“For friendship is nothing else than an accord in all things, human and divine, conjoined with mutual goodwill and affection, and I am inclined to think that, with the exception of wisdom, no better thing has been given to man by the immortal gods. Some prefer riches, some good health, some power, some public honours, and many even prefer sensual pleasures. This last is the highest aim of brutes; the others are fleeting and unstable things and dependent less upon human foresight than upon the fickleness of fortune. Again, there are those who place the ‘chief good’ in virtue and that is really a noble view; but this very virtue is the parent and preserver of friendship and without virtue friendship cannot exist at all.” Cicero, On Friendship VI. 20. Loeb Classical Library, trans. William A. Falconer (Cambridge, MA 1923), pp. 130-13.
“Before all else the story of Christ must be firmly rooted in the mind of the prince. He should drink deeply of His teachings, gathered in handy texts, and then later from those very fountains themselves, whence he may drink more purely and effectively. He should be taught that the teachings of Christ apply to no one more than to the prince.” Desiderius Erasmus, The Education of a Christian Prince, trans. Lester K. Born. (New York: Columbia, 1936), p. 148.
This statement reflects Erasmus’ idealistic understanding of politics as the greatest writer among the Christian humanists. Erasmus taught that a prince could rule most justly by following the teachings of Christ. The next paragraph in this very text demonstrates how Christian humanists combined Christian and classical ideas:
“The great mass of people are swayed by false opinions and are no different from those in Plato’s cave, who took the empty shadows as the real things. It is the part of a good prince to admire none of the things that the common people consider of great consequence, but to judge all things on their own merits as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ But nothing is truly ‘bad’ unless joined with base infamy. Nothing is really ‘good’ unless associated with moral integrity.” Ibid.
Similar to Plato’s philosopher-kings, the virtuous prince must see beyond what the common people understand as important. Simply put, Moral integrity is the most significant characteristic of a leader. As we read in the following paragraph:
“Therefore, the tutor should first see that his pupil loves and honors virtue as the finest quality of all, the most felicitous, the most fitting of a prince; and that he loathes and shuns moral turpitude as the foulest and most terrible of things. Lest the young prince be accustomed to regard riches as an indispensable necessity, to be gained by right or wrong, he should learn that those are not true honors which are commonly acclaimed as such. True honor is that which follows on virtue and right action of its own will. The less affected it is, the more it redounds to fame. The low pleasures of the people are so far beneath a prince, especially a Christian prince, that they hardly become any man.”Ibid.
“It befits a youth to respect his elders and to choose from there the best and most upright, upon whose counsel and authority he might depend. For the inexperience of early life ought to be ordered and guided by the good sense of the old. It is especially at this age, moreover, one must guard against passions, and train one’s mind and body in toil and endurance, so that they might flourish when working hard at military and civil duties. Even when they wish to relax their minds and surrender themselves to enjoyment, young men should be wary of lack of restraint and mindful of a sense of shame.” Cicero, On Duties I. 122. eds. and trans. M.T. Griffin and E.M. Atkins (Cambridge 1991), p. 48. [Emphasis added]
Cicero encouraged the young to listen to their elders and be guided by good sense. Notice Cicero’s strong concern for the restraint of passions and bodily training. For those who lack restraint cannot properly perform their duties in society.
“The renowned Roman Varro says that the very best way to teach is to add an example or illustration to the word, for they help one both to understand more clearly and to remember more easily. Otherwise, if the discourse is heard without an example, no matter how suitable and excellent it may be, it does not move the heart so much, and is also not so clear and easily retained. Histories are, therefore, a very precious thing. For what the philosophers, wise men, and all men of reason can teach or devise which can be useful for an honorable life, that the histories present powerfully with examples and happenings making them visually so real, as though one were there and saw everything happen that the word had previously conveyed to the ears by mere teaching.” Martin Luther, “Preface to Galeatius Capella’s History,” Luther’s Works, Vol. 34, p. 275.
