body politic
   HOME

TheInfoList



OR:

The body politic is a
polity A polity is an identifiable Politics, political entity – a group of people with a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized social relation, social relations, and have a capacity to mobilize ...
—such as a
city A city is a human settlement of notable size.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. 2nd edition. London: Routledge. It can be def ...

city
,
realm A realm is a community or territory over which a sovereign rules. The term is commonly used to describe a monarchical or dynastic state. A realm may also be a subdivision within an empire An empire is a "political unit" made up of seve ...

realm
, or
state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, U ...
—considered
metaphor A metaphor is a figure of speech that, for rhetorical effect, directly refers to one thing by mentioning another. It may provide (or obscure) clarity or identify hidden similarities between two different ideas. Metaphors are often compared with ...
ically as a physical body. Historically, the
sovereign ''Sovereign'' is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French , which is ultimately derived from the Latin , meaning 'above'. The roles of a sovereign vary from monarch, ruler or ...

sovereign
is typically portrayed as the body's head, and the analogy may also be extended to other anatomical parts, as in political readings of
Aesop Aesop ( or ; , ; c. 620–564 BCE) was a Greeks, Greek wikt:fabulist, fabulist and Oral storytelling, storyteller credited with a number of fables now collectively known as ''Aesop's Fables''. Although his existence remains unclear and no wr ...

Aesop
's fable of " The Belly and the Members". The image originates in
ancient Greek philosophy Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the 6th century BC, marking the end of the Greek Dark Ages. Greek philosophy continued throughout the Hellenistic period and the period in which Greece and most Greek-inhabited lands were part of the Roman Em ...
, beginning in the 6th century BC, and was later extended in
Roman philosophy Ancient Roman philosophy was heavily influenced by the ancient Greeks and the schools of Hellenistic philosophy Hellenistic philosophy is a time-frame for Western philosophy and Ancient Greek philosophy Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the ...
. Following the high and
late medieval The Late Middle Ages or Late Medieval Period was the Periodization, period of European history lasting from AD 1300 to 1500. The Late Middle Ages followed the High Middle Ages and preceded the onset of the early modern period (and in much of Eur ...
revival of the Byzantine ''
Corpus Juris Civilis The ''Corpus Juris'' (or ''Iuris'') ''Civilis'' ("Body of Civil Law") is the modern name for a collection of fundamental works in jurisprudence, issued from 529 to 534 by order of Justinian I, Byzantine Emperors, Byzantine Emperor. It is also ...
'' in Latin Europe, the "body politic" took on a jurisprudential significance by being identified with the legal theory of the
corporation A corporation is an organization—usually a group of people or a company—authorized by the State (polity), state to act as a single entity (a legal entity recognized by private and public law "born out of statute"; a legal person in legal ...

corporation
, gaining salience in political thought from the 13th century on. In
English law English law is the common law list of national legal systems, legal system of England and Wales, comprising mainly English criminal law, criminal law and Civil law (common law), civil law, each branch having its own Courts of England and Wales, ...
the image of the body politic developed into the theory of the king's two bodies and
the Crown The Crown is the state (polity), state in all its aspects within the jurisprudence of the Commonwealth realms and their subdivisions (such as the Crown Dependencies, British Overseas Territories, overseas territories, Provinces and territorie ...

the Crown
as
corporation sole A corporation sole is a Legal person, legal entity consisting of a single ("sole") incorporated office, occupied by a single ("sole") natural person.
. The metaphor was elaborated further from the
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a Periodization, period in History of Europe, European history marking the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity and covering the 15th and 16th centuries, characterized by an e ...

Renaissance
on, as medical knowledge based on
Galen Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus ( el, Κλαύδιος Γαληνός; September 129 – c. AD 216), often Anglicization, Anglicized as Galen () or Galen of Pergamon, was a Ancient Greeks, Greek physician, surgeon and Philosophy, philosopher i ...
was challenged by thinkers such as
William Harvey William Harvey (1 April 1578 – 3 June 1657) was an English people, English physician who made influential contributions in anatomy and physiology. He was the first known physician to describe completely, and in detail, the systemic circula ...

