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Hobbes in France, Gallican Histories, and Leviathan's Supreme Pastor

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 April 2022

Amy Chandran*
Department of Government, Harvard University
*Corresponding author. E-mail:
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Few of the recent treatments exploring Leviathan's dramatic expansion of ecclesiological considerations have delved into the political circumstances that furnished Hobbes's immediate Parisian surroundings, as he penned the work during the 1640s. This paper examines French ecclesial debates that were triggered by the publication of a polemical collection of texts narrating the “rights and liberties of the Gallican church.” Many of the tracts included had been written during the accession crisis of the late sixteenth century, and advocated a sacralized view of kingship in order to exclude papal jurisdictional claims in France. This paper argues that innovations in Leviathan's sacred history mirror tropes employed by Gallican writers, so that Hobbes can be seen as adopting a parallel strategy in establishing Leviathan's Supreme Pastor. This explication suggests that Hobbes composed Leviathan to appropriate, rather than eliminate, claims associated with “spiritual” power for the civil sovereign, as critical to the exercise of sovereignty.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

The dramatic expansion of Leviathan's ecclesiological considerations has been examined in relation to Erastianism, Anglican episcopacy, independency, Calvinism, and humanistic civic religion, among other topics.Footnote 1 These enquiries have eruditely situated this famous work amid the negotiations of the churning English Civil War. Contemporaneous accounts, however, suggest that the immediate offense caused by Leviathan was particularly pronounced among Catholics in exile in France, where Hobbes had been residing since 1640. Certain Protestant courtiers lamented that the “Papists” had been the “chief cause that that grand Atheist was sent away” in 1651.Footnote 2 Hobbes himself suggested that the work had struck home with “the Catholic party,” and claimed that his return to England was motivated by concerns relating to the “French clergy.”Footnote 3 It is remarkable, therefore, that no detailed enquiry has been made regarding Gallicanism—the distinctively French approach taken in conflicts between church and state—as a further context within which to understand Leviathan's development. This is particularly noteworthy, given the reemergence of the topic in the 1640s, owing to the appearance of an illicit and contentious publication iterating the “rights and liberties of the Gallican church.”Footnote 4

To the extent that it has been considered, Gallican influence in Leviathan has mainly been examined with reference to Hobbes's interactions with a group of English “Blackloist” Catholics, so called for their leader, Thomas White, whose alias was “Blacklo.”Footnote 5 While rightly identifying the Gallican overtones of Blackloism (which aspired to a Catholic episcopacy in England at arm's length from Rome), scholarship has focused on the English significance of this connection.Footnote 6 The wider French political discourse against which both Blackloist and Hobbes's views developed has received less attention. Indeed, the handful of treatments given to Leviathan's overt Catholic overtones have tended to situate these in distinctively English terms, as a hangover of sound reformational convictions, or as a useful stand-in for Hobbes's concerns regarding a more independent Anglican episcopacy and Presbyterianism.Footnote 7

The papalist–Gallican contentions that were unfolding in Paris over whether the spiritual realm came with its own jurisdictional, and so political, apparatus provided a sharp image of the nature and threat of spiritual power. Few have interrogated Hobbes's newfound fascination with claims to a juridical vision of spiritual authority or his engagement with Gallican writers who sought to limit and circumvent papal claims to such a power. The set of droits et libertez that Gallicans asserted with this aim were held to accord with France's status as the eldest and most faithful daughter of the church. Gallicanism had developed organically in response to various struggles between the French king, clergy and Rome across the late medieval period (and would not be formally defined until the 1682 Declaration of the Clergy), but by the mid-seventeenth century the key features and modes of Gallican historical analysis were distinctive and recognizable.Footnote 8 Many of them are echoed in Leviathan's novelties.

This article outlines the historical circumstances that would have made debates over Gallican liberties so salient in the Parisian political landscape. It then suggests that both Leviathan's diagnosis of the problems posed by an independent spiritual jurisdiction, and its ultimate proposal for how such threats could be neutralized, resonate with aspects of the turmoil on display in France. I propose that Leviathan adopted elements of an amplified political Gallicanism that exalted a vision of sacralized or priestly kingship in the figure of a Supreme Pastor, while rejecting aspects of ecclesiastical Gallicanism that prioritized any autonomous authority for bishops. This image of a sovereign wielding ecclesiastical and civil power over all temporal and spiritual matter allowed Hobbes to show the sovereign to be God's representative on Earth, in possession of all “spiritual” authority.

Gallicanism considered

Pinning down a fixed definition of “Gallicanism” remains notoriously difficult. Research continues to unearth the complex alliances that entangled the French king, the clergy and the papacy across a series of clashes from the medieval period onwards.Footnote 9 Despite this, two notable features emerge from the tripartite conflict. First, while different issues drove the struggle to limit Rome's jurisdictional reach into France at different moments, a number frequently reappear across the variegated episodes. These include the dispute over papalist theories of jurisdiction and the nature of episcopal versus royal authority, the question of tax and revenue payments (whether to Pope or king), the interaction of civil and canon law and their courts, and various claims to clerical immunity. These matters were adjudicated, if not always amicably, by way of intermittent agreements, such as the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (1438) and the Concordat of Bologna (1516).

Second, two distinguishable “strands” of Gallicanism took shape—ecclesiastical and parliamentary (or political). As J. H. M. Salmon put it, “the former [ecclesiastical] describing the independence of the French Catholic Church from king as well as pope, and the latter [political] presenting an alliance of church and crown to limit papal authority.”Footnote 10 Ecclesiastical Gallicanism emerged from the conciliarist preoccupations of the Great Schism. The definition this episode gave to ecclesiastical interests undoubtedly strengthened parallel assertions by French clerics against the crown to a certain autonomy in ecclesial matters. This latter aspect of ecclesiastical Gallicanism shared important foundations with the episcopalism that would come to shape post-Reformation Protestant thought. From the fourteenth century to the sixteenth, both aspects nurtured a unique Gallican identity in France.Footnote 11 Then, in the late sixteenth century, a distinctly statist, parliamentary Gallicanism crystallized. Occasioned in large part by the Valois–Bourbon accession crisis, it was marked by historiographies of Gallican jurists of the parlement, who took up their pens to defend the rights of Henry IV in succeeding Henry III, and prioritized a vision of the national French church above all else.Footnote 12 While many practical particulars had been settled in earlier incidents, the struggle (eventually quelled by Henry IV's conversion) proved an occasion for more deliberate theoretical consideration of the jurisdictional boundaries between church and state.Footnote 13

Both strands of Gallican thought were represented prominently in the early seventeenth century, and were combined in a peculiar manner in the controversial writings of Edmond Richer. Richer revived the conciliarist aspirations of Jean Gerson against ultramontanist assertions, advocating the independence of the episcopate while conceding full temporal dominion to the king.Footnote 14 In the process, he drew numerous parallels between civil and ecclesiastical governance, making the direct analogies between the two clear. The influence of Richer and ecclesiastical Gallicanism more generally on English ecclesial thought during the early seventeenth century is well noted.Footnote 15 Indeed, one of the major difficulties of precisely ascertaining a Gallican influence in Hobbes's works is that many of its central ideas overlap significantly with English Erastianism.

Key figures who transposed these ideas across contexts, such as Paolo Sarpi and Marco Antonio De Dominis (whose writings were extant in the Cavendish library), may have even been personally acquainted with Hobbes.Footnote 16 It is therefore unsurprising that Gallican threads have been recognized in Hobbes's earlier thought, exemplified by Tuck's assessment that De Cive was “extremely well-judged as a defense of either Anglicanism or Gallicanism.”Footnote 17 Yet if De Cive accurately captured an ecclesiological model, deferential to claims at the heart of an ecclesiastical Gallicanism, then the argument of this article is that Leviathan transformed these claims in favor of a political Gallicanism. Of course, these visions were not mutually exclusive, and so characterizations should not overstate the distinction, or understate the subtlety of such a shift. To the extent that delineating a distinctly “French” influence is important, it may be noted that whatever familiarity Hobbes's earlier English education afforded him, the Gallican tropes discussed below did not feature in Hobbes's ecclesiology until Leviathan.

