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Nowhere is the part assigned to philosophical speculation in the conduct of life less easy to define than precisely at the point where the contact of theory and practice would seem to be inevitable and direct. To discuss the importance of logic or metaphysics is the privilege of philosophers, but at all times the business of government must be carried on, and at all times there will be room for disputes about the equity of laws, the worth of institutions, or some other momentous question involved in the exercise of sovereign power. On merely a priori grounds, therefore, the reflections of the “political animal” on his collective destiny might have been expected to find almost continuous expression in literary form. No such anticipation, however, would be justified by the facts. Among the Greeks, as we know, political speculation was slow to arise and swift to disappear. Before Socrates there was little or none of it, while, after Aristotle, concentration upon the problem of conduct served only to dissolve the union between morals and politics, and to make it ever more and more improbable that worthy successors to the Republic and the Politics would appear. The Roman philosophers, such as they were, produced no distinctive theory of the State, nor yet the Neo-Platonists; and when at last we begin to approach the Middle Ages, we find at the gateway one imposing work, the De Civitate Dei of St Augustine, but thereafter have to travel for many centuries before we light upon any deliberate contribution to the development of political thought.

Whatever reasons may be offered for this paucity of material, we cannot attribute the silence of philosophers to any stagnation in the current of political events. On the contrary, the transformation of Europe by the rise of the Macedonian Empire, by the prodigious expansion of Rome, and finally by the triumph of the medieval Church, was on a far grander scale than anything in the fortunes of Athens and Sparta, by which Plato and Aristotle had been moved to compose their immortal books. There were, however, certain definite reasons, in the centuries following upon the decline of the City State, for a severance between the quest of moral perfection and the ambition to make laws for mankind. The philosophers themselves, beginning with Zeno, were often Hellenes rather by intellectual adoption than by racial descent. They were heralds of a new civilisation, of a cosmopolitan society wherein the traditional antagonism of Greek and barbarian could no longer survive. At the same time their doctrines were delivered primarily to men deprived of the old civic activities, and forced to choose between political lethargy at home and a life of adventurous intrigue at the court of some foreign prince. What wonder, then, if the inward life began to prevail over the outward, or if philosophy learned to care less for the reformation of government than for the house that wisdom could build for herself?

In this sense there was a long preparation in Greek philosophy for the antithesis of the Church and the World, and therefore the student who would search antiquity for the first premonition of medieval ideas must be prepared to distract his attention between the teaching of philosophers and the actual remodelling of the world by policy and arms. If there was indeed any political theory distinctive of the Middle Ages, it can only be because a new form of society had come into being; but again, no form of society can be genuinely new unless it embodies an idea beyond the capacity of the old. The true preface, therefore, to our subject is contained in the simple question, why did the City State no longer suffice for the needs of the world? To reply that it was swept away by military empires is little more than an evasion. Alexander would probably have admitted the truth of Aristotle’s contention, that the POLIS alone could realise the aptitude of man for enjoyment of the highest good. The Romans in their turn were reluctant to part with their faith in a local citizenship, barely to be imparted even to the neighbouring Italians. When the Empire was established, for every one who hailed the dawn of a new era there doubtless were fifty who bewailed the death of liberty and the triumph of force. The old ideal of urbanity still lingered on, and centuries later a poet could compliment an Emperor in the words— “urbem fecisti quod prius orbis erat.”

For us, however, it is impossible to look upon the creation of Empire as merely a violent subversion of a higher form of the State. Whatever the motives of an Alexander or a Julius, men such as these were in effect the authors of a political fabric more august than the Aristotelian city because it provided at last a fit habitation for an idea beyond the range of the Philosopher’s vision. The one prophetic anticipation in the older Greek philosophy of the larger world to come is to be found in Plato’s Republic. The picture of the philosopher-king does at least signify one fact of supreme importance, that no society can finally solve the problem of government unless it can rise above opinion to knowledge and derive its laws from eternal truths. When Aristotle excluded the energy of contemplation from the human life of the State, when he set a limit, as it were, to the “political” instinct, he seemed to be forsaking dreams for realities, but in fact the illusion was his. All ideas, or all that can unite two or three in pursuit of an object, are political ideas, and every such union can produce the essentials of a political society, such as the recognition of rules and authority, with the demand for just so much autonomy as is required for the realisation of the common end. What the eventual significance of any given society is to be will depend on the scope of its intention and the breadth of its appeal. In the end there can be but one autonomous society, the one that embodies the autonomous idea. If Aristotle supposed that this ultimate independence could be realised in the City State, we cannot marvel at his mistake. A mistake it was, nevertheless, and for this sufficient reason, that the City State was not cemented by the deepest bonds of political union, except in a local and transient form. Its religion was the cult of gods who preferred Athens to Megara; its ’‘good” was reserved for the cultivated Hellene, and denied to the barbarian and the slave. Whenever, therefore, there should arise a society knit together by a philosophy or religion of universal significance, the doom of the City State must shortly be pronounced. It was not the armies of imperial conquerors that made Athens obsolete, but the birth of a more comprehensive idea.

Where and how the new birth was to be manifested was the vital question for the Graeco-Roman world. By successive conquests the body politic was enlarged to gigantic dimensions; what then remained was to inspire it with a soul. For this more serious task, unfortunately, the Roman genius was not adequately endowed. The instruments most evidently at the disposal of the Emperors were the diffusion of citizenship and the erection of a single system of law. Now it belonged to the very nature of ancient citizenship that diffusion must lower its quality and almost destroy its original meaning. Long before the final largess of Caracalla (in a.d. 212) the last vestige was obliterated of the old idea, that the citizen was one who took an active part in governing the State. What survived, and what indeed was to gain a new significance under Roman dominion, was the majesty and universality of law. If man could live by law alone, there would have been no decline and fall of the Roman Empire, at least within the kingdom of the mind. But great as were the treasures of Roman jurisprudence, more was needed for the welding into a single community of peoples as diverse as those who acknowledged the Roman sway. A single creed, a single object of worship, some common appeal to the deepest instincts of human nature, was the indispensable condition of success. But to this end the religious tradition of Rome provided almost nothing. As the ius gentium had grown up outside the ius civile, so, no doubt, was there always a larger precinct, beyond the pomoerium, where alien gods could hire a lodging and enjoy their appropriate honours. Yet the difference between the Roman law and the Roman religion lay just in this fact, that the law, with some aid from philosophy, could expand, so to speak, into a monotheistic system, while the religion could do nothing of the kind. Under the Empire the old failure of the local gods to resist invasion persisted with startling results. Every eastern cult, brought home with the spoils of war, or imported by wandering quacks, now began to find a home on the banks of the Tiber, submerging the relics of ancient piety, but failing, none the less, to animate the horde of citizens with any single purpose or belief.

The one promising expedient devised or adopted by the Emperors was the deification of the genius of Rome in themselves. The mere notion of apotheosis was no alarming innovation. Neither for Greeks nor for Romans were gods and demigods divided by an impassable gulf from mankind; but for that very reason the sanctification of the Emperor was never likely to arouse either the enthusiasm or the hatred commonly associated with the founding of a new religion. As a form of policy, the Romans borrowed deification (we may fairly assume) from the successors of Alexander, and it was perhaps in the Eastern half of the Empire that the new cult was most likely to flourish. This at least is certain, that the more the status of the Emperor was magnified, the more clearly would Rome begin to assume a place in the oriental tradition. What definitely belonged to the East was, not apotheosis, but the imperial diadem and the notion of universal monarchy, a thing wholly different in character from the kingship depicted in the early history or legends of Greece and Rome. When, therefore, we recognise in Empire the form of government that came to supplant the City State, we should also understand that the whole perspective of history was thus altered, so that later generations, looking backwards along the vista of the past, would barely glance at the republican glories so belauded in our modern tradition, but would pass from Caesar to Alexander, and thence to the remoter dynasties of Persia and Babylon. This vision of Empire it was that for so many centuries was to enchant and bewilder the medieval mind.

Meanwhile in Italy itself, and everywhere within the circle of Hellenic culture, the steady divergence of spiritual and political activity was fatally weakening the ability of Rome to undertake the government of the world. Religion belonged to the apparatus of the State, theology to the philosophical school. Few historical judgments, therefore, are more misleading than the common assertion that Church and State were identical in the ancient world. Before two things can be identified it is necessary that they should first have been conceived as distinct. Now there is no such thing as a Church without a theology, and of theology, in any considerable sense of the word, the City State had none. The only theology (apart from the Jewish) that has shaped the destiny of Europe was invented by Greek philosophers, and from them was taken over by the Church. Thus when we remark the drift of speculative thought towards a spiritual monotheism, or when we applaud the fine cosmopolitan sentiments of the Stoics, we may be inclined at first to marvel that Pagan Rome could not make a stouter resistance to the gospel of the Christian Church. But in truth there is here no matter for surprise. Because the City State was Aristotelian not Platonic, because philosophers were not kings but lecturers, the doctrines which might have remoulded society into an ecumenical whole were never absorbed into the organic life of the State, and thus were never available as instruments of policy to combat the new society. All that imperial Rome could offer to its vast miscellany of subjects the Church could provide in a shape more vivid and real: a common citizenship, with no distinction of Greek and barbarian, of bond and free; a common law, which was likewise the charter of liberty; a common fatherhood of God, presented, not in the dubious guise of a Caesar, but in the life of the Incarnate Son. Against such an array of forces the Roman State could avail nothing, the Graeco-Roman philosophy not much. The Stoic might cast his net more widely than the Platonist or the Aristotelian, but the common folk still slipped through the meshes. The double appeal of the Christian message, to the intellect of the wise and to the heart of the simple, was beyond the competence of the philosophical schools.