“It is not enough just to hand out precepts to restrain the prince from vices or to incite him to a better course—they must be impressed, crammed in, inculcated, and in one way and another be kept before him, now by a suggestive thought, now by a fable, now by analogy, now by example, now by maxims, now by a proverb. They should be engraved on rings, painted in pictures, appended to the wreaths of honor, and, by using any other means by which that age can be interested, kept always before him. The deeds of famous men fire the minds of noble youths, but the opinions with which
they become imbued is a matter of far greater importance, for from these sources the whole scheme of life is developed.” Desiderius Erasmus, The Education of a Christian Prince, trans. Lester K. Born. (New York: Columbia, 1936), pp. 144-145. [Emphasis added]
Desiderius Erasmus, the great writer of the Northern Renaissance in the early sixteenth century, dedicated this work to Prince Charles who became king of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor. Erasmus presented an idealistic notion of Christian prince based upon Christian and classical sources.
“For to the truly noble mind, and to those who are obligated to involve themselves in public affairs and human communities, knowledge of history and the study of moral
philosophy are the more suitable subjects. The rest of the arts are called liberal because they befit free men, but philosophy is liberal because its study makes men free. Thus in philosophy we find rules explaining what one may profitably do or shun,
but in history we find [moral] examples; in the former the duties of all mankind may be found and what it is fitting for each person to do, but in the latter what has been done or said in every age. Unless I am mistaken, a third study should be added to these [in the case of the public man]: eloquence, which is a distinct part of civics.” Piero Paolo Vergerio, “Character and Studies Befitting a Free-Born Youth,” in The Great Tradition: Classic Readings on What It Means to Be An Educated Human Being, ed. Richard M. Gamble. Wilmington 2007, p. 318. [Italics in original]
Vergerio (c.1400) identified history and moral philosophy as the primary subjects for those truly noble mind. For those who seek to lead in society he added eloquence.
“Holy Christendom has, in my judgment, no better teacher after the apostles than St. Augustine. Should this dear and holy teacher be so reviled and defamed by the fanatics as to be regarded as the cloak and support of their poisonous, deceptive teaching? To this I shall answer No as long as I have breath; this does him an injustice. Indeed, it is a good thing to say No to this, because the fanatics interpret his words only according to their own understanding, and yet do not prove their interpretations; still they boast that they have the clear, pure truth with certainty. Their proof amounts only to this: It could be so understood.” Martin Luther, “That These Words of Christ, ‘This is My Body,’ Etc., Still Stand Firm Against the Fanatics,” Luther’s Works, vol. 37, p. 107.
In this work Luther sought to refute the Eucharistic teachings of Ulrich Zwingli, Johannes Oecolampadius, and a few others whom he called “fanatics” or “sacramentarians.” One section deals with Oecolampadius’ references to the statements of certain early Church Fathers in support of his symbolic understanding of the Lord’s Supper. Oecolampadius (originally Hausschein) came from southwestern Germany and became a reform-minded preacher in Basel, Switzerland.
Luther asserted that Oecolampadius misunderstood Augustine and other early Church theologians regarding the Lord’s Supper. For instance, Luther wrote, “To be sure, they regard St. Augustine as their own, for he often uses the words mystery, sacrament, sign, invisible, intelligible. But Oecolampadius can deduce nothing from this, despite his boast that he has the definite truth. For although St. Augustine often says that the bread in the Supper is a sacrament and sign of the body of Christ, Oecolampadius has not yet established thereby that mere bread and not Christ’s body is present, because one can say that Christ’s body is invisibly present under a visible sign….St. Augustine does not say that a sacrament is a figure or sign of something future or absent, like the stories of the Old Testament, but a form of something present and yet invisible.” Ibid., p. 104.
