a continuity with the status regni of medieval jurisprudence. We can hardly expect such a lofty and abstract affirmation of the prudent flexibility needed for any official responsibility to be self-contained. It is less likely that it constitutes a secular theory of politics, always to be rejected or accepted as if it were an ideology. Here, however, we do see something of the means by which reason of state was increasingly associated with interest. Self-interest was inimical to responsible office-holding, a mark of the tyrannically inclined, thus the negative associations of both interest and reason of state could come together. Yet, as interest lost something of its negative associations through the writings of Henri Duc du Rohan, who saw it as analogous to, or in some respects much like an official responsibility, so reason of state, with a diminution of negative connotation, might eventually even be called reason of interest.51 This variable usage, slipperiness, and ambivalence is not incidental to the nature of reason of state. It remained throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries a portable rhetoric, an adjunct to developed theories of human conduct and it was to remain part of the predominant form of moral reasoning until the eighteenth century.52 To chart its rise as an ideology, is to mythologize a great deal of interesting argument. And understanding it does not require a voice change to ideology for explanatory purposes. We need only pay adequate attention to the scope of casuistic reasoning endemic to early modern society. Even Peter Burkes more cautious designation of it as a genre creates the impression of too solid and self-contained a political concept.


duc de Rohan, De linterest des Princes et Estats de la Chrestient (Paris, 1638), see Condren, Argument and Authority, p. 344; Philippe de Bthune, Le Conseiller dEtat, ou Recueil des plus gnrale considrations servant au mainiment des affaires publiques (Paris, 1633), quoted in Burke, Tacitism, p. 482. On interest theory, see Walter, Interest Theory. 52For its extension into eighteenth-century theories of relationships between the European states, see Richard Devetak, Law of Nations as Reason of State: Diplomacy and the Balance of Power in Vattels Law of Nations, this volume. Parergon 28.2 (2011)

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Finally, it is worth considering briefly the two most obvious theoretical contexts through which reason of state casuistry was presented and for which such a voice change to ideology may be of explanatory help: first is the prudential advice commonly associated with, or called new humanism or Tacitism, and second is sovereignty theory.53 What has been styled new humanism was an attempt to circumscribe the terms through which sound political conduct could be understood and judged, especially in a world taken to be dangerous, uncertain, and frequently corrupt. Such judgements presumed patterns of value we might abstract as broadly ideological, but if the new humanism or Tacitism was itself an emerging ideology, its birth has been exaggerated. The evidence for new humanism (itself a modern expression) seems to be mainly a widespread fashion for the skepticism of Michel de Montaigne out of the rhetorical strategies of Sextus Empiricus, conjoined with the writings of Tacitus. Skeptical modes of doubt addressed both ethical certainties and what we would now regard as epistemological ones. The point of Sextuss strategies for casting doubt, however, had been fundamentally legal and rhetorical, to show the modes in which word-play, or word-pictures (hypotyposes), could change perceptions. This invitation to redescriptive ingenuity had been taken up subtly by Montaigne, himself a lawyer. Through reference to Tacitus, doubt could be focused specifically on courtly life, and the ad hoc casuistries of reason of state be seen both negatively and positively one mans policy could be anothers villainy. For Sir William Cornwallis, writing in Montaignes idiom, even Richard III could be casuistically exonerated. He had lived in such a corrupt age that taking the throne had been a matter of self-defence in extremity. His only safety lay in sovereignty; and given the surrounding dangers and decadence, trying to rule well had required the exercise of policy.54 He was, in short, a victim of Tacitean corruption, not its cause. Tacitus had explored in detail what he took as the moral decline of republican virtue in the court environment of the early Roman emperors, and lessons and aphorisms drawn especially from the early books of the Annals could be given wider application. And indeed, there was a decided fashion

further dimensions of humanism, see Cathy Curtis, Advising Monarchs and their Counsellors: Juan Luis Vives on the Emotions, Civil Life, and International Relations; on Sovereignty, Ian Hunter, Law, War, and Casuistry in Vattels Jus Gentium; and Devetak, Law of Nations as Reason of State, all this volume. 54Sir William Cornwallis, The Prayse of King Richard the Third, in Essays of Certain Paradoxes (London, 1616), sigs BE3. Parergon 28.2 (2011)


