…o postare nemaivazuta si nemaiuzita!:)


…eu,unul, celputin, n-am stiinta de bloguri personale pe care sa se posteze articole mai mult sau mai putin stiintifice(da’ poate or fi). M-am gandit ca ar fi frumos sa va invit sa vedeti ce fac „in timpul liber” – acum, daca tot stam de vorba in sufragerie.

Comentariile sunt bine primite – dar, va rog, nu-mi reprosati stilul prea sec – inca nu e suficient de „sec” (la capitolul asta mai am de lucrat).

De buna seama, daca va plictisiti dupa primele doua pagini, sunteti liberi sa va opriti:) Da’ chiar: va poate tine o asemnea lectura (diferita si ca stil si ca volum de o postare obisnuita) „captivati”? (Vad ca endnotes-urile apar cu romane – nu stiu de ce – si nici formatul nu mai e acelasi – da’ ideea ramane:)

Hai sa vedem:

Compromise, Contract, and Representation –

A Split History of Early Modernity




Even though the definition of politics as being ‘the art of compromise’ is widely accepted, the very concept of compromise remains largely understudied. It has been argued ‘that every political system can be classified … on the basis of its prevalent attitude toward compromise’[i] or that ‘democracy and compromise are somehow, perhaps intimately, related to one another’.[ii] Yet despite this purported centrality for politics the concept draws much less attention than other related ones, such as representation, election, and the like.[iii] In more than a century, barely a dozen of books and articles have more or less seriously dealt with this concept, making the theme one of the most neglected by political theorists.[iv] And whenever compromise is not altogether ignored, its virtues and its centrality for real-life politics are heavily disputed.

I argue that the reason for such disagreements can be found in the overlooked history of the concept of compromise, which reveals a dazzling discrepancy between the usages of the word in England compared with continental Europe, notably France, starting with the 16th century all the way to the late 18th century. Practically, every British writer, from John Heywood and William Shakespeare to Gilbert Burnet, used ‘compromise’ in a positive or at least a neutral context with an astonishing consistency. For these authors, ‘to compromise’ meant primarily to bargain, to give and take for the sake of reaching an otherwise impossible agreement. Yet instead of accepting the already existing authority of the arbitrator, as the classical sense had it, the modern compromise created this authority through the agreements of the parties involved. Thus, from a last-resort method to be used in private affairs, this modern compromise became a central public practice.

The same consistency in the usage of compromise, this time turned upside-down, is to be found in the writings of French authors. By the end of the sixteenth century, Guy Coquille, Michel Montaigne or Pierre Charron showed already concerns about compromise – concerns shared during the 17th century and later on by writers as distant in style as Pierre Corneille or Pierre Bayle. Author after author worried about making a compromise or about compromising ‘his conscience’, ‘his honor’, ‘his virtue’, etc. For the Frenchmen, ‘compromise’ was – and remained – a rather shameful word, hence the later distinction between compromis and compromission.

However, as the tip of an iceberg, the conceptual history of compromise signals much more – namely concealed differences in the underlying assumptions made about individuals and their relationships with the political sphere. I argue that the difference between the usages of compromise across the English Channel is to be understood precisely in this context. Unlike their continental counterparts, by the sixteenth century the British were already eager to move away from the medieval, corporatist vision of society, toward a more individualistic perspective.

For Sir Thomas Smith (1565) the ‘commyn wele’ was ‘a society or common doing of a multitude of free men collected together and united by common accord and covenauntes among themselves, for the conservation of themselves aswell in peace as in warre’.[v] Such a vision of free, deliberative individuals forming a commonwealth had little do to with medieval ‘universitas’ – the almost mystical corporate bodies – as described for example by Seysell or Bodin.[vi] This theoretical proto-social contract was reinforced by actual oaths of association and national covenants at a scale unconceivable at that time in continental Europe.[vii] For the first time, representation acquired a bottom-up, ascending directionality with individuals becoming the source of political legitimacy and authority.

By contrast, the first versions of the social contract envisaged by monarchomachi, the French Huguenots, were careful not to confer political authority to the individual, but to the people, understood here in the classical sense, as universitas. Even the Huguenots of the late 17th century, after the Revocation, which wholeheartedly embraced the English Revolution and the British version of the social contract, never reserved any political role for the individual. For them, le peuple, as a whole, remained the provider of political authority. Thus, having the king, the Parlements or the Estates General representing the people did not change the classical, descending directionality of representation. ‘The whole body was prior to and greater than the king, greater though he might be than any individual member of the realm’.[viii]

As in the case of compromise, once we know what to look for, the consistency in difference across the Channel is astonishing. In England, Catholics, Protestants, Torries, Whigs and Levellers alike took for granted the idea of individual representation, while in France, Jansenists, Jesuits, Huguenots, constitutionalists, absolutists, and libertines, despite their sharp differences, maintained about representation a common, top-down perception: one can represent only somebody or something with a higher status.

The connection between different usages of compromise and different understandings of representation begins to clarify. France was essentially a corporatist society and starting with the 16th century, absolutism reinforced this corporatist tendency at an even higher level. The newly discovered State managed to replace the ancient corps and communities, yet remained an entity transcending ‘individuals’.[ix] Self-conscious about what he had left – his forum internum – the French individual was highly skeptical about the competencies of the public sphere. Since no political role was reserved for him either in theory or in practice but as a member of a corporate body, the individual qua person could not ‘survive’ but by emphasizing his own distinctiveness, suspicious of anybody else’s judgment. ‘Conscience’ – in the private sphere -, or ‘honor’ and ‘reputation’ – in the public one – were attributes to be careful about. To compromise them, to be willing to subject them to the hazards involved in any public arbitration implied a risk few were willing to take.

On the contrary, at least in what concerns ‘individualism’, England ‘stood alone’.[x] Unlike in its continental counterparts, society here was understood as being ‘constituted of autonomous, equal, units, namely separate individuals, and that such individuals [were] more important, ultimately, than any larger constituent group’.[xi] For the early modern Englishman – the first to be liberated from the shell of a corporate body – the solution to finding an impartial arbitrator between individuals no longer able to acknowledge a public authority was the transfer of individual rights to a third party through the social contract or the national covenant. No matter how formulated, it was nothing but a generalized compromise, as the forgotten Gilbert Burnet explicitly put it. Finally, the sovereign, being it the king or the parliament, became the undisputable arbitrator – the compromissore. Its authority was unquestionable precisely because it did not precede the compromise – it was its result.

The consequences of these differences are not to be ignored. Paradoxically at first sight, this very elevation of the political role of the individual was at the same time the cause of his political demise. His representatives become the only professional compromisores since by definition they fulfilled a double function: equal parties involved in a compromise and the highest possible arbitrator. The individual ‘could no longer engage directly in the equality of ruling and being ruled, but had to depute his government and defense to specialized and professional representatives’.[xii] On the other hand, once the French individual got a chance to break out from the ‘protective’ shell of absolutism and of universitas, acquiring political rights, he took them a-la-lettre and proved less willing to handle them to any type of representative – as seen during the Fronde and, a century later, during the French Revolution. For him, the representatives remained representatives of something higher – ideologies, types of discourse, etc. The implications of these different understandings of both compromise and representation for contemporary politics are discussed in the concluding remarks.


1.      Compromise as Arbitratio and Electio



As a Latin word, ‘compromissum’ meant initially a reciprocal promise to abide by the decision of an impartial arbitrator whenever a common solution between two individuals could not have been reached otherwise, i.e., through informed dialogue and rational persuasion. It was a method of last resort to solve a particular disagreement. As such, it was not used in political contexts, but mainly in judicial ones, albeit its main role was to remove ‘the dispute from the ordinary jurisdiction of the courts’.[xiii] In other words, it was a private and somehow shameful practice to be kept away from public scrutiny. A few centuries later, the French dictionaries would assume that the avoidance of official justice implies a guilty conscience. The first edition of the Dictionnaire de L’Academie Francaise (1694) notes, for example, ‘on ne met en compromis que les affaires douteuses’ (‘one puts in compromise only the dubious affairs’). The same Roman meaning, of settling differences, this time translated in Greek, is found in two other Byzantine documents from the sixth century AD.[xiv] The sense of a coming to terms passed in Middle French as ‘compromis’ around fifteenth century. The first mention of ‘compromis’ that I was able to track down dates from 1402 and it was used by Christine de Pisan (ca. 1364 – ca. 1431): “Et dessus [dessous?] vous en sont en compromis/Les parties d’un debat playdoye” (‘And above [below?] you there are in compromise/The self-pleading parties of a debate’).[xv]

According to this meaning, the arbitrator’s authority was already present at the time of the compromissum, and was not the result of being chosen or designated.  Both parties agreed upon the ‘compromissores’ precisely because both acknowledged his authority in judging the matter at hand and no further. By definition, then, the practice of compromise rested on three main assumptions: 1) the recognized authority of the arbitrator to equally represent the interests of both parties; 2) the willingness to accept the risks involved in a third party’s judgment;[xvi] 3) the basic equality of the parties involved in the dispute. To compromise, indicate the first French dictionaries, signified ‘s’égaler a quelqu’un’, making oneself equal to somebody else. If even one of the three preconditions were not met, compromise became a hazardous practice.