William Harvey
. Analogies were drawn between supposed causes of disease and disorder and their equivalents in the political field, viewed as plagues or infections that might be remedied with purges and nostrums. The 17th century writings of
Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes ( ; 5/15 April 1588 – 4/14 December 1679) was an English people, English philosopher, considered to be one of the founders of modern political philosophy. Hobbes is best known for his 1651 book ''Leviathan (Hobbes book), Levi ...
developed the image of the body politic into a modern theory of the state as an artificial person. Parallel terms deriving from the Latin exist in other European languages.


Etymology

The term ''body politic'' derives from
Medieval Latin Medieval Latin was the form of Literary Latin used in Roman Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Western Europe during the Middle Ages. In this region it served as the primary written language, though local languages were also written to varying deg ...
''corpus politicum'', which itself developed from ''corpus mysticum'', originally designating the
Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the List of Christian denominations by number of members, largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptized Catholics Catholic Church by country, worldwide . It is am ...

Catholic Church
as the mystical body of Christ but extended to politics from the 11th century on in the form ''corpus reipublicae'' (''mysticum''), "(mystical) body of the commonwealth". Parallel terms exist in other European languages, such as Italian ''corpo politico'', Polish ''ciało polityczne'', and German ''Staatskörper'' ("state body"). An equivalent early modern French term is ''corps-état''; contemporary French uses ''corps politique''.


History


Classical philosophy

The Western concept of the "body politic", originally meaning a human
society A society is a group of individuals involved in persistent social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or social territory, typically subject to the same political Politics (from , ) is the set of activitie ...

society
considered as a collective body, originated in classical
Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece, a country in Southern Europe: *Greeks, an ethnic group. *Greek language, a branch of the Indo-European language family. **Proto-Greek language, the assumed last common ancestor ...
and
Roman philosophy Ancient Roman philosophy was heavily influenced by the ancient Greeks and the schools of Hellenistic philosophy Hellenistic philosophy is a time-frame for Western philosophy and Ancient Greek philosophy Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the ...
. The general metaphor emerged in the 6th century BC, with the Athenian statesman
Solon Solon ( grc-gre, wikt:Σόλων, Σόλων;  BC) was an History of Athens, Athenian statesman, constitutional lawmaker and poet. He is remembered particularly for his efforts to legislate against political, economic and moral decline in A ...

Solon
and the poet Theognis describing cities (''
poleis ''Polis'' (, ; grc-gre, :wikt:πόλις, πόλις, ), plural ''poleis'' (, , ), literally means "city" in Greek. In Ancient Greece, it originally referred to an administrative and religious city center, as distinct from the rest of the cit ...

poleis
'') in biological terms as "pregnant" or "wounded".
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, wikt:Πλάτων, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was a Greeks, Greek philosopher born in Athens during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece. He founded the Platonist school of thou ...

Plato
's ''
Republic A republic () is a "sovereign state, state in which Power (social and political), power rests with the people or their Representative democracy, representatives; specifically a state without a monarchy" and also a "government, or system of gov ...
'' provided one of its most influential formulations. The term itself, however—in
Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: Mycenaean Greek (), Greek Dark ...
, grc, τῆς πόλεως σῶμα, tēs poleōs sōma, label=none, "the body of the state"—appears as such for the first time in the late 4th century Athenian orators Dinarch and
Hypereides Hypereides or Hyperides ( grc-gre, Ὑπερείδης, ''Hypereidēs''; c. 390 – 322 BC; English pronunciation with the stress variably on the penultimate or antepenultimate syllable) was an Athenian Athens ( ; el, Αθήνα, Athína ; ...
at the beginning of the
Hellenistic era In Classical antiquity, the Hellenistic period covers the time in History of the Mediterranean region, Mediterranean history after Classical Greece, between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as sig ...
. In these early formulations, the
anatomical Anatomy () is the branch of biology concerned with the study of the structure of organisms and their parts. Anatomy is a branch of natural science that deals with the structural organization of living things. It is an old science, having its ...
detail of the body politic was relatively limited: Greek thinkers typically confined themselves to distinguishing the ruler as head of the body, and comparing political '' stasis'', that is, crises of the state, to biological disease. The image of the body politic occupied a central place in the political thought of the
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Res publica Romana ) was a form of government of Rome and the era of the ancient Rome, classical Roman civilization when it was run through res publica, public Representation (politics), representation of the Roman peo ...
, and the Romans were the first to develop the anatomy of the "body" in full detail, endowing it with nerves, "blood, breath, limbs, and organs". In its origins, the concept was particularly connected to a politicised version of
Aesop Aesop ( or ; , ; c. 620–564 BCE) was a Greeks, Greek wikt:fabulist, fabulist and Oral storytelling, storyteller credited with a number of fables now collectively known as ''Aesop's Fables''. Although his existence remains unclear and no wr ...

