Bishop Bossuet's Politics

 

Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux, was an eloquent advocate of the "divine right of kings. His politics earned him the position of the court preacher and tutor to the dauphin, Louis XIV oldest son.

 

BISHOP JACQUES BOSSUET: POLITICS DERIVED FROM THE WORDS OF HOLY SCRIPTURE

 


Book III

 

Article II. Royal Authority is sacred.

 

Proposition I. God establishes kings as His Ministers, and reigns through them over the people. We have already seen that all power comes from God. As St. Paul says, "The King is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain; for his is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." (Romans, 13:4).

 

Proposition II. The person of kings is sacred... God causes kings to be anointed by His prophets with a holy anointing, as he does the priests and the altars. But even without the outward application of this anointment, kings are sacred because of their obligations; they are representatives of Divine majesty, delegated by His providence to execute His commands.

 

Book IV

 

Article I. Royal authority is absolute.

 

Proposition I. The prince does not have to justify himself to anyone for what he commands. Without this absolute authority, the prince can neither do good nor repress evil; his power must be such that no one can hope to escape him; and as

 

 

a matter of fact, the individual's sole defense against the public power must be his innocence. This doctrine conforms to what St. Paul said: "Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good." (Romans, 13:3).

 

Proposition II. When the prince has judged, there is no other judgment. Only God can review their judgements and their persons---"God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods." (Psalms, 82:1) ....The prince can correct himself when he finds he has done wrong, but against his authority there can be no remedy except by his authority. That his why a prince must be very careful what he orders....

 

Proposition IV. Among the people, those for whom the prince must provide the most carefully are the poor. For they have the greatest need of him who is, through his position, the father and protector of all [especially widows].

 

Proposition VI. The people must fear the prince; but the prince need only fear to do evil...Fear is a necessary brake for the people because of their presumptuousness and their natural intractability. Therefore it is necessary for the people to fear the prince; but should the prince fear the people, then all is lost....


 

 

Source: James Harvey Robinson, ed., Readings in European History, Vol. 2, p. 275-277.

 

 

1.     What power/authority did monarchs have according to Bossuet?

2.     What was the justification that kings should have this power?

3.     In return, what must monarchs provide?

4.     Any other key thoughts?