What the French context made salient, in contrast to Hobbes's English education or factional Civil War struggles, was the polemical claim to spiritual jurisdiction in its original and fiercest instantiation. While scholars have considered claims regarding de jure divino authority voiced by Presbyterians (among others) during the 1640s, the full force of these assertions was lost outside the papalist contention that Hobbes clearly had in view (evidenced by the exponential increase in Leviathan's references to all things Roman).Footnote 18 That priestly power, requisite for sacerdotal tasks (such as conferring sacraments), was bestowed directly by God, de jure divino, was widely held. The Pontiff's claim, however, was not simply to sacerdotal orders, but to a royal power bestowed immediately by Christ, entailing the ability to judge, legislate, and punish. Historically, this claim had appeared prominently in disputes with France. For example, in the conflict between Boniface VIII and Philip IV, an eminent papalist, James of Viterbo, examined the power of Christ the King and his vicar in De Regimine Christiano. Like nearly all ecclesial treatments it delineated priestly and royal power, but complexified this dualist distinction by asserting that while all priests held sacerdotal power, bishops also possessed jurisdiction—or royal power. Moses, Christ, and Saint Peter were the three sacred figures held to exemplify the combination of these powers in their person. The corollary claim, that the “the Church is aptly and properly called a Kingdom,” was also extensively treated.Footnote 19 These ultramontane declarations served as a foundation for continual tensions between successive popes and French kings, who proclaimed France's unique status as a particular kingdom within the universal church. Unlike English divines, the French leadership (both kings and bishops) held a hesitant respect for papal claims to a spiritual authority, and continued to recognize the Pope's visible juridical apparatus. In the late sixteenth century, amid increasing demands for Huguenot toleration, it fell to Gallicans to theorize how these contentions might be negotiated without jeopardizing France's fundamental Catholicity. As such, while there were undoubtedly similarities, by the mid-seventeenth century Gallican and English ecclesiological disputes had subtly different focal points.

French feuds of the 1640s

Just how such quarrels became familiar and salient to Hobbes when he arrived in Paris in November 1640 requires a brief overview of the colorful decade that preceded Leviathan's publication. The prosperous European center was presided over by Louis XIII and his first minister, Cardinal Richelieu. Richelieu's statist vision, combining a Catholic “reason of state” with strong appeals to divine-right rule, gave ample voice to the predilections of political Gallicanism.Footnote 20 Yet a tumultuous atmosphere engulfed Paris as a result of the recent but unauthorized appearance of a collection of tracts under the title Traitez des droits et libertez de l'Eglise Gallicane, by the king's librarian, Pierre Dupuy.Footnote 21 The volume included many late sixteenth-century works by Gallican jurists occasioned by the accession crisis. The most famous, the opening 1596 tract by Pierre Pithou, loosely codified the Gallican liberties into a set of eighty-three historic franchises and rights. Initially printed anonymously—and allegedly at Richelieu's behest—the publication was a tipping point for long-simmering tensions between Richelieu and the French bishops.Footnote 22

While accounts suggest that Dupuy's collection flew off the shelves, its appearance was quickly followed by a Council of State arrêt, as it had been printed without the leave of king or parlement. For their part, the French clergy responded sharply and immediately, perceiving infractions to their rightful jurisdiction.Footnote 23 In early 1640, matters were intensified with the publication of a tract entitled De Cavendo Schismate under the pseudonym Optatus Gallus, a fiercely papalist pamphlet which defended the clergy's interests and presented Richelieu as desirous of establishing a French patriarch. The tract was condemned by the parlement in March and ordered to be burned in the streets. Richelieu also issued retaliatory edicts, newly imposing or reviving avenues for extracting church revenues that had fallen into disuse.Footnote 24 In response to these fiscal penalties the clergy increasingly voiced their dissent. In the week that Hobbes is thought to have arrived in Paris, the parlement pronounced on their actions, forbidding the clergy to hold assemblies without the king's permission.Footnote 25 The following month, December 1640, the king addressed the agents responsible for the financial collections, adjusting amounts owed by the church in hopes of assuaging tensions. The king granted the clergy permission to assemble in 1641, yet the meeting was to go down as the most contentious of the century.Footnote 26 It was around this time, August 1641, that Hobbes wrote to Cavendish, “But I am sure that Experience teaches, thus much, that the dispute for [precedence] betwene the spirituall and civill power, has of late more then any other thing in the world, bene the cause of ciuill warres, in all places of Christendome.”Footnote 27 While the letter clearly addresses the Long Parliament's attack on the English episcopacy, the extension of his observations and experience to “all places of Christendom” suggests that Hobbes was at least aware of parallel struggles unfolding in Paris.Footnote 28

In response to ongoing hostilities, Richelieu charged Pierre de Marca with refuting Optatus Gallus. The refutation, De Concordia Sacerdotii et Imperii seu de Libertatibus Ecclesiae Gallicanae, was published in 1642, the year in which de Marca was appointed to the bishopric of Conserans. Rome, however, withheld papal approval for the appointment, citing dissatisfaction with aspects of the De Concordia, until 1648, when de Marca's amendments were accepted.Footnote 29

While the question of Gallican liberties did not recede, the character of debate shifted with the successive deaths of Richelieu in December 1642 and Louis XIII in May 1643. Cardinal Mazarin was appointed in Richelieu's stead, and with Louis XIV still in his infancy, he and the chancellor, Pierre Séguier, oversaw French policy. Tensions did not abate and the 1645 Assembly of the Clergy was also held to be deeply acrimonious. Fiscal qualms continued to drive tensions, along with an outpouring of complaints against exemptions and permissions that Rome had afforded regular orders. These clashes, resting on claims to clerical immunities, struck at the core ecclesiastical contention that Gallican bishops were the highest authority in their own sees. While cases went back and forth between civil and canon law courts, the variety of complaints fostered the somewhat rarer alliance between Rome and the chancellor of France. Séguier was said to have been eager to demonstrate that he would not let the Assembly of the Clergy dictate the agenda by playing off king and Pope (as they had not infrequently been known to do).Footnote 30

Among the notes added to De Cive in 1646 was Hobbes's remark that “virtually no dogma” was immune from disagreement; this was particularly problematic when combined with the notion that a sovereign's authority might be struggled against. The foremost example that Hobbes employed was “the authority in foreign countries which many attribute to the Head of the Roman Church and also to the power which bishops elsewhere, outside the Roman Church, demand for themselves.”Footnote 31 While the comment has often been interpreted as a reference to English bishops, it might just as well reference the vocal cohort of Gallican bishops, unafraid of making parallel claims of their own.

During this period Hobbes's affiliation with Mersenne and the tutoring of the Prince of Wales brought him into close contact with the Blackloists. The mutual influence and intellectual sparring of White and Hobbes has been well documented, especially the interest they must have shared in ecclesiological arrangements under negotiation in England from 1647 to 1650.Footnote 32 White had long harbored hopes of an English church modeled on ecclesiastical Gallicanism, but various failed attempts to secure this had left the Blackloists on less than sunny terms with Rome.Footnote 33 Hobbes's relationship with White not only provides further circumstantial evidence of his interest in Gallican ecclesiology but also invites Leviathan to be viewed in dialogue with Blackloist aspirations.

All the while, the question of the Gallican liberties and their definition was a prominent one during the 1640s in Paris. Ongoing academic consideration saw the publication of various volumes, including collections of works by prominent Gallican writers and further replies to Optatus Gallus.Footnote 34 The tracts collated by Pierre Dupuy were not forgotten, but remained under discussion until they were finally republished, with the king's permission, in 1651.

Leviathan and the “main abuse of Scripture”

Hobbes's political works consistently display a lively concern regarding the possibility of conflict between God's laws and man's—perhaps unsurprising given the extent to which religious conflict had engulfed Europe. In De Cive, Hobbes had responded by showing that clerical duties were subordinate to and dependent upon temporal power. In keeping with traditional Erastian ecclesiology, Hobbes distinguished temporal oversight from a set of sacerdotal tasks, including ordination, consecration, and absolving sin, which attached to priestly orders and were attributable to a “spiritual jus.”Footnote 35 When Hobbes treated the same difficulty in Leviathan, not only did he provide a far more extensive account of ecclesiastical power, but also his target had subtly shifted. Now it was the claim to a jurisdictional power over a higher set of spiritual matters, said to have been given immediately to St Peter and succeeding bishops, that concerned him. This power was held to include an authority to legislate, judge, and punish in questions of morals and manners—that is, “spiritual” or dogmatic questions—and therefore was overtly political in ways that sacerdotal tasks had not previously appeared to be. This preoccupation was made clear in Hobbes's analysis of “the greatest, and main abuse of Scripture,” which he held to be “that the Kingdome of God … is the present Church.”Footnote 36 While the reference has commonly been attributed to the “enthusiasm” of Protestant divines in England, a closer examination of the list of errors flowing from this key scriptural abuse does not straightforwardly or uniquely suggest English quarrels at all. Indeed, all four immediately consequent errors were quintessential examples of long-standing Gallican disputes, many of which were directly evidenced by the unfolding tensions in Paris.

