A History of Political Thought in the Sixteenth Century

By J. W. Allen | Go to book overview

stracted France of a far future. In that dream of his the sovereignty of the King is more universally and profoundly recognized than ever it was under Louis XIV. The national government possesses a national standing army which at once gives France security and makes factious resistance to the Crown practically impossible. All waste and peculation have been eliminated more completely than ever Colbert succeeded in eliminating them. All forms of religious belief and worship are tolerated; weights, measures and coinage have been unified and education is organized and controlled by the State, as under Napoleon I. It would seem also that hereditary office and jurisdiction, class monopolies and exemptions, have at last disappeared. There are, it is true, what may be considered drawbacks. In that reformed France of Bodin's vision law will, perhaps, have revived the ancient power of the father in the family with merciless completeness. Alternatively, the State will have established the severest censorship of morals and of the Press and will have abolished the theatre altogether. It will certainly, too, pay particular attention to witchcraft. All these suggestions were made by Bodin more or less clearly, but to say that all this was ever at one time present to his mind would be saying far too much. From his scattered and hardly connected suggestions we can piece together a picture he never made himself.


§ 9. CONCLUSION

The temptation to end this chapter with some kind of summary should be resisted. It is, of course, possible to separate the essential structure of a complex system of thought from its mere details and accretions; though in doing this there is serious danger of losing sight of the reality. But at least the thing presented must be a completely articulated skeleton or it will be quite worthless. Such a skeleton it is that I have tried to exhibit in this chapter which is, as written, probably only too summary. To isolate Bodin's theory of sovereignty or his theory of climate would be to present them in a form in which they did not exist in his mind. The result would be a more distortion, representing the mind of the commentator rather than anything else.

But, a survey concluded, there remain always many things that may be and some that should be said on the elusive subject of Bodin's influence. The Republic, as has been seen, went through many editions in the sixteenth century and was translated into several languages. Alike in the sixteenth and in the seventeenth centuries it was not only widely read but seriously studied and commented upon. For more than a hundred years after its publication it must have been known to all serious students or thinkers on the subjects it deals with. In France its direct influence was greatest, I think, in the sixteenth century; in England and elsewhere it was more potent in the seventeenth. It must have made many and diverse suggestions to very

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