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The problem of adoption of Classic and Biblical traditions in Monarchomachian concept of John Ponet (XVI c.)

di Oksana A. Dovgopolova (5 settembre 2011)

1. Introduction

The tide of monarchomachian thought in XVI c. caused the political thinkers' serious attention to the problem of the noted position's theoretical base. The problem of theoretical roots of monarchomachian concept hinges on the impossibility of any form of resistance to civil powers in medieval Christian thought. The New Testament's requires of obedience to power created the clear base for definition of any attempt of resistance's justification as heretical. Inside medieval thinking an idea of regicide had no any ground (the theory of John of Salisbury, hence comprises the justification of tyrannicide, is not completely monarchomachian -- it is theory of royal power, which contains a moment of punishment for person, who had neglected his duties before God and people). So the robust stem of early modern monarchomachian theory seems to be absolutely new, modern phenomenon, being medieval only in form. The Renaissance processes involved into Western European mental harness the notions and methods from Classic theory and Roman Law. Simultaneously the sharp interest for Christian antiquities in Protestant tradition entailed the immersion into Scripture as whole and Hebrew Bible in particular.

This text appears as an attempt to reveal the role of the Biblical Law's concept in the monarchomachian theory by John Ponet, one of the main representatives of English direction of English-Scottish monarchomachian thought (XVI c.). Traditionally Ponet's theory appears interpreted in context of the development of English humanism -- from his student time in Queen's College in Cambridge Ponet had been involved in the steam of Erasmian influence, Greek studies etc. In this text we shall reveal the peculiarities of Ponet's understanding of Biblical Law, which creates a base of his monarchomachian position. Author of this article supposes that rather marginal place, which Ponet obtains in the investigations of English-Scottish monarchomachy, is connected with investigators' presuppositions -- biblical tradition ought to show itself in prophetic style, Classic -- in wide use of Roman Law and Greek philosophy. Being rather deep theorist, Ponet builds his concept on both Classic tradition and special interpretation of Biblical Law, without any prophetic pathos. Here we concentrate our attention at the Biblical component of Ponet's monarchomachian theory, declared in "A Short Treatise of Politic Power"1 (1556).

2. Biblical or Roman Law? What is a base of early modern theories of tyrannicide?

The presence of Biblical line in theories of tyrannicide fomented tense scientific discussions about the place of Biblical and Roman Law in creating of theoretical grounds of monarchomachian thought. The queries connected with the problem of resistance, created especially fruitful ground for immersion in Hebrew Political tradition. Obvious is the great number of examples from Scripture inside the XVI century's monarchomachian texts, but what is a ground of their presence? Had it been only the inevitable referring to well-known theoretical patterns, which made text understandable to reader? Or had it been an evidence of appearance of a new variety of Biblical material's comprehension? In this context the attention of investigator appears concentrated around the query: what had monarchomachs comprehended as roots of their thought -- is it Biblical or Roman Law?

I shall say no something new, when point, that common line of determination of the predominant theoretical root of monarchomahian texts (as early modern political thought at all) in contemporary scientific literature appears directed to Roman Law. If we'll try to observe the principles of selection of authors in generalizing works on history of Political Thought, we'll reveal such approach. For example, A History of Political Theory by G. H. Sabine and T. L.  Thorson2 among representatives of monarchomachian line we see only those authors, determined as theorists of Natural Law and the Social Contract. So Ponet and Goodman had not been even noted in this fundamental work -- the Biblical roots of their theory are too obvious. Authors were sure that the theory of God's Law had been of less importance in English political theory at all (§ 19 and 20). Such approach we see in such known work as Q.  Skinner's The Foundations of Modern Political Thought3. Investigating the monarchomachian theoretical base, D.  Lee describes only Roman Law, declaring that the common belief concerning the Biblical Law's role ought to be refuted.4 The J.  Ponet's treatise had not been noted by D.  Lee, hence the general conclusions about the monarchomahian thought had been declared. As a certain motto of such approach appear Q.  Skinner's words: "Roman law was an attractive and widely respected "language" in which to articulate a theory of popular sovereignty and resistance because it was presumably neutral yet provided the authority to appeal to a broad audience that extended beyond the small community of French Huguenots who were already motivated toward radicalism by their sectarian ideology treating resistance as a religious duty".5 So understandable and modern thinkers, oriented on Roman Law, resist the sectarian apologist of Biblical one. Before referring to special analysis of interrelations of Biblical and Roman Law in Ponet's theory I dare to remind the essence of theoretical contention of Anne McLaren6 and George Garnett7 concerning the correlation of Roman and Biblical Law in Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos. The mode of arguing shows clearly the point of discontent connected with general understanding of monarchomahian tradition. I suppose that rereading of the noted contention through the Ponet's approach could help to see it in other light. So what ground of discontent had been demonstrated in McLaren's and Garnett's texts?

