Did The Increasingly Radical Resistance Theories Of The Late Sixteenth Century Have Any Effect In Pr Calvin had a maxim that leaders were ordained of God and that good leaders were therefore blessings upon a people, whereas bad leaders were punishment for the wickedness of the people. Calvin was aware of the problem of inciting rebellion against Catholic princes and the repression it might bring a fear confirmed by the St. Bartholomews Day Massacre but he did reserve the right to passive disobedience, especially where staying within the law required one to neglect or overturn a duty to God. He also claimed that magistrates were appointed to restrain the tyranny of kings and so they had the right to rebel and overthrow intolerable governments. Calvins thesis was unclear, as it failed to set down all the practical means and justifications for rebellion. The magistrates never found out who they were to obey and what they were to do.
Moreover, what one should do in circumstances such as though during the Wars of Religion when the superstructure of the state was hostile to Calvinism remained unclear. Moreover, what one should do in the face of absolute Catholic repression (as opposed to the potential and partial repression seen in Calvins day) was never clarified. In terms of theories of resistance, Calvin and Luther were of very similar opinion. Luthers pamphlet, Ravaging Hordes, makes explicit reference to the fact that peasant revolt was bad, and actually shared Calvins view of society. The most important person in determining resistance theories through the sixteenth century was the one of the ideas greatest opponents.
The sixteenth century most famous political philosopher, Machiavelli, was a devoted Catholic and gained experience between 1498 and 1512 in the Florentine diplomat i corps. He was engaged in a variety of roles in France, the Papal States and Germany. Sacked by the new Medici government in 1512, Machiavelli was writing in part at least in order to regain some influence and perhaps to win a new appointment. Dedicating his works to the Medicis, Machiavelli exhorted them not just to rule Florence, but also to restore Italy and to liberate her from the barbarians. Machiavelli was an extreme pessimist and thought all men were prone to giving vent to their malignity when opportunity offers and he thus saw the princely virtues (clemency, liberality, honesty, honour etc. ) as disadvantages when dealing with more pragmatic people.
In his view, a prince had licence to act in defiance of good faith, of charity, of kindness and of religion in order to maintain his state. In essence, Machiavelli thought that in pursuit of national objectives, Christian virtues should be discarded. Although The Prince and The Discourses were unpublished until after his death, these books circulated widely and within a generation of his death in 1527, he had been universally attacked by Catholics and Protestants. It is perhaps unsurprising that in the aftermath of the Medici St. Bartholomews Day Massacre that Calvinists should begin to see Machiavelli and the murderous Machiavel Medicis, to whom Machiavelli wrote his adi vce, as atheist tyrants set on destroying them. The perceived effect of Machiavelli writings on Catherine de Medici, whether conscious or not, seem to have spurred many Calvinist writers to begin to endorse theories of resistance designed to protect themselves from extinction threatened by Machiavellian Catholic rulers willing to savagely butcher, murder and destroy their subjects without qualm.
It is the effectiveness of these theories and their Lutheran and Catholic counterparts, written with the specific purpose of raking back the tide of supposed Unchristian tyranny against minorities that this essay will attempt to gauge. This eras Zeitgeist is a difficult one to trap for the non elite members of society. Without the self confidence of a constitutionally protected bourgeois class and without the guarantees of the modern Recht staat, the consequences for social disorder and uproar were very grave. The strict oligarchy of the time was harsh and could make the life of any resistant party nasty, brutish and short without qualms, legal interference or backlash. Meanwhile, the lack of modern communicational media made the possibility of raising a force capable of making any sustained or organised force difficult. Such simple brakes on any potential resistance movements or reactions must be borne in mind when considering the question, as it would be unfair to judge the power of authors over their audiences if we bear a modern view of social fluidity and mobility.
After the St. Bartholomews Day massacre, Gentillet argued that the Medici influence on France had unleashed the horrors of the massacre, a massacre of Machiavellian characteristics, occurring during a time of supposed cross-denominational peace and reconciliation upon a protestant population that had come to Paris in order to celebrate in peace. Gentillet spoke of the peaceful nature of Protestants, who prayed for the conversion of other peoples, and of the need for a peaceful co-existance, reiterating Calvins belief in the need for compliance with the dominant and strengthening Catholic forces. However, Gentillet was the first in the line of Calvinist writers whose ferocity would increase with time. The events of 1572 made the Calvinists realise the need for a more effective means of dealing with repression.