The first was that “there ought to be some one Man, or Assembly, by whose mouth our Savior … speaketh and giveth law, and which representeth his Person to all Christians.” This claim to a “power Regal under Christ,” Hobbes noted, is made “universally by the Pope, and in particular Common-wealths by Assemblies of the Pastors of the place,” and causes such darkness of understanding that men can no longer see to whom they have “engaged their obedience.”Footnote 37 Consequent to the Pope's claim, “to be Vicar Generall of Christ” was the doctrine that Christian kings needed to be crowned by a bishop and in so doing derived the clause “Dei gratia in his title … then onely is he made King by the favour of God, when he is crowned by the authority of Gods universal Vicegerent on earth.”Footnote 38 Relatedly, a king was said to have needed to take an oath of obedience to the Pope at his consecration, and the Pope was said to be able to absolve subjects of their obedience where kings failed to purge their kingdoms of heresy. The second set of errors, flowing from the misunderstanding of the present Kingdom of God, pertained to the revenues that were said to be owed to God's ministers by way of their title as clergy, which were challenged by the Pope and his subordinate ministers “as the Inheritance of God … Iure divino, that is, in Gods Right.”Footnote 39 The third concerned the “distinction between the Civill and the Canon Laws.” And the fourth, Hobbes noted, was the related claim that “in every Christian State there are certaine men, that are exempt, by Ecclesiasticall liberty, from the tributes, and from the tribunals of the Civil State.”Footnote 40

The “Kingdom of God” was a common reference of English divines and, indeed, a popular image throughout Christian Europe.Footnote 41 The phrase had been frequently employed among Gallicans to parallel France's status as the “Most Christian Kingdom” with God's chosen people of Israel.Footnote 42 Hobbes noted this connection in attributing the error to the Pope “(pretending the present Church to be, as the Realme of Israel, the Kingdome of God).”Footnote 43 With this in view, all four errors flowing from this misreading can arguably be related to the primary features of turmoil on display in France more closely than the ecclesial contentions in England during the 1640s. Sorting through papalist and episcopal claims about the origins of regal power was a central and long-standing pillar of Gallican disputes, heavily featured in Dupuy's tracts, and re-prosecuted in the dramas outlined above. Likewise, Richelieu's monetary penalties against the church, and the subsequent fallout in the 1641 and 1645 Assemblies of the Clergy, resuscitated a range of lively historical disputes over the fiscal rights (entailing challenges made by the “Pope … and his subordinate Ministers”Footnote 44), which were also a major theme of Dupuy's collection. The clash of ecclesiastical and civil jurisdiction similarly loomed large in both Dupuy's tracts and the polemical back-and-forward of the 1645–6 court cases brought against orders claiming ministerial permissions from the Pope. The central issue at stake was the immunity of clerics, especially those “Monks and Friars” whom Hobbes suggested were so populous that they might comprise an army sufficient for war if the church militant so employed them.Footnote 45

Insofar as these errors can be construed as a simple matter of delineating episcopal and royal power, they were arguably present inchoately in Elements of Law and De Cive, and it is difficult to separate English and French strands of thought. But the more specific details—the “regal” power of the Pope, fiscal qualms with Rome, the struggles between canon and civil juridical structures, and ecclesiastical immunity—are more difficult to explain in the English context alone. Indeed, Leviathan was not simply preoccupied with dualist concessions to sacerdotal jus, but with the specific claim to a political or regal spiritual power—understood as a dogmatic authority over manners and morals. While it is possible that Hobbes had earlier English disputes in mind, these contentions became central to Hobbes's political thought in the very decade during which he had no access to the Cavendish library.

The Gallican histories and Leviathan's sacred history

The Gallican claims were grounded in a sacred historical narrative that began from a set of foundational liberties and canons, belonging to the Frankish people by natural franchise in its primitive origins.Footnote 46 Following this independent beginning, the recurring story was one of decline, degeneration, and corruption as popes had gradually impinged on the civil and ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Gallican kings and bishops respectively.Footnote 47 Leviathan's narrative has been frequently summarized as one of “decline from pure beginnings,” and bears striking resemblance to the Gallican emphasis on the creeping infringements of successive popes.Footnote 48 Just as Gallicans canvassed a story of mounting encroachments on Gallican liberty, Hobbes famously described the “knots” placed on “Christian Liberty” in the English context.Footnote 49

Beyond imitation of this historical structure, other echoes resound, such as Hobbes's novel usage of Ammianus Marcellinus, a favorite late Roman historian of Gallican authors, referenced numerous times in both de Marca's De Concordia and Dupuy's collection. Yet more noticeably, these tracts—particularly those dating from the late sixteenth century—emphasized specific turning points in French ecclesial history. The first was the moment of Constantine's conversion. The second was the French national equivalent of this conversion, the baptism of Clovis. And the third was the incorporation of the original Gallican canons into French law under Charlemagne. When he came to reconstruct his sacred history in Leviathan, Hobbes introduced all three tropes in giving effect to a more sacralized vision of a most Christian sovereign.

The conversion of Constantine and the new time of the Supreme Pastor

Scholars have long noted that Constantine's conversion and calling of the early church councils became the model of church–state relations for Gallican jurists.Footnote 50 Nearly all of the late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century tracts comprising Dupuy's publication (which had triggered the Parisian turmoil) featured Constantine, who appears over seventy times in the collection. For example, after sketching a picture of papal deference in primitive times, and subsequent corrupting papalist power grabs, Baptiste du Mensil noted that “in the time of Constantine, the Pontiffs … did not undertake any thing, even with regard to religion without the authority & advice of Constantine … which can be gathered from the testimony of the Council of Nicaea … where there were a large number of Bishops assembled by command & under the authority of said Emperor.”Footnote 51 It was only at Constantine's conversion that Christianity was able to be brought under the control of the state, and the power of pontiffs formally restrained by whatever grant of power they received. Constantine was also a prominent marker in the sacred history of Benigne Milletot, who suggested that the early church had no difficulty submitting to temporal power; “as proof of why, we will divide all the time that has run from St Peter to Pepin King of France, into three main parts. The first from St. Peter to the Empire of Constantine.”Footnote 52 Jacques Leschassier (among others) portrayed Constantine as the Episcopus Externus, “an external Bishop of the Church,” a king with the authority of Josiah, “not to baptize, but to cause baptism and preaching, and to maintain the rights of the Church.”Footnote 53 For the swathe of Gallican jurists, the historical appearance of the first Christian ruler marked a unique turning point. Only after Constantine's conversion was power over the Christian religion properly ordered, and the Pope's position as a spiritual figure with delegated privileges firmly cemented.

De Cive had structured its sacred history around old and new agreements. The former was made manifest in the Old Testament, and is largely reiterated in Leviathan's exegesis in Chapter XL. The latter referenced a future kingdom to begin with Christ's second coming to rule the world; promised at Christ's initial coming in history Leviathan also referenced the interim period of “regeneration” in Chapter XLI.Footnote 54 However, Leviathan added a significant twist to De Cive's timeline, directly echoing this Gallican mainstay. The opening of Chapter XLII, Leviathan's longest chapter, announced a totally novel delineation in sacred history, stating that this consideration “Of Power Ecclesiasticall,” and the understanding “what, and in whom it is,” required distinguishing “the time from the Ascension of our Saviour, into two parts; one before the Conversion of Kings, and men endued with Soveraign Civill Power; the other after their Conversion.”Footnote 55 Constantine's conversion now provided a pivotal milestone that gave rise to a new chapter in sacred history—a chapter emphasizing a kingship endowed with ecclesiastical power, which De Cive had not considered at all.

De Cive's analysis now belonged entirely to the period between Christ's Ascension and the Conversion of Kings, during which time ecclesiastical power was held by the Apostles and those they ordained, “by the imposition of hands … by which was signified the giving of the Holy Spirit.”Footnote 56 While the Apostles represented the Holy Spirit, their power was not and could not be coercive, Hobbes repeatedly noted, “unless they be Kings.”Footnote 57 This qualification is asserted throughout the consideration of remitting and retaining sins, excommunication, and finally the interpretation of Scripture. On this final question, when difficulties arose, Hobbes noted, elders assembled to determine interpretation, “And as it was in the Apostles time, so it must be till such time as there should be Pastors, that could authorize an Interpreter, whose Interpretation should generally be stood to: But that could not be till Kings were Pastors, or Pastors Kings.”Footnote 58 Thus Hobbes did not deny the existence of a political, spiritual authority, but only the possibility of its exercise prior to this novel phase of sacred history—the time when kings became pastors. The division of this new period clearly echoes the significant change said to have been wrought by Constantine's conversion, which, Gallicans explained, had enabled a more authentic expression of primitive liberties.

Hobbes took up the implications of this new period by way of asking how Scripture could become law. The answer proved to require important amendments to his earlier claims regarding apostolic lineage. Recalling God's rule of his peculiar people by Moses, Hobbes confirmed, “hitherto … the Power of making Scripture Canonicall, was in the Civill Sovereign.” And thus, “in the time before that Christian Religion was received, and authorized by Constantine the Emperour, we may find that the Books we now have of the New Testament were held … for the dictates of the Holy Ghost … every convert made them so to himself.”Footnote 59 It was only in the age of Christian kings that the New Testament became law, in which time “the King, or Sovereign … subjecteth himself, not to the Doctor, or Apostle that converted him, but to God himself … as immediately as did the Apostles themselves.”Footnote 60 Moreover, from this time, no distinction could be drawn between Scripture's laws and those of the civil commonwealth. The significance of the sovereign's ability to enshrine doctrine in law will be considered below. An important element of this new historical delineation, however, was that it portrayed the exercise of sovereignty by a Christian king as merely the “true” realization of a broader pattern of sovereignty. The sovereigns of heathen commonwealths had long held “the name of Pastors of the People.”Footnote 61 Given that this “spiritual” responsibility was part of the essence of sovereignty, the conversion of Constantine had simply enabled Christianity to stake out definitive doctrinal status in the all-important context of a civil kingdom.