Aesop
's fable of " The Belly and the Members", told in relation to the first ''secessio plebis'', the temporary departure of the plebeian order from Rome in 495–93 BC.. On the account of the Roman historian
Livy Titus Livius (; 59 BC – AD 17), known in English as Livy ( ), was a Ancient Rome, Roman historian. He wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people, titled , covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome before the traditiona ...
, a
senator A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or Legislative chamber, chamber of a bicameral legislature. The name comes from the Ancient Rome, ancient Roman Senate (Latin: ''Senatus''), so-called as an assembly of the senior ...
explained the situation to the plebeians by a metaphor: the various members of the Roman body had become angry that the "stomach", the
patricians The patricians (from la, patricius, Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece, a country in Southern Europe: *Greeks, an ethnic group. *Greek language, a branch of the Indo-European language family. **Proto-Gr ...
, consumed their labours while providing nothing in return. However, upon their secession, they became feeble and realised that the stomach's digestion had provided them vital energy. Convinced by this story, the plebeians returned to Rome, and the Roman body was made whole and functional. This legend formed a paradigm for "nearly all surviving republican discourse of the body politic". Late republican orators developed the image further, comparing attacks on Roman institutions to mutilations of the republic's body. During the
First Triumvirate The First Triumvirate was an informal political alliance among three prominent politicians in the late Roman Republic: Julius Caesar, Gaius Julius Caesar, Pompey, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Marcus Licinius Crassus. The constitution of the Roma ...
in 59 BC,
Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Ancient Rome, Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher, and Academic skepticism, academic skeptic, who tried to uphold optimate principles during crisis of ...
described the Roman state as "dying of a new sort of disease".
Lucan Marcus Annaeus Lucanus (3 November 39 AD – 30 April 65 AD), better known in English language, English as Lucan (), was a Roman Empire, Roman poet, born in Corduba (modern-day Córdoba, Spain, Córdoba), in Hispania Baetica. He is regarded as ...
's ''
Pharsalia ''De Bello Civili'' (; ''On the Civil War''), more commonly referred to as the ''Pharsalia'', is a Roman literature, Roman Epic poetry, epic poem written by the poet Lucan, detailing the Caesar's civil war, civil war between Julius Caesar and th ...
'', written in the early imperial era in the 60s AD, abounded in this kind of imagery. Depicting the
dictator A dictator is a political leader who possesses absolute power. A dictatorship is a state ruled by one dictator or by a small clique. The word originated as the title of a Roman dictator elected by the Roman Senate to rule the republic in times ...
Sulla Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (; 138–78 BC), commonly known as Sulla, was a Ancient Romans, Roman List of Roman generals, general and Politician, statesman. He won the first large-scale civil war in Roman history and became the first man of the ...
as a surgeon out of control who had butchered the Roman body politic in the process of cutting out its putrefied limbs, Lucan used vivid organic language to portray the decline of the Roman Republic as a literal process of decay, its seas and rivers becoming choked with blood and gore.