The result was monarchomach writers who condoned varying levels of resistance. Francois Hotman Francogallia (1573), Theodore Bezas The Right of Magistrates (1574) and Philippe du Plessis-Mornay The Defence of Liberty against the Tyrants (1579) being the most famous and typical examples of such work. Francogallia was actually written by 1568, and was approved by the Genevan Council who had not seen the dedication; a passage attacking Louis XI, who was accused of being a usurper amongst other things. Hotman claimed that the Estates Generales had the power to usurp, appoint and depose kings and that the Estates Generales assent should be obtained before any decisions affecting the whole Commonweal were made. Beza went further than Hotman, claiming that the Estates Generales had the responsibilities as described by Hotman, but he also claimed that in the event of the Estates Generales being rendered impotent by kingly oppression, that magistrates should convene and press for a convocation of the estates whilst defending themselves from tyranny. The magistrates were defined as being local governors, the nobility generally and people of any authority.
These people, he argued, should not be seen as rebels if they acted against their king, but as people merely performing their sworn duty to their God and Country. It is unsurprising that this document, which was rendered unpublishable by the Genevan council (fearing a public backlash), was banned. The Defence of Liberty against Tyrants was even more extreme. Whereas the others had seen the king as anointed leader in whom trust must be placed, in return for which one could expect just kingship, du Plessis-Mornay saw obedience as conditional on the kings religion, behaviour and general morality. Private individuals had no power to act, but the magistrates were told to act to the extent of their power to remove such a figure. The book includes a phrase condemning the tyrannicidal as seditious, no matter how just their cause may be although he does admit the need for people to act with an extraordinary calling.
Less orthodox were the writings by such writers as the Scot George Buchanan. In The Right of the Kingdom of Scotland, he claims that the right to remove tyrants lay with the whole body of people and that every individual citizen had a compulsion to act appropriately. A correspondent of Du Plessis-Mornay and Beza, Buchanan differed on this vital issue. Huguenot writers flirted with the idea of open resistance (something from which even the tyrannicidal Scot Buchanan shied away) but never really seemed to bring themselves to condone it. Bezas reaction to Henri of Navarre's claim to the French throne was to re-edit his works in favour of condoning the absolutism of the monarch and diminishing the power of the Estates Generales, but upon Henri conversion, returned to his original theses.
He did write specifically to call upon the Huguenots to support the new king despite his major fault (Catholicism). The reaction to the Dutch Revolt was to find its mouth in the German Johannes Althusius and the Dutchman Hugo Grotius. These uncontroversial republican Protestants saw absolutism as wicked and prohibited and condoned the Estates Generales as the true method of government. The Conciliar movement valued the German constitution for its control of the Emperor through the electors. Although the writers vision of the Empire was a vision of what they wanted it to be and not what it was, it also contained a warning not to rebel against appointed leaders as otherwise nations would become multitudes without a union. Before the coronation and conversion of Henri IV, Catholic resistance theories emerged as they saw the emergence of a very real Protestant contender to the throne.
Louis d Orleans firstly attacked the Francogallia and Jean Boucher and Guillaume Rose proceeded to justify tyrannicide unconditionally when a private individual could aid a whole commonweal. The Jesuit adherence to the doctrine of tyrannicide was exemplified in such treatises as Juan de Marianas The King and the Education of the King (1599). Henri IIs assassination was seen as a detestable spectacle but was seen to serve as a warning to kings that their crimes would not go unpunished, and even went as far as to claim that Jacques Clements assassinating the King was an eternal honour to France. It is for such flagrant disregard for political tact that the Jesuits were ejected from France in 1594 for seven years. Meanwhile, the Scots Catholic William Barclay expressed a more conventional position that the divinely appointed leaders of nations could not be judged by human laws, and therefore tyrannicide became merely regicide. Antonia Fraser sees the importance of the Catholic justification for tyrannicide as massively important for such figures as the Gunpowder plotters.