In her emotional article A.  McLaren accused Q.  Skinner and G.  Garnett in neglecting of Biblical Law's role in Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos. "Skinner and Garnett privilege marginal references to Roman law, to the extent of pointedly ignoring the overwhelming dominance of scriptural references throughout the text as a whole. (...) Scriptural citations outweigh all other kinds combined in a ratio of roughly 5 to 1. Throughout the Vindiciae, Mornay refers his readers to the Bible, and especially, with what becomes predictable regularity, to certain books of the Old Testament: Deuteronomy, I Samuel, II Chronicles, II Kings".8 George Garnett's stricture of McLaren's position appears built on these of substantivity of Roman Law in Mornay's text. "I accept Dr McLaren's point that the number of scriptural citations in the margins is greater than those to Roman law and canon law combined. But totting up the number of marginal citations -- even totting them up accurately -- tells us very little about the structure of the author's argument".9 So according to G.  Garnett's interpretation Roman Law creates a stem of Mornay's thought and Biblical examples appear here only because "he seems to be more ready to append straightforward scriptural citations than often very complicated legal ones".10 What looks strange in this context, is Garnett's assertions about Mornay's jejune knowledge of Roman law.11 If he was not a specialist in Roman Law, how could it appear as a base of his concept? But my aim is not to analyze the Mornay's text, but to renew the theoretical orientations of monarchomachian thought in common.

The predominance of Biblical or Roman Law in monarchomachian texts really could not be proved by reckoning of the number of quotations. Number shows no the mechanisms of the author's thought. G.  Garnett appears absolutely right in this point. And here is the investigator's task -- the perusal of the XVI century's texts through the prism of research of their author's mode of thinking. The meaning of the notions used in texts and the context of their understanding were obvious for XVI century's author, but not for us. The authors and readers shared common understanding of popular notions, so felt no necessity of additional explanations. The contemporary investigator, alas, has no possibility simply to read the historical texts, but ought to seek the "key" or "matrix' of author's thinking through deconstruction of text's "body". Referring to the notion of hermeneutical circle described by F. Schleiermacher, we ought to acknowledge that the thought of investigator moves from the initial phenomenon's comprehension through the analysis of its parts to the new understanding of the phenomenon in whole. The noted deconstruction is dangerous procedure due to the necessity of work with the separate elements of author's mental picture. Reconstruction of the whole picture requires the responsibility and vigilance from investigator, who inevitably appears rather interpreter than independent descriptor.

What is the "common language" for XVI century's theorists? Is it Roman Law, as it asserts Q.  Skinner12 or Daniel Lee,13 or Biblical order, as proves Anne McLaren?14 Actually the other problem appears in the centre of investigators' attention -- had the monarchomachian thinkers been politically or theologically oriented, creating their treatises? Had their arguing been secular or religious? Accordingly to the common line of contemporary scientific thinking, the prevailing of theological argumentation in certain theory reveals the propensity of its author to medieval mentality. And at the same time orientation at the rational line of investigation shows for us the early modern thinker, who dismissed the orientation at authority and released own free thought for independent research. So the gist of competition between the supporters of Roman and Biblical base of early modern political thought is further: had the monarchomachs been the representatives of departing medieval thinking or the heralds of modern rational theory? Such a straightforward valorizing appears detrimental for understanding of intrinsic essence of monarchomach's thought. The initial point of move inside the hermeneutical circle supposes here amalgamation of the Roman Law with the political thinking and Biblical Law with religious one. Alas, the initial understanding often plays a crucial role in directing of investigator's attention.

3. The Biblical component of John Ponet's thought in interpretation of contemporary scientific tradition

Being not very popular in investigations on early modern political thought, Ponet often appears in shadow of his more radical or vivid colleagues by monarchomachian "department". I dare to suppose that neglecting of Ponet's legacy appears connected with impossibility of its interpretation in context of the noted couples of meanings -- Biblical Law/Religious thinking and Roman Law/Political thinking.

John Ponet (1516? -- 1556) was an important but rather "shadowed" participant of English Reformation. One of the most educated people of his time, Ponet actively participated in ecclesiastical reforms of Henry VIII and Edward VI. Being the capelin of mighty archbishop Tomas Cranmer, he for ever related in his shadow. But attentive investigation shows that Ponet's role in creating of English protestant doctrine is considerable. W. S.  Hudson supposed that some texts presented from Cranmer's name belong to Ponet's hand.15 After Queen Mary's advent to power Ponet found himself in exile in Strasbourg. His calamities had prolonged in exile -- fire destroyed his house and property. Hence these events did not lead Ponet to a tragic end (he had not die from starvation or cold, had not become a beggar), one can imagine the picture of his life in exile. All the closest friends and companions had finished their life and he himself had no a tiny hope to regain his respectable position. Here, in exile, Ponet created "A Shorte Treatise of politike povver, and of the true Obedience which subiectes owe to kings and other civile Governours, with an Exhortation to all true naturall Englisheman",16 his main political work, published the same year when he died (1556), and it is unknown whether he saw his work published. After a period of popularity in XVII century, when his treatise had been republished twice in 1639 and 1642, Ponet appeared to be nearly forgotten for a long time.

Ponet's name became a subject of rather wide scientific interest in 1928, when J. V.  Allen published "A history of political thought in XVI c. "17 Text of "A Short Treatise" had been introduced into scientific circulation in 1942 by W. S.  Hudson, who placed its facsimile reproduction in his fundamental investigation "John Ponet (1516? -- 1556). Advocate of Limited Monarchy".18 In 1994 Patrick S. Poole edited the treatise for the modern reader. Acknowledging the importance of conclusions of J. V.  Allen and W. S.  Hudson about Ponet's legacy, I would like to refer to the investigations of specialists little known in Western scientific world, namely B. N.  Chicherin and M. M.  Kovalevskij, belonging to the tradition of history of ideas in Russian Empire of XIX c. In their works Ponet appears as a nontrivial figure in European political conscience, presenting the substantiated political concept and being first in English political literature to use the word "nation" in the modern sense. It is important that Russian theorists do not directly link Ponet to the tradition of English Reformation, but show his dual position as a bishop and a renaissance thinker. Regrettably, the political events of the first quarter of XX century had restricted the results of this direction of the history of ideas to the space of former USSR. In modern scientific tradition the references to Ponet's heritage are connected with fundamental investigations of J. V.  Allen,19 W. S.  Hudson,20 M.  Walzer,21 and Q.  Skinner.22 Certain aspects of Ponet's thought had also been analyzed by B.  Peardon,23 D. H.  Wollman,24 and B. L.  Beer.25