Medieval usage

The metaphor of the body politic remained in use after the
fall of the Western Roman Empire The fall of the Western Roman Empire (also called the fall of the Roman Empire or the fall of Ancient Rome, Rome) was the loss of central political control in the Western Roman Empire, a process in which the Empire failed to enforce its rul ...
. The
Neoplatonist Neoplatonism is a strand of Platonism, Platonic philosophy that emerged in the 3rd century AD against the background of Hellenistic philosophy and Hellenistic religion, religion. The term does not encapsulate a set of ideas as much as a chain of ...
Islamic philosopher
al-Farabi Abu Nasr Muhammad Al-Farabi ( fa, ابونصر محمد فارابی), ( ar, أبو نصر محمد الفارابي), known in the Western world, West as Alpharabius; (c. 872 – between 14 December, 950 and 12 January, 951)PDF version was a reno ...
, known in the West as Alpharabius, discussed the image in his work ''The Perfect State'' (c. 940), stating, "The excellent city resembles the perfect and healthy body, all of whose limbs cooperate to make the life of the animal perfect".
John of Salisbury John of Salisbury (late 1110s – 25 October 1180), who described himself as Johannes Parvus ("John the Little"), was an English author, philosopher, educationalist, diplomat and bishop of Chartres. Early life and education Born at Salisbury, En ...
gave it a definitive Latin
high medieval The High Middle Ages, or High Medieval Period, was the periodization, period of European history that lasted from AD 1000 to 1300. The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and were followed by the Late Middle Ages, which ended ...
form in his ''
Policraticus ''Policraticus'' is a work by John of Salisbury, written around 1159. Sometimes called the first complete medieval work of political theory, it belongs, at least in part, to the genre of advice literature addressed to rulers known as "mirrors for ...
'' around 1159: the king was the body's head; the priest was the soul; the councillors were the heart; the eyes, ears, and tongue were the magistrates of the law; one hand, the army, held a weapon; the other, without a weapon, was the realm's justice. The body's feet were the common people. Each member of the body had its
vocation A vocation () is an job, occupation to which a person is especially drawn or for which they are suited, trained or qualified. People can be given information about a new occupation through student orientation. Though now often used in non-religio ...
, and each was beholden to work in harmony for the benefit of the whole body. In the
Late Middle Ages The Late Middle Ages or Late Medieval Period was the Periodization, period of European history lasting from AD 1300 to 1500. The Late Middle Ages followed the High Middle Ages and preceded the onset of the early modern period (and in much of Eur ...
, the concept of the
corporation A corporation is an organization—usually a group of people or a company—authorized by the State (polity), state to act as a single entity (a legal entity recognized by private and public law "born out of statute"; a legal person in legal ...