 As soon as 1566 Louis de Masures (1523?-1574) in David fugitif already shows concerns about compromising one’s faith (la foy compromise). Around 1585 Guy Coquille, a constitutionalist, argues that kings were established as a solution of compromise adopted by the people in order to avoid the confusion resulting from everyone’s participation in the decision making process. However, according to Coquille, the transfer of power between the people and the king was never complete, hence the existence of the Estates General.

Since the beginning, the people had established the Kings as by way of compromise, for avoiding the confusion that would have resulted if in each important affair one should have looked for the opinion of all to deliberate and conclude … Our Francois predecessors of this first establishment didn’t transfer the entire power to Kings without distinction and unchangeable: of which [power] we observe today that some shadow still remains, that is the assembly of Estates; with whom from ever the Kings were accustomed to deliberate their affairs, [this] being of the essence of the Crown.[xvii]


The passage is revealing not only for the utilization of compromise as a last resort method, but also for its underlying assumptions: if not for the confusion resulted from huge numbers, direct participation in public debates and decision-making processes was, assumingly, ‘natural’. Furthermore, it is significant that in this version of a governmental contract there is no mention made about representation. The assembly of the Estates was not the representative of the people, but its ‘shadow’. As I will show shorter, for most Frenchmen the Estates were not understood as being representatives of the people – they were the people.

In 1627 André Mareschal talks about ‘mettre son honneur en compromis’ (putting one’s honor to compromise),[xviii] and the abbey Michel de Pure in 1656 about the dangers of exposing ‘les soins, les peines, les chagrins’ (the worries, the pains, and the sorrows) of love: ‘c’est faire injure à son rang, à sa grandeur et à sa fortune, que de les exposer, et de les compromettre à qui que ce soit au monde’ (it is injuring one’s rank, one’s grandeur and one’s fortune, by exposing them, and compromising them to whomever in this world).[xix] In 1637 Corneille is concerned ‘qu’on put a jamais me reprocher d’avoir compromise ma reputation’ (that one can ever reproach me to compromise my reputation).[xx]  Moliere too, in 1663, considers a brave man one who ‘knows that the generous hearts do not put people in compromise for them’ (‘il sait que les coeurs généreux ne mettent point les gens en compromis pour eux’).[xxi] The examples could go on and on.

The French dictionaries of the 17th century are aware of these negative connotations. Pierre Richelet (1680) in his Dictionnaire de la langue françoise ancienne et moderne mentions the new sense, ‘mettre en compromis son credit, son honneur, & ce qu’on a de cher & de considerable’ (compromising one’s credit, honor & what one has dearest & most considerable), while warning that il ne faut pas qu’un honnête home se compromette avec des coquins (an honest man should not compromise himself with rascals). Antoine Furetiere, in his Dictionnaire universelle from 1690, is even more explicit about the reason why on dit aussi qu’il ne faut pas mettre son honneur au compromis, c’est a dire au hasard (it is also said that one should not place one’s honor in compromise, meaning au hazard): ‘On ne doit point mettre en compromise avec les inferieures, pour dire avoir des paroles ou des querelles avec eux’ (One should not put oneself in compromise with the inferiors, for saying having words or quarrels with them). ‘Compromettre signifie aussi s’égaler a quelqu’un, contester avec quelque personne indigne’ (Compromettre also signifies to make yourself the equal, having a contestation with an unworthy person). The first edition of Dictionaire de l’Academie Francaise (1697) mentions as well “On dit figur. Mettre quelqu’un en compromis, pour dire, Le compromettre. Et l’on dit aussi fig. dans le mesme sens, Mettre la dignité, l’authorité de quelqu’un en compromis” (It is said figuratively. “Putting someone in compromise”, for saying, compromising him. It is also said figuratively, with the same meaning, “Putting the dignity, the authority of someone in compromise”).

Such specifications indicate how the negative connotations of compromise could have possible arise. Only an individual self-conscious about his own distinctiveness and distrustful about everybody else’s authority over his forum internum, could have possibly been cautious about compromising, i.e., submitting to the judgment of another, his ‘conscience’, ‘honor’, or ‘faith’. In the context of a growing absolutism in France, the sharp distinction between private and public spheres was naturally doubled by a strong individualism – an individualism that did not preclude inequality, but individualism nonetheless.[xxii] The explanation runs deeper than the generally accepted siding of the nascent modern individual with the nascent modern state against old forms of corporatism such as parishes, guilds, and the like.[xxiii] Although different than other corporations, the state still represented the highest public corporation, far more than a mere conglomerate of individuals.[xxiv] The interplay between the individual qua person and the individual qua member of some universitas, started during the Middle Ages was emphasized even more under the new circumstances.[xxv] ‘Individualism dominated French ethics and psychology from the end of the sixteenth century well into the seventeenth, and proved for a time an admirable efficient ideology for the subjects of an absolutist state’.[xxvi]

From different perspectives, to be sure, authors such as Seysell, Bodin, Montaigne, Charron, or Pascal agreed that the individual fully manifested himself only in the confines of the private sphere. Only here, in what Montaigne called “the back room of the mind”, he was able to preserve space for his freedom of conscience. ‘The wise man should withdraw his soul within, out of the crowd, and keep it in freedom and power to judge things freely’.[xxvii] Here, there was no other authority beside his conscience. Here, his true self could have been protected. The centrifugal temptations of public sphere ought therefore to be resisted for the sake of the self.

It was a paradoxical command that was given us of old by that god of Delphi: Look into yourself, know yourself, keep to yourself; bring back your mind and your will, which are spending themselves elsewhere, into themselves; you are running out, you are scattering yourself; concentrate yourself, resist yourself; you are being betrayed, dispersed, and stolen away from yourself.[xxviii]


This carefully protected separation between forum internum and forum externum ‘can be traced back to conciliar literature, [for] the need to distinguish spiritual from temporal jurisdiction led to the establishment of a clear-cut boundary between individual conscience and that which is subject to the law’.[xxix] When it came to individual’s true self, the best judge remained one’s conscience for it could read even the most secret intentions of the heart. ‘So wonderful is the power of conscience [that] it makes us betray, accuse, and fight against ourselves, and for want of other witnesses, to give evidence against ourselves’.[xxx] Since conscience was the best judge of the self, it goes without saying that it should not be disgraced through any kind of compromise.

The inner world is free and regulated by reason. By contrast, the external world is dominated by the conventions which allow political communities to survive and to last: religion, customs, and law. But the cultivated man is capable of creating a world of authenticity within himself.[xxxi]


As both Montaigne and Charron make clear – and their works will be ones of the most influential across the seventeenth century -,[xxxii] even to defend yourself from false accusations could mean to debase yourself. It meant to accept the very possibility of judgment by others and therefore the possibility of letting others decide over your most valuable possession – yourself. ‘I ordinarily assist the unfair presumptions against me that fortune sows about by a way I have always had of avoiding justifying, excusing, and interpreting myself, thinking that it is compromising my conscience to plead for it’.[xxxiii] For both authors the model to be followed remained Socrates who, falsely accused, refused to properly ‘defend’ himself before the polis.

Faced with false accusations and evil suspicions that are spread and made outside justice, one finds two subtleties. One, which belongs to the interested ones, accused and suspected, is to justify and excuse themselves too easy, with too much care, and almost with ambition. (…) It is to betray one’s innocence, putting one’s conscience and right to compromise and arbitration, if one plead like this: (…) Even in justice, Socrates did not want to do it by himself or by somebody else, refusing to use the beautiful pleading of grand Lysias and rather preferred to die.[xxxiv]


There was, however, a situation in which compromise could have been safely used in the public sphere – as a method of election. This second meaning – rather forgotten today – was, however, widely in use during Middle Ages and early modern times. It is often missed nowadays how important and widespread elections were during the Middle Ages.[xxxv] All church offices from the papacy down were elective and were meant to discover not people but God’s will. As such, the election of any bishop was guided by the unanimity rule – ‘the only rule that could assure the participants that their decision was right, hence the maxim “vox populi, vox Dei”’.[xxxvi]

Not surprising, unanimity was often hard to reach and as a result the process frequently produced schisms. In 1215, in order to prevent such conflicts, the Fourth Lateran Council instituted three ways to achieve unanimous agreement in the event of dissensions: ‘acclamation’, ‘scrutiny’, and … ‘compromissum’.[xxxvii] Elections ‘by acclamation’ were quite rare, although more close to the idea of ‘quasi-inspiration’.  Scrutiny or ‘suitability’ (idoneitas) was meant to discover, through vote, the best candidate for the job. Finally, compromissum signified the delegation of final choice to a small commission whenever long sessions and repeated failures showed unanimous agreement to be unlikely”.[xxxviii] Schneider and Zimmerman demonstrate how widely the medieval use of compromissum was not only in the election high-ranking prelates but also of small parish clergy.