The theme of Biblical Law appears inevitably present in all investigations, connected with Ponet's legacy. But one can see the common tendency to underestimate its role in "A Short Treatise". I dare to suppose that disregard to Biblical roots of Ponet's concept entails misunderstandings of his theoretical position at all. When, for example, J. W.  Allen asserts that in his book Ponet's recondite concept appears expound more clearly than in "A Short Treatise" itself,26 it could be caused by ignoring of the specific theoretical base of Ponet's thought. It is clear for J. W.  Allen that there is no something peculiar Calvinistic in his theory, that he went by other way than Knox and Goodman,27 but he had not seen here the theory bound by the certain principle. The especially devoted to analysis of Ponet's legacy article by B. L.  Beer nearly ignores even the Scriptural examples in "A Short Treatise". "Ponet discovered precedents from the histories of England, Denmark, Hungary, Portugal, and the Papacy to justify deposing an evil governor and killing a tyrant",28 says author, ignoring the fact of absolute predominance of Biblical examples of tyrannicide.

The problem of biblical thematic in Ponet's treatise had already appeared a theme of special investigation. For example, David H. Wollman29 analyzed the biblical justification for resistance to authority in polemics of Ponet and Goodman. D. H.  Wollman paid special attention to the problem of connection between Ponet's arguments and political theories of XVII century (the century, when "A Short Treatise" was republished twice). The biblical examples used by Ponet are carefully described and classified into groups. At the same time D. H.  Wollman emphasizes only Ponet's hermeneutical approach to Old Testament texts. Certainly, hermeneutic is important part of Ponet's mode of arguing, but it is not enough to certify the Biblical Law's presence to understand its role in "A Short Treatise". In this text I establish Ponet's understanding of the role the Biblical Law plays in human society functioning. On this common goal's base I clarify the problem of mutual dependence of the monarchomahian ideal and Biblical Law in Ponet's thought.

4. Biblical Law as a base of Ponet's political theory

Everyone reading "A Short Treatise" notices a great number of examples from biblical texts used by author to prove the impossibility of tyrannical power. Taking into consideration the circumstances of Ponet's life, one can suppose that the theorist of English Reformation in exile tried to overcome his depression by taking a polemical revenge on the source of his calamities -- Queen Mary. It appears tempting to explain the theoretical conclusions of the treatise by the circumstances of Ponet's life. This path follows, for example, the argumentation of Barbara Peardon,30 who analyses in detail the most painful questions of Ponet's life and shows their traces in the text of "A Short Treatise". Clearly, it was the painful political situation, which pushed Ponet to working out of the problem of tyranny. The text is emotional, sometimes bordering on being rude, and reveals an intrinsic desire to explain the problem and to "open the eyes" of Englishmen. But if his aim was only to take his revenge and to fight with depression, had he any need to create a political theory? It would suffice to list of Mary's crimes and refer to concept of mixed state and mutual dependence of king and subjects, elaborated in English political tradition. No, Ponet refers to all levels of his knowledge, using not only the theological argumentation, but also the experience of Classic and English history, Classic philosophy etc. B.  Peardon acknowledges that Ponet saw more wide constitutional principles of tyrant's displacement when most of his contemporaries. His view of the English political situation (even very painful for him himself) appears to be a part of the wider picture of the nature of the politic power. And all the threads of his argumentation appear tied with the concept of Biblical Law.

The strict emphasize on the Biblical Law appeared in treatise because of necessity to explain in another perspective the demand in the New Testament of obedience to politic power. The known passages from Romans 13: 1 -- 4 and I Peter 2: 13 -- 18 create sufficient theoretical basis of medieval Christian understanding of relations between ruler and subjects, prompting an obvious contradiction when trying to enter the monarchomachian intention in the context of the well-known demand for each soul to be obedient to powers. The text of the New Testament leaves no doubt concerning the nature of such obedience -- the bad ruler is given for the sins of the subjects and the only way of release is the sincere repentance, not rebellion or tyrannicide. Using the concept of the Biblical Law, Ponet tries to reestablish the political conscience in the monarchomahian direction. Without denying the New Testament demands, Ponet builds the new architecture of these demands' understanding.

Careful reading shows that John Ponet not merely tries to find the confirmations for his own position in text of Old Testament, but also uses the concept of the Biblical Law as a foundation of the power's nature in general. I suppose that Ponet not only set the present situation in Biblical context, as D.  Wollman's asserted.31 Biblical text was not a source of examples, but created a theoretical field, where Ponet's thought worked.

