Another Althusius passage

Even though these heads, prefects, and rectors of provinces recognise the supreme magistrate of the realm [summum regni magistratum] as their superior, from whom their administration and power are conceded, nevertheless they have rights of sovereignty in their territory [jura majestatis & principis in suo districtu & territorio], and stand in the place of the supreme prince. They prevail as much in their territory [territorio] as does the emperor or supreme magistrate in the realm [in regno], except for superiority, pre-eminence, and certain other things specifically reserved to the supreme magistrate who does the constituting. Such is the common judgment of jurists… The head of a province therefore has the right of superiority and regal privileges in his territory [jus superioritatis & regalia in suo territorio], but without prejudice to the universal jurisdiction that the supreme prince has… This supreme and universal jurisdiction is itself the form and substantial essence of the sovereignty of the king [majestatis regiae]… which the king by himself cannot abdicate (Politica, VIII, 53-54).

[note that the ellipses do not omit text, but extensive references to jurists.]

 There is so much to be said of this. It’s a reconciliation of the relation between the individual rulers of parts of the empire with the universal power of the Emperor, and, ultimately, the Pope. (Althusius was a Calvinist, and this is in the wake of the Diet of Augsburg.) But it’s the language that he uses to work this through that is so interesting – echoes of Bartolus of Sassoferrato and Jean Bodin, but also the theorists of temporal power from previous struggles between kings, popes and emperors (John of Paris, even a bit of Marsilius of Padua). But those temporal power theorists lacked a vocabulary to articulate clearly what temporal power was exercised over, which Althusius has. The rex imperator in regno suo - the king is an emperor within his kingdom – equation is here, but dressed in a different phrasing: it is within the territorium. But there is also a much clearer division of powers, with certain things reserved for the supreme magistrate, but sovereignty (majesty) is reserved to the king. There are also elements of the King’s two bodies notion. A fundamental passage.

This entry was posted in Johannes Althusius, Territory, The Birth of Territory. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Another Althusius passage

  1. Pingback: Monarchy: Deposing Rulers | Cogito, Credo, Petam

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