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for citing him in early modern Europe. Between 1500 and 1700 there were over a hundred commentaries on Tacitus and over sixty editions during the first half of the seventeenth century. Playwrights like Ben Jonson turned to him, as did the composer Monteverdi.55 This quantitative evidence, though significant, needs to be treated with caution. The publications came within the context of a burgeoning print industry, and Cicero hardly disappeared. Editions and translations of his work remained readily available, citation of his name was persistent. Any simple hypothesis of Tacitean ascendency, as if we are confronted by a distinct pattern of ideological allegiances replacing Ciceronian humanism, is crude. Caution is needed also in lumping together writers like Montaigne, Sextus, and Tacitus as if together they form a coherent doctrinal edifice. They could, of course, like any group of writers be used together, but Tacitean skepticism about political virtue was a good deal less thorough-going than that of Sextus Empiricus, or Montaigne, for it presupposed firm albeit distant standards against which modern corruption could be measured. This was precisely the sort of faith that Sextus had set out to destabilize. Nevertheless, by the end of the sixteenth century, Tacituss popularity was evident enough to have suggested that around his name and Montaignes was gathering an ideology. According to Martin Dzelzainis, largely drawing on Peter Burke and Richard Tuck, this new humanism was the emergent ideology to which Shakespeare was committed.56 The court was the central political institution in the sixteenth century, and Tacitus was held to be an authoritative guide to its contaminating psychology. Justus Lipsius in particular was a major editor and a principal promoter of Tacitus, but his new humanism was not in opposition to any earlier or older humanism, as both the notion of an emergent ideology and the epithet new might lead us to expect. At the beginning of the century, the Erasmus circle had hardly needed telling about the corruptions of court politics, or how Tacitus might cast light on them.57 Book I of Mores Utopia is a commentary precisely on such matters, while his Historia Richardus Tertius/ The History of Richard III was a detailed examination in full Tacitean style of the consequences of tyranny for all in its ambit. It is largely Tacitus via More that

55Burke, Tacitism, pp. 48485. 56Martin

Dzelzainis, Shakespeare and Political thought, in A Companion to Shakespeare, ed. David Scott Kastan (Maldon, MA: Blackwell, 1999), pp. 10016; Fitzmaurice, Humanism and America, pp. 17077. 57See Curtis, Advising Monarchs and their Counsellors. Parergon 28.2 (2011)

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we see in Shakespeares Richard III.58 It is this to which Cornwallis critically responded, emulating Montaigne and drawing on the redescriptive resources associated with him and Sextus Empiricus. We need then, to recast what Lipsius was attempting when promoting Tacitus in his elegant Politicorum, at about the same time that Shakespeare was starting to write. Although he cites Tacitus relentlessly, more than twice as much as he does Cicero, Lipsius, in fact, sets out to demonstrate how Tacitus agrees with Cicero, Plato, Aristotle, and some 130 others rather than showing that he departs from or offers knowledge that supersedes them.That emergent ideologies can be erected on the foundation of a name cited as being in agreement with everyone else lacks solidity. This is not least as it also seems to require ignoring the alleged voice of old humanism, Cicero, his attention to corruption, and his potential for giving moral sanction to the casuistry of reason of state. Richard Beacon cites Cicero, not Tacitus to make the standard casuistic point, that in necessity and in the face of corruption, the requirements of legality may be put to one side. I have already cited Lipsius to the effect that dubious behaviour can be justified if the ends of office are kept paramount. On that occasion his authority is Cicero, while on others it is Tacitus. The use of a name, Tacitus, is not necessarily the overt sign of an ideology, we do have to see how it was used. Shakespeare did not use it at all, so mnemonics in his plays, even when dealing with courts and tyrants are insufficient evidence for any ideological commitment, should we find it necessary to find one for him. Reason of stage might be sufficient to explain his giving any idea, phrase, or historical figure a walk-on part.59 The second discursive preoccupation in which reason of state plays a part is sovereignty theory, the concerted attempt to define an ethicojurisprudential conception of political society, of specifying the right and necessary conditions in the context of which prudential reasoning about politics made sense. The broadly complementary nature of Tacitism and sovereignty theory can briefly be indicated by reference to the ambivalence of Hobbess reactions to the vogue for citing Tacitus in the days of his youth. There is no doubt that Hobbes wanted to present a theory of sovereignty that went beyond disquisitions of political prudence with its reliance on history, but there is nothing in Hobbess mature arguments to foreclose on the sovereigns

especially, on the works imitation of Tacitus and Sullust, George M. Logan, Introduction to Thomas More, The History of King Richard III, ed. Logan (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005), pp. xxxixl. 59Cicero is, of course a character, but this tells us little but what Shakespeare kept from Norths Plutarchs Lives on which Julius Caesar is based. Parergon 28.2 (2011)