What is Law for Ponet? It appears as a universal mechanism which organizes the social life via the demands manifested in Decalogue "and after that, reduced by Christ our Savior to just two commands: You will love the Lord your God above all things, and your neighbor as yourself".32 So the principal norms which organize the social life are concentrated in two demands, common for Old and New Testament. The Laws are functioning as the sinews in the political body. A significant Ponet's statement in this context is: "And how can that body be just, where the sinews (the laws) are broken. . .? ".33 The Law is a binding and moving power in a human society. Ponet ties the moment of Law's creation to the God's order to Noah to repay the crime against life with blood: "He that sheds the blood of man, his blood shall also be shed by man".34 In order to avoid even smallest hesitation concerning the nature of the Law, Ponet emphasizes that this God's ordinance institutes the political power and gives authority "to men to make more laws".35 The permission to shed the blood appears as a nature of political power and Law. No death penalty existed before Flood, even for most terrible criminals. Even "Cain and Lamech... were not corporally punished, but had a protection of God, that none should lawfully hurt them".36 But God's understanding of impossibility of governing with the rules of "gentleness and patience" transformed His lenity to severity and became a cause of punishment's appearance. God decided to "add corporal pains to those that would not follow, but transgressed His ordinances".37 Political power purchased the authority to create necessary Laws and to use punishment for criminal.

The sinful human behavior should be restrained by punishment. And authority to create laws should be completed by the execution of laws by political power, "for laws without execution be no more profitable, than bells without clappers",38 says Ponet. Here we see how Ponet understands of the nature of Law. The Laws are created by men and in different political and historical circumstances. Ponet emphasizes this moment -- the sources and mechanisms of adoption of laws appear different in different countries, but their nature remains universal -- "authority to make laws, or the power to execute the same, shall be and remain in one person alone, or in many, it is not expressed, but left to the discretion of the people to make so many and so few, as they think necessary for the maintenance of the state".39 "A Short Treatise" carefully enumerates different varieties of governments to demonstrate the essence of the author's idea. The Laws could be created by one man as it had been done by Moses, or Licurgus, or Solon. In other cases, the Laws are created by "certain outchosen men, as in Rome by the ten men".40 In any country, the agreement among all citizens creates Law. By the same way, the execution of Law in different countries appears to rest upon the shoulders of one man (king or judge), of "many of the best sort" or of the "people of the lowest sort", and in some cases also on the shoulders of the "king, nobility, and the people all together".41 This attention to the problem of the Law sources is conditioned by Ponet's desire to clearly demonstrate the nature of the politic power. It was created by God, but in a specific way -- God placed in human mind knowledge about the goals of government and gave the possibility to use this knowledge according to historical circumstances. Not in vain, Ponet demonstrates his thought by using the examples not only from the history of states noted in Bible, but also from both Classic history and Christian European countries. In text of treatise we see appeals to Israel, Greek, Roman, German, French, Hungarian, English history. It is important to Ponet to be clear that the common principle had been set in base of government in all countries -- both ancient and contemporary. Common sense of Law creates the essence of political power both in countries of Ethnics and "in all Christian realms and dominions".42 Ponet even draws the picture of evil ruler's accusation, which would be pronounced by the good Ethnics during the Last Judgment. In Ethnic states politic power has the same source as in Christian -- God's word given to Noah. Ethnic states exist not because of the power of gods which they bless, but because of the God's decision to create a political power. So the common essence for all human societies is the Law, namely the Biblical Law, given by the word of God to Noah.

Some varieties of understanding of the Law's phenomenon can be found in history. One can point out the Roman proverb Dura lex, sed lex as such that demonstrates the necessity of submission without reasoning. The similar meaning appears in imperative Fiat justitia, pereat mundis created by Ponet's contemporary German emperor Ferdinand I. Prominent in XVI c. was a Byzantine formulation My will shall be the Law for you. Ponet's treatise presents the Biblical variety of the understanding of the Law, which includes acknowledgement of God's will as a source of Law's emergence. In wide sense Law was present from the beginning of human existence, but before Flood it demonstrated itself in form of demand of love to each other. We know that Ponet acknowledged the existence of the Law before the Flood -- in this context he says that it was not lawful to use a corporal punishment for Cain. Before God passed to governors the authority to create laws, the alone source of Law was God's will.

Ponet emphasizes that it is a God's will that creates the essence of the Law. This fact appears absolutely clear for the author of "A Short Treatise" when he points out the cases from Scripture, where God expresses His direct request for evidently unlawful acts. "So did Abraham, -- notes Ponet, -- when contrary to that seemed to be right and just (yea contrary to God's general commandment) he made himself ready to kill and offer in sacrifice his only promised son Isaac, according to God's special commandment. So did also the children of Israel, contrary to the general commandment (You shall not steal) rob and spoil the Egyptians, by God's special commandment. And so did Phinces, who albeit he were no magistrate, yet of a great zeal by the inward motion of God's Spirit thrust his sword through those two that he found committing horedome".43 Ponet deliberately pays special attention for these examples of outward unlawful behavior; it gives him possibility avoid even the smallest doubt in the interpretation of the Law. It is important for Ponet to create a basis for his monarchomachian position.

Such transformations of lawful behavior Ponet explains by the God's direct intention to demonstrate the paramount position of general commandment: "You will love the Lord your God above all things". This demand creates certain spirit of Law which lives in all its manifestations. A medieval tradition distinguished notions of God's, natural and positive Laws. In "A Short Treatise" the first two notions are always placed near, often as synonyms. Throughout the text of "A Short Treatise" we meet such combinations: "God's word, or the laws of nature";44 "God's law and the laws of nature";45 "God's laws (by which name also the laws of nature be comprehended) "46 etc. Both were created by the direct instruction of God -- the first pronounced by God for His people, and other engraved in the human soul. Ponet wants to show the main source of Laws rather than to classify them rightly, so he uses the notions of God's Law and natural law as synonyms. To explain his position Ponet says: "This rule is the law of nature, first planted and grafted only in the mind of man, then after that his mind was through sin defiled, filled with darkness, and encumbered with many doubts, set further in writing in the Decalogue... ".47 Ponet returns to this thought more and more often, explaining that "it is no private law to a few or certain people, but common to all: not written in books, but grafted in the hearts of men: not made by man, but ordained of God: which we have not learned, received or read, but have taken, sucked, and drown it out of nature".48 So, in the Treatise we see understanding of Law not as a product of human desire to create the convenient conditions of society life, but as a God's establishment embodied in certain rules formulated by State. Such interpretation of Law is formulated in biblical direction of thought.