corporation
, a
legal person In law, a legal person is any person or 'thing' (less ambiguously, any legal entity) that can do the things a human person is usually able to do in law – such as enter into contracts, lawsuit, sue and be sued, ownership, own property, and so o ...
made up of a group of real individuals, gave the idea of a body politic judicial significance. The corporation had emerged in imperial
Roman law Roman law is the law, legal system of ancient Rome, including the legal developments spanning over a thousand years of jurisprudence, from the Twelve Tables (c. 449 BC), to the ''Corpus Juris Civilis'' (AD 529) ordered by Eastern Roman emperor J ...
under the name ''universitas'', and a formulation of the concept attributed to
Ulpian Ulpian (; la, Gnaeus Domitius Annius Ulpianus; c. 170223? 228?) was a Roman empire, Roman jurist born in Tyre (Lebanon), Tyre. He was considered one of the great legal authorities of his time and was one of the five jurists upon whom decisions w ...
was collected in the 6th century '' Digest'' of
Justinian I Justinian I (; la, Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus, ; grc-gre, Ἰουστινιανός ; 48214 November 565), also known as Justinian the Great, was the Byzantine emperor, Eastern Roman emperor from 527 to 565. His reign is marked by ...
during the early
Byzantine era The Byzantine calendar, also called the Roman calendar, the Creation Era of Constantinople or the Era of the World ( grc, Ἔτη Γενέσεως Κόσμου κατὰ Ῥωμαίους, also or , abbreviated as ε.Κ.; literal translation of ...
. The ''Digest'', along with the other parts of Justinian's ''
Corpus Juris Civilis The ''Corpus Juris'' (or ''Iuris'') ''Civilis'' ("Body of Civil Law") is the modern name for a collection of fundamental works in jurisprudence, issued from 529 to 534 by order of Justinian I, Byzantine Emperors, Byzantine Emperor. It is also ...
'', became the bedrock of medieval civil law upon its recovery and annotation by the
glossator The scholars of the 11th- and 12th-century legal schools in Italy, France and Germany are identified as glossators in a specific sense. They studied Roman law based on the ''Digest (Roman law), Digesta'', the ''Codex Justinianus, Codex'' of Justin ...
s beginning in the 11th century. It remained for the glossators' 13th century successors, the
commentators Commentator or commentators may refer to: * Commentator (historical) or Postglossator, a member of a European legal school that arose in France in the fourteenth century * Commentator (horse) (foaled 2001), American Thoroughbred racehorse * The Co ...
—especially
Baldus de Ubaldis Baldus de Ubaldis (Italian: ''Baldo degli Ubaldi''; 1327 – 28 April 1400) was an Italian jurist, and a leading figure in Medieval Roman Law and the school of Postglossators. Life A member of the noble family of the Ubaldi (Baldeschi), B ...
—to develop the idea of the corporation as a ''persona ficta'', a fictive person, and apply the concept to human societies as a whole. Where his jurist predecessor Bartolus of Saxoferrato conceived the corporation in essentially legal terms, Baldus expressly connected the corporation theory to the ancient, biological and political concept of the body politic. For Baldus, not only was man, in Aristotelian terms, a "political animal", but the whole ''populus'', the body of the people, formed a type of political animal in itself: a ''populus'' "has government as part of tsexistence, just as every animal is ruled by its own spirit and soul". Baldus equated the body politic with the '' respublica'', the state or realm, stating that it "cannot die, and for this reason it is said that it has no heir, because it always lives on in itself". From here, the image of the body politic became prominent in the medieval imagination. In Canto XVIII of his '' Paradiso'', for instance,
Dante Dante Alighieri (; – 14 September 1321), probably baptized Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri and often referred to as Dante (, ), was an Italian people, Italian Italian poetry, poet, writer and philosopher. His ''Divine Comedy'', origin ...
, writing in the early 14th century, presents the Roman Empire as a corporate body in the form of an imperial eagle, its body made of souls. The French court writer
Christine de Pizan Christine de Pizan or Pisan (), born Cristina da Pizzano (September 1364 – c. 1430), was an Italian poet and court writer for King Charles VI of France and several French dukes. Christine de Pizan served as a court writer in medieval France ...
discussed the concept at length in her ''Book of the Body Politic'' (1407). The idea of the body politic, rendered in legal terms through corporation theory, also drew natural comparison to the
theological Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the Divinity, divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an Discipline (academia), academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. It occupies itself with the ...
concept of the church as a ''corpus mysticum'', the mystical body of Christ. The concept of the people as a ''corpus mysticum'' also featured in Baldus, and the idea that the realm of France was a ''corpus mysticum'' formed an important part of late medieval French jurisprudence. , around 1418–19, described the French laws of succession as established by the "whole civic or mystical body of the realm", and the
Parlement of Paris The Parliament of Paris (french: Parlement de Paris) was the oldest ''parlement A ''parlement'' (), under the French Ancien Régime, was a Provinces of France, provincial appellate court of the Kingdom of France. In 1789, France had 13 ...
in 1489 proclaimed itself a "mystical body" composed of both ecclesiastics and laymen, representing the "body of the king". From at least the 14th century, the doctrine developed that the French kings were mystically married to the body politic; at the coronation of Henry II in 1547, he was said to have "solemnly married his realm". The English jurist John Fortescue also invoked the "mystical body" in his ' (c. 1470): just as a physical body is "held together by the nerves", the mystical body of the realm is held together by the law, and


