The concept of the republic: mythic continuity and real continuity.
par Janet Coleman
1.Contemporay Anglo-American uses of the terms and concepts republic/republicanism to criticise or modify liberalism as understood in Anglo-American political philosophy. Their ahistorical abuse of the word and idea: respublica. Philip Pettits republican liberty as nondomination and the ideals and institutions that are supposed to support this. P. Pettit, The Freedom of the City: a Republican Ideal in Alan Hamlin and Philip Pettit, eds., The Good Polity: normative analysis of the state ( Blackwell, 1989), pp.141-68.P. Pettit, Republicanism: a theory of freedom and government ((Oxford U P.,1997). Pettit draws on the work of Skinner: Quentin Skinner, The Republican Ideal of Political Liberty in G. Bok, Q. Skinner and M. Viroli eds., Machiavelli and Republicanism (Cambridge UP. 1990),pp. 293-309. Quentin Skinner, The idea of negative liberty: philosophical and historical perspectives in R. Rorty, J. Schneewind and Q. Skinner, eds., Philosophy in History (Cambridge U.P., 1984) pp. 193-221.
2. Another, more nuanced, historical view: radical republicanism of the unmixed, democratic variety versus the mixed Anglo-American aristocratic/oligarchic republican model based on private property: Jonathan Israel, The Intellectual origins of modern democratic republicanism (1660-1720) in European Journal of Political Theory 3.1 ( Jan. 2004), pp.7-36; Jonathan Israel, The Dutch Republic: its rise, greatness and fall, 1477-1806 (Oxford, 1995). For the Dutch and French models. I ask: How unmixed is this more radical republican model? Is it egalitarian democracy with a universal franchise? or more akin to Machiavellis governo largo where those without sufficient property [ as in Cromwells 17th-century Commonwealth which set the limit at 40 shillings worth of property] have no legal capacity to choose eg. members of Parliament as law-makers? The Dutch example; the French example according to J. Israel.
3. Cary Nederman's historical perspective on the multiplicity of republics and republicanisms. C. Nederman, 'Republicanism- ancient, medieval and modern', in James Hankins,ed. Renaissance civic humanism, reappraisals and reflections (Camb.UP, 2000?),pp. 247-69. Nederman argues there is not a single coherent theory, but he traces mainly two, somewhat conflicting strands already obvious, he thinks, in the writings of Cicero: the discursive/rhetorical tradition of republics and the rationalistic conceptual tradition. The discursive tradition he thinks leads to the orator leading the citizen body by his eloquence but he must accede to the popular will. The rationalist tradition takes no account of the popular will. Thinks Machiavelli is a discursive republican and Harrington a rationalist republican. I somewhat disagree. Machiavelli's governo largo for Florence already shows the influence of a 100 year old tradition demonstrating the decline of confidence in the 'right reason' of the multitudo. The confidence in human deliberative rationality, no matter what one's status in society was evident in Marsilius's deliberative legislator humanus, the multitudo and even to some extent in Aquinas's intellectualist account of normal human rationality and moral responsibility to deliberate on, perform and judge actions. See J. Coleman, A History of Political Thought from the Middle ages to the Renaissance (Oxford, 2000), chapter 6, The Italian Renaissance and Machiavelli's political theory', pp.199-276. The evidence for the decline in confidence of the multitude as rational in all respublicae: The legacy of Italian civic humanist republicanism contrasted with medieval/so-called univocal scholastic republics as mixed constitutions. From the 13th- 15th centuries. The theory and the practice. Some things I hope to discuss briefly, as illustrating the uses of the term res publica from the medieval to the early modern periods: [there is much too much here to develop fully in a paper for the symposium, but I hope to signal where one looks to discover what 'respublica' actually meant in differing pre-modern milieux]: In general and across the board, in medieval 'political' theory: From the early medieval concern for: statum regni in melius [ through law] pro reformatione sacri imperii pro regimine totius respublicae. -to the 13th-14th centuries: Aquinas: monarchy as a respublica, the regimen politicum contrasted with a regimen regale, in Aquinas and Ptolemy of Luccas continuation of De regimine principum; William of Auvergne on republics as free cities with liberty and legal equality; Petrus of Auvergne ( Alvernia) commenting on Aristotles Politics: on republican equality in cities needing correction to include craft guild members as passive participants, but where burghers in a city milieu alone are rulers and active; Bartolus on a citys consilium maius with authority from the advice and judgment of the populus who may be passive participants but must at least consent to laws: who constitutes this populus?; the institutionalisation of the passive consent of subjects to imperial rule, but actively, as citizens of a republic/city, they are said to be their own 'prince'; Marsilius of Paduas Defensor Pacis, the temperate regime-applicable to any constitution whatever, a monarchy or a republican city-state- as respublica where every free man of whatever status is an active member of the multitudo and therefore, of the Human Legislator; the misunderstanding