The results of such understanding of the Law in the Treatise are concentrated in the request of work for the welfare of neighbor. The State was created by God's desire of peaceful and just life of subjects with one another, so welfare and lawful life appear the essence of existence in State. Therefore, the task of the State in general and of each citizen separately is to create conditions necessary for material welfare and worthy life without a sin. Ponet pays special attention to the problem of property and economical stability. Taking into consideration the personal circumstances of his life, one might conclude that the problem of property appeared in "A Short Treatise" due to his own situation of exile. This fact, emphasized by B.  Peardon, reminds of the parliament debates about the estates of exiles.49 Possibly, painful circumstances indeed pushed Ponet to the reflection on this theme, but I believe that Ponet had other reasons to appeal to the question of property. It appears to be naturally included in the context of Ponet's understanding of the goal of power's existence. Ponet accuses Plato of the wrong understanding of the property problem and asserts that the necessity of property in human society becomes obvious when we recall the commandment not to steal -- in God's mind the property appears an inalienable element of human life.

The property question in context of the Law essence creates solid ground for Ponet for the accusation of tyrants. It is the property question, which clearly shows the necessity of governor's submission to the positive Law of his own country. Ownership of property Ponet demonstrates as a strict consequence of natural law's work. The author of "A Short Treatise" leaves no doubt regarding the right of governor on the property of his subjects -- king, stretching his hand into the subject's property, is a tyrant and an ungodly creature for he break the commandment. The clearness of Ponet's proofs leads the investigators of "A Short Treatise" to the conclusion, that Ponet's thought "was in conflict with sixteenth-century legal opinion that only the crown possessed final rights of ownership over lands and tenements".50 We should keep in mind that Ponet was not a pioneer in such questions. It is sufficient to remind of Machiavelli's theory to show that Ponet was not alone in his belief about the criminal character of ruler's acts when he tries to use subject's property. Although the grounds of these beliefs were different, the statements are very similar. Contrary to Machiavelli Ponet grounds his position on his understanding of the Biblical Law -- a ruler who steals property of his subjects, breaks the commandment and appears as a source of subjects' sinful behavior. The Commandment requires to take care of welfare, because if the results of one's work appear stolen, he falls into laziness (in better case) or resorts to crime becoming a thief or even a murderer. Ponet illustrates his thought by the examples from life of "people of the West Indies, now called New Spain: who knew of Christ nothing at all, and of God no more that nature taught them".51 Ponet describes their life before Spanish invasion -- they "were simple and plain men, and lived without great labor, the land was naturally so plentiful of all things, and continually the trees bade ripe fruit on them".52 After Spaniards came and start to forced Indians to the slave labor, a great number of Indians died, "and a great number of them (seeing themselves brought from so quiet a life to such misery and slavery) of desperation killed themselves. And many would not marry, because they would not have their children slaves to the Spaniards. The women when they felt themselves with child, would eat a certain herb to destroy the child in the womb".53 The inhuman conditions of life, uncertainty in children's future, necessity to work as slave transform good and honest people into criminals. Who is guilty? Only their tyrannical rulers who deprived honest Ethnics of the results of their labour, of their property. So tyrant, who deprives his subjects of property, appears not only the plain criminal, a thief, but a source of the sins of his subjects. It is very important for Ponet to show these dealings in such plain criminal field in order to take the tyrant's image out of the context of the understanding the king as a mediator between God and people, as a tool of God's will.

5. The interpretation of Biblical Law in Ponet's concept of tyrannicide

The determination of a tyrant is a very complicated question for a medieval Christian thinker taking in consideration the statements from Romans 13: 1 -- 4 and I Peter 2: 13 -- 18. Nobody in Christian political theory said that there are no bad rulers, but the role of such bad ruler was interpreted in the context of God's will, as a tool of punishment for oblivion of God's word. Ponet carefully creates a basis for tyrant's determination. The Biblical Law appears as a ground for his theoretical position. This Law is a main mechanism of human society, which unites people around the God's word. The Law is "equivocal" in medieval sense (as having senses referred into two existential spaces) -- it regulates the communication with other people (external level) and keeps a person in obedience to God (the level of personal responsibility). The consensus of these two levels creates the genuine obedience to Law. Deviation from obedience to God leads people to grievous calamities for "where the people have forsaken God, and contend utterly his word, there has the devil by his ministers, occupied the whole country, and subverted the good orders, justice and equality, that was in the commonwealth".54 As an example of such punishment, Ponet shows "the realm of Hungary which the Turks in our time have occupied".55 The situation of Hungary is an extreme case of God's punishment for deviation from His Law. The "softer" one is tyranny -- it appears where "the people have not utterly forsaken God and his word, but have begun to be weary of it: there has not God suffered Tyrannies by and by to rush in, and to occupy the whole, and to suppress the good orders of the commonwealth, but by little and little has suffered them to creep in, first with the head, then with an arm, and so after with a leg, and at length (were not the people penitent, and in time converted to God) to bring in the whole body, and to work the feats of tyrannies, as hereafter it shall be declared".56 Ponet moves in direction of New Testament statements about the bad ruler's appearance as a result of people's sinful behavior, but emphasizes that tyrant arises not as a result of God's act, but as a result of work of devil's ministers. The tyranny is unlawful in its source. Other understanding is impossible for Ponet because the only conclusion from taking the opposite standpoint is that God is an author of evil. The nature of tyrant's power is necessary part of any monarchomachian concept. John Knox, for example, emphasizes that tyrant is simultaneously vehicle of God's will and enemy of God. So does Calvin.57 Ponet sees the problem not in eschatological but rather in political perspective -- tyranny is a result of human actions without God's direct interrelation.