At whatever date, then, we choose to place the beginning of the Middle Ages, the characteristic medieval problem is seen to arise from the impending collision of the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church. For two such societies to flourish in mutual disregard was wholly impossible. What concealed this truth from the primitive Christians, and still, it would seem, obscures it for some modern critics, was the spirituality of the Gospel and the flat repudiation of the claim to earthly power: Regnum meum non est de hoc mundo. Rather than summon many legions of angels the Master had yielded himself to a handful of swords and slaves. With this supreme example before it, how could the Church aspire to universal dominion except in a spiritual sense? The exception, however, was more than enough. At no time was the issue to depend on the conflict of armies; what impelled the Church towards its medieval, destiny was simply the need of realising what we have called the autonomous idea. Pledged to convert the world to a single allegiance, to control every human activity, to define the boundaries of right and wrong, the new society was forbidden by its very nature to allow the final authority of any sovereign power outside itself. Far from avoiding the crisis by the profession of otherworldliness, it was solely by its preference of the celestial patria to this present world that the Church became a revolutionary force. The authority of the keys, the power to bind and loose hereafter, will easily vanquish (so long as men believe in it) every jurisdiction which looks no farther than the grave.

If such was the medieval problem, the uniform character of the political theory properly belonging to the Middle Ages should be readily foreseen. What in fact imparted variety to speculation was, first, the everchanging phases of the political situation, secondly, the reluctance of statesmen and theologians to admit the impossibility of a division of provinces between the temporal and the spiritual power. In the age of the New Testament, and indeed for some while afterwards, the disparity between Church and Empire was so manifest that the attitude of passive obedience, tempered by martyrdom, seemed alone to be practicable. Most of that early period, we are compelled to pass over, but it is impossible to ignore the work of St Augustine, who made the first great survey of the arena in which the protagonists of medieval controversy were to meet.

Not the least remarkable fact about the De Civitate Dei is its date. A hundred years after the Edict of Milan, when Christian Emperors had long been enthroned, and when the defeat of Julian’s policy might well have removed the fear of reaction, Augustine bases his whole argument on the assumption that the Empire is essentially a heathen power. The eventual fate of Rome he hesitates to prophesy, but he does not believe that the recent capture of the city is the beginning of the end. With sound historical instinct he treats the invasion of Alaric as only one of a series reaching far into the past. On previous occasions the imperium had been afflictum potius quam mutatum, and there is no reason now to despair. He does not himself desire a general catastrophe, and is far from suggesting that it is the business of the Church to work for that end. The two great misconceptions of empire, he thinks, are to ascribe it to the beneficence of heathen gods and to count it the supreme reward of goodness. Like everything else, earthly dominion is within the control of Providence, but it is given, as God wills, to the just and the unjust, whereas true felicity is reserved for the just. That the Roman virtues, as described in Virgil’s famous lines, do qualify a people for the task of earthly government Augustine does not deny. He does, indeed, remark a certain decadence in the Roman character, a descent of the scale from libertas to gloria, and from gloria to dominatio, but the gist of his criticism is that the acquisition of empire, no matter by what virtues, is a wholly false ideal. The Church can never be a competitor with Rome for terrestrial sovereignty. The Civitas Dei is an eternal society, of which a portion, represented first by the Jews and then by the Catholic Church, is obliged to accomplish a pilgrimage on earth. The civitas impiorum, on the other hand, was founded in iniquity by the hand of the murderer Cain. “Gratia civis sursum, gratia peregrinus deorsum”; Abel founded no city, but Cain was driven by his crime to fashion a new society, from which had descended the long succession of Empires—Assyrian, Persian, Macedonian—with Rome (itself the. work of the fratricide Romulus) as last of the line. That the Church was now appointed to inherit from Rome the burden of empire was a thought wholly foreign to the mind of Augustine. The Jews alone were the spiritual ancestors of the Christians, and even they had forfeited their birthright by their disposition to seek in terrestrial form the kingdom not to be enjoyed by the saints until the world has passed away.

The Church, then, is essentially a societas peregrina, set over against the societas impiorum. Open hostility, however, between the two Augustine neither expects nor desires. While there is no room in his theory for a distinction of Church and State within the Divine Society, it is expedient for the true civitas to make use of the false. The great function of empire is the establishment of peace. This has to be effected, in the first instance, by war, and thereafter by imposition on the conquered of laws respected by the conqueror himself. This is what Augustine styles the pax Babylonis, differing from the pax caelestis inasmuch as it always requires the prelude of war. Nevertheless the Church can profit by the inferior kind of peace, and to disturb the public order by wanton opposition would be wrong. During its pilgrimage on earth the heavenly civitas summons its citizens from every race, caring nothing for diversity of tongues, institutions, or laws. So long as its religious freedom is unhindered, it can cooperate with the earthly civitas in every other respect.

Augustine sets forth his position with admirable clearness, but when we proceed to scrutinise it more closely we are compelled to admit that his foresight was limited and his grasp of the problem incomplete. What he does understand to perfection is the fundamental difference between the terrestrial and the celestial ideal. What he fails to see is that the difficulty of mutual adjustment had been enormously increased by the conversion of the Empire to the Faith. How great the complications of the future were likely to be we may learn by considering a little further his luminous contrast between the two civitates. Strictly speaking, there is, to Augustine’s mind, only one genuine civitas. In a well-known passage he observes that res publica means res populi, quotes the trite Ciceronian definition of populus as “coetus multitudinis, iuris consensu et utilitatis communione sociatus,” and then declares that the Roman State fails to satisfy the definition. For ius is nothing without vera iustitia, and true justice there cannot be without service of the one true God. Only in an inferior sense, as a “coetus multitudinis rerum quas diligit concordi communione sociatus,” are the Romans a populus; the fuller qualifications belong to the Civitas Dei alone. Much needless surprise has been caused by this famous declaration. Augustine, it should be superfluous to add, is neither denying the respect of Rome for her own system of law and justice, nor suggesting that any heathen State could exist without such a system. His repudiation of the Roman claim belongs, nevertheless, to the very essence of his thesis. Moreover, he enunciates here a political principle of the highest order and of indisputable truth. In language transformed, indeed, by the movement of history, yet identical in meaning, he revives the Platonic doctrine that the nature of Justice must be hidden until the truth about the first and last things is revealed. Justice, as defined by positive law, there may be in any society, and some part of that law may coincide with the dictates of the lex divina. Yet so long as the meaning of right and wrong depends ultimately upon the meaning of the universe (or, as Christians would say, upon the will of God) the Justice of a society that walks in darkness can only be the shadow of a name. To expect from Augustine any doctrine but this is to bid him abandon his deepest convictions and reconstitute the substance of his mind. At the very least it is to thrust upon him the anachronism of a distinction of Church and State within the Christian Society, from which his own antithesis of the two civitates is immensely remote. The real weakness of his theory lies in his failure to suspect that the problem of the temporal power would begin to look insoluble only when the civitas impiorum, already moribund, should have ceased to exist.

If it be granted that the distinctive character of medieval politics, as contrasted with ancient, arose from the conception of a society devoted to the pursuit of a celestial ideal, yet constrained to regulate the behaviour of man in his terrestrial condition, we may briefly enumerate the possible theories of the relation between spiritual and temporal power. There would appear to be three, namely, (1) identification, (2) direct opposition, (3) distinction within an area defined by common first principles. Now the first of these, identification, as we find it, not in the City State but perhaps in the society of Islam, was never compatible with the Christian aspiration. Even in the most materialistic phases of the Church’s history, the note of otherworldliness never entirely ceased to sound. The Pope could not be Caesar; the kingdom was not of this world. On the other hand, the period of direct antagonism could not be indefinitely prolonged. In the mind of an Augustine it could survive the official conversion of the Empire, but in effect what remained for Christendom was only the last of our three alternatives, to discover, if possible, a scheme for amicable compromise, on the hypothesis that both temporal and spiritual functions must be exercised by the ciwitas Dei, so long as its earthly pilgrimage endured.

Less than a hundred years after the appearance of Augustine’s book the elements of the new situation were presented in the celebrated letter of Pope Gelasius I (ob. 496) to Anastasius. It was not, however, on the Byzantine Emperors that the task of interpreting these portentous words was laid. The Rome that became an oriental despotism, and made the last utterance of its original genius in the work of Justinian, lies outside our subject. The “Donation of Constantine,” one is tempted to say, was the supremely historical fact upon which the edifice of medieval Europe was built. Long anticipated by the decline of imperial power in the West, the fatal moment arrived only when a Pope was driven by the pressure of the Lombards to summon a Christian Prince to his aid. The policy of Ultramontanism was then invented, and its firstfruits were “the translation of the Empire,” with the coronation of Charles the Great.