One or more compromissores would be chosen for each recognized interest: by the populus or universitas parrochianorum, rich and poor, women as well as men; others by local powers, say a monastery and/or a secular magnate. […] Only when such local compromise – in our sense – failed, would choice pass up the hierarchy.[xxxix]


‘For each recognized interest’ a representative, a compromissores, was therefore selected (yet not elected, the compromissores being the ones asked to do the properly speaking ‘election’). The parallels between this new acquired meaning of ‘compromise’ and the classic one are obvious. As in the case of compromissum as arbitratio, compromissum as electio was a method of last resort, to be used only whenever people could not agree – yet here the disagreement was not between two parties nor between two individuals, but between multiple factions. And once again, it depended heavily on the pre-existing authority of compromissores. One was designated to be one of the compromisssores because one was already trustworthy to best represent the corporate body.[xl]

The importance of these universitas can hardly be downplayed. Selected by individuals, compromissores represented communities and in turn elected a representative of God. The acceptable compromise in this realm was therefore of no concern for the individual per se, but only for the individual as member of a certain universitas. No delegation of authority from individuals to compromissores was involved and no claim of representing individuals was made. Qua person, this individual had no authority.

The French Huguenots, who were among the first ones to talk overtly about a ‘contract’ between the people and the king in order to justify the right to rebel (soon to be followed by the Catholics of the League when the tables had turned around), never mentioned individuals delegating their rights. As a matter of fact, the emphasis in Franco-Gallia, Réveille Matin, or Vindiciae contra tyrannos, was not on a social contract between individuals, but on the governmental contract, between le peuple as a whole and the king. Sovereignty resided ‘naturally’ with the people but ‘the populus [was] not conceived as in any sense a sovereign agent’.[xli] As the church was composed from all the believers yet priesthood alone was its active agent, so the people’s sovereignty was represented by its upper classes, ‘des gens de bien et d’honneur comme représentant la personne du peuple, lequel les commet a cela et leur donne cette puissance’ (good men of honor as representing the person of the people, which commit them to this and give them this power).[xlii] Thus, the right of resistance was conceived as belonging not to individuals but to communities and its representatives – Parlements, Estates General, or magistrates.

What is more striking is that even the Huguenots who, by the end of the 17th century, wrote once more about the social contract and the right to rebel, did not follow their English counterparts to the extent to accept the idea of individual political rights. Despite the fact that, after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, they wholeheartedly embraced the theories of Hobbes or Locke, they also remained suspicious about conferring the right to rebel to individuals. Their focus remained le peuple understood once more in an organic sense. For Pierre Jurieu, for example, “the rights to be guaranteed are the rights of the people or the nation, and not yet strictly the rights of the individuals, as in Locke”.[xliii] As for Guy Coquille a century earlier, the Estates General were not even a representative assembly of the people – they were the people as a couple of quotations indicate: ‘ce que l’on appelle les Etats d’un Royaume, le peuple en un mot…’ (…what is named the Estates of a Kingdom, the people in a word…);[xliv]alors le peuple, c’est a dire les Etats du Royaume…’ (…then the people, meaning the Estates of the Kingdom…).[xlv]

Another Huguenot, Pierre Bayle, offers probably the best example about this seemingly paradoxical French frame of mind. In 1686 he insists: ‘on ne met pas en compromis sa bonne foi, ni son honneur’ (‘one does not put to compromise one’s good faith, nor one’s honor’)[xlvi] yet at the same time he considers the people as nothing but ‘a beast with thousand heads’.[xlvii] He argued that if each private individual possessed sovereignty before entering in the Republic, it meant that each preserved the right to question the ones that govern (‘chaque particulier étant juge en dernier ressort de la conduite de ceux qui gouverne’ – each particular being in the last resort the judge of those who govern).[xlviii] Anarchy and chaos would soon follow.

So deeply rooted was the mistrust in individuals that during the Fronde the aversion for all republican regimes (‘the popular governments’) was manifested even among its supporters. For almost everybody, a popular republic was a synonym for chaos, as demonstrated by the tracts of the time.[xlix] Thus, in Les Sentiments du vrai citoyen sur la paix (March, 1649), Bertaut, a moderate Frondist, warns his readers against ‘this dangerous liberty that is found among the people, not only to misinterpret the actions and behavior of the leaders, but also to expose and put them in compromise whenever they feel like it’.[l] Rebellion was an act of resistance by individuals and as such ought to be condemned. Insurrection, on the other hand, was legitimate because was done by the entire people raised against tyranny. (‘It is a different thing when an entire people, by a movement and a common interest, raises against the oppression; for then it is no longer a rebellion and a disobedience’[li].)

In the rare instances when people took power in their own hands, establishing a democratic government, such as in Bordeaux (1653) they took the expression Vox populi, vox Dei quite literally, establishing an ‘authentic dictatorship of the proletariat’, as Carrier put it, in total disregard of any idea of individual representation. If the King had forbidden the Parlement of Bordeaux in 1649 and 1650, he – by this very act – provided legitimacy for the popular assemblies that administrated the city.

By taking away the authority of this Parliament, His Majesty did not mean that the society of men returns to its original chaos and to the horrors of those brutal and uncivilized manners of the first men; but being prevented from obeying him, he left to his people the natural right of rendering itself justice, in its exemption and its privileges.[lii]



2.      The English Twist


If the French were so worried about compromising their conscience, their honor, or both, why didn’t their English counterparts display the same concerns? The most recent updated Middle English Dictionary presents four forms of the word: compromis (n.); compromisen (v.); compromission (n.); and compromitten (v.). All of them have the sense of ‘mutual agreement’, ‘promise’, or ‘arbitration’ – but no negative connotation is ever mentioned. (‘Being compromised’ meant in effect ‘being in agreement’.) A few examples will demonstrate the point:

 (c. 1450): “Þei consented all and mad compromisse on-to his persone þat, whom he wold name, þei schul consent on-to him.”;[liii] (c. 1460): “ Both parties consentid that þe compromisse i-maade togedur..bytwene þem..be i-cancellid.”;[liv] (c. 1464): “Horbury sais that ye and the minister stand in comprimise to abide the award of Sir John Malivera.”;[lv]



The same usage of compromise as arbitration is found repeatedly in the writings of Richard Arnold (d. 1521?) “…on that other party bienther of hem for the pesing off the sayd quarelle & debatis takyn and chosyn in maner and fourme as it is conteyned more playnly in a comprimise made thervpo~ of the whiche the tendere sweth in this fourme” (1503);[lvi]:

In wines of whiche thyng to this present compromise my sayd lorde of glouceter hath sub stribid his name wyth his owne hand Hunfroy glouceter And in semblable forme my lorde of winchester in a nother compromise substribid wt his hand vndir the worde of presthode to stond at the aduyse ordinaunce and arbitrement of ye parsons aboue sayd. (1521)


So far, there is nothing to be surprised about – both Frenchmen and Englishmen stick with the classical usage of compromise. What is surprising is that by the second half of the sixteenth century, all the way through the seventeenth – while the French are increasingly using compromise with a negative label – no such trend is detectable across the Channel.

John Heywood’s (1497?-1580?) poem, The spider and the flie – A parable of the spider and the flie (1556) is particularly relevant for reflecting rather accurately the desperate attempts of the English world to make sense out of the seemingly endless confrontations between religious and social factions.[lvii] The action is rather simple. Buz, ‘the fly of flies’ is caught in a window claimed by ‘Spider’. He defends the rights of all flies to these holes by making appeal to customary laws that he has learned by buzzing around Westminster Hall. Spider, claiming different customary laws, asserts the right to all holes in lattices and, by consequence, the right to slay all intruders. It is quite clear that common law can no longer provide guidance since both parties argue in its name. Any authority starts therefore to be questionable and at least some sort of juridical equality is already widely accepted.

