Beza’s Role In Developing Resistance Theory

Beza believed that this natural law of sovereignty had been evident in the Jewish monarchies of the Old Testament and was borne out in contemporary European politics. He placed several caveats on this principle, however: first, the king must be guilty of extreme tyranny, having broken the fundamental laws of the kingdom; second, though resisting a tyrant might be permissible in theory, it was not expedient in every situation. Finally, like Hotman, Beza stressed that initiating resistance against a king was never the prerogative of private persons; far better for the people to suffer patiently under tyranny than to allow the twin ‘monsters’ of sedition and rebellion to be unleashed in a kingdom.

Beza’s chief contribution to sixteenth-century resistance theory was his systematic defense of the role of ‘lesser magistrates.’ These magistrates of the kingdom—including nobles such as dukes, counts, and barons, as well as city officers such as mayors, consuls, syndics, and aldermen—received their authority from the people, not from the king, and were under obligation to protect the public welfare. Read more»

Scott M. Manetsch | Theodore Beza and the Quest for Peace in France, 1572–1598 (2000), 68.


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