One abiding consequence of that strange and spectacular event was the creation of an artificial atmosphere, in which the drama of the present was perpetually disguised in the garments of the past. The actual importance of the Empire as a political force varied in relation to the competence of the successive holders of the office; but at all times the political nurture of the Emperors was (to speak roughly) Teutonic, while the imperial crown was a symbol but dimly understood by themselves. Meanwhile the whole intellectual tradition, embalmed in the names of old institutions, in the doctrines of jurisprudence, or in fragments of political thought, was Italian, Roman, or even Hellenic, but in any case was a thing apart from feudalism and all the political inventions proper to the barbarians of the north. Hence to modern interpreters of the medieval period the difficulty is to disentangle the study of political speculation from the study of political movements; a difficulty augmented by the fact that many of the institutions and customs most rich in their promise of modern developments occupied little or no place in the conscious theories of medieval authors. It is with theory, however, that this chapter is concerned. Ideas incorporated only in social institutions, and never rising to the level of conscious expression, we can scarcely pretend to examine. For much the same reason it is well, too, to admit at once that the greater part of the arguments employed in medieval controversies were weapons of expediency forged to meet some passing crisis rather than serious products of philosophical reflection. The struggle about Investiture, for example, has played a notable part in our political histories, but in relation to the progress of political thinking we may venture to doubt whether it has any importance at all. At the most it was only a noisy illustration of the wider problem, how to define the place of secular power within the economy of the Church.

As compared with the Papacy, the medieval Empire was a fiction, but there was nothing fictitious in the distaste of powerful monarchs for submission to sacerdotal authority at the expense of their own. A lively and typical example of the conflicts incidental to the new alliance of Papacy and Empire is exhibited in the treatise of Hincmar of Rheims (ob. 882), “De Divortio Lotharii regis et Tetbergae reginae.” Marriage being admittedly a sacrament, divorce did not provide very favourable ground for the assertion of royal independence, but the controversy served to elicit some expressions of opinion with a reference wider than the particular dispute. The plea of the royal advocates, Hincmar tells us, was that the king derived his office (with the aid of hereditary succession) from Divine authority and owed submission to no laws but those of God. In reply to this pretension the archbishop refuses to admit the necessity of any kingdom but the unum regnum which is also the “una ecclesia sub uno rege et sacerdote Christo.” If any enjoy the kingly title with special reference to government of the people, they, no less than priest or prophet, will rightly forfeit their office whenever they fail to perform the duties annexed to its possession. After appealing to the Gelasian doctrine and to Scriptural and modern precedents for the submission of kings to priests, Hincmar revives an old definition of reac (by Isidore of Seville), as one “qui bonos in viam rectam dirigit, malos autem de via prava in viam rectam corrigit.” Such an one, he says, is indeed subject to no laws but those of God, for laws are binding on the unjust, not on the just; nay, there are no leges, as distinct from arbitrary decrees, “nisi illae quae Dei sunt, per quern reges regnant et conditores legum iusta decernunt.” As to the hereditary claim, this in itself has no peculiar sanction. Kingship has been bestowed, under Providence, in many ways, varying from immediate Divine appointment to tyrannical acquisition by force. As no one of these is outside the Divine economy, so, assuredly, the virtues of a father cannot authorise the vices of a son. Were any king exempted from the jurisdiction of a synod, or from the penalty of excommunication, the rule of Scripture and the canons against “acceptance of persons'” would be broken and the integrity of Justice impaired.

From Hincmar himself, or from his contemporaries, it would be as easy to multiply similar pronouncements as it would be difficult to prove that any writers of the ninth century had a clear conception of the problem in which they were actually involved. They were too much engaged in the politics of the hour, and too little versed in philosophical thinking, to detect the gravity of their own dilemma. They could not, in point of fact, resign all secular power to the civitas impiorum; for the Emperor was now the authorised defender of the Church, himself not unworthy to enjoy the title of Vicarius Dei. They could not, on the other hand, allow that regal authority was derived from God without sacerdotal mediation; for that would have been to rend the seamless garment and to set up a double sovereignty within the kingdom of Christ. They professed, therefore, to uphold the dual authority, to render Caesarian things to Caesar and divine things to God; but how to distinguish the one from the other they did not, and could not, explain. Nor must we look for any superior insight in the minds of those who supported the royal pretensions against the sacerdotal. To declare the king emancipated from all laws but those of God has a lofty sound; but, unless it was thereby implied that the royal conscience enjoyed a special illumination, and a special commission to interpret the truths revealed to the Church, the declaration would amount in the end to very little. Kings and Emperors, in fact, were caught in the same dilemma as Popes and priests. As Catholics they could not repudiate their subjection to the law of Christ; and again, they could not (at least in the ninth century) claim for their own laws a Divine sanction with which the See of Peter had properly no concern. In a word, the perpetual hindrance to mental clearness in the great medieval controversy was simply the fact that in all their first principles and radical assumptions the two parties were perfectly agreed. Precisely for that reason, they could not, or would not, face the logical consequences of their common hypothesis. They merely lost their way, and usually their temper, in an endless series of particular conflicts, of which the divorce of Lothar, with the commentary of Hincmar, is a casual example.

The real question, whether the secular power had any place whatever in the civitas Dei, except as a survival of the civitas impiorum, was constantly evaded. To make a division of specific functions was comparatively easy. A layman could not say mass; a priest could not (or should not) wield the sword of the warrior or the sceptre of the king. Yet as soon as the argument passed from office to jurisdiction, or to any question touching the source of authority, the delineation of provinces became an almost impossible task. For if, as Hincmar protested, there were no leges but those of God, the authority of the civil magistrate could not be independent or final. To recognise it, within certain limits, might be highly expedient, but in essence it could not be more than a delegation from the higher authority of the Church. The conclusion demanded by these premisses it was exceedingly difficult for the Emperors to resist. They were bound to admit the inferiority of the temporal to the spiritual, and with that admission their case was as good as lost. The Popes, however, were prevented by circumstances, as well as by lack of logic, from enjoying the full advantage of their superior claim. Often reduced by lack of military force to virtual dependence on the secular arm, they damaged their position still more fatally by their method of fortifying it, and obscured their right to govern a united Christendom by insisting on the distinction between the layman and the priest.

As many writers have explained, it was common in the Middle Ages to understand by “liberty” a right of exemption from some particular jurisdiction. In accordance with this principle it was natural enough for the Church to aim at withdrawing from secular authority all persons invested with the clerical status. Two kinds of persons, two kinds of legal offence, two kinds of court. Such was the dualism that had somehow to be reconciled with the medieval belief in the unity of Christendom. Unfortunately, the result of claiming legal privileges for the clergy was to suggest at once that a large class of persons, outside one special caste, were properly amenable to civil jurisdiction. But why? Were the laity, then, not Christians? Did not they too belong, as Hincmar would say, to the regium genus? And then the issue was further confounded by the distinction between two kinds of offence or case. Upon certain matters (e.g. marriage) the Church demanded sole jurisdiction over all persons, lay or clerical; while others were allowed to be within the competence of civil courts. Was it, then, to be inferred that some departments of human life, involving questions of right and wrong, were beyond the scope of the law of God? The full development of these perplexities does not belong to the age of Hincmar. Yet all are latent in the character of his argument, and all arise from the perpetual vacillation of medieval thinkers between two traditions of almost equal authority, one pointing to the condemnation of all secular power as an invention of the devil, the other towards unqualified submission to civil rule, on the ground that all authority must in some way descend from God. To find a middle course between these extreme opinions was the problem that grew at once more urgent and more insoluble as the conception of Christendom became better defined.

One theoretical compromise, relating to government in general and to many social institutions, can be traced to both sacred and secular origins. As the Biblical narrative began with the Garden of Eden, so did the Pagan poets look back to a golden age of innocence, when there was no private property, no violence, no injustice, and therefore no demand for the strong arm of the law. Pagan philosophers, too, could be quoted in favour of the doctrine that government was, at best, a necessary evil, and Justice a convention, whether devised by the few for the oppression of the many or, on the contrary, embraced by the many for protection against the few. Augustine’s notorious question, “remota iustitia, quid sunt regna nisi magna latrocinia?” is an echo of ancient philosophy which barely misses the cynical innuendo that the function of government is to authorise robbery in the name of the law. By reserving that criticism for the civitas impiorum he had left it open for his successors to believe that the true Justice could be established under the patronage of Christian kings. Yet along with this later view there persisted the tradition that even the best of human institutions were only remedies for sin. The need of the remedies being admitted, many incidental evils were then to be tolerated, on the ground that maladies rooted in the structure of the body politic could not be eradicated without danger to the whole. The failure to abolish slavery, for example, has astonished and incensed many critics of the Church only because they have lost touch with the Christian point of view. As long as the Church was regarded as a societas peregrina, the slave was sufficiently emancipated by conversion to the faith. The only liberty that counted for happiness was then in his possession; his status under earthly dominion was but a passing affliction to be cheerfully endured. It is true, however, that the difficulty of tolerating slavery was magnified in proportion as the civitas impiorum theory ceased to be tenable. The Christian conscience was plainly troubled by this degradation of human beings, and one writer of the ninth century, Smaragdus, goes so far as to beg the Emperor to forbid enslavement within his realm, and demands that Christians should give liberty to their slaves. As a rule, however, this and other evils were regarded as bound up with the general nature of the social fabric. Ideally, the condition of the slave was wrong, but so was all inequality, economic or social. To jump from these academic premisses to revolution or communism would have been at least as hasty in the Middle Ages as now.