I see in interpretations of Marsiliuss valentior pars as representative of the popular will in current accounts of his meaning [P. Rahe in HPT 2004; J. Quillet]; Marsiliuss comments on early familial patriarchy of primitive society evolving to communitas which refuses to accept hierarchy in public relations, the public space requiring equality of the heads of all households, with no property qualification, actively to deliberate and then make and agree to law, in a true respublica; William of Ockhams voluntarist respublica; Nicole Oresmes commentary on and translation of Aristotles Politics: French monarchy as republique with une multitude reasonable et honorable; early humanist Petrarchs respublica governed by a wise guardian or pater patria. Practice: English self-governing city borough law contrasted with national common law, 12th-15th centuries. Brunetto Latinis republican/Florentine Li livres dou tresor incorporated into Londons Liber Customarum [14th century] with London the capitol city of a monarchy, but still using the language of the good respublica. The 15th-century French monarchy as respublica: Thomas Basin, Histoire de Louis XI, ed. C. Samaran ( Paris, 1963) : on the De conjuratione dicta du bien public; See Jacques Krynen, Reflexion sur les idees politiques aux Etats Generaux de Tours de 1484 in Revue Historique, 4e ser., 62 ( 1984) and J. Krynen, LEmpire du Roi: idees et croyances politiques en France, XIII-XVe s. (Paris, 1993): reference to Jean Masselin, deputy from Bailliage de Rouen post Louis XI, pp. 438-55. Claude de Seyssel, La monarchie de France et deux autres fragments politiques, ed. J. Poujol (Paris 1961) a contemporary of Machiavelli. 15th- century English rhetoric of the kingdom as commonwealth, respublica or regno publicum et commune bonum, state of realm. Already evident in 14th- century parliamentary debates: The Modus Tenedi parliamentum of 1320s and the king in a commonwealth's representative parliament. Henry VIIs first parliament in 1485: the chancellors sermon on what was needed for the care of the commonwealth: curam rei publicae. The most flourishing respublica as one with a prince ruling alone as God rules the universe. Rolls of Parliament VI. See Alan Harding, Medieval Law and the Foundations of the State (Oxford U.P., 2002) chapters 8 and 9; pp. 252-340. The rhetoric of the kingdom maintained by justice and laws may have been remote from the actual brutalities of political life but its ubiquity and persistence reflected a basic need to believe in a commonwealth [respublica] with an ordered constitution- not a feudal constitution- rather, king and kingdom, respublica and policie could be used, as they were by [English] chancellors and others in the Estates General [ in France] of 1484 to refer to the entity which historians of the 19th and 20th centuries habitually translate as state. [p. 293]. The acts of Francis I have res publica gallica, letat de chose publique, status reipublicae, converted into the vernacular as chose publique. In England: commonwealth. Practice: Italys conciliar and corporatist government in city-republics, communal self-rule is replaced by republican rule of a self-selecting elite, educated by humanists. Compared with Miltons supposedly more radical democratic commonwealth for a reformed England, pre- and post- Cromwells Protectorate. Machiavellis humanist republicanism, the Discorsi, the meaning of a republic with a governo largo (et stretto). Florence and Venice, two 15th-16th century republics. Early modern republicanisms, in theory and practice: the second scholastics; Spinoza, a procedural republican? The Dutch republican tradition of community/Gemeinde as a resistance group, defined with respect to and contra Domination. Raphael Hythloday a republican? in Thomas Mores Utopia. Title page of Latin edition, 1516 : De optimo reipublicae statu deque nova insula Utopia. The English humanist translation of 1551. The mores and instituta of Utopia: the manners, customs, laws and ordinance of the public weal: common ownership of property, rational planning, education in civility, equal worth of all citizens, contrasted with contemporary European respublicae described as nothing more than conspiracies of the rich. In the Utopian optimus status reipublicae Nihil privati est. Oligarchies versus radical republics. The 17th- century English commonwealth and free state without any King or House of Lords [ The Constitutional Documents of the Puritan Revolution ed. S.R. Gardiner, 3rd edn. (Oxford, 1906)]. The Putney debates revealing Wildman, Petty, some Levellers as alone proto-democrats?
Conclusion: Where we are today: the legacy of Puritan theocracy in England and Calvins theocratic republic of Geneva with the modern State as contractual republic; here, the conscious individual is called upon to recognise in the State his higher self and, in the states commands, the expression of his own will and freedom. Janet Coleman is Professor of Ancient and Medieval Political Thought, Government department, London School of Economics and Political Science; Fellow of the Royal Historical Society; Editor, journal History of Political Thought; Leverhulme Major Research Fellow, 2000-3. Most recent books: Janet Coleman, A History of Political Thought, from ancient Greece to Early Christianity (Oxford, Blackwell, 2000). Janet Coleman, A History of Political Thought, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance (Oxford, Blackwell, 2000)