What is striking is the fact that the Spider argues at all with Buz, instead of simply disposing of him. Clearly, spiders belong to the powerful elite. They fortify a castle, and are addressed by flies as ‘sir’, ‘masters’ or ‘lords’ while, in return, they address flies as ‘good fellow’ or ‘good men’, using the pronouns ‘thou’, ‘thy’, and ‘thee’. And yet, Spider spends a lot of time defending his “lordship” in front of a commoner, which indicates at least a certain degree of equality before law – as one remembers, the first pre-condition for a successful compromise. Trying to avoid the pitfalls of the formalized judiciary system they agree for the second best – a compromise. The decision comes at little surprise once ones remember that one of the main roles of classic compromise was precisely to avoid the court of law.

The beste waie in my minde when all waise are caste,
Is that one (quoth the flie) that I touched twyse.
To haue bene our triall, in all cases paste.
Whiche was: to put the whole in comprimise.
Flie: this laste one case: to be tride in that wyse.
I graunte thee. I thanke you (quoth the fly) praiyng,
That we maie name our daisemen in this daiyng.


Spider calls in Antony Ant as his ‘compromissore’, while Buz calls Bartilmew Butterfly. It is by now obvious that the two compromissores face a rather impossible task: each compromissore is blood-related with his party (Ant is a cousin of Spider, Butterfly is an uncle of Buz), but both understand the formal requirement of impartiality (‘We both must banish all partiality … By affinity or consanguinity”). In truth, “the ant’s drift was the butterfly to drive/from affectionate standing on the fly’s side,/indifferently to stand, while himself contrive/to be partial with the spider’. To complicate matters even further, the authority of each compromissore to represent impartially the other side is not acknowledge as such by either Spider or Buz – and for good reasons: Spider’s compromissore, Ant, is nothing but a ‘cunning clerk’ (a lawyer, according to some interpretations), suspected by Spider himself of being ‘opened to bribery’ – (‘… But promise formerly,/Of known reward at end, to flee the ill/Of suspect bribery’) – while the less witty Butterfly obeys his nephew’s instructions and is fully committed to protect his relative’s rights.

In you to me, in case of comprimise,
For whiche: againste the ant that cunning clarke,
Mine arbiter: I did you here deuise.
To holde your holde: in blunte assured wise.
Either this matter wholly to recouer,
Or saue (at leaste) my side from geuing ouer.



Under these circumstances it is rather unsurprising that the compromise sought by both parties is meant to fail. Despite prolonged attempts, several witnesses and debates, the compromise ends in a stalemate. War erupts, and five thousands flies and five hundred spiders die as a result. In the end, the Maid of the House arrives, frees Buz, destroys most of the webs and, deaf to the Spider’s pleas, crushes him. For us, though, it is a very significant failure for it marks the moment of transition from classic to modern compromise and one can start to see why, by the 16th century England, it started to be assimilated as a central political practice. All the necessary ingredients were already present.

Unable to reach an agreement, the two parties do not agree upon a common compromissore (as in the classic compromise as arbitratio) whose authority is acknowledged as such by both, but instead (as in compromise as electio) each selects its own ‘representative’. One faces a situation where it is difficult, if not impossible altogether, to have a clear ‘winner’. In terms of power, the spiders are stronger, yet the flies have the upper hand in terms of numbers. In terms of justice, each side makes futile appeals to ‘customary laws’. Last but not least, it appears evident that the only alternative to compromise remains violence, open civil war, with staggering losses on both sides. For once, peace and justice are restored thanks to the last minute intervention of The Maid who also devises the punishment. But what would have happened if the King (or the Queen) had lacked the authority to solve such irreconcilable disputes?

A possible answer comes from Thesaurus linguae Romanae & Britannicae (1578) which seems to indicate that by the late sixteenth century England the authority of the compromissores was already ‘provided’ through and by the agreement of the parties and did not pre-exist the actual compromise: ‘Compromissum, compromissi. The authoritie graunted the arbiter by consent of the parties: compremisse’.

During the sixteenth through seventeenth century, all English writers whenever they did not translate use compromise with the sense of ‘arbitration’, ‘making a deal’, bargain, or election, meant primarily to avoid open violence. He who compromises is a ‘peace-maker’:…A peace-maker hee was to compromise, and to end vnchristian controuersies….’.[lviii] No wonder than if even Christ appears willing to compromise various ‘interests’. For example, in 1676, one could read expression such as ‘All these things does the Lord Christ alone compromise, adjust all these Accounts, and reconcile these Intrests’.[lix]  Compromise appears not just ‘fair’, but also ‘desirable’ or even a ‘virtue’.[lx] The examples are too numerous to be presented here.

One has to keep in mind, however, that such a praise of compromise did not exclude the awareness about the negative connotations of the term. This come at little surprise considering that 16th century marks a significant increase in the intellectual exchange between France and England.[lxi] Whenever translations occurred from French into English, one can find the ‘continental’ sense of compromise intact. A translation from French in 1615, for example, mentions, ‘it was not thought conuenient, that the Patriarch should with his person put the reputation of the Holie See to compromise’.[lxii]

Yet such awareness is not reflected in the English dictionaries of the time.[lxiii] It is a striking difference in the understanding what compromise stands for in the first French and English dictionaries respectively. Unlike French dictionaries of 1680 and 1690, their English counterparts – Philips Edward (1658), Thomas Blount (1670) – make no reference to this sense. One has to wait until the 18th century, when the sixth edition of The New World of Words: or, universal English dictionary (1706) mentions that, in a figurative sense, compromise may signify ‘to put to hazard of being censured, as It behaved not to compromise his Honour and Reputation’. That this was not a common English usage is proved by the fact that a few years later (1719) the second edition of Glossographia Anglicana Nova makes no reference to this figurative sense (‘Compromise – in Law, is a Promise of two or more Parties at Difference, to refer the Deciding their Controversies to the Arbitrement of one or more Arbitrators’.)

Such a strange and long lasting discrepancy between England and France in a period of increasing cultural exchanges begs for an explanation. Why was the English individualism on a different path compared with its French counterpart?


3. The Common Weal of Individuals


There is only one conceivable situation when everyone is willing to compromise wholehearted with anyone – once one agrees in principle that all individuals are equally worthy (or unworthy) as far as the law is concerned. As we have seen, compromise requires at least some sort of equality between the parts involved and thanks to the Magna Carta England enjoyed an early start in the movement toward equality compared to the rest of the continent. The famous chapter 29 (cap. 39 in the 1215 version) stated that no free man is to be imprisoned, dispossessed, outlawed, exiled or damaged without lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land. The statement was devised mainly in the interest of the aristocracy and the ‘free men’ as a class formed but a small proportion of the population of thirteenth century England. Yet the opportunity did not get wasted. The words ‘no free man’ were so altered that they became socially inclusive. In the earlier statutes of Edward III of 1331 and 1352 they became simply ‘no man’, and in 1354 ‘no free man’ became ‘no man of whatever estate or condition he may be’.[lxiv]

This was a huge leap forward in terms of individuals’ equality and it remained an important reference and source of precedents all the way through the seventeenth century despite all vicissitudes translated into royal oppositions or the increasing appeal of concepts such as natural law and natural rights that had less need for reference to precedents. By sixteenth century these men equal before the law ‘whatever their estates or conditions’ formed a particular form of respublica – they formed a commonwealth. The name can be misleading as seemingly emphasizing the ‘community’, the unity of the political body, at the expense of individuals – and some people found the translation worrisome precisely for this reason. In 1513, in The Boke named the Governour, Sir Thomas Elyot opposed the translation of respublica as commonwealth because it implied ‘that everything should be to all men in common, without discrepance of any estate or condition  … [A] ll men must be of one degree and one sort” (he preferred the expression ‘public weal’).[lxv]

It was a misplaced worry. If Englishmen were equally free, as Sir Thomas Smith emphasized by 1565 (‘a multitude of free men … united by common accord and covenants among themselves’), this did not preclude the divisions of the commonwealth between ‘gentlemen’ (king, nobles, knights, squires), ‘citizens’ (elected town burgesses, backbenchers in Parliament), ‘yeomen’ (the forty-shillings freeholders, not ‘medd[ling] in publike matters and judgments but when they are called, and gladde when they are delivered thereof”) and ‘laborers’. This last yet most numerous category in England, ‘the fourth sort of men which doe not rule’, comprised ‘day labourers, poore husbandmen, yea merchants or retailers which have no free lande, copyholders, and all artificers’. But even this category filled some positions, as churchwardens, constables – an office ‘that toucheth more the common wealth’ – or as members of juries.[lxvi] To his merit, Smith does not see these categories as immutable – quite the contrary: ‘For the nature of man is never to stand still in one maner of estate, but to grow from the lesse to the more, and decay from the more againe to the lesse, till it come to the fatall end and destruction’.[lxvii] Later, Tocqueville would make a similar observation:

I have always been astonished that a fact, which distinguished England from all modern nations and which alone explain the peculiarities of its laws, its spirit, and its history… and that habit has finally made it as it were invisible to the English themselves. … England was the only country in which the system of caste had not been changed but effectively destroyed. The nobles and the middle classes in England followed together the same courses of businesses, entered the same professions, and what is much more significant, inter-married…[lxviii]


Such social mobility could not but reinforce the corporation-free and equalitarian self-perception of the Englishmen. This was no longer an organic vision based upon ‘natural growth’, but an artificial creation, resting on the body parties’ wills. It was like suddenly, heart, brain and stomach decided to come together in order to ‘make’ a being from scratch. The result is a strange and unusual body, to say the least. In talking about the Leviathan or the Commonwealth as an artificial man made by the wills of the parts Hobbes would only express directly what was an already existing yet unformulated apprehension of government.