”I am not among those who fear the people. They, and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom. And to preserve their independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debts, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our callings and our creeds, as the people of England are, our people, like them, must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, give the earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses; and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live, as they now do, on oatmeal and potatoes; have no time to think, no means of calling the mismanagers to account; but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers. Our landholders, too, like theirs, retaining indeed the title and stewardship of estates called theirs, but held really in trust for the treasury, must wander, like theirs, in foreign countries, and be contented with penury, obscurity, exile, and the glory of the nation. This example reads to us the salutary lesson, that private fortunes are destroyed by public as well as by private extravagance. And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for a second; that second for a third; and so on, till the bulk of the society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery, and to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering. Then begins, indeed, the bellum omnium in omnia, which some philosophers observing to be so general in this world, have mistaken it for the natural, instead of the abusive state of man. And the fore horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.” Thomas Jefferson, ”Letter Samuel Kercheval,” July 12, 1816 http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/presidents/thomas-jefferson/letters-of-thomas-jefferson/jefl246.php [Emphasis added]
“199. As usurpation is the exercise of power which another hath a right to, so
tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which nobody can have a right to;
and this is making use of the power any one has in his hands, not for the good
of those who are under it, but for his own private, separate advantage. When the
governor, however entitled, makes not the law, but his will, the rule, and his
commands and actions are not directed to the preservation of the properties of
his people, but the satisfaction of his own ambition, revenge, covetousness, or
any other irregular passion.” http://classicliberal.tripod.com/locke/2treat11.html [Emphasis added]
In this manner John Locke began chapter 18 “Of Tyranny” of his Second Treatise on Civil Government. We must remember that he wrote this work during the 1680s in response to the Stuart Restoration of James II as king of England. Specifically, Locke sought to refute Sir Robert Filmer’s Patriarcha which argued in favor of absolute monarchy since kings are descended from Adam. He imagined monarchs to be like the fathers of their subjects. http://www.constitution.org/eng/patriarcha.htm Locke’s First Treatise on Civil Government examines and refutes Filmer’s work in great detail. In the Second Treatise Locke presents his own vision of civil government. A helpful overview of Locke’s thought is here http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke/#TwoTreGov However, this summary does not emphasize Locke’s focus on the Bible as a key to his understanding of civil government.
Of course, any magistrate or judge may become a tyrant. As Locke wrote in Second Treatise, Chapter 18 sec. 202. “Wherever law ends, tyranny begins, if the law be transgressed to another’s harm; and whosoever in authority exceeds the power given him by the law, and makes use of the force he has under his command to compass that upon the subject which the law allows not, ceases in that to be a magistrate, and acting without authority may be opposed, as any other man who by force invades the right of
The law binds the ruler or political authority as much as (or even more than?) it binds the individual. This idea laid the foundation for the English Bill of Rights in 1689, the Declaration of Independence, and the American Bill of Rights added to the U.S. Constitution in 1789.
http://www.constitution.org/eng/eng_bor.htm = English Bill of Rights
http://www.constitution.org/usdeclar.htm = Declaration of Independence
http://www.constitution.org/billofr_.htm = American Bill of Rights
“The right of the Church to have schools is entirely in concord with the right of parents to educate their children. What is incumbent upon the parents in all questions of natural life is incumbent upon the Church with regard to the supernatural life. Parents are prior to the state, and their rights were always and still are, acknowledged by the Church. The prerogative of parents to educate their children cannot be disputed by the state, since it is the parents who give life to the child. They feed the child and clothe it. The child’s life is, as it were, the continuation of theirs. Hence it is their right to demand that their children are educated according to their faith and their religious outlook.
It is their right to withhold their children from schools where their religious convictions are not only disregarded but even made the object of contempt and ridicule. It was this parental right which German parents felt was violated when the Hitler government deprived them of their denominational schools. The children came home from the new schools like little heathens, who smiled derisively or laughed at the prayers of their parents.
You Hungarian parents will likewise feel a violation of your fundamental rights if your children can no longer attend the Catholic schools solely because the dictatorial State closes down our schools by a brutal edict or renders their work impossible.” Josef Cardinal Mindszenty, “Statement given on May 20, 1946,” in The Heritage of World Civilizations, 8th ed. Vol.2, p. 1022. [Emphasis added]
Josef Mindszenty, a Roman Catholic priest, became Primate of Hungary and then Cardinal in the mid-1940s. He spoke against Communist oppression of the Roman Catholic Church and their Socialist expropriation of Church schools in the 1940s. The Communist officials imprisoned him from 1948 to 1956. During the Hungarian Revolution he was released, but he sought asylum in the US Embassy in Budapest where remained for 15 years.