A casual survey of medieval literature might indeed give the wholly false impression that doctrines familiar in modern revolutionary propaganda were commonly held by the intellectual class. Aristotle’s penetrating analysis of the term “nature” fell into disregard at an early date, and with it his questionable defence of the “natural slave.” The “natural” condition of man, no longer understood as an ideal to be realised only in the highest form of community, was taken to mean the original manner of life, before positive law and convention had done their deadly work. Hence the way was opened for those apparently immortal commonplaces which assert the natural equality and liberty of mankind. Omnes namque homines natura aequales sumus,” says St Gregory, and Ulpian announces the same truth in the more technical phrase, quod ad ius naturale attinet, omnes homines aequales sunt.” This alleged equality was not, in fact, a Christian discovery, but it could easily be interpreted in a specially Christian sense. The slave was as well qualified for salvation as his master, nor was it possible to pretend that the social and economic gradations of human society would be recognised in the kingdom of heaven. The question was, however, whether the doctrine of spiritual equality was to be understood as a solvent of the established social order, or merely as a reminder to Christians that worldly advantages were less precious than the treasure laid up in heaven. The answer was seldom, if ever, in doubt. When writers of the ninth centuiy, like Jonas of Orleans and Agobard of Lyons, revive the patristic declaration of liberty; or when the legal renaissance of the eleventh or twelfth centuries brings the ius naturale once more into prominence, we may reasonably look for certain ethical consequences, such as the better treatment of slaves and dependants, but to anticipate anything like political revolution is totally to misapprehend the point.

The same caution must be observed in interpreting medieval utterances about the institution of private property. The influence of doctrines belonging to Jurisprudence was here predominant, and much depended upon the conception of the ius naturale and its relation to other kinds of ius. Ulpian had extended this “natural right” to other animals besides men, while Gaius, by restricting the term to human life, had come near to identifying it with ius gentium. A reflection of this difference perhaps affected the medieval discussions of property. If natural right belonged to all animals, a certain rough mode of possessio would indeed be a natural institution, but there could be no opening for private property in the ordinary human sense. Hence the assertion that in the state of nature all things were common could have no political significance whatever. On the other hand, when ius naturale was taken to mean the rules or customs dictated by reason, to declare that private property was, or was not, thus authorised might be to open a dispute of genuine importance. In the Middle Ages, however, there was so much vagueness about ius naturale, and so much agreement in the sanction of property by the ius gentium, that the doctrine of an original communism had only the same kind of academic status as the similar doctrine of an original equality. Isidore of Seville, whose juristic maxims were always influential, had placed communis omnium possessio under the head of ius naturale. The phrase is rather ambiguous, but it was usually understood in the communistic sense, and (without pretending even to summarise the evidence) we may say with tolerable accuracy that this was the prevalent medieval opinion. Nevertheless, it would be a mere blunder to infer that there was any taste for communism, or any inclination to condemn private property as immoral.

For a clear and considered verdict on the whole question it may be convenient to digress for a moment from the earlier Middle Ages to the more mature thought of St Thomas Aquinas. After a general division of ius into naturale and positivum, Aquinas explicitly follows Ulpian in his definition of ius naturale, with the result that ius gentium is to be regarded as one species of ius positivum, though it is none the less “naturale homini secundum rationem naturalem.” In this way he finds it possible to reconcile Aristotle’s theory of the natural slave with the common doctrine that slavery was created by the ius gentium. As to property, the only natural possession of things is seen in the dominion of man over other creatures, which does not involve any distinctio possessionum. The right of appropriation is established by the ius gentium, and for excellent reasons. It is not even opposed to the ius naturale. In a word, property is rational, and whatever is rational is natural and right for man. Aquinas makes, however, a valuable distinction between the legal and the ethical aspect of the case. The potestas procurandi et dispensandi is secured to individuals by law, but the usus of wealth should not be regarded as private; for a man should be ready to communicate what he has for assisting the needs of others. In this doctrine we find the clue to the real position of the medieval Church. The treatment of the slave and the use of private property were ethical questions, and the doctrine of natural equality, in social status or wealth, was a reminder of certain ethical duties. Only when the Christian attitude was giving way to secularism did it become possible to translate the same doctrine into an instrument of political revolution.

On the whole, then, we are obliged to conclude that the inclination to look back to an age of innocence, or a state of nature, when coercive government and social institutions were not yet required, contributed little or nothing to a solution of the general problem relating to the secular power. At first sight there is a great difference between regarding the power of rulers as a natural invention of reason and denouncing it as a consequence of sin. Yet even in theory the two views were compatible, and in either case the practical application was obscure. In the first century of the revived Empire ecclesiastical writers had good reason to extol the greatness of the royal office. With sincere conviction men like Sedulius Sestus and Smaragdus urge the Emperor to remember that he is Vicarius Dei, that his business is to act pro vice Christi, that he must scrutinise the conduct of all classes, and admonish all who fail in their Christian duty. Rebellion against his authority is freely condemned; a voice in ecclesiastical matters, such as the appointment of bishops, is allowed him: it is not impossible that he may even be called upon to reprove a Pope. Nevertheless, the Gelasian doctrine is always in the background. The Emperor is constantly warned to beware of meddling with what does not concern him and to remember his own responsibility to the Church. Obscured though it often was by the language employed, the true movement of thought was always towards the high sacerdotal position. The Emperor was God’s representative precisely because, and in so far as, he was the champion and servant of the Church. An attempt to extricate him from that subservience, without loss of his Christian character, was eventually made, but not by the amiable clergymen of the ninth century, who called him Vicarius Dei because they desired him to act as the sword of the Church.

While there was no continuous development of political theory in the ninth and following centuries, the main problem was further elaborated in two ways, by active collisions between Popes and Princes and by certain intellectual events. Our interest being confined to theory, the details of the political struggles can be omitted, but we must examine, first, the legal conceptions formulated by civil lawyers and canonists, secondly, the revival of philosophy, which culminated in the recovery of Aristotle’s writings.

Much of the work accomplished by the medieval jurists is interesting only or chiefly to lawyers, and many of the disturbances arising out of the conflict of Roman with other usage were more important in their bearing on national development than in their theoretical aspect. A general survey of the philosophical principles bound up with the legal renaissance of the eleventh and twelfth centuries reveals, however, one remarkable distinction between the medieval and the modern point of view. For whereas the modern democrat is prepared to respect a law in so far as he can regard himself as its author, medieval obedience was founded on the opposite sentiment, that laws were respectable in so far as they were not made by man. And here once more there was a broad agreement in principle between the sacred and the secular tradition. The Church looked back to a Law of God which the Saviour had come not to destroy but to fulfil. The lex nova had abolished the ceremonial parts of the lex vetus, but had preserved the moral precepts as a necessary preface to the more spiritual teaching of the Gospel. In course of time the Scriptures, had been supplemented by the decisions of Councils and Popes and by the growth of a body of custom, authoritative, not because it was human convention, but because it was believed to represent the inspiration of the Church. The Corpus Iuris could not, indeed, lay claim to so exalted a sanction as this, but it was permeated by the belief that Justice was an eternal fact, and that human law owed its moral validity to its derivation from a Law of Nature binding, as Kant would say, on all rational beings. Whatever differences of opinion there were about the meaning of ius naturale, it certainly pointed to the existence of a Justice neither made by man nor alterable by his arbitrary will. The political consequences, perhaps, were somewhat ambiguous. For if the authority of rulers was often strengthened by the belief that law was, or might be, much more than a forcible imposition, it was weakened, on the contrary, whenever there was room for the contention that positive law was discordant with natural. Among lawyers this difficulty took shape in disputes upon the relation of aequitas to lex; in the wider field of politics it might open the way for rebellion, tyrannicide, or any other excursion of conscience. Apart, however, from the risk of those extravagances, the effect of belief in an authoritative law beyond human caprice was beneficial as a restraint on the absolutism which could so easily be extracted from the maxim, princeps legibus solutus, by lawyers favourable to the imperial pretensions. The position of the Emperor, as we shall see, was by no means free from ambiguity, but it will be convenient to glance first at the other great legal system which grew up side by side with the renewed enthusiasm for civil law.

The progressive stages in the organisation of Canon Law, and the labours of many eminent scholars, such as Ivo of Chartres, Burchard of Worms, and Cardinal Deusdedit, we are compelled to pass over. As regards the general conceptions of law which affected political theory, it is not unfair to take the systematic work of Gratian as representative of the main tradition. The Decretum, composed about the middle of the twelfth century, was not issued under authority, but its later embodiment in the Corpus Iuris Canonici is a testimony to its peculiar importance. In estimating the quality of Gratian’s teaching we have to beware of attributing his unquestionable support of papal and ecclesiastical claims to any radical difference in principle from the civil lawyers. The sources of his legal conceptions were, and could be, none other than Ulpian, Gaius, and whatever masters of Jurisprudence had supplied the theoretical foundations of Justinian’s stupendous work. More directly, no doubt, he often draws upon the Etymologies of Isidore of Seville. But while the exact relation of Isidore to the great Pagan jurists is uncertain, his general acceptance of their principles is not doubtful. Here, as always, nothing can be more misleading than to assume that Christian writers are bound to differ from Pagan in their legal and moral conceptions. On the contrary, the guiding thread to the main line of thought in the Middle Ages is the passage in the Epistle to the Romans which teaches that the Gentiles, though they did not enjoy the explicit revelation granted to the Jews, yet did by nature the things that were after the Law. Whether or no St Paul actually derived this thought from Stoic teachers, it needs no argument to prove its close affinity to the notion of the ius naturale. What Christian writers did (though, once more, there were Pagan antecedents) was to emphasise the connexion or identity of the Law of Nature with the Law of God. The appearance of the “canon” as a special kind of law not recognised, by pre-Christian jurisprudence is a new complication, which does not, however, involve any radical alteration in the philosophical principles belonging to the legal tradition.

