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Juan de Mariana and Early Modern Spanish Political Thought (review)

From: The Catholic Historical Review
Volume 95, Number 2, April 2009
pp. 360-361 | 10.1353/cat.0.0414

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This concise treatment of the most famous work by the Jesuit Juan de Mariana, the De Rege of 1599, starts from a valid commonplace: that contemporaries, above all in early-seventeenth-century France, were quick to take it as the epitome of supposed Jesuit justification of regicide. Harald Braun does not, however, seek to investigate further such undoubtedly hostile reception, accepting that incautious passages in Mariana’s publication made it possible. Instead, the author attempts to distinguish the peculiarly Spanish, indeed Castilian, circumstances surrounding the publication and link these to its demonstrably eclectic and less than systematic nature. This book thus offers reflections complementary to recent works on early-modern Jesuit theory and political influence, such as those by Robert Bireley, S.J. (especially The Counter-Reformation Prince, Chapel Hill, 1990 and The Jesuits and the Thirty Years War, New York, 2003) or Harro Höpfl (Jesuit Political Thought, New York, 2004). The author demonstrates that Mariana’s starting point is essentially a neo-Augustinian pessimism about fallen man and human society, which leads him to avoid any strictly Thomist approach to the state or its ruler. From this grows Mariana’s divergence from other Jesuit writers, even from the influential Spaniard Pedro de Ribadeneira. Mariana is here seen as a writer nearer to humanists’ persuasive appeals to princes, although replacing their optimism with a Stoic resignation more similar to that of Justus Lipsius. Thus his remarks on the authority and fortunes of monarchs are not in fact prescriptive but descriptive, using highly selective historical examples, not least from Spain itself. Even his ill-judged observations on Henri III of France are not intended as part of a conclusive discussion of tyrannicide but as pre-cautionary advice, meant to preclude personal disaster. Here the clearest part of Braun’s analysis is revealed. Whereas Mariana was certainly influential in the last part of Philip II’s reign with the frustrated primate and inquisitor general, Archbishop Gaspar Quiroga y Vela, his close association with García de Loaysa, subsequently but briefly archbishop of Toledo, provides a key to the Jesuit’s publication. The accession of Philip III at the end of the sixteenth century certainly prompted a debate at the royal court about the direction of policy and the recovery of Spanish power. Mariana was attempting to support the continuation of Loaysa’s influence on the young king, in the face of the prospective emergence of Francisco Gómez de Sandoval y Rojas, duke of Lerma, as all-powerful royal favorite. Such concerns account for discussion of the difficulties inherent in a composite monarchy, not only in terms of Castile’s relation to Aragon but also of the problems of taxation and representation in Castile itself. Remarkably perhaps for a Jesuit writer, Mariana urges a restoration of essentially political authority to the Castilian episcopate generally, as opposed to the civil service already performed by select prelates and clerics, as well as defending the claims of the Castilian clergy to extensive fiscal immunities. Yet here Braun’s examination could be fuller and clearer as to just how the Jesuit redefines the desirable response of both papacy and local episcopate to the undoubted regalism of Habsburg legal officials. It might have been helpful if the author had expanded clarification in those cases where his translations seem to depart from the strict sense of the Latin citations. Finally, there are some signs of speed or oversight in the editing and proofing of the volume, but these do not affect essentials nor diminish its scholarly value.

Copyright © 2009 The Catholic University of America Press
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A. D. Wright. "Juan de Mariana and Early Modern Spanish Political Thought (review)." The Catholic Historical Review 95.2 (2009): 360-361. Project MUSE. Web. 25 Jan. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Wright, A. D.(2009). Juan de Mariana and Early Modern Spanish Political Thought (review). The Catholic Historical Review 95(2), 360-361. The Catholic University of America Press. Retrieved January 25, 2013, from Project MUSE database.
A. D. Wright. "Juan de Mariana and Early Modern Spanish Political Thought (review)." The Catholic Historical Review 95, no. 2 (2009): 360-361. http://muse.jhu...