‘P. Baldus’ and the ‘Monastic Peace’

If the title of this post makes no sense, that’s not by chance. I’ve been spending the day tracking down some of Leibniz’s works, finding as many references as I can, and making a list of things to check at various libraries (the cricket provided an excellent background).

In the Political Writings collection, edited by Patrick Riley, on pp. 114-5, Leibniz is discussing the notion of “territorial hegemony, or the right of territory”. He notes that this is developed by German jurists, “but the Italians preceded them [in this], and one remembers the dictum of Baldus, who used to say that hegemony inhered in a territory as the mist to a swamp”.

The editor’s note reads “P. Baldus, Super Feudis, ch. ‘De Allodis’, 7″.

Several things come from checking this to the original Latin text. The first is that the Germans called it ‘Superioritatem territorialem, vel sublime territorii jus”. Now this should surely be rendered in English as ‘territorial superiority’ or ‘supremacy’. It is not ‘hegemony’, which is a Greek root word, for one thing, but more importantly, hegemony implies some kind of overall, absolute power, which this kind of power is not. For Leibniz, territorial right/supremacy/superiority, while important, is limited, first by being contained within a geographical area; and second because he is looking at the relations between the territorial princes of the Empire and the Emperor. The Emperor has majesty, and his kind of power is closer to what is today meant by ‘hegemony’. Later Leibniz explains that what he means by superiority, is close to what the French describe as souveraineté.

The second thing to note is that the Akademie edition has a longer footnote. Riley has omitted much of the detail that follows the citation, but also crucially a part of the author’s name. The German editor note reads “P. Baldus de Ubaldis…” Now, Baldus de Ubaldis was a 14th century Italian jurist, but how are contemporary readers are supposed to know who he is from Riley’s note? On reading this now I knew immediately, since the mist from a swamp line is clearly Baldus, who I’ve written a section on for another chapter. But when I read this back in 2003 I had no idea. The ‘P.’ is erroneous, in any case, since Baldus had a brother called Petrus, with whom he is sometimes confused.

Two additional things. The German jurists would have discussed the term as Landeshoheit, which resists straightforward translation. But it is important to recognise that this is what Leibniz means. And Riley seems to omit ‘sublime’ from his translation. Sublime means high or elevated. So, what the Germans called ‘Superioritatem territorialem, vel sublime territorii jus”, is ‘territorial superiority [i.e. a Latin rendering of Landeshoheit] or high territorial right’. Why is sublime important? Because it gives a clue to who Leibniz means by the German jurists.

Second example. On p. 115, discussing the rights of princes in the Empire, the counts and the free cities. Leibniz suggests that “recently, especially by the monastic peace, the question seems to have been settled”. What’s the monastic peace? Well, the Latin text reads ‘sed novissime, Pace imprimis Monasteriensi, definitia quaestio videtur’, which actually means ‘but recently, since the Peace of Münster, the question seems to have been settled’. Now the Peace of Münster was of course, part of the Westphalia settlement of 1648. That, of course, makes a lot more sense. The footnote in both Political Writings and the Akademie text says ‘Instrumentum Pacis Caesareo-Gallicum, sec. 65, Mainz, 1648’. I’m really not sure what Mainz is doing there.

Now the strange thing is that in several other instances in Political Writings, the Peace of Münster is mentioned. But those are translations from the French (la paix de Munster), whereas the text I’m discussing was translated from Latin. Indeed, in the ‘Preface to the Second Edition’ Riley notes that he made use of John Gleason’s draft translation of this text.

One final note. Das Münster in modern German means cathedral or minster, as well as being the name of a town. In one of his early lecture courses (Gesamtausgabe 56/57), Heidegger is discussing spatial orientation. Now the passage should read something like “I come to Freiburg for the first time on a walking tour and, on entering the town, ask, ‘which is the quickest way to the cathedral?’” The English translation asks about the way to Münster, which for a walking tour is pretty lost – Münster is 500 km away! There have been a few times today when I’ve felt in a similar position.

This entry was posted in Baldus de Ubaldis, Gottfried Leibniz, Martin Heidegger, Territory, The Birth of Territory. Bookmark the permalink.

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