Ius naturae,” we read at the opening of the Decretum,est quod in lege et evangelio continetur”; or, in the words of Isidore, “divinae leges natura, humanae moribus constant.” Gratian finds, however, that the distinction between divine and human law cannot be accurately represented by fas and ius-, for ius contains many species, and the chief of these, the ius naturae, is in fact the lex divina. The mention of evangelium, we must notice, does not imply the whole revelation of the Gospel. The ius naturale contains only the general precepts of morality, revealed in some measure to all men, more explicitly (as in the Decalogue) to the Jews, and finally, in a more spiritual form, to the disciples of Christ. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” is a brief summary of the whole. On this general hypothesis, Gratian proceeds, like any other lawyer, to discuss the meaning of ius naturale, ius gentium, and ius civile; of lex (defined as constitutio scripta) and consuctudo, with various disputable questions arising out of their mutual relation. In the third Distinctio he arrives at the “canon,” and defines it as constitutio ecclesiastica, to be distinguished from constitutio civilis. But while the recognition of ecclesiastical laws, with the whole hypothesis of the Church behind them, places Gratian and all the Decretalists in a historical atmosphere unknown to Pagan lawyers, it does not cut them adrift from the system formulated under the Christian authority of Justinian; much less does it imply their invention of a new philosophy of Jurisprudence. There was, in fact, no such new philosophy; there was only a renewed and increased attention to the divine origin and sanction of natural law.

The canonists are often remarkably elusive at the very point where we require precise instruction. For what, after all, is the place of the canons in the great hierarchy of laws? Are they definitely divine or human, or somehow in a class by themselves? Had it been Gratian’s intention to mark, by the distinction between divine and human law, the exact frontier between ecclesiastical and secular jurisdiction; had he, in other words, identified the divine law with the canons, the position would have been comparatively simple. But clearly he intended nothing of the kind. The divine law, which means in effect the ius naturale, is the common source of all laws, ecclesiastical or secular, and the common test of their validity. True, it is in the power of man to make laws which fail to satisfy the test, and in that case they cannot claim obedience. But the ius gentium (assuredly a part of “human” law) is a derivation from the ius naturale, while the ius civile, though more variable, is not necessarily opposed to it. And again, the canons, whenever they go beyond the plainest rules of Scripture, are the work of man, and therefore liable to deviation from the ius naturale. Hence Gratian finds it necessary to say (under the eleventh canon of the ninth Distinctio), “a canon, no less than a secular law, may fail in its claim to the superior sanction”.

Briefly, then, the position is this. The ius naturale is divine, and therefore unalterable. The only exception is that the ceremonial directions of the lex vetus are now to be taken as mistica and to be interpreted secundum moralem intelligentiam. From the moral precepts of the natural law all human laws are, or ought to be, derived. Of these laws some are adapted to secular, others to ecclesiastical purposes, and for both the art of interpreting the divine injunctions is required. The canons, in Gratian’s opinion, are superior in authority to secular laws, not only because they deal with spiritual matters, but because the gift of authoritative interpretation belongs to the Church. Princes, in fact, may err, but Rome does not. Nevertheless, the ius gentium, and also such part of the ius civile as is not opposed to the ius naturale, should command human obedience, and for the same ultimate reason as the canons, namely, because the divine or natural law is binding upon all. It is, therefore, erroneous to identify Canon Law with the lex divina, and equally erroneous to suppose that secular laws can boast no more than a human sanction. The frequent conflict between the two jurisdictions was not a conflict of first principles; it arose out of the application of common principles to particular cases. There was only one philosophy of Jurisprudence, acknowledged and professed by civilians and canonists alike. In this way it becomes intelligible that Canon Law, as such, should have no distinctive place even in the masterly exposition of the nature and species of law by Thomas Aquinas. His treatment of the subject is far superior in breadth, lucidity, and precision to anything produced by the lawyers, but in all his minute analysis of the laws derived in successive gradations from the original lex aeterna there is no mention of Canon Law.

We must now return to another aspect of the political theory connected with the revival of Roman law. The old republican tradition, that laws could be made, and the imperium conferred, by the people alone by no means perished with the birth of the Empire. The conservatism of lawyers, often backed by the Emperors themselves, had made it possible to infer from the Corpus Iuris that sovereignty belonged of right to the people, and that the power of the Emperor, however absolute in practice, was only the power of a representative person. What was really the opinion of the ancient jurists we need not stay to enquire. It is enough that the same question was revived in the Middle Ages, with consequences not to be disregarded because of the artificial tone of the argument employed. In the first epoch of the legal renaissance an attempt was made to enlist the different schools on opposite sides. Ravenna having developed the case against Gregory VII, the great Matilda proposed to use the learning of Bologna on behalf of the Pope. The lawyers, however, were not content to be thus divided into camps of partisans. Their own political opinions could not be smothered, and their own scientific interest in their subject conduced to independence. If, on the whole, the study of Justinian was bound to magnify the Emperor at the expense of the Pope, the same study could not fail to renew the old difficulties about the populus Romanus. The suggestion of popular sovereignty, once made, was full of possibilities. It could be used by the peoples over whom the Emperor actually reigned, or it could be conveniently adapted by ecclesiastics to their special business of depreciating the imperial rights. We have in any case to disengage a view of “the people” which belonged to the future from academic reminiscences of the past.

Irnerius and other medieval lawyers—as a high authority has told us—“reason as if the Lord Justinian was still holding sway over Italy.” The same artificiality of language and reasoning is yet more remarkable in all that concerns the position of the people. For if the Roman Emperor in the Middle Ages was something of a fiction, the populus Romanus was a myth. Theoretically the name might denote anything from the whole assemblage of peoples within the unity of latinitas to the degenerate inhabitants of Rome, who occasionally amused themselves with reviving the Senate and other republican dreams. In effect it meant nothing at all, or nothing that had any genuine connexion with Rome. The arguments of lawyers on constitutional questions affecting the Emperor owed their importance, not to the populu Romanus, but to the existence of similar questions in a practical form among the various peoples of Europe. The feudal system and the whole Teutonic tradition of kingship were opposed to absolutism. The divine right of dynasties to govern, and to behave as they pleased, was not a medieval idea. On the other hand, the growth of the modern national State depended largely on the ability of kings to establish a central government, with a jurisdiction prevailing over minor lordship and special immunities. Hence theoretical disputes, ostensibly relating to the populus Romanus, could receive a new interpretation from the actual conditions of medieval life. And although the people’s claim to sovereignty might in the end be found to conflict with the notion of deriving all authority from a superhuman law, the two suggestions united to delay the appearance of the absolute sovereign, whose ominous figure was afterwards depicted by the master hand of Hobbes.

However ancient, however momentous in its effects, had been the alliance of law with philosophy, it had never been the duty of lawyers to generate political theories, nor even, perhaps, to analyse the whole implication of the philosophical conceptions most serviceable to Jurisprudence. While it would scarcely be fair to hold Ulpian and Gaius responsible for medieval confusions of mind, it is true that medieval writers before the thirteenth century suffered greatly from lack of acquaintance with a political philosophy detached from legal associations. From the ninth century to the twelfth, philosophers were mainly interested in the development of dialectic and in the relation of reason to faith. Canon Law itself —with concordantia discordantium canonum as its goal—belongs at least as much to the history of dialectical method as to the history of political science. Meanwhile the masterpieces of ancient thought, the Republic, the Laws, and the Politics, were unknown except through the fragmentary evidence of Latin authors. Even the Arabic tradition, when it began to affect the Latin world, failed to bring fresh material. For the Muslim philosophers were not politically minded, and the Politics remained unknown to Paris and Oxford until it was translated from the Greek by William of Moerbeke about the year 1260. In the preceding century, however, we find one writer, John of Salisbury, whose political doctrines it is profitable to examine.

Devout Christian and loyal ecclesiastic as he was, John was also in some sense a sceptic. No man was better versed in the politics and the culture of his day; few held stronger opinions upon certain disputed questions, or expressed them with greater decision. Yet he never was afraid to criticise what he revered, and never imagined that the rights of Pope and Emperor, the destinies of peoples and kings, could be determined by the formalities of logic and law. It is not that he escapes from the legal atmosphere, or disdains the learning of his friend Placentinus ; but when we encounter in the Policraticus any of the familiar legal arguments, we do at least observe them in contact with other ideas, and feel that they have passed through the mind of one who could frame the question, “quid sit salus universalis et publica,” in the spirit of a philosophical observer of life. Without being a profound or original thinker, John of Salisbury was capable of critical reflection on the mutual support of various intellectual disciplines, the relation of knowledge to conduct, and the characteristics of good government, whether exercised by layman or priest. Agnitio veritatis cultusque virtutis is his brief description of the road to public and private welfare. He has heard of the Socratic demand for philosopher-kings, and he quotes with high approval the saying, “rex illiteratus est quasi asinus coronatus.”