The baptism of Clovis and Charlemagne's incorporation of the Gallican canons

Among the few records that shed light on debates occurring as Leviathan was being composed is the relatively recent discovery of Robert Payne's correspondence, which illuminates Hobbes's interest in competing theories of the origins of jurisdictional power.Footnote 62 Acknowledging the effect of consecrating kings, or the laying on of hands in dispensing episcopal authority, had become untenable in Hobbes's shifting assessment. Gallican writers were likewise alert to the difficulties this doctrine entailed in contending with papalist disputants. Accordingly, they offered an alternative vision of kingly sacralization that proved far less theoretically troublesome. It was exemplified in the national equivalent of Constantine's conversion: the baptism of Clovis. This unique moment was a critical image in narratives outlining how France had come to defend and protect the Catholic faith under le Roy très Christien, as diligently as it had.

De Marca appealed to it, noting that “the care of protecting the Ecclesiastical polity was centered on [the kings of Gaul], after the baptism of Clovis.”Footnote 63 He further explained,

The guardianship of the Church and of her decrees, which we have assigned to princes from divine ius … To this patronage Clovis devoted the royal dignity of the Franks, when he, having been dipped in sacred baptism, uttered his solemn profession of faith … he did not withdraw from the freedom of kingship; but he conjoined it with an eternal bond for the purpose of fostering the liberty of the Church.Footnote 64

Statements highlighting the significance of a king's baptism are frequently noted in the Gallican tracts, for example Guy Coquille opened his treatment of Gallican liberties by noting, “Since the Kings of France were made Christians by the faith & holy adoption of Baptism, the Kingdom of France has always been a defender of the whole of Christendom.”Footnote 65

In Hobbes's new account of sovereign authority over Scripture, he repudiated De Cive's appeal to the laying on of hands as conferring infallibility.Footnote 66 Revising what was necessary for a Christian sovereign to exercise spiritual authority, he found,

if there had been then any Christian, that had had the Power of Teaching before; the Baptizing of him, that is, the making him a Christian, had given him no new Power, but had onely caused him to preach true Doctrine, that is, to use his Power aright; and therefore the Imposition of Hands had been unnecessary; Baptisme it selfe had been sufficient.Footnote 67

There was no need for the imposition of hands in the case of the Christian sovereign, for he was now modelled on Solomon and consolidated the “Right Politique, and Ecclesiastique” in his person, which entailed “all manner of power over their Subjects, that can be given to man.”Footnote 68 Hobbes reiterated this shift further, noting that he had proved “that Christian Soveraignes are in their owne Dominions the supreme Pastors, and instituted thereto, by vertue of their being Baptized, though without other Imposition of Hands.”Footnote 69 Baptism provided Hobbes with an explanation for how it was that the role of kingship was simply retained and redirected to true Christian ends, without the allusion to a coronation or consecration by a spiritual authority, just as it had done for Gallicans facing similar difficulties.

Finally, Hobbes referenced a third “milestone” commonly appointed by Gallican authors: the incorporation of Gallican canons into law by Charlemagne. As noted, the misinterpretation that the present church was the Kingdom of God had occasioned the clash of civil and canon laws. Civil laws were the acts of sovereigns in their own dominions, while canon laws were the “Acts of the Pope in the same Dominions.”Footnote 70 On this matter, Hobbes displayed a clear familiarity with French narratives, noting “which Canons, though they were but Canons, that is Rules Propounded, and but voluntarily received by Christian Princes, till the translation of the Empire to Charlemain; yet afterwards, as the power of the Pope encreased, became Rules Commanded.”Footnote 71 The explanation mirrors Gallican accounts which highlight Charlemagne's magnanimity in recognizing and incorporating ecclesiastical canons into French law. For example, the 1461 Remonstrances, included by Dupuy, noted that

King Charlemagne made the following order: “We, not ignorant of the Sacred Canons, that in the name of God the Holy Church should attain her own honor more freely, offer assent to the Ecclesiastical order, namely that through the election of the clergy and of the people, according to the statutes of the canons of their own diocese … in order that they may in some way be able to be beneficial to those subject to themselves by example or by word.”Footnote 72

In these ways, Hobbes can be seen adopting the ubiquitous features of Gallican narratives. These located the full legal authority over the church's ecclesiastical administration in the figure of “the Most Christian King,” who worked cooperatively as sovereign to advance the church's interests.

The refutation of Bellarmine

If Hobbes's appropriation of these historical tropes evidences a familiarity with Gallican writings being scrutinized in Paris during the 1640s, the other major innovation of Leviathan's ecclesiological consideration may also be clarified by this context: Hobbes's engagement of Robert Bellarmine. The singling out of the cardinal as an interlocutor, again, underscores the complications of Hobbes's multiple contexts. Bellarmine has frequently been viewed as a proxy for a host of presbyterian and Anglican ideas and, as with Gallican inflections, Hobbes's familiarity can be traced back to his English education.Footnote 73 Undoubtedly, Bellarmine had loomed large over ecclesiastical disputes throughout the early seventeenth century, yet it is clear that Chapter XLII's point-by-point treatment was written with the cardinal's work at hand. Strikingly, the text that Hobbes chose to engage was not from James I's oath controversy or the Venetian Interdict, more familiar in England, but rather De Summo Pontifice, the third Book of Bellarmine's Disputationes de Controversiis Christianae Fidei (Controversies). The selection is quite fitting when viewed alongside Hobbes's interest in late sixteenth-century French controversies; Bellarmine—and, indeed, the De Summo Pontifice—had been an original target for these Gallican jurists. The Italian cardinal had carefully followed the dramas unfolding in the French succession crisis during the 1580s, as his Controversies were being finalized for publication in 1588.Footnote 74 Bellarmine even penned a reply to Pierre de Belloy, a Gallican politique who composed the Apologie Catholique in 1585.Footnote 75 Then, in 1590, just months after the assassination of Henry III, Bellarmine traveled to France to intervene on Rome's behalf.Footnote 76

The Controversies argued for the Pope's ability to intervene when the salvation of souls was gravely threatened—even deposing a prince and choosing a successor. However, the subtlety of Bellarmine's position highlights the complexities of the feud; the work insisted that the papal prerogative to interfere was grounded in (and so limited to) an indirect power. The claim was moderate when compared with various medieval, ultramontane theories of papal power. For this reason, it almost landed Bellarmine on the Index.Footnote 77 Yet it also made him a diplomat well suited to the delicate French environs, where the doctrine of indirect power constrained the scope of papal interference during peacetime. His arguments, to varying degrees, were adopted in Leaguer defenses of Henry III's deposition and assassination.Footnote 78 Nevertheless, as political circumstances developed, it became clear that appeals to the Gallican liberties, by politiques and Leaguers alike, sat uneasily with Bellarmine's ultimate loyalties. A united France prized its heritage, exclusively Catholic as this might be, over a vision that accentuated France's place within a universal church; “the commonwealth is not in the Church, but contrariwise the Church is in the commonwealth,” as Pierre de Belloy put it, quoting Optatus of Milevis in his Apologie Catholique.Footnote 79

Leviathan's explanation for selecting Bellarmine echoes an awareness of just such a dynamic. Hobbes's interest was not in sensationalist rumors of popish plots but rather in the theoretical challenge posed by a claim to an independent source of universal spiritual sovereignty.Footnote 80 The most vivid image of such a threat was embodied by the Catholic Church, and its most lucid defense had been provided by Bellarmine. As Hobbes noted,

Though this that I have here said … seem cleer enough for the asserting of the Supreme Ecclesiasticall Power to Christian Soveraigns; yet because the Popes of Romes challenge to that Power universally, hath been maintained chiefly, and I think as strongly as is possible, by Cardinall Bellarmine, in his Controversie De Summo Pontífice; I have thought it necessary, as briefly as I can, to examine the grounds, and strength of his Discourse.Footnote 81

Chapter XLII has often been described as an outright refutation of Cardinal Bellarmine; however, as Springborg notes, Hobbes's treatment of Roman Catholicism was a mix of “opprobrium and approbation, condemnation and emulation.”Footnote 82 His book-by-book analysis of Bellarmine's argument was no exception. In most cases, Hobbes's strategy was not to straightforwardly deny the relevance or strength of Bellarmine's claims, but instead to appropriate these for Supreme Pastors in their own dominion. That is to say, Hobbes did not simply dismiss the potency of claims to ecclesiastical power, but united these to a more sacralized vision of civil governance, in many ways paralleling the statist arguments proffered by Gallicans.