That is why it is lawful to change situation, to kill a tyrant. Ponet carefully bases this thesis using the biblical material. Giving to governor the right to subject's blood (in times of Noah), God passed to man the right to work out the positive law and the type of government. So, the principles of organizing the political power were left by God on discretion of the people,58 as it was said earlier. The author of "A Short Treatise" points out the examples from the text of the Old Testament of deliberate changes of political power. He reminds the examples of changing rulers by Israelites. It is not accidental that Ponet speaks so persistently about it -- people have an absolutely lawful right to choose the suitable type of government in any case, and especially in case of tyrannical rule.

Ponet looks at the problem of tyrannicide through the prism of the Law. He says about tyrant that "it is lawful to use the law of nature, that is, to remove him from his office".59 He proves that tyrant ought to be punished as breaker of God's law because "prince or governor is nothing else but the minister of the laws".60 Rulers are not some mediators between God and people, they only make and execute laws. And they must remember the words God said to them: "See what you do (said God), for you execute not the judgment of man, but of God. And whatsoever you judge, it shall redound to yourselves".61 So deviator from this duty is ordinary criminal. Ponet enforces this thought with references to the examples of punishment of criminals: "Tell me, I beseech thee, if than had hired one to be thy shepherd, and thy sheep should under his hand by his ignorance misery: or if thy horse-keeper taking wages, should (through his negligence) suffer thy horse to perish: would thee not compete him faulty and look for amends at his hands? Should ignorance excuse him? (...) And if a physician for lucre or other man's pleasure, would take upon him the healing of a sore diseased person, and for lack of knowledge or upon other evil purpose would minister things to hurt or kill the person, were he not worthy to be taken and punished as a butcher and a murderer? "62 A ruler, whom not sheep or horse were trusted, but people, ought to be punished by the same law. M.  Walzer emphasizes in this context that Ponet's concept "was obviously more profane that holy" -- author of "A Short Treatise" preferred to elicit a swindler in tyrant than an idolator (as Knox did) .63 This moment connects Ponet's thought rather with future Anglican theory than with puritan-inclined Knox and Goodman.64 The particular "legal" context of Ponet's thought alters him from Calvinist monarchomachs Knox and Goodman, who saw tyrannicide in prophetic perspective. Prophet for them primarily is a God's trumpet, staying out of the world. As M.  Walzer noted, prophet is not bounded to laws, does not belong to institution, "he could range freely, disregarding legal rules and social boundaries".65 Ponet's optics is simpler and without "doomsday" scenery -- tyrant ought to be referred to Law as thief, butcher or murderer. That's enough. Tyranny appears as a result of God Law's neglecting, but God Law presents itself here as a general source of Political Order. So infringing appears here as felony, not as idolatry.

The possibility of tirannicide could be easily shown through the examples from Old Testament -- destinies of Olofernes or Jezebel are well known. Ponet persistently emphasizes that he means not only the examples from Holy Bible, but the common principle of revealing of the problem of tyrant. Next to the names of biblical tyrants he places the names of classic and contemporary governors. Citing the Isaiah's wrathful exposures against the makers of unrighteous laws, Ponet turns reader's attention for the contemporary circumstances: "This terrible woe of everlasting damnation spoken not only to Jerusalem, but to Germany, Italy, France, Spain, England, Scotland, and all other countries and nations, where the like vices shall be committed".66

In this context the essence of Ponet's comprehension of the Law appears clearer. I have already said that in "A Short Treatise" Law is "equivocal", referred simultaneously to the outer and inner sphere of man's life. So the main notion in Law's determination is responsibility. Responsibility not only of governor, but of each citizen, who must remember that obedience is not a blind subordination but understanding of a double duty before king and God. The notion of responsibility includes the readiness for active reaction on Law's breaking. Not only to preserve oneself from sin and tolerate tyrannical government, but to oppose the evil initiatives -- such ought to be position of good citizen. By Ponet's words, "He is a good citizen that does not evil (said a noble wiseman) but he is better that let others, that they shall not do hurt nor injustice to others. For the blood of the innocent shall be demanded not only at the hands of the shedders of blood, but also of those that make or consent to wicked laws, to condemn the innocent, or suffer their head to kill them contrary to just laws, or to spoil them of that they justly enjoy by the order of law".67

It is important to remember that God had not given the civil governors a power upon all human creatures, but only upon its worse part -- the body. The soul is subordinated immediately to God and nobody else. The hermeneutic analysis of New Testament text's in context of meaning of words "power" and "soul" is a very important moment of Ponet's concept. Ponet interprets the request to each soul to be obedient to power as universal obedience to the Power of God. The soul of governor appears in this context absolutely similar to the souls of his subjects -- so there is no contradiction in the notion of lawful disobedience to the ruler which leads subjects out of God. D.  Wollman notes that "Ponet and Goodman share a basic hermeneutic principle in their use of scripture, that is, that scripture must be used to interpret scripture and that right understanding of any particular passage must see that passage both in the light of its immediate and its total Biblical context".68 We can see in Ponet's statements not only the philological approach, which is a widespread characteristic of medieval intellectual thinking, but the noted "equivocal" understanding of Law too. The explanation of the essence of the lawful disobedience in "A Short Treatise" shows us this particularity of Ponet's thinking.