Among his political doctrines two are prominent, the distinction of the legitimate princeps from the tyrannus, and the subordination of imperial to sacerdotal authority. “Tyrannum occidere non modo licitum est sed aequum et iustum” is a remarkable declaration in the mouth of one who, far from commending fanaticism, is blessed with a cool and judicial temper. We need not discuss the ethics of tyrannicide, but we must credit John of Salisbury with the sincere conviction that a real danger to the public weal was to be apprehended from the attempt to set the monarch above the law. This unwarrantable claim he meets by exalting to the utmost the reverence due to the legitimate Prince. Yet the right to occupy this sublime position depends, to John of Salisbury’s mind, upon the further contention that the princeps differs from the tyrannies simply because he does respect the law. To be more precise, the supreme authority belongs to aequitas, and of this Equity or Justice the interpreter is lex. The assertion that the Prince is legis nexibus absolutus can be accepted, therefore, only as meaning that the Prince should be one “qui non timore poenae sed amore iustitiae aequitatem colat.” Only if he acts always as “publicae utilitatis minister et aequitatis servuscan his will be said to have the vigour of law; for no man is legibus solutus as regards the laws of God.

Thus far, indeed, John does not in principle go beyond the doctrine acknowledged by civil lawyers. He takes a more decisive step when he proceeds to declare that the whole authority of the Prince is received from the Church. “Hunc ergo gladium (the sword of Justice as distinct from the sword of blood) de maim Ecclesiae accipit princeps”; and again, as though to remove all doubts about the inferiority of temporal power, “est ergo princeps sacerdotii quidem minister, et qui sacrorum officiorum illara partem exercet quae sacerdotii manibus videtur indigna.” The glory of the Emperor thus fades away into a pale reflection. To be the image of the Divine Majesty is well enough, but when it rests with another human being to confer or withhold that image the pride of the representative is seriously abated. It follows, too, that John will not allow the validity of any claim to rule by hereditary right or by popular acclamation. At the most these are constitutional devices agreeable to custom. The bestowal and transference of royal power remains a Divine prerogative, of which the appointment of Joshua by Moses is a typical illustration. On that occasion the people were invited to be present, but the act of ordaining a leader was performed only by God’s representative. When a dynasty is favoured by God, it is wrong to set up a rival; but that favour will not be continued if kings persist in error; they have no hereditary right to do wrong.

In this passage, and through a large part of the fifth and sixth books of the Policraticus, John of Salisbury writes under the influence of a work which he calls the Institutio Traiani, and which he supposes to have been sent to Trajan by Plutarch. From this source he draws a rather elaborate comparison of the body politic to the human body, and enlarges upon the duties and needs of various classes in the State. The armed hand is the soldier, the unarmed is the magistrate, the feet are the tillers of the soil and all kinds of craftsmen. Assuming the necessity of war, John of Salisbury is at pains to present a lofty picture of the soldiers office and duty. The two things that make a soldier are electio and iuramentum. Without these he is an enemy of the law; with them he is ordained to his own kind of service as truly as the priest to his. The allotted function of the soldier is to guard the Church, to venerate the priesthood, to protect the poor from injury, to shed his own blood for his brethren, and, if necessary, to lay down his life on their behalf. In a later chapter, John insists on the importance of the humbler classes, the pedes reipublicae, whose harmonious co-operation with the higher members is essential to the general health. When the people is depressed and afflicted, the Prince, he says, is suffering from the gout!

Throughout this part of his book John of Salisbury reveals himself in the character of an Englishman with genuine national feeling and with a keen eye for the dangers and needs of his country. With the same clearness of vision he admits the harm done by clerical rapacity, and tells us how frankly he once expressed to his friend Hadrian IV the common opinion that the Roman Church was noverca rather than mater to her children. The Pope, it seems, was delighted with his candid friend, but defended the clergy by the fable of the stomach and the other members of the body. The stomach, he said, is voracious but it diffuses nourishment throughout the other organs. The moral, that we must put up with the failings of our governors, John is on the whole prepared to accept. Enough has been said, perhaps, to prove that men of culture, like John of Salisbury and his friends, were ready to discuss political problems in a liberal spirit, without restricting themselves overmuch to the legal point of view. More than this it is impossible to claim for the Policraticus. There is no striking novelty in material or method, and certainly no departure from the ecclesiastical view of the State. The question is, however, whether it was possible, unless by a revolt against the whole medieval conception of the Church, to construct a case for a really independent secular power. The most celebrated attempt to do so was made by Dante at the very end of the period covered by this chapter, and his treatise on Monarchy may fairly be taken as a summary of the best arguments that could be advanced on the imperial side.

Dante has puzzled his commentators, and not without reason, by his statement, on the first page of the Monarchia, that the theory of temporal monarchy is ab omnibus intentata. We must remember, however, that he could not in any case have avoided discussion of many familiar arguments, especially,those habitually advanced on the papal side. There was, after all, a real novelty in the attempt to construct a theoretical defence of the Empire on the basis of a philosophical survey of human life. With all its limitations, the Monarchia belongs to the same class of literature as the Politics, the Leviathan, or the Contrat Social; and that is more, probably, than could be asserted of any other work composed between the fifth century and the middle of the thirteenth. How far Dante supposed himself to be borrowing new weapons from Aristotle it is difficult to say. References to the Politics and other works are numerous, and to Dante it was, presumably, less obvious than to ourselves that Aristotle would have repudiated very warmly the ideal of a Monarch with universal jurisdiction. The belief that the City State was the apex of human development was naturally incredible to medieval writers. Already in St Augustine we hear of a progression from domus and urbs to orbis, and now Dante, with greaterdetail, declares that the propria operatio humana universitatis cannot be realised in domus, in vicinia, in civitas, or in any regnum particulars, but only in the Monarchia or Imperium to which no territorial or legal bounds are prescribed. If his arguments, in the first book, for perfect unity or government, on the model of the Divine Monarchy, are too logical to convince modern readers, that is chiefly because we have abandoned the hypothesis from which Dante set out. Before the publication of any catholic philosophy or religion, good reason for a plurality of States could be given. And again, the modern acceptance of plurality has grown ever more intelligible in proportion to the increasing secularisation of the State. But in the age of Dante, when profession of a certain creed was admittedly the supreme political bond, the argument for a simple Christian commonwealth, as against a multiplicity of independent units, was difficult to resist. It was not there that the medieval difficulty lay, but rather in the question whether the Catholic unity of government was not adequately secured by the organisation and spiritual sovereignty of the Church.

Thus when the three disputable problems of the Monarchia are propounded—whether Temporal Monarchy is necessary for human welfare, whether the Roman people has acquired the Monarchy de iure, and whether the monarchical authority depends immediately upon God, or mediately upon some Vicar of His—the first need not be contentious, the second is (in Dante’s time) comparatively simple, but the third is the real ground of conflict. As an illustration of medieval thought, and of Dante’s mind in particular, the second book is, however, at least as important as the third. The conception of history there unfolded differs profoundly from Augustine’s. The civitas impiorum has vanished, and the Romans, from the earliest dawn of their history, are presented as a chosen people, not indeed in the manner of the Jews, but as the “populus ad imperandum ordinatus a natura,” predestined by the Divine Will to win and hold the palm of victory which a Ninus, a Cyrus, or an Alexander had snatched for a little while. In the medieval style Dante summons Virgil and other poets to appear as historical witnesses. Aeneas is revealed as the man of destiny, who unites in his lineage the ancestral claims of all the continents and carries the imperial heritage to Rome. The providential career of the sacred city, adorned with miracles and wondrous deeds, is then traced through republican days to the fuller manifestation of the Empire, and Dante (though he never could forgive Brutus and Cassius) is as ready to applaud the Cato who gave his life for liberty as the Caesar who ordained the sacrifice and appointed the victim. For later chapters of the story, when Constantine si fece Greco and the Roman eagle flew to the eastern mountains, there to linger awhile before returning to its proper home, we have to go to the vivid narrative of Paradiso VI. In the Monarchia the supreme historical moment is reached in the reign of Augustus, when universal peace is established and the Saviour is born.

The evidence of history Dante supplements by various legal arguments, including the maxim, “quod per duellum acquiritur de iure acquiritur,” and culminating in the strange contention that the sin of Adam could not have been expiated in the person of Christ unless Pilate had represented the legitimate jurisdiction of Rome over the entire human race. We have seen already how the study of Civil Law had revived the pretensions of the populus Romanus, without furnishing any definition of that term which could hold good in the medieval world. The whole of Dante’s plea for the monarchical rights of Rome is steeped in the same confusion. What the populus Romanus might happen to be, and where it could be found in the thirteenth century, he never offers to explain. Nor does he attempt to reconcile his real enthusiasm for Italy as a nation with his pressing invitation to a foreigner to take possession of the imperial throne. Precedents for a Roman Emperor who was not a Roman could indeed have been found in abundance, but Dante is not influenced by these. He moves always in the strange world of his imagination, stored with antique and poetical figures, where visions of the past and of the future combine to obscure his insight into present affairs.