Hobbes consistently held that spiritual power, the “Right of Teaching” or the power to shape men's opinions and understanding, was already “inseparably annexed” to the very essence of sovereignty, and thus possessed by all sovereigns.Footnote 83 Without a sovereignty established by the consent of the governed, however, the Pope's status remained that of a schoolmaster, and thus Hobbes dismissed Bellarmine's opening contention regarding the regime type of the church. Following this, Hobbes took up the passages associated with Christ's commissioning of Peter. Bellarmine (and papalists more generally) employed these to explain the Pope's direct and immediate appointment by Christ as his vicar and “the Monarch Universal of the Church, that is to say, of all the Christians in the world.”Footnote 84 Rather than undermine or deny the efficacy of this appointment, Hobbes insisted (echoing Gallican and episcopal claims) that Christ had given the “Keyes of Heaven … to all the rest of his Disciples,” as well as the power of binding and loosing. He then noted, “howsoever this be interpreted, there is no doubt but the Power here granted belongs to all Supreme Pastors; such as are all Christian Civil Sovereigns in their own Dominions.”Footnote 85

The contention of Bellarmine's second book—the assertion that the popes were Peter's successors—drew forth a response that further clarified Hobbes's position. Rather than build upon the disputations of others or deny the nature of successive papal power, Hobbes asserted that, “if by Bishop of Rome, bee understood either the Monarch of the Church, or the Supreme Pastor of it; not Silvester, but Constantine … was that Bishop, and as Constantine, so all other Christian Emperors were of Right supreme Bishops of the Roman Empire.”Footnote 86 As noted, Hobbes newly viewed Constantine's conversion as deeply significant and as the moment in which claims relating to apostolic succession had passed into the hands of kings. In keeping with an overall stance that acknowledged and appropriated this power, Hobbes happily granted the third of Bellarmine's arguments, made against the view that the Pope was the Anti-Christ. For the Pope only claimed to represent God, not to be God; this, too, would be a claim adopted by Hobbes's civil sovereign.

Bellarmine's fourth book was an argument in favor of papal infallibility, the Pope's power to legislate and punish, and the view that all ecclesiastical jurisdiction was conferred on the Pope of Rome. After disputing elements of the Cardinal's scriptural interpretation, Hobbes again insisted that the passages simply lent support “for the joining of the Ecclesiasticall Supremacy to the Civil Soveraignty” rather than to the existence of a distinct locus of papal or spiritual power. For example, the “Evidence, and Truth” given by God to the high priest was a conferral of such to the civil sovereign.Footnote 87 Likewise, Hobbes argued that “Civil Sovereignty,” and “supreme Judicature in controversies of Manners, are the same thing: And the Makers of Civill Laws, are not onely Declarers, but also Makers of the justice, and injustice of actions; there being nothing in mens Manners that makes them righteous or unrighteous, but their conformity with the Law of the Soveraign.”Footnote 88 These arguments suggest how central “spiritual” power had become to Hobbes's conception of politics, effectively grounding the moral authority of sovereign right. In correcting the many passages that Bellarmine employed to support the Pope's legislative power, Hobbes even noted that “it followeth, that he which heareth his Soveraign being a Christian, heareth Christ.”Footnote 89 None of the cited passages, however, provided support for separable lawmaking powers; they only demonstrated a right to teach or counsel, and that obedience had been offered to the Apostles in response to their persuasive reputation for holiness.

The final question of Bellarmine's fourth book, regarding the immediate conferral of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, implicated the relative standing of the Pope and other bishops (rather than the Pope and Christian kings), and thus was a core fixation of ecclesiastical Gallicanism. Bellarmine had argued that Christ immediately conferred jurisdiction on all the Apostles, but that in the time since the Apostles, ordinary bishops received this jurisdiction mediately from the Pope—an unpopular position among Gallican clergy. In keeping with his overall strategy, Hobbes did not deny the distinctive claim to de jure divino power; rather, he shifted the territory of argumentation, replacing the figure of the Pope in Bellarmine's account with that of the Civil Sovereign. He asked, “what lawfull Jurisdiction, though but Civill, is there in a Christian Commonwealth, that is not also de Jure Divino? For Christian Kings have their Civill Power from God immediately, and the Magistrates under him exercise their severall charges in vertue of his Commission; wherein that is no lesse de Jure Divino mediato, than that which the Bishops doe.”Footnote 90 Hobbes's move here was to assert that the power claimed by the Pope was indeed that power received by the civil sovereign, directly from God, such that Bellarmine had proved, “on the contrary, that all Bishops receive Jurisdiction when they have it from their Civill Soveraigns, [thus] I will not omit the recitall of [his reasons].”Footnote 91 The implication that this power of local bishops was de jure divino mediato ran against all ecclesiastical Gallican (and episcopal) claims, but demonstrated the civil sovereign's position as God's mediator of power to his ministers. Hobbes found himself united with Bellarmine against the idea of there being an immediate and divine grant of power to more than one party; in Bellarmine's case, no claimant other than the Pope (and first Apostles) could be countenanced, and in Hobbes's, none other than the civil sovereign's claim could stand.

The fifth and final book of Bellarmine's Controversies pertained to the Pope's temporal power. Hobbes happily acceded to the cardinal's commentary denying that the Pontiff was lord of the world (or all Christians), holding civil power directly. However, Bellarmine's own position, that the Pope held indirect temporal authority, required attention. This right, held to be given by God upon assuming the papacy—rather than by the direct consent of the governed—was “the same” in effect (as direct temporal authority) so long as it purported to enable the Pope to depose sovereigns or act as judge. Illustrating the frequent historical occurrences of popes who had deigned to claim and use such power, Hobbes drew upon the fourth Lateran Council's pronouncement:

If a King at the Popes admonition, doe not purge his Kingdome of Haeretiques, and being Excommunicate for the same, make not satisfaction within a yeer, his Subjects are absolved of their Obedience. And the practise hereof hath been seen on divers occasions; as in the Deposing of Chilperique, King of France; in the Translation of the Roman Empire to Charlemaine; in the Oppression of John King of England; in Transferring the Kingdome of Navarre; and of late years, in the League against Henry the third of France, and in many more occurrences.Footnote 92

Three of the four examples emanated directly from French history. Notably, this included the Valois–Bourbon accession crisis, suggesting that the episode may have been ready at hand from engaging Gallican polemics and Bellarmine, acting as he had in concert with “the League.” Yet this is also one of numerous instances where Hobbes seems to have been thinking with Gallicans about how to more firmly establish an enduring ecclesial model. He continued,

I think there be few Princes that consider not this as Injust, and Inconvenient; but I wish they would all resolve to be Kings, or Subjects. Men cannot serve two Masters: They ought therefore to ease them, either by holding the Reins of Government wholly in their own hands; or by wholly delivering them into the hands of the Pope; that such men as are willing to be obedient, may be protected in their obedience. For this distinction of Temporall, and Spirituall Power is but words.Footnote 93

At the heart of Hobbes's complaint against Bellarmine was a dualist structure of power and obedience—perhaps surprisingly, it was the Pope's sovereignty over papal states that posed no difficulty.Footnote 94 The solution, suggested by Hobbes's plea that princes “resolve to be Kings,” was for sovereigns to take up the full reality of their authority; any claim to a distinct spiritual power was a mere matter of words. The notion that an individual might be subject to two authorities, each with juridical power, was philosophically and practically untenable. A power could not be subject to power, “for Subjection, Command, Right and Power are accidents, not of Powers, but of Persons,” and therefore one must always take precedence in conflict.Footnote 95 There were not different kinds of powers, sacerdotal and royal, for example, that might exist concurrently. If the Pope seemed to possess the theoretical high ground in such a clash, claiming authority over justice and man's final end, the solution lay in recognizing that kings possessed power with respect to both temporal matters and those traditionally delineated as “spiritual.”

Sacred kingship and Leviathan's assimilation of spiritual and temporal

It remains now to enquire more directly into what such a sacralized or priestly kingship might possibly amount to for Hobbes. For Leviathan has long been viewed as taking aim at theories of divine right.Footnote 96 Similarly, Part III's anticlerical thrust has often been conflated with an interpretation that understands Hobbes as depoliticizing, enervating, or eliminating all forms of spiritual authority.Footnote 97 To the contrary, this analysis has suggested that if one reads Leviathan against the backdrop of these Gallican polemics an alternative emerges, in which Hobbes can be seen fully absorbing papal pretentions into a more “spiritualized” vision of kingship.

A comprehensive evaluation of Leviathan's stance towards divine right is beyond scope, but it is notable that readings which emphasize Hobbes's abjuration of such theories rarely contend with Part III's repeated insistence that sovereigns hold their power de jure divino. It is quite clear that Hobbes was not appealing to older magical or supernatural associations of royal power, such as the king's touch. Furthermore, the idea that Hobbes grounded obligation in divine command theory, such as were employed in both England and France to shore up monarchial claims, has been firmly refuted.Footnote 98 Yet, as with Gallican influence more generally, it may be that scholarship has adopted too anglicized a viewpoint in insisting on Hobbes's wholesale disavowal of divine right. Subtle differences in French invocations in the seventeenth century, where it was employed to connote a sovereign sacrality in order to counter papal claims, have been overlooked.

