European Thinkers Of The Seventeenth Century: Thomas Hobbes And Jean Bodin

686 words - 3 pages

In the seventeenth century, a prominent group of European thinkers fostered a notion of
power as “both absolute and unitary.” One purpose of these assertions was to justify the ever-increasing centralization of governmental authority within the several European nations. Foremost among these thinkers were Thomas Hobbes and Jean Bodin. Bodin’s Six Books of the Commonwealth (1576) offered the enduring definition of sovereignty as “the absolute and perpetual power of a commonwealth” which “is not limited either in power, or in function, or in length of time.” In other words, sovereignty was held solely by one authority and could not be allocated among other, lesser authorities. Indeed, Bodin ...view middle of the document...

Yet despite this declaration of rights and change in power, the general movement of the revolution was not in the direction towards decentralization. By the mid-eighteenth century, whatever power had been divested of the king had been granted to the parliament; as William Blackstone said, “The power and jurisdiction of parliament…is so transcendent and absolute, that it cannot be confined, either for causes or persons, within any bounds…It hath sovereign and uncontrollable authority in making, confirming, enlarging, restraining, abrogating, repealing, reviving, and expounding of laws, concerning matters of all possible denominations, ecclesiastical, or temporal, civil, military, maritime, or criminal…It can, in short, do every thing that is not naturally impossible.” Regarding this absolutist view of parliamentary power, one historian commented, “There were two versions of the British constitution: London’s interpretation, in which Parliament was omnipotent; and the colonial interpretation, premised on the belief that there were limits to Parliament’s authority to legislate for the colonies.” This espousal of the American perspective underscores the colonists’ continued...

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