When finally Dante addresses himself to the great controversy of the day, he dismisses with contempt the class of opponents whose motive is merely cupiditas, and passes on to the Decretalistae. The authority of the canons, he says, is venerable, but their professional exponents are Theologiae ac Philosophiae cuiuslibet inscii et expertes.” Their motto is traditiones Ecclesiae fidei fumdamentum, but the relative importance of the Scriptures, the Church, the Councils, and the Decretals, they do not understand. There remains, then, only the class of men who are moved by an honest zeal for the Power of the Keys. These Dante treats with consideration, giving, on the whole, a fair account of their arguments, and never lapsing into disrespect for the spiritual supremacy of the Pope. It is remarkable, too, that he reserves for the Pope the title of Vicarius Dei or Vicarius Christi, and does not imitate the earlier writers who had described in those terms the office of the Emperor. His object is only to prove that Pope and Emperor have each their peculiar ratio; that each enjoys supremacy, but for different ends, which must not be confused.

The arguments based on metaphors and allegorical interpretations it is perhaps superfluous now to discuss. We notice, however, that Dante deals, in this connexion, very freely with the character and position of St Peter, and there are other incidental points of interest, such as the statement that both regimina, the spiritual and the temporal, are remedia contra infirmitatem peccati, necessitated only by the lapse from original innocence. Common as this opinion was—at least as regards temporal dominion—it is curious to find it combined with a professedly Aristotelian account of the origin of the State. From allegory Dante passes to history, and attacks the arguments drawn from the reputed Donation of Constantine. “Constantinus alienare non poterat Imperium,” he says,“nec Ecclesia recipere.” The foundation of the Church is Christ, of the Empire ius humanum. The exact sense of ius humanum he does not define, but he adds that iurisdictio is always prior to the index, whence it follows that the Emperor had no power to abrogate any of the inherent rights. Moreover, the Church could not have accepted the Donation, because she is forbidden to possess silver and gold. The Emperor could assign material goods in patrocinium Ecclesiae, but even so the Pope would not possess them; he would only have the privilege of dispensing them for the benefit of the poor. Passing on from Constantine to Charles the Great, Dante dismisses the story that the Pope had then conferred the imperial dignity with the maxim usurpatio iuris non facit ius. To this he adds that historical incidents might equally well be quoted to prove the imperial right of appointing or deposing Popes.

As against the papal version of history Dante could, in fact, hold his own without difficulty, while his own suggestions, that the Empire was in some sense earlier than the Church, and that St Paul had recognised the Emperor’s jnrisdiction by his appeal to Caesar, could not easily be set aside. Yet there still remained the graver difficulty of constructing an argument to prove that the Emperor derived his office immediately from God. That “the kingdom was not of this world” was generally acknowledged, but why should it follow that there must also be a kingdom, occupied only with terrestrial felicity, which no Pope was empowered to give or take away? The temporal functions of government, all of them subordinate to the great imperial aim of preserving peace on earth, could surely be discharged by a layman in the interests of the civitas Dei, without assuming a direct appointment of the Emperor by God.

The papal case, as judged by medieval standards, was in truth too strong for most of Dante’s arguments. At the close of the Monarchia there is, however, one passage of unusual interest, in which Dante proposes an analogy between the political problem of the two powers and the distinction of two beatitudines, one to be achieved by philosophica documenta with the moral and intellectual virtues, the other by the exercise of Faith, Hope, and Charity under the guidance of theological truth. In a general sense Dante here reflects the teaching of Aquinas, whose steadfast aim it had been to vindicate the independence of human reason without diminishing the rights of theology or dividing truth against itself. Aquinas, indeed, had no intention of opening the way for a political theory strongly opposed to his own. Yet Dante does, perhaps, succeed, by his political bias rather than by conscious criticism, in exposing a weak point in the Thomist position. For if reason was at liberty to pursue the path of science and to regulate moral conduct, a corresponding freedom in the political field might easily be demanded. The result, however, would not be to justify the imperialism of Dante, but to formulate the eventual dilemma of Christendom, that is to say, the choice between submission to papal authority and the proclamation of the secular State. For the latter alternative Dante was as little prepared as Aquinas. The effect of his division of provinces is only to reveal his imperfect foresight and, incidentally, to show that not even a Thomas Aquinas could establish a duplex veritatis modus without subordinating one mode to the other. As there cannot be two finalities in the sphere of truth, so is it impossible to accept Dante’s theory of the two fines proposed by Providence. There is only one finis, and in the Middle Ages no other could be recognised but the celestial finis proper to the civitas Dei.

On the papal side a mass of literature extending over many centuries displays a certain monotony of colour. The commission to St Peter, the Gelasian manifesto, and the evidence of historical examples for the ascendency of priests over kings are produced again and again; and, though the style in which Popes addressed Emperors might be modified by circumstances, all were bound to maintain in principle the subordination of temporal to spiritual power. But did this mean that the lower was itself an inferior function of the higher authority? Some care is needed here in distinguishing between two positions. The Popes might well have argued that the earthly kingdom, once recognised as a fact by Christ and the apostles, had now been finally absorbed into the spiritual realm. This was not, however, the common form of the argument. Even when all European princes were orthodox Catholics, something of Augustine’s feeling about the civitas impiorum lingered on in the papal attitude, with the result that a definite claim to exercise temporal power in one sense could be combined with an equally definite repudiation of it in another. Gregory VII, for example, will assert without hesitation that kings are among the sheep committed to his charge, and will deny the right of any secular power to be independent of his own jurisdiction. But though this claim is alleged by Gregory many times in various language, he does not mean that the Vicars of Christ have simply taken over the secular power as it existed in a secular world. Like their Master, they despise the “saeculare regnum unde filii saeculi tument.” The very existence of that kingdom can be denounced in scathing words, as when Gregory declares that kings and potentates have their origin in ignorance of God, in blind ambition instigated by the devil. The humblest exorcist, he says, can wield a higher kind of imperium than any layman, though the layman be a prince.

Gregory’s position is neither abnormal nor unintelligible. What he rejects is secularism; what he claims is the right of the spiritual power to exercise temporal functions as part of its business on earth. Nevertheless, the situation was embarrassing, and it was not easy to avoid some confusion of thought. The divine ordination of temporal power had somehow to be recognised. More than one inconvenient text of scripture could be quoted, and these, perhaps, could be dealt with most ingeniously by allowing the existence of a province with which ecclesiastical authority would not, as a rule, interfere. Thus when Innocent III is confronted with the apostolic commendation of obedience to rulers, he is content to admit the supremacy of the Emperor over all “qui ab eo suscipiunt temporalia,” and to add that the superiority of the pontifex in spiritual matters is not thus diminished. It is an answer that settles nothing whatever, but it was common enough to pass as effective.

Of rather exceptional importance among papal pronouncements is the famous Unam Sanctum of Boniface VIII (1302). Whether it was Matthew of Aquasparta or someone else who actually penned this document, the author certainly knew his business. Boniface was prepared to style himself Imperator, and in the general sublimity of his pretensions he is thought to have outdone all his predecessors. To some extent this impression is due less to any real change of principle than to his concise and lucid statement of the case. Of the “two swords,” for example, he writes: “uterque ergo est in potestate ecclesiae, spiritualis scilicet gladius et materialis. Sed is quidem pro ecclesia, ille vero ab ecclesia exercendus. Ille sacerdotis, is manu regum et militum, sed ad nutum et patientiam sacerdotis.”No summary could be more admirable, no statement of a familiar thesis more direct. But what raises the argument to an unusual level is a brief reference to first principles just before the conclusion of the Bull. The spiritual power, says Boniface, judges all and is judged of none. “Quicumque igitur huic potestati a Deo sic ordinatae resistit, Dei ordination! resistit, nisi duo, sicut Manichaeus, fingat esse principia, quod falsum et haereticum esse iudicamus.” In this allusion to Manichaeism (to which there are parallels in two or three other writers) we seem at last to arrive at the point. For unless we believe in the irreducible antagonism of two principia, there cannot be room for two final authorities in the government of mankind. Translated into modern language, this means that the State is either secular in essence or a minor depart­ment of the Church. Had medieval writers more frequently appreciated the force of this dilemma, we might have been spared the perusal of many arguments devoted chiefly to skilful evasion of the point. Here, too, is the answer to Dante, when he proposes to found the Empire on human right and reason, leaving the theological basis to the spiritual power.

More interesting than any official statement of the papal case is the treatise De Regimine Principum, of which the first book and a few chapters of the second are ascribed to Thomas Aquinas, the remainder to Ptolemy of Lucca. Taken as a loosely constructed whole, this book is remarkable for its combination of traditional points of view with anticipations of a later type of political theory. The aim of Aquinas is to set forth the advantages (together with the dangers) of monarchical government, to explain the true function of kingship, and to insist on the superiority of the sacerdotal office. He does not examine the ecumenical claims of the Empire, but discusses kingship as the best form of government for the “perfect community,” which he names civitas vel provincia. Without disputing Aristotle’s opinion, that among corrupt constitutions democracy is the most tolerable and tyranny the least, he holds to his preference for monarchy, and regards the single ruler, on the analogy of the organism, as “intra membra corporis aut cor aut caput.” As to tyranny, there is a modern sound as well as an ancient reminiscence in his weighty observation, “in dominio plurium magis saepe contingit dominium tyrannicum quam ex dominio unius.”With equal sagacity he adds that rebellion against tyranny may cause more evils than it removes; whence he denies the right of tyrannicide to private persons and urges that only public action should be taken against corrupt rulers. The tyrant himself he admonishes with the words, “timor autem est debile fundamentum,” and bids him note that even in worldly advantages he is likely to come off worse than constitutional kings.