Educated men, making a sophisticated bid to destroy the Protestant order under the shield of what she refers to (confusingly) as double justification. This massive (probably government backed) plot to kill not only the King but also the Protestant lords of England and if we are to believe its provenance as a real letter from the Plotters, Mont eagles letter shows a tremendous effort to avoid killing Catholics, which would simply be an example the mortal sin of homicide. Predictably, the effect of the resistance theories is greater, the more educated the proponents and executors of resistance were. The Gunpowder plotters needed double justification, and (apparently) took pains not to kill the righteous, despite the predictable results of their widening the circle of cognoscenti. The highbrow ideas were commuted in print and the lack of approval from the Genevan Council for openly hostile ideas meant that theories propagated in churches from the pulpit and in popular culture were more important in encouraging resistance than intellectual theories, although these may have been required for the clerics and the educated to accept such ideas. As such, the rebellions of the illiterate must be looked at in isolation.
In 1562, the Bishop of Nimes encouraged Catholic children to murder Protestant children following the Lords word, that his power would be most clearly manifested by innocent persons. Such murders were not reciprocated because of a lack of familial and popular support for such retribution. That such crimes could be committed is due in part to a transcontinental hysteria about the imminence of apocalypse. Astrological predictions such as those by Michel Nostradamus were common currency, and the phenomenon of Nostradamus accuracy in predicting the Wars of Religion, accompanied by his (and his colleagues) assertions that Protestantism would destroy Catholicism led to a determination to pull out Protestantism root and branch. To kill Admiral Coligny was not a theologically sound case of tyrannicide, but in fact just murder. A Catholic riot in Toulouse in 1563 was attributed a prediction of Nostradamus that the town would fall to heretics the next day.
Low level revolts were more commonly dictated by baser ideas of astrology and vitriol distributed in pamphlet form across Europe than the theories of resistance. More important still to the heart and mind of every peasant were, predictably enough, resources such as food. Peasants, regardless of religion, rebelled when taxed too hard. The French system of exacting tribute from the tenants of the gentry and the exacting of tribute by the gentry from the peasantry led to frequent revolts, as an increase in either imposition could lead to a regional poverty crisis that would be uncontrollable by any one of the two taxing parties.
In 1548, 1589, 1590, 1591, 1594 and 1595, there were major rebellions, some taking place in Protestant areas, some in the predominately Catholic regions. In Sweden, where the tax collection was centralised and where such instances did not occur, there was much lower incidence of peasant rebellion. Although there was a revolt in 1542, a revolt linked to the reform of the Swedish church as the peasantry wanted a return to the Orders they knew and the ceremonies to which they were accustomed, it was mostly about the increased tax burden. In Muscovy, the risings of 1603 and 1606 to 1607 were a result of the introduction of serfdom and coincidental famines. The German Peasants War can be attributed to the Poor Conrad movement, rebellions concerning the work tribute system in Inner Austria and the Bund schuh movement. Although such instances as the Moriscos Revolt show a propensity to rebel on religious grounds, there are very few examples of low level revolt with a non tax based causation before 1626 when the Austrian Lutherans were either told to leave the country and face heavy penalties or to convert swiftly.
Although the billeting of Bavarian troops on the people was the touchpaper that won peasant support for the rebellion, the religious aspect was vital, as Wiellinger, Fad iger and Zeller, all educated men, led a peasants revolt against the Catholic oppression. It should be noted that these men acted precisely as was suggested in the tracts. Wiellinger, the official, sent a list of demands for clemency and freedom of conscience to Ferdinand II, promising obedience. Although they did turn to arms once the Bavarians billeted on them turned upon them, they did so only as a last resort. The armed uprisings of 1632 and 1636 were purely labourers revolts and thus turned straight to arms, but without the cohesion, organisation or focus of the events of 1626 as they lacked middle classed peasant support.
It would seem that the theories of resistance were important for people to whom they were communicable, in that the Gunpowder Plotters and the Austrian rebels found theological support for their actions in the theories of resistance, but that they never inspired revolts and merely dictated their conduct. Events such as the murder of Coligny and the massacring of children had no theological basis, but were enacted in any case. 3 cf.