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continuing to use prudential judgement.60 Hobbess history of the Civil Wars, Behemoth, was an indirect aid to this end. Indeed, in Hobbess view, there could be no social limits placed on the sovereign in dealing with the arcana imperii, while there is nothing in what has been brought together as new humanism to contradict theories of sovereignty. Insofar as there was a new humanism it was doing something different from the rigid causative analysis Hobbes and some other sovereignty theorists, such as Henning Arnisaeus, aspired to provide. More significantly, because reason of state exemplified a necessary prudential latitude, restricted, or confined only by the ends of whatever activity prudence served, it was as easily appropriated to the prerogative of the office of the sovereign as it was associated with the name Tacitus. As subsumed by prerogative power, reason of state became the most controversial feature of sovereignty theory. This might account for the misconception that reason of state was a consequence of sovereignty theory.61 Controversies around reason of state may also have helped coalesce two distinguishable but not always separable understandings of sovereignty.62 There was monarchical divine right, often in a strict sense patriarchal, and there was what may be called global absolutism. The former, in Philip Huntons terms, might only tend towards some absoluteness in rule.63 The latter was absolute but never in the modern sense of asserting an untrammelled power (a word not often used in a modern fashionable fashion). Divine right absolutism was also important in its evocation of explicitly divine law, even in its use of the Bible as a political text; this was most explicitly the case for Robert Filmer. The assertions of a more global absolutism made variable play with the natural, uncertainly related to a conception of the divine.64 In some of its uses at least, divine right sovereignty does come close to being what we would see as ideological: it offered an idealized image of unitary authority in society, a virtual template of legitimacy by which other forms of government were rendered unacceptable. It was remarkably close,

Malcolm, Behemoth latinus Adam Egbert, Tacitism and Hobbes, Filozofski vestnik, 24 (2003), pp. 85120 (p. 119). 61Church, Richelieu and Reason of State, pp. 2940, and Preface asserting the causal relationship. It sits ill with the claim that reason of state is a fixture of politics, as opposed to morals (see above note 38). 62Pocock (Virtue, pp. 9596) suggests why a distinction should be kept in mind; James VI & I merges both in adapting Bodin to his own situation in The Trew Law of Free Monarchies (Edinburgh, 1598). 63Philip Hunton, A Treatise of Monarchie (London, 1643), p. 7. 64On the variable uses of reference to natural law, see Hunter, Law, War, and Casuistry. Parergon 28.2 (2011)

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as others have noted, to medieval hierocratic papal theory.65 Its main British expositors are Robert Filmer (Patriarcha, a work written before the Civil Wars but published only in 1680), John Hall (Of Government and Obedience (1654)), and Sir George MacKenzie (Ius regium (1684)). But precisely because the monarch, usually a male, had an ethical office, an onerous responsibility from God, then it was necessary for the ends of that office to exercise prerogative, for example, in showing mercy to criminals and granting privileges. This latitude embraced reason of state, not to exercise it in emergency was dereliction of duty. In his study of the parliamentarian apologist Henry Parker, Michael Mendle associates reason of state decisively with an undifferentiated absolutism but, as one would expect, reason of state was relied upon well beyond divine right sovereignty.66 Justice Littleton (royalist lawyer but no absolutist) sounding strikingly like Richard Beacon or Thomas Campanella on the equity of ancient political reason, urged that ordinary law must yield when keeping it might destroy the commonwealth. And Parker himself, for example, in The Contra-Replicant concurred: reason of state, sublime and above law must remain the guiding principle in emergency.67 Here there was no negative connotation to the phrase reason of state, acceptance of it was required by those holding ruling office because of that responsibility alone, it was not tied to any prior commitment to absolutism. The principle of equity, or casuistry that no fixed rule could override the end it served, that every rule (to recall Donne) fore-imagines a Reason on which it is based, remained in place across political divisions and in the Court of Equity itself.68 Indeed, strict adherence to the law regardless of circumstances could actually be deemed tyrannous, just as disregard for it was routinely condemned in such terms; for rigid adherence could be taken as contradicting the flexibility needed to make any law workable. There was nothing new in this, as those who cited Cicero and Tacitus or Aristotle knew full well. Again, we find this prudential imperative also right across what we might see as the ideological spectrum. In Measure for Measure, if Shakespeare can be placed anywhere on such a spectrum, Angelo is deemed tyrannical because he will