Clearly, "God must be obeyed rather than men". So when one says that king forced him to commit an evil, his statement has no weight. Ponet calls to distinguish the power of man and power of God as did the Christian soldiers of Julian the emperor, who was a great persecutor of Christ's Church. When emperor "commanded them to set forward to fight for the defense of the commonwealth, they obeyed him, and did it willingly". But "when he willed and commanded them to destroy such as would not deny Christ, and follow his proceedings, worshiping idoles", they "confessed that in that the emperor of heaven the almighty God (and not the emperor of the earth a wicked man, and a rebel against God) was their emperor and captain: and therein they would not obey Julian, nor do that he commanded in that behalf".69 This example shows us Ponet's optics of tyranny's nature -- if Knox directly connected the tyrannical ruling with the power of devil (that entails impossibility of any obedience), Ponet clearly distinguish "God's and Caesar's". Ponet also uses the examples of apostles, who "in time of persecution did not only give us an example so to do, when the worldly powers would have had them to follow their proceedings, but also left us a lesson so to do".70 So each man must evaluate both his and governor's acts to be sure that he indeed obeys the Law of God. The author of "A Short Treatise" supposes that readers may justify their obedience to tyrant by their fear of punishment and death. "Do you think, -- bitingly notes Ponet, -- that this bald excuse will serve? Is it not written, that if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the pit? ".71 The examples of Adam and Eve are absolutely clear -- had they been forgiven when said that serpent deceived them or as Adam said: "The woman whom you gave me, gave it me"?72 Of course, no. They were punished for disobedience.

So, disobedience to the ruler who breaks the Law of God is lawful. For Ponet it is important to show that not only governor's blasphemy or oppression of genuine faith could be qualified as deviation from Law. Neglecting of subjects' welfare, appropriation of subjects property are also the deviations from the principal formulations of God's Law embodied in main commandments of Decalogue. Thus, Ponet's understanding of Biblical Law appears to be the ground of monarchomachian conception. Surely it is not a Biblical Law, but its interpretation created by XVI century thinker. This interpretation does not suppose submission to the "letter" to the positive Law without reasoning (Roman formula Dura lex, sed lex), but it rather implies responsible obedience, including the lawful life here on Earth and fulfillment of God's will in the perspective of eternity. Ponet makes the Biblical Law a universal principle of political power's organization. Through his interpretation of the words "soul" and "power" Ponet shows that the governor is subject to God's power, just as any other man, and so he could be an object of criticism and displacement from throne. In this context, it may not be important that in his treatise Ponet did not directly appeal to rebellion against Mary Tudor. We wait such a demand because we look at the text by our contemporary eyes. It may have been the faithfulness to the ideals of the Biblical Law that prevented Ponet from going beyond the demands for repentance. In any case in Ponet's treatise we see a specific variety of references to the biblical concept of the Law for overcoming the New Testament demands of absolute submission to the governor.

6. Conclusion

Returning to questions placed at the beginning of this text, we can "reread" understanding of theoretical roots of monarchomachian theory. The unbreakable tie between religious thinking and orientation to Biblical Law, from one side, and political thinking and orientation to Roman law, from other, appears not so adamant in context of Ponet's concept. Ponet was a political thinker, who created a common theory of political power on base of Biblical Law. He was clergyman, as Knox and Goodman, but had created neither a sectarian concept of revenge, no picture of prophetic "God's trumpet". He had not been a laymen and aristocrat, as most of Huguenot monarchomachs, but placed the notion of Law at base of his theory. He clearly felt the Renaissance influence, but preferred to use Biblical but not Roman Law. Ponet's treatise allows adding few lines of understanding of the role of Biblical quotations in early modern texts. Yes, presence of examples from Scripture does not reveal for us the logic of author's thought (as G.  Garnett notes). But such text as Ponet's proves that it is not necessary to use Roman Law to demonstrate political thinking and that Biblical examples could demonstrate other meaning than a simple straightforward pattern, useful for explanation on level of everyday-life thought. Thus Ponet's concept appears not convenient for interpretation in notions, which are common for analysis of monarchomachian texts. Maybe due to this ambiguity different investigators describe Ponet's concept in different contexts. For example, M.  Walzer touches Ponet's views, analyzing theoretical activities of Marian exiles.73 So does J. W.  Allen (adding note about certain similarity of Ponet's position with G. Buchanan's and Melanchton's ones),74 Q.  Skinner, D. H.  Wollman. But D.  Lee sees Ponet neither near Knox and Goodman, no among monarchomachs at all. A.  McLaren notes Ponet in company with George Buchanan and John Milton.75 Ponet's concept could not be attributed in the noted dichotomy of medieval/early modern orientation. His concept demonstrates the approach, widespread not in XVI, but in XVII century. Scientific direction, known as Political Hebraism, actively analyzes the employment of Biblical concept in XVII century's English political theories.76 The perusal of Ponet's treatise shows that the same approach existed in XVI century's theory.