The first duty of the king is to secure unity and peace. Should it fall to him to institute a new kingdom, the model of the Divine government is there for his imitation. In any case the functions of gubematio will be his, such as the coercion of iniquity, the defence of his country against foreign enemies, the guidance of his subjects in the way of virtue, and the provision of an ample supply for their bodily needs. Ultimately, however, the mode of government depends on the finis of human life; and since this is “per virtuosam vitam pervenire ad fruitionem divinam,” there is a special ministry, committed, not to earthly kings, but to priests, and particularly to the Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ, to whom all kings and peoples should be subject as to Christ himself. Among the Gentiles, St Thomas allows, the subordination of priests to kings was expedient, but under the new law the sacerdotium is on a higher plane.

The argument of the last three books is much more than the completion of an unfinished scheme; it is the work of an original and independent mind. In the first place, there is a notable advance on the conventional doctrine that all government is a consequence of the Fall. Making a broad distinction between dominium, politicum and dominium despoticum the author is prepared to regard tyranny as the fruit of corruption, but civic order and political government (briefly defined as dominium plurium) would have existed, he says, in the state of innocence, because men are naturally unequal, and therefore require authoritative direction. All the Aristotelian reasons for the genesis of the State can thus be accepted, and Scriptural evidence, is ingeniously adapted to the same purpose. Still more instructive is the handling of St Augustine. For while the influence of the De Civitate Dei is often conspicuous, the testimony from that source is modified just enough to alter its colour, as for example in reference to the story of Cain. Augustine had used this to prove that the earthly civitas was born of iniquity, but Ptolemy, without palliating the guilt of the first murderer, clearly acquits him of bad motives in founding the State, and takes his act as an illustration of the thesis that only in a civitas can man live a decent life. In a word, Ptolemy is a genuine Aristotelian—far more so than Dante—and he barely conceals his contempt for the old commonplaces about the primitive innocence and equality of men, and their ability to dispense with subjection to rulers.

In his further exposition of the two kinds of dominion Ptolemy is more (or less) than Aristotelian; he comes near to reminding us, now of Hobbes, now of Machiavelli. He resembles Hobbes because, without reading too much between the lines, we can guess that he thinks lightly of the antithesis between the tyrant and the king. He does, indeed, explain the distinction in the manner of the Politics, and he understands the common dread of despotic power. Nevertheless, the true antithesis for him is despoticum and politicum, and when regale is offered as a third alternative, he is ready to point out that kings subject to constitutional restrictions properly fall under the head of dominicum politicum. A limited monarch, in fact, is not the sovereign. If, then, the only vital distinction is between absolute sovereignty and administration controlled by law, which does Ptolemy himself really prefer? He balances the arguments with tolerable fairness, and has no academic preference for either. As a theologian he is influenced by the example of the Divine Monarchy, but in the main he treats the problem as human and believes that the style of government should vary in accordance with the natural disposition and historical traditions of various peoples. Disposition, he thinks, depends upon climate and physical causes. Certain parts of the world have always been aptae ad servitudem, others aptae ad libertatem. Among the peoples .(capable of liberty, at least in their earlier days, were the Romans, and therefore the kings were expelled. On the other hand, tyrants are brought forth by the habit of insubordination. Here we have an interesting combination of old elements with new. For if the thought of the tyrant as an instrument of Divine Justice carries us back to the patristic tradition, the sentiment of the passage as a whole would be not out of place in the Prince.

The same appreciation of varying circumstances is displayed in Ptolemy’s distinction between civitas and provincia, The constitutional polity admired by Aristotle is suitable, he says, to civitates (cities), but the larger provinciae require royal government; an historical judgment which he qualifies, however, by the admission that republican Rome, and also some modern cities, have succeeded in governing provinces in the “political” style. Machiavellian, again, is his reflection on the character of ministers, which must, he says, conform to the character of the State. On the whole it would appear that Ptolemy is sceptical about the advantages of constitutional government. Legal restriction is good for inferior rulers, and laws (here he quotes Cicero) deduce their authority from the ius divvnum by way of the ius naturae. Yet the rigidity of laws is their weakness, and when the prudentia principis is not free to amend them, human government thus far fails to imitate the divine.

Up to this point Ptolemy has left untouched the relation of spiritual to temporal power. His remarkable theory of the Papacy and the Empire is preceded by a recognition of cultus divinus as a function of kingship, and by a declaration that the king is a Vicegerent of God on earth, whose religious character is proved by the anointing with oil. This is followed by various arguments to show that all dominion is derived from God, and by a discourse on the fitness of Rome for governing the world, broadly modelled on the parallel discussion in the De Civitate Dei. Nothing, however, could be less Augustinian than the view of Empire which Ptolemy proceeds to elaborate. Dominion, he says, is fourfold, “(1) sacerdotale et regale similiter, (2) regale solum, sub quo imperiale sumitur, (3) politicum, (4) oeconomicum.” The combined sacerdotal and regal power belongs only to the Church. It is the direct outcome of the Tu es Petrus, and the pretence that spiritual power alone is covered by the commission must be flatly rejected. The real novelty of Ptolemy’s position does not however, appear until he begins to examine the imperial power. This he describes as “medium inter politicum et regale.” It is more universal than kingship, and it is invested with most of the royal prerogatives. On the other hand, it is “political” because it is not dynastic. Election, though sometimes suspended (as in the Carolingian age), is its principle, and the dominion expires with its holder. Then follows the really startling contention, that the Church, or, to be more precise, the kingdom of Christ, is now the Empire. There were four earlier stages, the Assyrians, the Medes and Persians, the Macedonians, the Romans. Then came the “fifth monarchy,” which began with the birth of Christ. Choosing to live a humble life on earth, Christ allowed the Roman Emperors to exercise His dominion until His own kingdom was ready to appear. The hour of manifestation arrived with Constantine, since whose reign the imperial crown, belonging of right to the Papacy, has been worn by Emperors, but only as delegates selected in whatever manner has seemed expedient to the Popes.

In this proclamation of the “fifth monarchy” we see at last the logical clearness and courage so conspicuously lacking in most medieval discussions of the temporal power. As a practical solution of the European problem Ptolemy’s theory may have been useless, but at least it states a conclusion not finally to be avoided when once Augustine’s alternative, the civitas impiorum, had passed away. The medieval imperialists proposed an impossible dualism. To the Emperor of Dante there succeeded in due time the “Christian Prince” of Hobbes, whose sovereignty was to be made absolute by absorbing the papal functions into itself. But a sovereign of that kind was in fact no more than a prelude to the invention of the secular State. The same disdain for traditional subterfuges may be briefly noted in Ptolemy’s economic teaching. He remarks that dominium oeconomicum would require a separate treatise, but he does include many suggestive observations, especially on the subject of Communism. Incidentally he refuses to credit Aristotle’s report of the Socratic communism of wives, and notes that Aristotle had long enjoyed a bad reputation for unfairness to his predecessors. As to communism of goods, he declines to regard this as an ideal which had to be sacrificed when sin put an end to the age of innocence. Private property, he says, is a consequence of the natural inequality of man, and to insist on equality of goods is to destroy the ordo in rebus. He adds that personal possessions are needed “propter ipsorum amoenitatem ad refocillationem animae”; and again (borrowing here a hint from Aristotle) he argues that endowment of the clergy is required to give them leisure for the cultivation of science and art. Thus in some ways the De Regimine Principum is almost as modern in spirit as it is medieval in outward form and style.

It need scarcely be said, however, that this mixture of medieval and modern elements is far from uncommon. For the most part the sketch of political theory in this chapter has been conceived from a deliberately limited point of view. By attending chiefly to the political institutions and movements which brought about the transformation of the medieval into the modern world, it would have been possible to convey a very different impression of the facts. To concentrate upon the Papacy and the Empire, rather than upon the Feudal System and the forces destructive of that system, such as the rise of independent communes and the growth of national sentiment, is certainly to distort the medieval picture. Even as regards explicit political theory it would be possible to lay emphasis on the more modern line of thought, which began to find expression, at the beginning of the fourteenth century, in the writings of John of Paris, Peter du Bois, John of Jandun, and Marsilio of Padua. It is not merely a question of dates; for Peter du Bois was born about ten years before Dante, and Marsilio only about five years after him. If, then, we include the Monarchia in our survey, but exclude the Defensor Pacis and other writings of the same period, the best reason for this discrimination is just that Dante was out of date. In other words, he was medieval in a sense that some of his contemporaries were not. For the same reason, interpreted more widely, it is legitimate to hold that political theory is distinctively medieval only so long as it is engaged with a certain problem in relation to Christendom as a whole. That problem was, in the language of Gelasius, the problem of auctoritas sacrata pontificum et regalis potestas; or, more briefly, of the relation between sacerdotium and regnum. At no time was the essence of the dispute bound up with the existence of the Empire; and when the Empire was virtually displaced by national kingdoms the dispute by no means came to an end. Nevertheless, the irregular boundary between the medieval and the modern is crossed as soon as the conception of Christendom, embodied for Dante in the Roman Empire, gives way to the belief that the largest autonomous community should be the territorial or national State. The City State, the Empire, and the Nation have been the three characteristic stages, and only the second of the three is properly to be regarded as productive of medieval thought.