The centrality of individuals for British political life is even more obvious in what Sir Smith defines as being ‘the most high and absolute power of the realme of Englande’, i.e. the Parliament.[lxix] He has a specification that is nowhere to be found in the French documents of the time regarding political representation: ‘[E]verie Englishman is entended to be there present, either in person or by procuration and attornies … And the consent of the Parliament is taken to be every man’s consent’.[lxx] In 1593, Richard Hooker also points out that consent ‘not only they give who personally declare their assent by voice, sign, or act, but also when others do it in their names by right originally at the least derived from them’.[lxxi] The transfer of authority from each individual to his representative was complete. Yet this contractual society was more than a mere theory. By the sixteenth century England the practice of the oath of associations or national covenants became a widespread one and involved actual swearing.

Successive Tudor monarchs resort with increasing frequency to nationally subscribed oaths as meaning of testing the religious and political loyalties of their subjects. This process in turn prompted forces opposed to the Tudors’ assumption of ecclesiastical supremacy to develop their own counter-oaths. By the end of the sixteenth century, England had turned into a nation in which mass oath taking was an almost customary part of political life and in which even the lowliest members of society were aware of the penalties for swearing falsely.[lxxii]


The trend continued through the seventeenth century with oath, vows, and covenants, culminating with the proposed Levellers’ Agreements of the People, which were to be signed by every single Englishman. Although the initiative was never realized it is indicative of the English tendency to take such individual delegation of rights as seriously and formalized as possible. During the seventeenth century, the Royalists themselves contributed to the dismissal of the idea of ‘the whole people’ being represented, ‘for the people, to speak truly and properly, is a thing or body in continually alteration and change, it never continues one minute the same, being composed of a multitude of parts, whereof divers continually decay and perish, and others renew and succeeded their places’.[lxxiii]

What before was a representation of the entire populus, or at least of a significant part of it – baronagium, shires, communes, etc – as a whole, becomes now a representation (abstract, to be sure) of every single subject. And from representing individuals to deriving authority from them, is but a short step.[lxxiv] Once one took seriously the idea that individuals delegated whatever powers they possessed to the Parliament, it followed that they could also revoke them. In1648, a group of ‘gentlemen and Freeholders’ from a dozen counties, eight cities and fifty-two boroughs did precisely that. They ‘addressed their representatives by name, repudiated their actions, and declared that they did “revoke and resume all that trust, power and authority we formerly delegated and committed to them”’.[lxxv]

If at the foundation of England political regime was some form of social contract between individuals – as by the 17th century most Englishmen came to believe – than this social contract was nothing else but a generalized compromise, as one contemporary of Locke, Gilbert Burnet, makes clear. An Inquiry into the Measures of Submission to the Supreme Authority was published in 1688 – a year before Locke published his Two Treaties.[lxxvi] As Hobbes before him, Burnet asserts that, ‘with Relation to the Law of Nature, all Men are born free: and this Liberty must still be supposed entire, unless so far as it is limited by Contracts, Provisions and Laws’.[lxxvii] For both Hobbes and Burnet the instinct of survival is ‘a Natural Principle of the Love of Life, and of a desire to preserve it’. The ‘smoking-gun’, however, is to be found in Burnet’s vision about the emergence of government, not through ‘contract’, but through … compromise. Compare Hobbes and Burnet views on this matter:

(Hobbes): A commonwealth is said to be instituted, when a multitude of men do agree, and covenant, every one with everyone, that to whatsoever man, or assembly of men, shall be given by the major part, the right to present the person of them all, that is to say, to be their representative; every one … shall authorize all the actions and judgments, of that man, or assembly of men, in the same manner, as if they were his own.[lxxviii]


(Burnet):  The true and Original Notion of Civil Society and Government, is, that it is a Compromise made by such a Body of Men, by which they resign up the Right of demanding Reparations, either in the way of Justice against one another, or in the way of War, against their Neighbours; to such a single Person, or to such a Body of Men as they think fit to trust with this.[lxxix]


The ‘new’ compromise was no longer between two parties, but between all the individuals entering the covenant. In the classical understanding of compromise, the ‘compromissore’, i.e., the arbitrator, had already an authority recognized by the parts involved, while here the authority was the result of the covenant. Unable to reach an agreement about ‘the good’ (i.e., a positive solution), not only two parties but everyone agreed upon an arbiter – any arbiter – for this is the only logical, albeit negative, solution to the perpetual war. The eventual qualities of this ‘new arbitrator’, the ‘sovereign’ were not essential, as Hobbes makes it clear repeatedly. In extremis, election by lot could have chosen the sovereign. What was essential was that once agreed upon, he became the above-all arbitrator.  Thus, the impossibility of punctual agreements led paradoxically to a generalized covenant. The requirement of the classic compromise – i.e., that the parties are at least of equal trustworthiness – is fulfilled in Hobbes with a twist: if all men are equally trustworthy it is because they are equally untrustworthy. Furthermore, if the classic compromise was a method of last resort to be used in precisely circumscribed instances, the modern one became the very foundation of any political life. The sovereign – being it the King or the Parliament – arbitrates everything. As representatives, politicians are therefore called to mediate various conflicts of interests. They are, so to speak, professional compromisers for the sake of the represented.

Thanks to this peculiar understanding of representation, the three preconditions for a successful compromise were finally met at a large scale, unconceivable before: 1) the authority of the arbitrator, i.e., the sovereign was acknowledged by all parties – only this time it did not pre-exist the compromise but instead was the result of being empowered with the authority of each individual; 2) the willingness to submit oneself to the judgment of the sovereign was the very keystone of this consensual transfer of authority; 3) all the parties involved in this new compromise were, by nature, equal. Finally, politics became ‘the art of compromise’.

Much later, in the twentieth century, T.V. Smith will push this conclusion to its logical consequence:

Arrangement of compromise like many other good practice, belongs today to specialists. We have such specialists, the politicians. Let these moral middlemen do this dirty work for you. They are paid to do it, and trained to do it.[lxxx]



5. Conclusions


I have tried to show how the differences in the usages of compromise across the English Channel during the 16th and 17th centuries help us understand much deeper differences in the assumptions made about the relationships between individuals and political representation. On the one hand, in the absolutist France, the French individual could not but retire in his private sphere, emphasizing his own distinctiveness. Hence, the generalized suspicion about compromise that went hand in hand with the French focus on virtue and its public reward, honor. As a consequence, political representation remained, for a longer period of time, understood in its classical sense, with a top-down directionality. The idea of individuals being represented – and, in this very process, delegating their authority to a ‘specialized’ class of politicians – did not get a hold in early modern France. After all, as J. Peter Euben remarks: ‘If politics is a partnership in virtue, how could I designate someone to be virtuous for me?’[lxxxi] Virtue ought not be compromised, for it ought not be arbitrated – by its nature, it ‘may be developed, but cannot be distributed’.[lxxxii] Later on, Rousseau (who also consistently uses compromise with a negative connotation) would assert that ‘sovereignty cannot be represented’ and mock the English people who ‘believes itself to be free’, while ‘it is free only during the election of the members of Parliament. Once they are elected, the populace is enslaved; it is nothing’.[lxxxiii] It is precisely in this refuse to accept the delegation of rights as the basis of individual representation that we have to look in order to understand both the emphasis on direct democracy and the bloody excesses that characterized the French Revolution.