The king's body politic


In England

In Tudor and
Stuart England Stuart may refer to: Names *Stuart (name), a given name and surname (and list of people with the name) Automobile *Stuart (automobile) Places Australia Generally *Stuart Highway, connecting South Australia and the Northern Territory Norther ...
, the concept of the body politic was given a peculiar additional significance through the idea of the ''king's two bodies'', the doctrine discussed by the German-American medievalist
Ernst Kantorowicz Ernst Hartwig Kantorowicz (May 3, 1895 – September 9, 1963) was a German historian of medieval political and intellectual history and art, known for his 1927 book ''Frederick the Second, Kaiser Friedrich der Zweite'' on Holy Roman Emperor Freder ...
in his eponymous work. This legal doctrine held that the monarch had two bodies: the physical "king body natural" and the immortal "King body politic". Upon the "demise" of an individual king, his body natural fell away, but the body politic lived on.. This was an indigenous development of
English law English law is the common law list of national legal systems, legal system of England and Wales, comprising mainly English criminal law, criminal law and Civil law (common law), civil law, each branch having its own Courts of England and Wales, ...
without a precise equivalent in the rest of Europe. Extending the identification of the body politic as a corporation, English jurists argued that
the Crown The Crown is the state (polity), state in all its aspects within the jurisprudence of the Commonwealth realms and their subdivisions (such as the Crown Dependencies, British Overseas Territories, overseas territories, Provinces and territorie ...