Absolutist divine right conceptions emerged in response to the instability wrought by successive political crises in late sixteenth-century France.Footnote 99 The influence of such theories in early seventeenth-century England is readily evidenced by writings such as Barclay's De Regno et Regali Potestate, which won him the admiration of James I.Footnote 100 Barclay well exemplifies the English adoption of divine right as a theory of obligation, aimed at rebuffing the view that resistance was legitimate, which rested on an appeal to political power as naturally vested in an original people. In doing so, Barclay classed Catholic and Huguenot “monarchomachs” together as one of a kind of unconscionable dissident.Footnote 101 Divine right was likewise operationalized as a kind of foil by parliamentary forces during the 1640s, to conjure up an image of an absolutist Stuart monarchy.Footnote 102 So, although sixteenth-century England was highly conscious of the direct threat of deposition, by the mid-seventeenth century the prospect of papal interference in temporal matters was mainly understood through the lens of disobedience, resistance, and plotting by recusants; that is, as threats “from below.”

The same cannot be said for France. If divine-right theories were directed against “monarchomachs,” they were equally wielded to bolster the claims of French kingship against papal prerogative. The concession that the Pope was sovereign of some contestably defined, spiritual realm made the compatibility of the French church's existence within a universal Christendom a continual preoccupation of Gallican jurists. The heavy-handed interventions of the papacy—including the excommunication of Henry of Navarre in 1585 and Henry III in 1589—meant that the Pope's spiritual oversight became a particularly critical target. To the extent that the dynamics of the English Civil War revived the specter of Rome's direct meddling in England, Hobbes was uniquely positioned to appreciate the force of such a threat, ensconced as he was amid a court of exiles, many of whom were Catholic and engaged in plots involving papal support.Footnote 103 Seen in this milieu, Leviathan's ecclesiological positioning of the sovereign may be viewed in parallel to Gallican responses to threats “from above.”

As already noted, Leviathan invoked papalist explanations to insist upon the sovereign's immediate divine appointment and his role as a mediator of authority to all others in positions of power. He explained, “All Pastors, except the Supreme, execute their charges in the Right, that is by the Authority of the Civill Soveraign, that is, Iure Civili. But the King, and every other Soveraign, executeth his Office of Supreme Pastor, by immediate Authority from God, that is to say, in Gods Right, or Iure Divino.”Footnote 104 To reinforce the authority and positioning of the French king against papal (and episcopal) claims, Gallicans did not deny de jure divino power, but posited a parallel image of their “Most Christian King” as having also received his power immediately from God. For example, Jacques Cappel opened the tract contained in Dupuy's collection by stating, “it will be presupposed that the King is our supreme Lord … holding the Crown immediately from God, not recognizing another superior in temporality, as the Patron and principal founder of the Churches of France.”Footnote 105 Such an immediate holding was connected to the king's founding role in the Gallican church and gave him an authority that could not be easily undermined by comparable papal (or episcopal) claims to direct divine appointment.

Where post-Reformational England prioritized a certain autonomy for the Anglican episcopacy, echoed in De Cive's delineation of a unique set of sacerdotal tasks and paralleled in ecclesiastical Gallicanism, the parliamentary Gallicans were led to an opposite emphasis. In theorizing jurisdictional boundaries between church and state, the dynamics of papal relations led these jurists to emphasize the king's competence in spiritual matters and his administrative oversight of the church. Such competence was couched in descriptions of the extraordinary, even divinely inspired, natures possessed by kings, and anticipated the full-blown regalism that would come to fruition in the later seventeenth century. A pseudonymous Gallican pamphlet, which appeared in Paris during Hobbes's stay, in response to the tract of Optatus Gallus, well exemplifies the sentiment:

it [now] must be shown that the maxims [the Gallican Liberties] contain are not novelties or undertakings of temporal power over the spiritual, but just and legitimate rights attaching to the Crown of Kings, who are divine persons … Those who are destined by the order of Heaven to sit on the throne of domination must be looked upon with a different eye than those who are born for obedience: for as one does not give beasts to other beasts to lead and command them, but men: so it seems that God has given more excellent natures to commanding men, in which as they are his images, he has inspired something divine, which means that one should not find it strange if with temporal power is mixed a kind of spiritual authority which gives it the right to mediate the government of holy things, of which it has the disposition as regards discipline and la police, and can on occasions establish laws, to the observance of which all subjects both Ecclesiastics and Seculars, are obligated.Footnote 106

In typical fashion, the author highlights that divine something given to the Gallican king, underpinning his right and ability to judge of spiritual matters. Hobbes newly insisted on a similar divine stature for his Sovereign Pastor, who must be heard as Christ, and had authority “to Administer the Sacraments” and judge in matters of manners and morals.Footnote 107 Indeed, Leviathan redefined the terms “Holy” and “Sacred” with reference to the “Publique,” “the Kings,” or the “Person of the Commonwealth,” the Sovereign Representative.Footnote 108 Its new emphasis on sovereign virtue, and in particular a kind of religiously inflected virtue, has been eruditely noted in the literature.Footnote 109 Rather than simply operating as a theory of obligation, then, divine right in the French context was invoked to emphasize God's authorization of the king to grant him oversight of spiritual matters—a usage emulated in Hobbes's establishment of his “Supreme Pastor.”

Yet if Leviathan's civil sovereign is recognized as divinely ordained, such that he has authority over spiritual matters, a second difficulty emerges. That is the nature of “spiritual” sovereignty, where the “temporalizing” or “naturalizing” effect of Hobbes's project (and especially of his theological musings) has long been noted.Footnote 110 Certainly, Hobbes sought to align Christian theology with natural reason as far as possible and limit appeals to the supernatural. At the same time, he conceded that “there be many things in God's Word above Reason; that is to say, which cannot by natural reason be either demonstrated, or confuted.”Footnote 111 Leviathan more clearly reckoned with the fact that however far one might “temporalize” theology, questions relating to “spiritual” matters—including the all-important determinations of eternal salvation and damnation—remained beyond natural reason. To claim absolute power required that the sovereign wield a dogmatic authority over such questions.

More pressingly, Hobbes's materialism might seem to preclude any meaningful engagement with the notion of “spiritual” at all. His denial of incorporeality fundamentally transformed the traditional notion of the “spirit” by understanding it in terms of body. However, the concept still retained a distinctive meaning—one very much attached to matters traditionally held to be incorporeal. Hobbes explained, “the proper signification of Spirit in common speech, is either a subtile, fluid, an invisible Body, or a Ghost, or other Idol or Phantasme of the Imagination.”Footnote 112 Essentially, the “spiritual” referenced interior bodies comprising thoughts, so that Hobbes could succinctly note that “by Spirit, is understood the Mind.”Footnote 113 The fact that this internal realm could not be coerced in the same way as external action is well noted as a practical limitation to sovereign power. Here too, however, Hobbes's strategy and emphasis can be further demystified by the French context. Newly sensitive to the dangers of trying to stamp out heretical views on the heels of the Wars of Religion, Gallican writers eagerly stressed that faith was a matter of persuasion.Footnote 114

The most important strategic reason that Gallicans had for stressing that the internal realm was not subject to coercive authority, however, was to diminish the force of the church's claim to a coercive spiritual jurisdiction. The assertion—famously espoused in Augustine's writings against the Donatists—was crucial to the church's establishment of its status as a political association, able to wield its prerogatives in France.Footnote 115 What constituted this exclusively “spiritual” jurisdiction in Gallican treatments, however, was not always clear, if it was acknowledged at all. Defining it in the negative, they emphasized the king's authority over exterior worship, la police, and administrative aspects of the church, and left only a noncoercible, highly spiritualized remainder for papal oversight.Footnote 116 In offering a more precise definition of jurisdiction, they capitalized on controversies over diverging diocesan and civil borders as a way of further grounding the concept in relation to concrete territorial boundaries.Footnote 117

Echoing the first element of this strategy, Hobbes repeatedly and directly attacked the idea that the Apostles possessed anything beyond “a Power to proclaim the Kingdom of Christ, and to perswade men to submit themselves thereunto.”Footnote 118 Instead, Hobbes remarked, Christ had compared their task “to Fishing; that is, to winning men to obedience, not by Coercion, and punishing; but by Perswasion.”Footnote 119 The adjudication of ecclesiastical power in this period as noncoercive directly flowed from the philosophical premise (correctly adduced by Gallicans) that interior thoughts—spiritual bodies—were not apt to coercion but to persuasion. Hobbes explained that this task, “to make men Beleeve, and have Faith in Christ … hath no relation to, nor dependence at all upon Compulsion, or Commandement.”Footnote 120 Such faith and belief were “a gift of God” given “by the means of Teachers.”Footnote 121

What Gallicans failed to clarify adequately, and what Hobbes's contributions make clear, is that aerial bodies—thoughts of the mind—could not simply be left to a separate, albeit highly spiritualized, realm. Nor was governance of spiritual bodies an unimportant component of political rule. If viewed through a juridical lens, spiritual or ecclesiastical power must be exercised as a part of a unitary jurisdiction. Where the title of “Minister of Christ” entailed no power “to Punish any man for not Beleeving,”Footnote 122 the new time of the Sovereign Pastor, inaugurated by the conversion of kings, adjoined this ecclesiastical power to the civil, so that “by politick institution, then they [civil sovereigns] may indeed lawfully Punish any Contradiction to their laws whatsoever.”Footnote 123 Recognition that “power ecclesiastical” was constitutive of sovereignty, such that jurisdiction connoted a unilateral governance over all bodies in motion, went hand in hand with Hobbes's greater explication of the sovereign's responsibility to teach and “Judge of what opinions and Doctrines are averse, and what conducing to Peace.”Footnote 124 For, as Hobbes explained, “the Actions of men proceed from their Opinions; and in the wel governing of Opinions, consisteth the well governing of mens Actions.”Footnote 125 It was only possible to enforce exterior actions—which directly proceeded from beliefs or opinions—where political sovereignty had been instituted. What Hobbes's examination of ecclesiastical power makes clear is that, as a practical matter, the interior realm must be “won” to obedience by persuasion, rather than by fear.