On the other hand, in England, a different kind of individualism developed much sooner – an individualism that in turn helped creating a new, bottom-up, understanding of representation. The Englishman was the first one in Europe to enjoy political representation. Since, for the first time, there was no undisputable authority coming from ‘above’, it had to be created through the consent of individuals.  Thus, there was no danger involved in compromise – quite the contrary. Since no positive solution was conceivable, for everyone was equally entitled to his own definition of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, the negative solution of compromise became a public practice. But this political entitlement of the individual came with a downside. If individuals create political societies by handing out their rights and authority to their representatives it follows that the political role of the individual is drastically restricted to the right of (eventually) changing his representatives in cases of a breach in trust – but nothing more. Richard Tuck, for example, bluntly emphasizes ‘the extent to which individuals were invested with rights that they might surrender them absolutely to the sovereign’.[lxxxiv]  

It was the time when – as Pocock observes – in England the ‘vocabulary of virtues’ made more and more room for the ‘vocabulary of rights’, the language of liberalism. By giving away his rights, the individual became the source of king or/and parliament’s authority, and yet ‘sovereignty was extra-civic, and the citizen came to be defined not by his actions and virtues, but by rights to and in things’. Under these circumstances, his liberty was essentially a negative one – to be protected as a person and as a proprietor by the sovereign. Or virtue, which requires ‘active self-rule’, ‘cannot be reduced to matter of right’.[lxxxv]

In time, however, these differences between the British and the French modes of thought started to fade, and the liberal understanding of individual representation got a firm grip on both sides of the Channel as it did across the Atlantic. The assumption of individuals delegating their authority to their representatives became a common assumption. And yet, in recent years, in the context of an increased dissatisfaction with representative democracy and the formalized political sphere, this very assumption came under scrutiny from a variety of perspectives. Castiglione and Warrren, for example, point out that ‘…from the perspective of those who are represented, what is represented are not persons as such, but some of the interests, identities, and values that persons have or hold’.[lxxxvi] The whole person cannot be represented because what is called ‘the multiple self” cannot be reduced to only one instrumental form of rationality. Dryzek and Niemeyer propose as a solution ‘representing discourses not selves’ as a way to enhance democratic deliberation.[lxxxvii] Representatives are then to be apprehended as no longer ‘my’ representatives but as representatives of different types of discourse I believe in (liberal, social-democrat, and the like). As such, these representatives are not accountable to ‘me’, qua individual, but to the ideas and ideals they have promised to uphold while I, qua person, maintain intact the right and the responsibility to directly participate in the ongoing debate.

In the light of this essay, these approaches appear as nothing else but attempts to reframe the nature of political representation by switching once more its directionality. As one can see, the story of compromise in politics is far from over.








[i] Rintala, Marvin , ‘The Two Faces of Compromise’, The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 2, p. 326 (1969).

[ii] Kuflik, Arthur , ‘Morality and Compromise’, Compromise in Ethics, Law, and Politics, ed. J. Roland Pennock and John W. Chapman, (1979) NY: New York University Press, p. 41.

[iii] Ball, Terence, James Farr and Russel L. Hanson, eds. Political Innovation and Conceptual Change, (1989) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. ix.

[iv] Books: Morley, John, On Compromise, (1906 [1886]) London: Macmillan and Co.; Smith, T. V., The Ethics of Compromise and The Art of Containment, (1956)  Boston: Starr King Press; MacIver, R.M., ed. Integrity and Compromise: Problems of Public and Private Conscience, (1957) NY: Published by The Institute for Religious and Social Studies, Distributed by Harper & Brothers; Pennock, J. Rolland and John W. Chapman, eds., Compromise in , Ethics, Law, and Politics, (1979)  NY: New York University Press; Seltser, Barry Jay, The Principles and Practice of Political Compromise: A Case Study of the United State Senate, (1984)  Studies in American Religion, Volume 12, NY and Toronto: The Edwin Mellen Press; Benjamin, Martin, Splitting the Difference: Compromise and Integrity in Ethics and Politics, (1990)  Kansas: University Press of Kansas; Dobel, Patrick J., Compromise and Political Action, (1990) Savage, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers; Bellamy, Richard, Liberalism and Pluralism: Towards a politics of compromise, (1999)  London and New York: Routledge. Articles: Smith, T.V., ‘Compromise: Its context and Limits’, Ethics – An International Journal of Social, Political, and Legal Philosophy, Vol. LIII, No. 1 (1942); Hallowell, John H., ‘Compromise as Political Ideal’, Ethics, Vol. 54, No. 3 (1944); Martin, Oliver, ‘Beyond Compromise’, Ethics, Vol. 58, No. 2 (1948); Livingston, John, ‘Liberalism, Conservatism, and the Role of Reason’, The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp. 641-657 (1956); Rintala, Marvin, ‘The Two Faces of Compromise’, The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 2 (1969); Devine, Francis Edward, ‘Hobbes: The Theoretical Basis of Political Compromise’, Polity, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 57-76 (1972); Ankersmit, Frank R, ‘Representational Democracy: An Aesthetic Approach to Conflict and Compromise’, Common Knowledge 8:1, pp. 24-46 (2002).

[v] Sir Thomas Smith, De Republica Anglorum. A Discourse on the Commonwealth of England, ed. L. Aston (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1906), 20 – quoted in Zaller, Robert, The Discourse of Legitimacy in Early Modern England  (Standford: Stanford University Press, 2007, 225).

[vi] See for example William Farr Church, Constitutional Thought in Sixteenth France: A Study in the Evolution of Ideas (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1941) or Ellen Meiskins Wood and Neal Wood, A Trumpet of Sedition: Political Theory and the Rise of Capitalism, 1509-1688 (New York: New York University Press, 1997), 48-50.

[vii] See for example Edward Wallace, Revolutionary England and the National Covenant: State Oaths, Protestantism and the Political Nation, 1553-1682, The University Press, Cambridge, 2005.

[viii] Lloyd Howell A., The State, France and the Sixteenth Century, London: George Allen & Unwin (1983: 153). One can see why up until now it has been generally assumed that the ascending theory of representation spread much sooner all over Europe. The ambiguity of the term ‘people’ was present even during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as it is today. Not only could it signify a multitude as well as a whole but also it could have been used to designate either a conceptualized community (populus) or the lowest, uneducated and undisciplined part of society (plebs). See Hubert Carrier, Le labyrinthe de l’état: Essai sur le débat politique en France au temps de la Fronde (1648-1653), Paris Honore Champion Editeur, 2004: 121-122

[ix] See Howell A. Lloyd, The State, France and the Sixteenth Century, London: George Allen & Unwin (1983: 20-23)

[x] Macfarlane, Alan, The Origins of Individualism: The Family, Property, and Social Transition, Cambridge University Press: NY (1979), 5. Sir F. Pollack and F.W. Maitland, History of English Law before the time of Edward I (2nd edn., Cambridge, 1968) 2 vol.

[xi] Macfarlane, Alan, The Origins of Individualism: The Family, Property, and Social Transition, Cambridge University Press: NY (1979, 5).

[xii] Pocock, J.G.A., Virtue, Commerce and History – Essays on Political Thought and History, Chiefly in the Eighteenth Century, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, (1985, 49)

[xiii] Stein, Peter “Review of Ricerche in Tema di ‘Compromissum’ by Mario Talamanca”, The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 51, Parts 1 and 2, (1961: 247).

[xiv] See H. Haarurer , S.M.E. Van Lith Corpus Papyrorum Raineri, Band VI, III, (Vienna: Verlag Bruder Hollinek, 1978).

[xv] Christine, de Pisan (ca. 1364 – ca. 1431), Le Livre du chemin de lonc estude (Ed. Andrea Tarnowski, Librairie Generale Francaise, Le Livre de Poche Lettres gothiques, 2000) – quoted in “The Project for American and French Research on the Treasury of the Frecnh Language (ARTFL)” – http://humanities.uchicago.edu/orgs/ARTFL/

[xvi] It is no accident if ‘arbitrage’ and ‘arbitrary’ share a common etymology.

[xvii] Coquille, Guy, Questions and reponses sur le coutume de France, (1611: 125, col. I). The book was published after his death, and was written sometime between 1685 and 1695. Des le commencement le peuple a établi les Rois comme par voie de compromise, pour éviter la confusion qui seroit, si en chacune affaire d’importance il fallout rechercher l’avis de tous pour délibérer et conclure. … Nos prédécesseurs François a ce premier établissement n’ont pas transféré aux Rois indistinctement et incommutablement tout pouvoir: dont nous appercevons aujourd’hui quelque ombre demeurée de reste, qui est de l’assemblée des Etats: avec lesquels de tout temps les Rois avoient accoutumé  de délibérer es affaires, étans de l’essence de la Couronne.

