In order to procrastinate a bit on my fellowship applications on this slow Friday evening, I’ve been poking through some old books found on Google Books in search for works on treason trials and definitions of treason (back when it was a crime against the royal person, rather than the nation at large). Lots of great stuff, including downloadable versions of several volumes of Cobbet’s Complete Complete Collection of State Trials and Proceedings for High Treason… published in the 1820s.
Another book I have particularly enjoyed looking through is The Principles of the Jesuits, [translated? edited?] by Henry Handley Norris and published in 1839. As far as I can tell, this is a piece of anti-Jesuit propaganda designed to collect quotes by various Jesuit writers saying objectionable things, conveniently organized into categories of evil acts they condone. An early footnote even mentions that Jesuits have responded with the accusation that the collection of quotes are “studied fabrications” but that the editor has checked, where he could, the citations within. Thus, the contents of the work should be read with great care. I find this kind of work especially interesting though, because the Jesuits, with their Catholic universalism, are portrayed in such works with much of the same condemnatory language that has been directed at Communists (as well as their fellow travelers, or just anyone on the Left) for their treasonous internationalism.
A few passages are below. I especially am interested in the one by the Jesuit historian Juan de Mariana, which is quite famous for the fuss it created. It opens with an interesting appeal to general opinion and a proposal for a common meeting to determine whether a ruler is a tyrant. Also, in everything I have read, eradicating treason in 20th century is frequently described in medical metaphors (and certainly this is not something limited to treason), to cut away a tumor or cancer from the national body. But here we see the opposite, the treasonous act of regicide itself described as severing a putrescent member from an infected body.
Section 17 contains alleged Jesuit writings about High Treason and Regicide. Most of the quotes in this section of the work argue one of the following 1) the power of the pontiff to lawfully rob tyrannical or unfaithful kings of their sovereign powers, and thus absolves all traitors of their crimes against them, 2) the idea that the clergy is not subject to the jurisdiction of the king. 3) tyrants may be justly overthrown, without explicit reference to papal powers.
Here are a few examples, along with a good chunk taken from the Mariana piece that was included:
p218-19 – 1594 John Bridgwater “If [kings] … violate the faith which they have pledged to God and to the people of God; the people are not only permitted, but they are required, and their duty demands, that at the mandate of the vicar of Christ, who is the sovereign pastor over all the nations of the earth, the faith which they had previously made with such princes should not be kept.”
p221-25 – 1603 Francis Tolet “…the language of St. Paul is not opposed to it, who means that all men should be subject to the higher powers, but not to the secular powers: for he does not deny to spiritual ministers the power of exempting all, as many as they shall choose, from teh secular power, whenever they may deem it expedient.”
p248 – 1659 Anthony Escobar “What is sedition? The disagreement of citizens: a special offence against charity. If the state is drawn away from its obedience to the prince, it is a crime of high treason. If it extends but to the deposition of magistracy, it is only sedition. But when it is in opposition to a tyrant, it is not a sin, neither is it properly sedition; because a tyrannical government is not directed to the general good.”
p223-24 – 1640 [1599? 1598?] John Mariana “It is necessary to consider attentively what course should be pursued in deposing a prince, lest sin be added unto sin, and crime be punished by the commission of crime. This is the shortest and safest way: if a public meeting can be held, to deliberate upon what may be determined by the common consent; and to consider as firmly settled and established whatever may be resolved by the general opinion…But what you will ask, what is to be done if a public meeting cannot be held? which may very commonly happen. In my opinion, a similar judgment must be formed; for when the state is oppressed by the tyranny of the prince, and the people are deprived of the power of assembling, the will to abolish the tyranny is not wanting…I shall never consider that man to have done wrong, who, favouring the public wishes, would attempt to kill him…Thus the question of fact which is contested is this, Who may deservedly be considered as a tyrant? The question of right, Whether it is lawful to kill a tyrant? is suffficiently evident…
…Still it is useful that princes should be made to know, that if they oppress the state, and become intolerable by their vices and their pollution, they hold their lives upon this tenure, that to put them to death is not only lawful, but a laudable and a glorious action. The life of a tyrant is evidently wretched which is held upon the tenure, that he who should kill him would be highly esteemed, both in favour and in praise. It is a glorious thing to exterminate this pestilent and mischievous race from the community of men. For putrescent members are cut off lest they infect the rest of the body. So should the cruelty of that beast in the form of man, be removed from the state, as from a body, and be severed from it with the sword.”
Interesting to note that Mariana’s support for tyrannicide is used in this work to portray Jesuit support for treason, since Mariana’s views were condemned by his own order in 1610 (same year Henry IV of France was assassinated). According to this page, his views were later even used to justify excesses in the French Revolution. See the Catholic Encyclopedia’s entry on Tyrannicide for more on Mariana’s condemnation and for more on his life, the same encyclopedia’s entry and of course, wikipedia’s entry. The Austrian school of libertarian radicals also appear to look up to him as a hero for his works on political economy and taxation.