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  1. Ponet J. A Shorte treatise of politike povver... in Hudson W.S. John Ponet (1516?--1556). Advocate of Limited Monarchy (Chicago, Illinois, 1942), 183 pp. of facsimile reproducing. Testo

  2. Sabine G.H. and Thorson T.L. A History of Political Theory (Hindsdale: Dryden Press, 1973). Testo

  3. Skinner Q. The Foundations of Modern Political Thought (Cambridge: University Press, 1978), Vol. 2. Testo

  4. Lee D. Private Law Models for Public Law Concepts: The Roman Law Theory of Dominium in the Monarchomach Doctrine of Popular Sovereignty in: The Review of Politics 70 (2008), 370--399. Testo

  5. Skinner Q. Op. cit., p. 335. Testo

  6. McLaren A. "Rethinking Republicanism: Vindiciae, Contra Tyrannos in Context", The Historical Journal, 49, 1 (2006): 23--52. Testo

  7. Garnett G. "Law in the Vindiciae, Contra Tyrannos: a Vindication", The Historical Journal, 49, 3 (2006): 877--891. Testo

  8. McLaren A. Op. cit., p. 32. Testo

  9. Garnett G. Op. cit., p. 88.1. Testo

  10. Ibidem Testo

  11. Ibidem Testo

  12. Skinner Q. Op. cit., p. 335. Testo

  13. Lee D. Op. cit., p. 377. Testo

  14. McLaren A. Op. cit. Testo

  15. Hudson W.S. John Ponet (1516?--1556). Advocate of Limited Monarchy (Chicago, Illinois, 1942). Testo

  16. Further the title of treatise placed in modern spelling Testo

  17. Allen J.W. A history of political thought in XVI c. (London, 1951). Testo

  18. Hudson W.S. Op.cit. Testo

  19. Allen J.W. Op.cit. Testo

  20. Hudson W.S. Op. cit. Testo

  21. Walzer M. The Revolution of the Saints: A Study in the Origins of Radical Politics (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965). Testo

  22. Skinner Q. Op.cit. Testo

  23. Peardon B. "The Politics of Polemic: John Ponet's Short Treatise of Politic Power and Contemporary Circumstance 1553-1556", The Journal of British Studies, Vol. 22, No. 1. (Autumn, 1982): 35--49. Testo

  24. Wollman D.H. "The Biblical Justification for Resistance to Authority in Ponet's and Goodman's Polemics", Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 13, No. 4. (Winter, 1982): 29--41. Testo

  25. Beer B.L. "John Ponet's Shorte Treatise of Politike Power Reassessed", Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. XXI, No. 3. (Autumn1990): 373--384. Testo

  26. Allen J.W. Op.cit. p. 120. Testo

  27. Ibid, p. 118. Testo

  28. Beer B.L. Op.cit., p. 381. Testo

  29. Wollman D.H. Op. cit. Testo

  30. Peardon B. Op. cit. Testo

  31. Wollman D.H. Op. cit., p. 33. Testo

  32. Ponet Jh. Op. cit., p. 4. Testo

  33. Ibid, p. 59. Testo

  34. Ibid, p. 7. Testo

  35. Ibidem. Testo

  36. Ibidem. Testo

  37. Ibidem. Testo

  38. Ibid, p. 8. Testo

  39. Ibidem. Testo

  40. Ibid, p. 9. Testo

  41. Ibidem. Testo

  42. Ibid, p. 12. Testo

  43. Ibid, p. 52--53. Testo

  44. Ibid, p. 59. Testo

  45. Ibid, p.22. Testo

  46. Ibid, p. 22--23. Testo

  47. Ibid, p.4. Testo

  48. Ibid, p.107. Testo

  49. Peardon B. Op. cit., p. 44. Testo

  50. Ibidem. Testo

  51. Ponet. Op. cit., p. 93. Testo

  52. Ibid, p. 93--94. Testo

  53. Ibidem. Testo

  54. Ibid, p. 12. Testo

  55. Ibidem. Testo

  56. Ibid, p. 12--13. Testo

  57. Calvin. Institutiones..., Book IV, XX, 30--32. Testo

  58. Ponet, Op.cit., p. 8. Testo

  59. Ibid, p.103. Testo

  60. Ibid, p. 60. Testo

  61. Ibid, p. 20. Testo

  62. Ibid, p. 17--18. Testo

  63. Walzer M. Op. cit., p. 102. Testo

  64. Ibidem Testo

  65. Ibid, p. 99. Testo

  66. Ponet. Op.cit, p. 16--17. Testo

  67. Ibid, p. 33. Testo

  68. Wollman D.H. Op. cit., p. 36. Testo

  69. Ponet, Op.cit., p. 58--59. Testo

  70. Ibid, p. 55. Testo

  71. Ibid., p. 18. Testo

  72. Ibid, p. 19. Testo

  73. Walzer M. Op.cit., p. 92--104. Testo

  74. Allen J.W. Op.cit., p. 118--119. Testo

  75. McLaren A, Op.cit., p. 25. Testo

  76. See the works of F. Oz-Salzberger, G. Remer, J. Rosenblatt on Hebraic tradition in English political thought and the works of G. Schocket, C. Lynch, K. Neuman, A. Mittelman, E. Perreau-Saussine, A. Eyffinger, M. Bodian, M. Lorberbaum, W. Schmidt-Biggemann on Political Hebraism in early modern tradition in common. Testo