Burgess, Absolute Monarchy and the Stuart Constitution (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996), pp. 15124, for a measured dismantling of the hitherto established view that early Stuart England was dominated by the opposing ideologies of ascending and descending (absolutist) power; on papal hierocratic theory, M. J. Wilks, The Problem of Sovereignty in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963). 66Michael Mendle, Henry Parker and the English Civil War: The Political Thought of the Publics Privado (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 38, 40. 67Mendle, p. 118; Anonymous [Parker], Contra-Replicant (London, 1642/3), pp. 1819. 68Donne, Biathanatos, for a classic statement; Meg Lota Brown, Donne and the Politics of Conscience in Early Modern England (Leiden: Brill, 1995), for a fine succinct study. Parergon 28.2 (2011)


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not use his prerogative as an absolute ruler.69 Milton evokes the same sense of tyranny in the first of the Divorce tracts, as does his unlikely bed-fellow Charles I in the Eikon Basilike.70 Reason of state as casuistry was one way of defending the prerogative essential to keep ruling office on its feet. All of this holds for what I am calling global absolutism, but that was a more general and jurisprudentially attuned notion stemming from and articulated most in those societies with a Roman, not common law, system. At its heart was the proposition associated with Jean Bodin, Henning Arnisaeus, and many others that any political society is defined by the effective exercise of law in a territory for a people. There must somewhere be a core locus of authority to determine that law or sooner or later things will fly apart. Bodin and those who followed, wrote with such destructive fears in mind, but the societies, consider Venice, could as easily be republics as monarchies. And again regardless of form, reason of state and prerogative are necessary lubricants. Of course, the corollary was that the exercise of that prerogative could be judged misguided, and so it could be redescribed as incipient tyranny, lawlessness, oppression, and abuse of office; or as I have noted, the prudence of ancient civic wisdom could be redescribed as tyrannous reason of state. Natural law provided an idiom for housing such disquiet, and for this reason, one implication of global absolutism, as it would be developed by Hobbes and Pufendorf, was to forestall any such appeal to natural or divine law against the latitudes allowed sovereign office.71 For Hobbes, it was integral to the sovereigns office to mediate, legislate, and declare all forms of law, for the subjects sense of security and well-being depended on it. Pufendorfs critical adaptation of Hobbes was not dissimilar in its thrust;72 but natural law was a flexible topos, and as a projection from notions of positive law, a place could be found in it for the casuistic notion of equity, the formal recognition that no ordinary law is adequate for all circumstances. This recognition could in turn facilitate an appeal to natural law in order to justify a sovereigns departure from strict legality. It is a

discussion of this see Conal Condren, Unfolding the Properties of Government: Measure for Measure and the History of Political Thought, in Shakespeare and Early Modern Political Thought, eds David Armitage, Conal Condren, and Andrew Fitzmaurice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 15775 (pp. 16771). 70John Milton, The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1643), in The Complete Prose Works, ed. Don M. Wolff and others, 8 vols (New Haven: Yale University Press, 195582), ii: 16431648, ed. Ernest Sirluck (1959), pp. 23738, 24547; Charles I (?), Eikon Basilike (London, 1649), p. 239. 71On Pufendorf in particular, see Hunter, Law, War, and Casuistry. 72See Hunter, Law, War, and Casuistry. Parergon 28.2 (2011)

