History and Historiography

Decentralization and Local Autonomy Against Nationalism, Liberalism and Secularism: The Case of Spain

By AntiBoomerEquation

Evidence from Conquistadores by Fernando Cervantes that Nation States and Anti-clericalism are the Root of Modern Tyranny.

Charles, the first European to rule significant parts of the Americas, developed a keen interest in the continent: although he focused primarily on how best to make the resources of the New World pay for his endeavours in the Old, the emperor also displayed lasting interest in its flora, its fauna and its people, both natives and newcomers. In particular, he sought to provide his native subjects with spiritual guidance and material security. He saw this as an issue that affected his ‘royal conscience’ because ‘when he found out how all the native inhabitants of Hispaniola and Cuba, and the other [Caribbean] islands had died through being sent to the mines, he became convinced that he would go to Hell if he permitted the practice to continue’. Few Netherlanders of his day cared about America – even Erasmus ‘hardly let an allusion to the New World pass his pen’ – and Charles was the only sixteenth-century ruler to make a principled stand for the rights of native Americans. His legislation ‘long continued to be a powerful break on the oppression of native Americans’. Charles’s New World initiatives therefore merit detailed attention.

Emperor: A New Life of Charles V by Geoffrey Parker

The following excerpts from Conquistadores by Fernando Cervantes give insight into the way in which the decentralized governance of medieval and early modern kingdoms were superior to the nation state. Far from being ‘right wing’ or ‘traditionalists’ the nationalists and republicans are merely an antiquated form of the left, Jacobins who lie to themselves about their parentage.

For the revolutionary and radical Enlightenment origins of nationalism, socialism and republicanism see A Fire in the Minds of Men by James H. Billington.

Medieval Thought Acknowledged the Right of All Humans to Dominium, Regardless of Religion

…the opinion of the thirteenth-century Italian canon lawyer Henry of Susa, better known as Hostiensis, who had endorsed the theories of one of the most extreme defenders of papal power in the early thirteenth century, the English canon lawyer Alanus Anglicus. According to this view, Christ’s Incarnation had brought about a transfer of all true authority, first to Christ himself and then, through Christ, to St Peter and his successors. From this it followed that infidel rulers could not possess any authority and, therefore, could not rule legitimately – or in the legal jargon of the time, possess dominium – over any other human group. If this theory was correct, then Christians were perfectly within their rights to conquer any infidel society in good conscience.

But this was never a widely accepted view and it was categorically rejected in the middle of the thirteenth century, after the first contacts with the Mongols of Central Asia led Pope Innocent IV to declare that all rational creatures, whether Christian or infidel, by their very nature possessed dominium. Hostiensis was Innocent IV’s pupil, but he clearly did not like his master’s opinion on this issue. He reverted to the views of Alanus, arguing that in the same way as Christ’s Incarnation had brought an end to the power of the Jewish priesthood, so too it had rendered the dominium of all infidel rulers invalid. This amounted to affirming that dominium was the effect of grace rather than nature.

This argument was almost identical to the long-condemned heresy of St Augustine’s rivals, the Donatists. The issue was widely debated at the Council of Constance, which met between 1414 and 1418. Among more urgent issues, like trying to end the papal schism, the Council considered the opinions of John Wyclif, which had found an echo in Bohemia in the person of Jan Hus. If, as Wyclif had asserted, civil lords, prelates and even bishops lost their dominium while in a state of mortal sin, then it was perfectly acceptable to justify the conquest of any infidel territory on the grounds that their rulers could not be in a state of grace. Wyclif’s theory was unambiguously condemned at the Council. From then on, the theories of Hostiensis were deeply steeped in heresy and no canon lawyer worth his salt would have felt even remotely tempted to use them in defence of anything.


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