[xviii] Mareschal, André, fl. 1631-1646. [1627], La chrysolite (Paris, A. de Sommaville, 1634, 127.)

[xix] Michel de Pure, abbé, 1634-1680. [1656], La Prétieuse (Éd. Émile Magne (Paris: Librarie E. Droz, 1938, 68))

[xx] Corneille, Pierre (1961) Theatre choisi de Corneille, Paris: Editions Garnier Freres, “Avertissment”, Le Cid, p. 8. Interestingly, Racine, the younger contester of Corneille, which replaced the tragedy heroic with the tragedy ‘gallante’, never uses the word ‘compromise’ in his oeuvre.

[xxi] Molière, 1622-1673. [1663], Le dépit amoureux: comédie répresentée sur le théâtre du Palais Royal (In Oeuvres completes, Ed. E. Despois. Paris, Hachette, 1873, 512.)

[xxii] Keohane, Nannerl O., Philosophy and the State in France: The Renaissance to the Enlightenment, (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1980).

[xxiii] See, for example, Walter Ullmann, The Individual and Society in the Middle Ages, (Baltimore, Maryland: The John Hopkins Press, 1966), most of the authors from The Individual in Political Theory and Practice, ed. Janet Coleman, (European Science Foundation: Clarendon Press, 1996), or the ones in L’Individu au Moyen Age, sous la direction de Brigitte Miriam Bedos-Razak et Dominique Iogna-Prat, (Aubier: Editions Flammarion, 2005).

[xxiv] See for example Howell A. Lloyd, The State, France and the Sixteenth Century, London: George Allen & Unwin (1983: 20-23)

[xxv] For a more detailed account of this ‘dialectic’ see for example L’Individu au Moyen Age, sous la direction de Brigitte Miriam Bedos-Razak et Dominique Iogna-Prat, (Aubier: Editions Flammarion, 2005).

[xxvi] Keohane, Nannerl O., Philosophy and the State in France: The Renaissance to the Enlightenment, Princeton, Princeton University Press, (1980, 83).

[xxvii] Montaingne, III, I (603), quoted in Keohane, Philosophy and the State in France: The Renaissance to the Enlightenment: (1980: 110).

[xxviii] Montaigne, III, 9 (766). See also I, 3 (8) and III, 12 (799). Quoted in Keohane, Philosophy and the State in France: The Renaissance to the Enlightenment: (1990: 100).

[xxix] Comparato, Vittor Ivo, ‘A Case of Modern Individualism’ (1996: 104).

[xxx] Montaigne, Essays, Book I, Chapter V, On Conscience.

[xxxi] Comaparato, ‘A Case of Modern Individualism’ (1996: 161).

[xxxii] Charron’s La sagesse was reissued dozens of times between 1601 and 1672.

[xxxiii] The Complete Works of Montaigne: Essays, Travel Journal, Letters, translated by Donald M. Frame, (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1957); “J’aide ordinairement  aux présomptions injurieuses que la fortune sème contre moi, par une façon que j’ai des toujours, de fuir a me  justifier, excuser et interpréter, estimant que c’est mettre ma conscience en compromise, de plaider pour elle”, Essais de Michel de Montaigne, Presentation, etablissement du texte, aparat critique et notes par Andre Tournon, Livre III, Imprimerie Nationale, p. 395.

[xxxiv] Charron, Pierre (1541-1603), De la sagesse; Trois livres, p. 26. Aux faulses accusations et mauvais soupcons qui courent et se font hors justice, il se trouve double finesse. L’ une, qui est aux interessez, accusez et soupçonnez, c’est de se justifier et excuser trop facilement, soigneusement, et quasi ambitieusement. (…). C’ est trahir son innocence, mettre sa conscience et son droict en compromis et en arbitrage, que de plaider ainsi : (…). Socrates en justice mesme ne le voulust faire ny par soy ny par autruy, refusant d’ employer le beau plaider du grand Lysias, et ayma mieux mourir.

[xxxv] The following paragraphs are based mainly on Josep M. Colomer and Iain McLean, ‘Electing Popes: Approval Balloting and Qualified Majority Rule’, Journal of Interdiciplinary History, Vol. 29, No. 1, (1998): 1-22 and Alexander Murray’s review of Wahlen and Wahlen in Mittelalter by Reihnard Schneider; Harald Zimmermann in The English Historical Review, Vol. 107, No. 425 (Oct. 1992): 956-58.

[xxxvi] Colomer & McLean, ‘Electing Popes’, 3. The council of Antioch forbade the practice of bishops choosing their successors in 341.

[xxxvii] In this context, it is worth noticing that the same Council imposed the private confession as a general rule, reinforcing thus the ethical personalism already manifested by the twelfth century elevation of marriage to a Church sacrament recognized as such only by the explicit consent of both parties, in words, and before witnesses. In the same spirit, in 1245, Pope Inoccent IV breaks the tradition of collective excommunication – the individual responsibility is, from now on, undisputable inside the Catholic Church. For details, see Colomer, ‘Electing Popes’, and Bedos-Rezak, L’Individu au Moyen Age

[xxxviii] Colomer & McLean, ‘Electing Popes’, 6.

[xxxix] Murray, ‘Wahlen and Wahlen’, 957.

[xl] The distinction between representation and authority is largely discussed in Pitkin, The Concept of Representation, 38-59.

[xli] Allen, J. W., A History of Political Thought in the Sixteenth Century, London: Methuen & Co. Ltd. (1957: 325)

[xlii] Hotman, Francois, Franco-Gallia, French of 1574, Chap 1, p. 12,

[xliii] Dodge, Guy Howard, The Political Theory of the Huguenots of the Dispersion – With Special Reference to the Thought and Influence of Pierre Jurieu, New York: Octagon Books (1972, 63)

[xliv] La Janséniste convaincu (1682, 310), quoted in Guy Howard Dodge, The Political Theory of the Huguenots of the Dispersion (1972, 70)

[xlv] Traite de l’unité de l’Eglise (1688, 486) – quoted in Guy Howard Dodge, The Political Theory of the Huguenots of the Dispersion (1972, 70)

[xlvi] Bayle, Pierre, 1647-1706. [1686], Commentaire philosophique sur ces paroles de Jésus-Christ (In Oeuvres Diverses, T.2. la Haye, P. Husson, 1727, 440.)

[xlvii] Quoted in Guy Howard Dodge, The Political Theory of the Huguenots of the Dispersion (1972, 43)

[xlviii] Avis important aux refugiés sur leur prochain retour en France, donné pour étrennes a l’un deux en 1690, 119.

[xlix] See Hubert Carrier, Le labyrinthe de l’état: Essai sur le débat politique en France au temps de la Fronde (1648-1653), Paris Honore Champion Editeur, (2004: 93-133)

[l] “…cette dangereuse liberté qui se rencontre parmi le people, non seulement de mal interpréter les actions et la conduite des chefs, mais encore de les exposer et les mettre en compromise quand bon leur sembleQuoted in Hubert Carrier, Le labyrinthe de l’état: Essai sur le débat politique en France au temps de la Fronde (1648-1653), Paris Honore Champion Editeur, (2004: 132)

[li] Autre chose est quand tout le peuple, par un mouvement et par un intérêt commun, se soulève contre l’oppression; car alors ce n’est plus une rébellion et une désobéissance. Text from 1652, quoted in Hubert Carrier, Le labyrinthe de l’état: Essai sur le débat politique en France au temps de la Fronde (1648-1653), Paris Honore Champion Editeur, (2004: 215)

[lii] Sa Majesté ayant retire de ce Parlement l’autorité qu’il lui avait communiqué n’a pas entendu que la société des homes retournât dans son premier chaos et dans l’horreur de ces brutales et inciviles façons des premier homes; mais, nous ayant défendu de lui obéir, il a laisse son people dans le droit naturel de se rendre justice, dans sa franchise et dans ses privilèges. Apologie pour Ormée, in the Municipal Library of Bordeaux, H 2856, 35 – quoted in Hubert Carrier, Le labyrinthe de l’état: Essai sur le débat politique en France au temps de la Fronde (1648-1653), Paris Honore Champion Editeur, (2004: 148)

[liii] (c1450) Capgr.St.Aug. (Add 36704) :: John Capgrave’s Lives of St. Augustine and St. Gilbert of Sempringham … , ed. J. J. Munro, EETS 140 (1910; reprint 1987).

[liv] c1460 Oseney Reg. :: The English Register of Oseney Abbey, by Oxford, ed. A. Clark, EETS 133, 144 (1907, 1913; reprint as one vol. 1971).