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point important to Pufendorf and is succinctly emphasized in Andrew Tooks adaptive translation of Pufendorfs De officio hominis et civis.73 On that basis there is nothing to stop an absolute sovereign claiming that reason of state was, to echo Campanella, an antique equity. Global absolutism, derived from Roman law with a locus of legislation at its centre, became particularly fraught when canvassed in England (through Bodin and James VI & I). For it came into a society highly suspicious of Roman law, and in which government was diffused, with the law claiming a quasi-independence of the (divinely sanctioned) sovereign, because of the special expertise needed to understand its full complexities and its weird French. Hence as Alan Cromartie has shown, crucial in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century was the question of who had the authority to move beyond the strict application of the law in the name of equity the judges expert in, or the King who was outside, the system. 74 A good case could be made on either hand, and ironically (given their hostility to high monarchy) nonconformists in England would later depend on monarchical prerogative rather than the law for their survival. James VI & I was initially regarded by some as a beacon of hope in this regard. His grandson Charles II, as head of the Church of England, would try to exercise a reason of church to protect nonconformists, with some of his supporters, in quasi-Pufendorfian style, invoking equity to over-ride positive laws that were contrary to natural and divine law. Parliaments laws against nonconformity are against the command of God: the king permits what God bids.75 The nonconformists problem, however, was that there was nothing to stop the King exercising the same reason of church for Catholics. Some fearing what they saw as the wayward exercise of discretionary reason, preferred to swim in the waters of persecution rather than share a raft of indulgence with the adherents of Rome. By definition there is no rule to control prerogative and in suspicious times it must always look like the thin end of a tyrannical wedge: the ambivalences of reason of office in a nutshell. In the meantime, it is important to note that the earlier disputes between James VI & I and common lawyers marked by this same suspicion, were not construed as a dispute between potential sovereignties. For the lawyers, a theory of sovereignty was the problem: England did not need it. But on the
73Andrew Took, The W hole

Duty of Man, According to the Law of Nature (1691), eds. Ian Hunter and David Saunders (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003), pp. 16364. 74Alan Cromartie, The Constitutionalist Revolution (Cambridge: University Press, 2006). 75Mark Goldie, Toleration and the Godly Prince in Restoration England, in Liberty, Authority, Formality: Political Ideas and Culture, 16001900, eds Jonathan Scott and John Morrow (Exeter: Imprint Academic, 2008), pp. 4756, (quoting John Humphrey). Parergon 28.2 (2011)


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eve of the Civil Wars, the debate over Parliaments Nineteen Propositions (June 1642) and The Kings Answer to the Nineteen Propositions, provides the most striking illustration of the uncertain status of the rhetorics of reason of state and prerogative, when considered as ideologies. For Weston and Greenberg this was an ideological clash over the location of sovereignty, in monarch or parliament. Out of this emerged mixed monarchy ideology, dominant by the end of the century (ideologies are nothing if not emerging or dominant).76 This neat narrative development at once distorts and loses sight of the issues. Curiously, it was only The Kings Answer that construed the matter in terms of sovereignty and proposed a theory appropriate to England that might indeed be called ideological, though certainly not absolutist. The polemical reason for insisting on the centrality of sovereignty was, I think, clear: if through its Nineteen Propositions Parliament is claiming sovereignty, then it is an unprecedented tyrannous intrusion on the sovereigns prerogative. To present the issue in these terms allowed the accusation of tyranny, the worst in the political lexicon to be let loose on Parliament. For this very reason, understanding their language better than we have done, Parliament had been most careful not to make a claim on sovereignty. It offered counsel, and a petition as a body of obedient subjects. On the one hand, Parliament was traditionally seen as a council, not a ruling office, though the distinction could be a porous one; and on the other, subject was a word usually connoting and often formally entailing strict obedience to its correlative, sovereign. The issues and the position might rapidly have transformed in the tumble into war, but to see Parliament proleptically as making an argument it took some care not to make before the outbreak of war, is historically obscuring. We might not believe the parliamentary case, but if we simply recast it to fit royalist fears and accusations, something important about what was at issue will be lost and replaced by a battle fought last Friday. If Parliament was being disingenuous and actually making a claim on sovereignty, the deceit could have been justified in terms of reason of state, though to make that public might still have been counterproductive. To admit the necessity of deceit, even deceit justifiable for the public good might have been construed as implying the very claim on sovereignty the authors of the Nineteen Propositions had avoided. If the case was indeed meant, as Parliament claimed, as urgent advice by still loyal subjects, we may have in Bodinian terms a sense

76C. C. Weston

and Janelle Greenberg, Subjects and Sovereigns:The Grand Controversy over Legal Sovereignty in Stuart England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), Chapter 3, pp. 3586; for more detailed discussion, Condren, Argument and Authority, pp. 166 71.

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of confusion heralding the civil wars about to break out.77 In this arguably asymmetrical dispute, we also get a sense of the contingency of what, like ideology, we take for granted, that sovereignty helps define any state and so must be a central issue. But that is another matter.


is, of course, also possible that the apparent displacement of any claim on sovereignty was needed in the extremely tricky business of sustaining a reasonably united front. Parergon 28.2 (2011)