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The Present State of Germany

Samuel Pufendorf

Publication Year: 2012

Although The Present State of Germany was first made available in English over three centuries ago, it has been virtually unavailable in English since the period of the American Founding.

By 1696, Pufendorf was well known in England as a staunch defender of the Protestant cause and as one of the renovators of natural law. His writings were familiar to such luminaries as Locke and figured prominently in James Tyrell’s Patriarcha non Monarcha (1681).

The editor of this volume, Michael J. Seidler, describes this work of Pufendorf as “an account of German constitutional law detailing the historical relations between the Emperor and the Estates as well as an examination of the legitimating foundations of Imperial authority, a general analysis of the nature and requirements of political sovereignty, and a reconceptualization of the different forms of political order. . . . Its central distinction between so-called regular and irregular states, resting on the question of the locus of sovereignty, demotes the traditional political categories into mere administrative possibilities and thereby creates a more general problematic of freedom and authority with which we are still wrestling today. That is, it raises, at a very early stage in the contractarian tradition which we have inherited, the basic question of how effective political unity is compatible with competing values of diversity and individual liberty.”

Samuel Pufendorf (1632–1694) was one of the most important figures in early-modern political thought. An exact contemporary of Locke and Spinoza, he transformed the natural law theories of Grotius and Hobbes, developed striking ideas of toleration and of the relationship between church and state, and wrote extensive political histories and analyses of the constitution of the German empire.

Edmund Bohun (1645–1699) was an English press license official and political writer who ended up as chief justice of South Carolina.

Michael J. Seidler is Professor of Philosophy at Western Kentucky University.

Knud Haakonssen is Professor of Intellectual History at the University of Sussex, England.

Published by: Liberty Fund

Title Page, Copyright

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xxviii

Samuel Pufendorf (1632–94) began his academic career at the University of Heidelberg in 1661 in the arts (i.e., philosophy) faculty as a professor of international law (ius gentium ) and philology. He received this appointment on the basis of his first jurisprudential...

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A Note on the Text

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pp. xxix-xxxiv

Edmund Bohun’s translation of Pufendorf ’s De statu Imperii Germanici was issued twice: first by an anonymous “person of quality” in 1690 and then with Bohun’s name in 1696.1 Except for their title pages, the two versions appear exactly the same. The...

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pp. xxxv-xxxvi

My initial debts are to the special collections units of the research libraries that have generously supplied microfilms or expertise. These include the University of Chicago Library, the New York Public Library, Vanderbilt University Library...

The Present State of Germany

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pp. 1-8

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Pufendorf's Preface to the First Edition of 16671

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pp. 1-8

You have asked me in many letters, dearest brother Laelius, about my intentions and thoughts while traveling around Germany for so long, and I want now to explain these to you in a few words as I am finally drawn homeward by your...

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Preface to the Second Edition (1706)1

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pp. 9-10

This small book lays aside its masknowthat the author has been removed from human affairs and no longer fears men’s hatreds. It was written in an impulse of indignation when a professorship which the author believed he deserved was snatched...

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To the Reader

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pp. 15-16

I need not pretend to apologize for the publishing this small Piece at a time when the continued Victories of the Emperor of Germany over that once so formidable Enemy the Turk, and the presentWar with the French, has made that...

The Contents1

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pp. 17-24

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Chapter I. Of the Origene of the German Empire

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pp. 25-48

1. GERMANY [Germania magna] of old was bounded |[to the East by the Danube, to the West by the Rhine ]|,2 a towards Poland 1 it had then the same bounds it has now, and all the other parts were washed by the Ocean; so that then under this Name, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden were included, with all the...

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Chapter II. Of the Members of which the present German Empire is composed

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pp. 49-79

1. After the German Nation [peoples], by the help of the French [Franks ], became one Body, it has in all times been thought one of the strongest States in Europe; and at this day it is not less regardable, on the account of its bulk, though great...

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Chapter III. Of the Origene of the States of the Empire; and by what Degrees they arrived to that Power they now have

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pp. 80-95

1. For the attaining an accurate knowledge of the German Empire, it is absolutely necessary to enquire by what steps those that are called the States [Estates] of the Empire arrived to the Power they now possess; for without this it will not...

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Chapter IV. Of the Head of the German Empire, the Emperor, and of the Election and the Electors

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pp. 96-110

1. Though Germany consisteth of so many Members, many of which are [like] great and perfect [justarum] States, yet it has at all times (excepting the Interregnums which have happened) since Charles the Great, been united [subjected] to one Head (which the Ancients only [simply] call’d their King, the later Ages by...

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Chapter V. Of the Power of the Emperor, as it now stands limited by Treaties; and the Laws and Customs of the Empire; and the Rights of the States of Germany

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pp. 111-158

1. I have already shewn by what degrees and upon what occasions the Nobility [proceres] of Germany mounted themselves to that excessive height of Power andWealth, as is wholly inconsistent with the Laws of a [regular] Monarchy. Nor is...

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Chapter VI. Of the Form of the German Empire1

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pp. 159-178

1. |[As the Health of Natural Bodies, and the Strength and Ability of Artificial Composures results from the Harmony of their Parts and their Connexion or Union with one another; so also...

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Chapter VII. Of the Strength and Diseases of the German Empire

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pp. 179-209

1. The Forces of any State may be considered as they are in themselves, or [as by reason of the elegant Structure of its Form or Constitution they may be used].a Forces considered in themselves, consist...

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Chapter VIII. Of the German State-Interest

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pp. 210-248

1. |[I suppose by this time it is sufficiently shewn, how many and great the Diseases of Germany are; to assign the Remedies is aWork of [much] greater difficulty, and which will [would] not become...


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pp. 249-258


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pp. 259-273

Publication Information

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pp. 274

E-ISBN-13: 9781614878544
E-ISBN-10: 1614878544
Print-ISBN-13: 9780865974937

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: None

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Subject Headings

  • Constitutional history -- Holy Roman Empire.
  • Constitutional law -- Holy Roman Empire.
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