Hobbes's demonstration that sovereign power was required to enforce Christian doctrine and his assertion that interior bodies must be governed in a different manner should not be mistaken for a hard separation of spiritual and temporal matters. Read in this context, Hobbes appears to press the matter in order to undermine papal (and ecclesiastical) claims to a coexisting jurisdictional authority, just as parliamentary Gallicans had. A number of passages make clear that Hobbes's treatment is ultimately aimed at more concretely grounding spiritual governance in a visible authority. Summarizing the question of “whence the Scriptures derive their Authority,” Hobbes noted that “because some are moved to beleeve for one, and others for other reasons, there can be no generall answer for them all. The question truly stated is, By what Authority they are made Law.Footnote 126 In contrast to his earlier suggestions in Elements of Law, Hobbes now held that the very credibility of the Bible could not depend upon trust and belief in a separable line of spiritual authority.Footnote 127 Putting the contention even more sharply, he stated,

the question of the Authority of the Scriptures, is reduced to this, Whether Christian Kings, and the Soveraigne Assemblies in Christian Common-wealths, be absolute in their own Territories, immediately under God; or subject to one Vicar of Christ, constituted over the Universall Church; to bee judged, condemned, deposed, and put to death, as hee shall think expedient, or necessary for the common good.Footnote 128

To frame the question of scriptural interpretation in terms of authority—against the alternative of a universal spiritual sovereign—was to concede a great deal to the Catholic perspective. Reducing this foundational matter to the immediate and absolute sovereignty of Christian kings located the epistemological core of spiritual authority within the exercise of civil power. Like the Gallicans who consistently extended the French king's domain against the threat of a spiritual superior, such a framing reveals Hobbes's deep concern with the assertion that a spiritual realm might entail a separate governing apparatus or jurisdiction.

If French disputes illuminated the precise difficulty of claims to an independent “spiritual jus,” Hobbes now offered Gallicans advice on what arrangements might resolve their own lingering struggles. On the question of how the Pope could remain a meaningful spiritual figure, he envisioned the distinctively Gallican scenario in which a Christian king might “commit the government of their Subjects in matters of Religion to the Pope,” as many Christian kings currently did. Yet he reiterated that this would be a charge that the Pope exercised “in anothers Dominion Iure Civili, in the Right of the Civill Soveraign; not Iure Divino, in Gods Right,” and therefore could be withdrawn just as easily at the sovereign's behest.Footnote 129 This was clearly not a slight against papal power as inconsequential—rather, it was recognition that such a significant office must be exercised as a delegation of authority, by way of the sovereign's ecclesiastical power. Likewise, Hobbes helpfully explained that in the case where a “Christian King commit the Authority of Ordaining Pastors in his Dominions to another King, (as divers Christian Kings allow that power to the Pope;)” the Sovereign would not “thereby constitute a Pastor over himself, nor a Soveraign Pastor over his People; for that were to deprive himself of the Civill Power.”Footnote 130 Gallicans could commit the task of ordaining ministers to the Pope without diminishing the authoritative jurisdiction of the sovereign; what they must not do is countenance a separable spiritual jurisdiction of any kind. Such solutions might let Gallicans have their cake and eat it too—they could remain part of the universal Catholic Church, and protect the civil peace of their realm, simply by clarifying and reordering jurisdictional claims to reflect their existing commitments. In recasting the power dynamics and chain of authorization through the civil sovereign—effectively making the Pope's authorization de jure civili—Hobbes no doubt felt he was providing a superior political solution to the long-standing three-way contest between the Gallican bishops, the Roman pontiff, and the French king.

In this context it is not surprising that Leviathan produced such a diverse range of responses. While viewing papal authority as a delegation from the Supreme Pastor would have affronted most Catholics at the court in exile, this arrangement may have also permitted too great a role for the Pope in the eyes of Hobbes's Blackloist contemporaries. Indeed, in aspiring to a model echoing ecclesiastical Gallicanism—promising a loyal cadre of English bishops (at a distance from both the Pope and the king)—the Blackloists may have been amongst the proponents of a dualistic power structure that Hobbes was providing a corrective to. Furthermore, to the extent that Hobbes countenanced divine right as a way of signaling the sovereign's sacred credentials (rather than as a theory of obligation), Hobbes likely found himself at odds with Blackloists who hoped to assert their civil loyalty by emphasizing the separation of temporal from spiritual considerations.Footnote 131

Finally, it must be recognized that Hobbes had already allowed temporal sovereigns great oversight of church matters in De Cive, presenting a straightforward picture of “traditional” Erastianism which “distinguished jurisdictional and spiritual (sacramental) powers, ceding the former to temporal magistrates but reserving some attenuated version of the latter for the clergy.”Footnote 132 This raises the long-prosecuted question of how to parse subtle differences across Hobbes's three political writings. The Gallican impulse against a distinct spiritual jurisdiction offers a further contextual setting for understanding the “extreme statism” of Leviathan's ecclesiology.Footnote 133 Political Gallicans attempted to limit jurisdiction to the exercise of kingly power, but could only do so by muddying any clear line between spiritual and temporal powers. A desire to preserve the ecclesiastical roots that grounded their claims to a unique liberty meant that they would not readily or definitively abjure the existence of a separable spiritual realm. Hobbes's reformulation of the relation between temporal and spiritual domains presents striking resonances with such a conundrum. Where his earlier texts embraced a delineation—one which subordinated spiritual jus to temporal government—Leviathan repudiated any distinction as “but words.”Footnote 134

Indeed, reversing the traditional Erastian ordering (espoused in De Cive), Hobbes newly suggested that in a Christian commonwealth “lawes Civill, are a part of Religion; and the distinction of Temporall, and Spirituall Domination, hath there no place,”Footnote 135 whereas in pagan commonwealths “the Religion of the Gentiles was a part of their Policy.” Thus Hobbes newly differentiated the “Divine Politiques,” of Christian commonwealths from the “humane Politiques,” of pagan commonwealths. In Christian commonwealths temporal power and civil laws were rooted in “religion,” alluding to the divine ordination and scope of sovereign power; in pagan commonwealths religious policy was dependent on the prior existence of a temporal power.Footnote 136

In a similar manner, treating the signification of “church,” Hobbes contended, “Temporall and Spirituall Government, are but two words brought into the world, to make men see double, and mistake their Lawfull Soveraign.”Footnote 137 In place of De Cive's assessment that Old Testament kings might lack interpretive scriptural expertise, Hobbes newly emphasized their religious credentials and asked, “Is not this full power, both temporal and spiritual, as they call it, that would divide it?”Footnote 138 Hobbes also identified the division or opposition of the two realms as a key cause of the dissolution of commonwealths.Footnote 139 Seen in the context of Gallican writings, Leviathan's attention to ironing out claims over jurisdiction, and to advancing the vision of its unitary nature, is significant. The insistence that there could be no division was not aimed at undermining all spiritual authority, but rather at newly recognizing spiritual authority as an integral feature of the sovereign's commission from God.


While Hobbes addressed the question of how to manage potential conflict between spiritual and temporal authority across his works, Leviathan's solution was both more definitive and more polemical than his earlier accounts. Enfeebling the threat of a conflict between the laws of God and the laws of man no longer involved simply subordinating spiritual to temporal authority, or appropriately delimiting the supernatural from the natural. Rather, Hobbes proposed a radical alternative which entailed obliterating any distinction between a spiritual and a temporal jurisdiction, uniting the “Right Politique, and Ecclesiastique” in a Supreme Pastor, wielding both crosier and sword in a priestly kingship. While, to some degree, this has been recognized as an obvious explanation of Hobbes's amendments in Leviathan, the theoretical sources for this innovation have not been entirely specified, and thus important aspects of Hobbes's motivations and emphasis have been overlooked.