[lv] c1613(v.d.) Plumpton Let. :: Plumpton Correspondence, ed. T. Stapleton, Camd. 4 (1839).

[lvi] Arnold, Richard, In this booke is conteyned the names of ye baylifs custos mairs and sherefs of the cite of londo[n] from the tyme of king richard the furst …” , 1503 (British Library).

[lvii] See, for example, Robert Bolwell, The Life and Works of John Heywood (New York: Columbia University Press, 1921); Robert Carl Johnson, John Heywood (New York: Twayne, 1970); Ian Maxwell, French Farce and John Heywood (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1946); Lois Potter, ‘The Plays and the Playwrights’, in The Revels History of Drama in English, gen. ed. Clifford Leech and T. W. Craik, 8 vols. (London: Methuen, 1975-83), 2:167-72; F. P. Wilson, The English Drama, 1485-1585 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968), 27-32. For an updated list of references on Heywood, see James Holstun, ‘The Spider, The Fly, and the Commonwealth: Merrie John Heywood and Agrarian Class Struggle’, ELH, (Baltimore: Spring 2004), Vol. 71, Issue 1, p. 53.

[lviii] Bowle, John, d. 1637.  A sermon preached at Flitton in the countie of Bedford at the funerall of the Right Honourable Henrie Earle of Kent, the sixteenth of March 1614. By I.B. D.D.  1615.

[lix] Alsop, Vincent, 1629 or 30-1703. Anti-sozzo, sive, Sherlocismus enervatus in vindication of some great truths opposed, and opposition to some great errors maintained by Mr. William Sherlock. (1676)

[lx] For ‘fair compromise’ see Bacon, Nathaniel, 1593-1660.  An historical and political discourse of the laws & government of England from the first times to the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth : with a vindication of the ancient way of parliaments in England : collected from some manuscript notes of John Selden, Esq. / by Nathaniel Bacon …, Esquire.  1689; for ‘desired compromise’ see Baker, Richard, Sir, 1568-1645.  A chronicle of the Kings of England, from the time of the Romans goverment [sic] unto the raigne of our soveraigne lord, King Charles containing all passages of state or church, with all other observations proper for a chronicle / faithfully collected out of authours ancient and moderne, & digested into a new method ; by Sr. R. Baker, Knight.  1643

[lxi] For a survey of these relations see, for example, Richardson, Glenn John, ‘England and France in the Sixteenth Century’, History Compass 6/2 (2008).

[lxii] Avity, Pierre d’, sieur de Montmartin, 1573-1635, The estates, empires, & principallities of the world Represented by ye description of countries, maners of inhabitants, riches of prouinces, forces, gouernment, religion; and the princes that haue gouerned in euery estate. With the begin[n]ing of all militarie and religious orders. Translated out of French by Edw: Grimstone, sargeant at armes.  1615

[lxiii] Such translations aside, the Oxford English Dictionary mentions as the first negative usages of compromise 1696, Phillips s.v.: “It behov’d him not to Compromise his Honour and his Reputation.”

[lxiv] Holt, J.C., Magna Carta, second edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, 10).

[lxv] Sir Thomas Elyot, The Book Named the Governor, ed. S.E. Lemberg (London, 1962, 1-2), quoted in Glenn Burgess, “England and Scotland”, Lloyd, Howell A., Glenn Burgess, Simon Hodson (eds.), European Political Thought, 1450-1700: Religion, Law, and Philosophy (New Haven and London, 2007, 336).

[lxvi] Sir Thomas Smith, De Republica Anglorum. A Discourse on the Commonwealth of England, ed. L. Aston (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1906), 31-46

[lxvii] Sir Thomas Smith, De Republica Anglorum. A Discourse on the Commonwealth of England, ed. L. Aston (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1906), 12-13

[lxviii] Tocqueville, Alexis de, L’Ancien Regime, trans. M.W. Patterson, Oxford, 1956: 89-90

[lxix] Sir Thomas Smith, De Republica Anglorum. A Discourse on the Commonwealth of England, ed. L. Aston (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1906), 48

[lxx] Quoted in Pitkin, The Concept of Representation, 246.

[lxxi] Hooker, Richard, The Law of Ecclesiastical Polity, Everyman Library, London (1965: 194)

[lxxii] Vallance, Edward, Revolutionary England and the National Covenant: State Oaths, Protestantism and the Political Nation, 1553-1682, Rochester, The Boydell Press (2005: 17). See also Michael Davis, Actual Social Contract and Political Obligation: A philosopher’s History Through Locke, Studies in the History of Philosophy, Vol. 69, Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2003.

[lxxiii] Dudley Digges, A Review of the Observations upon some of his Majeties late Answers and Expresses (Oxford, 1643), 4, quoted in Morgan, Inventing the People (1988, 61)

[lxxiv] Morgan makes a similar observation in Inventing the People p. 48. And yet, by overlooking the essential difference between representing ‘the people’ and representing ‘each and every single individual’ he formulates it differently: ‘But it was only a short step from representing the whole people to deriving authority from them’. The coupling of ‘the whole’ with ‘them’ instead of ‘it’ is a proof of this endurable confusion.

[lxxv] A Remonstrance and Declaration of Several Counties, Cities and Burroughs (London, 1648), 8 – quoted in Morgan, Inventing the People, p. 63.

[lxxvi] So far I was unable to determine if any of the two had access to the writings of the other one (Locke wrote The Two Treatises several years before their publication), yet the similarities between the two remain impressive.

[lxxvii] The following quotations are all from Burnet, Gilbert, AN ENQUIRY Into the Measures of SUBMISSION TO THE SUPREAM AUTHORITY: And of the Grounds upon which it may be lawful or necessary for Subjects to defend their Religion, Lives, and Liberties” in .A collection of papers relating to the present juncture of affairs in England (1688).

[lxxviii] Hobbes, Thomas, English Works, Sir William Molesworth (ed.), London: Longmans, Browns, Green and Longmans, III, [1839-1845]: 159-60 .

[lxxix] Burnet, Gilbert,  “AN ENQUIRY …

[lxxx] Smith, ‘Compromise: Its context and Limits’, 13.

[lxxxi] Euben, Peter J , ‘Corruption’ in Political Innovation and Conceptual Change, (1989), p. 227.

[lxxxii] Pocock, J.G.A., Virtue, Commerce and History – Essays on Political Thought and History, Chiefly in the Eighteenth Century, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, (1985, 43)

[lxxxiii] Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, On The Social Contract, Bk. III, Ch. 15, (1762) [2005].

[lxxxiv] Tuck, Richard, Natural Rights Theories: Their Origins and Development, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1980), mentioned also in Pocock, Virtue, Commerce and History, 45.

[lxxxv] Pocock, J.G.A., Virtue, Commerce and History – Essays on Political Thought and History, Chiefly in the Eighteenth Century, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), especially the chapter “Virtues, Rights, and Manners”.

[lxxxvi] Castiglione, Dario, and Mark E. Warren, ‘Rethinking Representation: Eight Theoretical Issues’, presented at the Conference on Rethinking Democratic Representation, University of British Columbia, Vancouver (2006:13), quoted in John Dryzek and Simon Niemeyer, ‘Discursive Representation’, American Political Science Review, Vol. 102, No. 4, November, 2008, 483.

[lxxxvii] Dryzek, John and Simon Niemeyer, ‘Discursive Representation’, American Political Science Review, Vol. 102, No. 4, November, 2008, 481-493.


5 Responses to “…o postare nemaivazuta si nemaiuzita!:)”

  1. 1 Marius Delaepicentru

    Cînd ai zis nemaiauzită, m-am gîndit că voi fi scutit de stat cu ochii-n ecran. Dar văd că e doar neauzită. N-ai un audiobook? 🙂

  2. 2 fumurescu

    marius – nu inca:)

  3. 3 Cris

    Bei, scoate postarea nemaivazuta sau fa ca in pagina principala sa apara doar cateva randuri, ca iti ucizi blogul! :-)))))) (vezi ca e o optiune pe la setari)
    Si cum nu ai vazut posturi „stiintifice”. Premise ce e?? Numa’ teorie! :-))

  4. 4 Dani

    Cred ca ai mai scris la un moment dat despre distinctia intre compromisul britanic si cel francez. Ma bucur sa vad ca ai scris si un articol pe subiect.

    P.S. In fraza „As I will show shorter, for most Frenchmen the Estates were not understood as being representatives of the people – they were the people.” cred ca ideal ar fi fost shortly, nu shorter.


  1. 1 Fumi- blog de om | FocusBlog

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