Closer engagement with the events and texts that dominated French public discussion reveals a striking resemblance between Leviathan's novelties and the historical and theoretical premises typical of political Gallicanism. This article has surveyed just a handful of the most salient, including the tropes of Constantine's conversion and the baptism of kings as an alternative to the laying on of hands (newly problematized in Leviathan), as well as the choice of Bellarmine as an interlocutor. Hobbes can be seen to borrow much from the parliamentary Gallicans, who crafted a sacralized vision of kingship with the aim of fending off papal (and ecclesiastical) claims to a superior spiritual dominion. The view that spiritual matters gave rise to a separate, juridical authority clarified and heightened the threat posed by usurping clerics for Hobbes. Spiritual jus was not simply a claim to unique sacramental powers, but, on this account, entailed an authority to judge in matters pertaining to justice and man's final end. In light of this, Hobbes clarified premises where Gallicans had equivocated: there could be no separate spiritual realm, presided over by a distinct authority. Yet this picture of spiritual authority also illuminated the nature of power. In juridical terms, Hobbes now clearly asserted that jurisdiction must be one; all bodies must be governed within a unitary rule. In advancing this view, Hobbes not only denied the possibility of a tenable separation between temporal and spiritual, he coopted various assertions of Bellarmine's analysis for the civil sovereign, and “ordered” the civil as arising from a “Divine politiques” in Christian Commonwealths. In this way, the structure of Hobbesian authority mirrors a refined set of claims about spiritual jurisdiction, first proffered by staunch ultramontane thinkers. Hobbes newly presented a “Supreme Pastor,” who could act as an infallible judge and institute temporal and spiritual offices alike within the purview of a highest, all-encompassing authority.

Viewing Hobbes against the backdrop of French polemics, mired in a parallel but distinct set of debates, can help to clarify the diverse reception of Leviathan, including the chilly response among many of Hobbes's English peers. Its vision jarred with English royalist and even Erastian preferences that had consolidated around a separate, if dependent and subordinate, picture of spiritual authority, excluding the claims of Anglican and Gallican clergy alike to a degree of divinely given autonomy. This perspective also lends explanation and credence to Hobbes's Continental reception, and, as Collins has recently illuminated, to Locke's more mature reading of Hobbes as a thoroughgoing absolutist. According to this view, later seventeenth-century readers understood that Hobbes's principal purpose “was to extend the power of kings over the temporal and over the spiritual against the seditious and the fanatical.”Footnote 140 Others saw great similarities between Hobbes and Baruch Spinoza, insofar as both sought to subject all “words and actions” to sovereign authority.Footnote 141 As Collins notes, this European audience was not alert to the intricacies of domestically driven English ecclesial proposals that have been a focus of recent scholarship. They would, however, have been well attuned to the battles over jurisdictional boundaries that had long preoccupied the Catholic Continent.

In this long-running dispute, Gallicans were among the original politiques, and embraced a range of responses to the seemingly irrepressible post-Reformation issue of religious diversity. Many viewed religious toleration of the Huguenots as necessary, if nonideal, for peace in France; but they effortlessly reconciled this with more absolutist visions of authority, and even with a belief in the fundamental Catholicity of France.Footnote 142 From this complex array of allegiances and claims, the question of who holds authority to determine the content of spiritual policy—the locus of spiritual jurisdiction—emerges as distinct from the secondary question of what that content is. Despite tolerationist policies often appearing as an answer to the first, and as one divesting of spiritual authority, it is also possible to understand this politique approach as merely providing an answer to the second. That is, as offering the substantive content of a “spiritual” policy that nonetheless preserves the sovereign's complete authority over spiritual matters. Promotion of a plurality of congregations and doctrines might conceivably be adopted and enforced by a sovereign without any loss of authority to judge and legislate in questions of doctrine and morals.Footnote 143 In like manner, as Hobbes suggested, the sovereign might alternatively demand that loyal subjects obey the Pope in matters of religion. Insofar as this article has focused on highlighting the jurisdictional frame through which Hobbes was viewing ecclesiological concerns, the matter of whether and how a sovereign might shape the “spiritual” internal beliefs of subjects has not received the attention it might. Yet the analysis here suggests that Hobbes favored the sovereign's active governance of such “spiritual” bodies, to the extent possible.

The argument proffered here also invites further enquiry into other themes that predominated in Gallican polemics during the seventeenth century. As noted, the contributions of Edmond Richer not only provided clear precedent for analogizing across ecclesiastical and civil forms of government; they also revived conciliarist aspirations that gave precedence to the authority of councils over that of the Pope as monarch. These may have afforded Hobbes a more vivid picture of a “sacralized” sovereign assembly. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that Richer's views, especially in the form of “Richerism” (a movement which vested divine authority in the parish priest and gained prominence immediately following Hobbes's stay in FranceFootnote 144), ultimately pushed against the centralization of spiritual authority, and so may be seen to present a challenge to the interpretation provided above. In reply, it may be suggested that Richer's attempt to combine the (at times) contrary impulses of political and ecclesiastical Gallicanism embody precisely the contradictions that Hobbes set against in Leviathan.

Indeed, the nonsystematic nature of Gallicanism, and the shifting directions invited by different moments of allegiance between the French king, the clergy, and Rome, have often made concrete engagement with the subject difficult. However, its developments track the emergence of a more theoretically deliberate or self-conscious notion of sovereignty. The French king's role and remit were defined gradually in the face of a significant and coherent group of internal actors (the French clergy), along with a desire for France to participate meaningfully in a supranational community (the universal Catholic Church). Understanding this Gallican history as a navigation and coordination of these divergent interests yields one of the most fascinating and concrete early modern examples of sovereign power being delineated. Seen as such, it is little surprise that Hobbes, attuned to this complex dynamic as he was, should emerge as a key modern theorist not only of sovereignty, but also of international relations.

Finally, this article has not treated Hobbes's later writings such as Historia Ecclesiastica and Behemoth, which demonstrate his continued engagement with political history through the lens of jurisdiction. For example, while Behemoth was consciously focused on understanding the English Civil War, the Catholic inflection of Leviathan—and the threat of a superior papal power—clearly continued to shape his views about how and why conflicts might develop.Footnote 145 Hobbes described the cascading pattern of clerical usurpation of ecclesiastical authority, first by the Pope and then by English bishops, in explaining the wider breakdown of civil peace. He made reference to the importance of the early church councils and reiterated the portrayal of kings as bishops, “as the heathen Kings were of old,” as well as the power of baptism for transforming them into Christian bishops.Footnote 146 In this way, reconstruction of these French debates and their sources may shed further light on how Hobbes's political preoccupations matured, even as he returned to England and continued to reflect on the interactions between history and philosophy. Indeed, recovering a picture of Hobbes ensconced in Paris during the critical years in which he penned Leviathan presents a valuable viewpoint from which to appreciate Hobbes's influence, more broadly, on the trajectory of modern European political thought.


Earlier versions of this article were presented at the American Political Science Association Conference 2021 and the Harvard Political Theory Workshop; I am very grateful for the helpful feedback received on both occasions. I am especially thankful to Richard Tuck, Eric Nelson, Cheryl Welch, Bolek Kabala, Jacob Hoerger, Evelyn Boyden, Dimitri Halikias, and Liya Nahusenay for their insights and support in the writing process. Finally, I am deeply indebted to the two anonymous reviewers and Darrin McMahon at Modern Intellectual History, for their sharp suggestions for improving this article.


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37 L:XLIV:960, emphasis added.

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55 L:XLII:774, emphasis added.

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57 L:XLII:780, emphasis added.

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69 L:XLII:882, emphasis added.

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71 L:XLIV:964.

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74 Stefania Tutino, Empire of Souls: Robert Bellarmine and the Christian Commonwealth (Oxford, 2010), 49–80.

75 Ibid. 64.

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77 Tutino, Empire of Souls, 66–72.

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81 L:XLII:866.

82 Patricia Springborg, “Thomas Hobbes and Cardinal Bellarmine: Leviathan and ‘The Ghost of the Roman Empire’,” History of Political Thought 16/4 (1995), 503–31, at 510.

83 L:XLII:850.

84 L:XLII:872.

85 L:XLII:872.

86 L:XLII:874.

87 L:XLII:882.

88 L:XLII:886.

89 L:XLII:894.

90 L:XLII:900.

91 L:XLII:902.

92 L:XLII:910–12.

93 L:XLII:912.

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107 L:XLII:894, 856.

108 L:XXXV:644–6.

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115 Thomas Pink, “Suarez and Bellarmine on the Church as Coercive Lawgiver,” in Riccardo Saccenti and Cinzia Sulas, eds., Legge e Natura I dibattiti teologici e giuridici fra XV e XVII secolo (Arricia, 2016), 287–332.

116 Parsons, The Church in the Republic; Bouwsma, “Gallicanism and the Nature of Christendom.”

117 Parsons, The Church in the Republic; Bouwsma, “Gallicanism and the Nature of Christendom.”

118 L:XLII:780.

119 L:XLII:780.

120 L:XLII:782.

121 L:XLIII:936.

122 L:XLII:782.

123 L:XLII:782.

124 L:XVIII:272.

125 L:XVIII:272.

126 L:XXXIII:604.

127 Thomas Hobbes, The English Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury (London, 1840), vol. 4V, 8.

128 L:XXXIII:606.

129 L:XLII:866.

130 L:XLII:854.-

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133 Ibid.

134 L:XLII:13.

135 L:XII:180.

136 L:XII:180; L:XVI:248.

137 L:XXXIX:732–34.

138 L:XL:752.

139 L:XXIX:506–12.

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141 Ibid. See also 371–7.

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