the Crown
was a "
corporation sole A corporation sole is a Legal person, legal entity consisting of a single ("sole") incorporated office, occupied by a single ("sole") natural person.
": a corporation made up of one body politic that was at the same time the body of the realm and its parliamentary estates, and also the body of the royal dignity itself—two concepts of the body politic that were conflated and fused. The development of the doctrine of the king's two bodies can be traced in the ''Reports'' of Edmund Plowden. In the 1561 ''Case of the Duchy of Lancaster'', which concerned whether an earlier gift of land made by
Edward VI Edward VI (12 October 1537 – 6 July 1553) was King of England and King of Ireland, Ireland from 28 January 1547 until his death in 1553. He was crowned on 20 February 1547 at the age of nine. Edward was the son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour ...
could be voided on account of his "nonage", that is, his immaturity, the judges held that it could not: the king's "Body politic, which is annexed to his Body natural, takes away the Imbecility of his Body natural". The king's body politic, then, "that cannot be seen or handled", annexes the body natural and "wipes away" all its defects. What was more, the body politic rendered the king immortal as an individual: as the judges in the case ''Hill v. Grange'' argued in 1556, once the king had made an act, "he as King never dies, but the King, in which Name it has Relation to him, does ever continue"—thus, they held,
Henry VIII Henry VIII (28 June 149128 January 1547) was King of England from 22 April 1509 until his death in 1547. Henry is best known for his Wives of Henry VIII, six marriages, and for his efforts to have his first marriage (to Catherine of Aragon) ...
was still "alive", a decade after his physical death. The doctrine of the two bodies could serve to limit the powers of the real king. When
Edward Coke Edward is an English given name A given name (also known as a forename or first name) is the part of a personal name quoted in that identifies a person, potentially with a middle name as well, and differentiates that person from the other ...
,
Chief Justice of the Common Pleas The chief justice of the Common Pleas was the head of the Court of Common Pleas (England), Court of Common Pleas, also known as the Common Bench or Common Place, which was the second-highest Common law#History, common law court in the English la ...
at the time, reported the way in which judges had differentiated the bodies in 1608, he noted that it was the "natural body" of the king that was created by God—the "politic body", by contrast, was "framed by the policy of man". In the ''Case of Prohibitions'' of the same year, Coke denied the king "in his own person" any right to administer justice or order arrests. Finally, in its declaration of 27 May 1642 shortly before the start of the
English Civil War The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of civil wars and political machinations between Parliamentarians ("Roundheads") and Royalists led by Charles I ("Cavaliers"), mainly over the manner of Kingdom of England, England's governanc ...
,
Parliament In modern politics, and history, a parliament is a legislative body of government. Generally, a modern parliament has three functions: Representation (politics), representing the Election#Suffrage, electorate, making laws, and overseeing ...
drew on the theory to invoke the powers of the body politic of
Charles I Charles I may refer to: Kings and emperors * Charlemagne (742–814), numbered Charles I in the lists of Holy Roman Emperors and French kings * Charles I of Anjou (1226–1285), also king of Albania, Jerusalem, Naples and Sicily * Charles I of ...
against his body natural, stating: The 18th century jurist
William Blackstone Sir William Blackstone (10 July 1723 – 14 February 1780) was an English jurist, judge and Tory (British political party), Tory politician of the eighteenth century. He is most noted for writing the ''Commentaries on the Laws of England''. Bo ...
, in Book I of his ''
Commentaries on the Laws of England The ''Commentaries on the Laws of England'' are an influential 18th-century treatise on the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent, judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-j ...
'' (1765), summarised the doctrine of the king's body politic as it subsequently developed after the Restoration: the king "in his political capacity" manifests "absolute ''perfection''"; he can "do no wrong", nor even is he capable of "''thinking'' wrong"; he can have no defect, and is never in law "a minor or under age". Indeed, Blackstone says, if an heir to the throne should accede while "attainted of treason or felony", his assumption of the crown "would purge the attainder ''ipso facto''". The king manifests "absolute immortality": "Henry, Edward, or George may die; but the king survives them all". Soon after the appearance of the ''Commentaries'', however,
Jeremy Bentham Jeremy Bentham (; 15 February 1748 ld Style and New Style dates, O.S. 4 February 1747– 6 June 1832) was an English philosopher, jurist, and social reformer regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism. Bentham defined as the "fundam ...
mounted an extensive attack on Blackstone which the historian
Quentin Skinner Quentin Robert Duthie Skinner (born 26 November 1940) is a British intellectual history, intellectual historian. He is regarded as one of the founders of the Cambridge School (intellectual history), Cambridge School of the history of political ...
describes as "almost lethal" to the theory: legal fictions like the body politic, Bentham argued, were conducive to royal absolutism and should be entirely avoided in law. Bentham's position dominated later British legal thinking, and though aspects of the theory of the body politic would survive in subsequent jurisprudence, the idea of the Crown as a corporation sole was widely critiqued. In the late 19th century,
Frederic William Maitland Frederic William Maitland (28 May 1850 – ) was an English historian and lawyer who is regarded as the modern father of English legal history. Early life and education, 1850–72 Frederic William Maitland was born at 53 Guilford Street, Lon ...
revived the legal discourse of the king's two bodies, arguing that the concept of the Crown as corporation sole had originated from the amalgamation of medieval civil law with the law of church property. He proposed, in contrast, to view the Crown as an ordinary corporation aggregate, that is, a corporation of many people, with a view to describing the legal personhood of the state.


In France

A related but contrasting concept in France was the doctrine termed by Sarah Hanley the king's ''one'' body, summarised by
Jean Bodin Jean Bodin (; c. 1530 – 1596) was a French people, French jurist and political philosophy, political philosopher, member of the Parlement of Paris and professor of law in Toulouse. He is known for his theory of sovereignty. He was also an influe ...
in his own 1576 pronouncement that "the king never dies". Rather than distinguishing the immortal body politic from the mortal body natural of the king, as in the English theory, the French doctrine conflated the two, arguing that the
Salic law The Salic law ( or ; la, Lex salica), also called the was the ancient Franks, Frankish Civil law (legal system), civil law code compiled around AD 500 by the first Frankish King, Clovis I, Clovis. The written text is in Latin and contains some ...
had established a single king body politic and natural that constantly regenerated through the biological reproduction of the royal line. The body politic, on this account, was biological and necessarily male, and 15th century French jurists such as Jean Juvénal des Ursins argued on this basis for the exclusion of female heirs to the crown—since, they argued, the king of France was a "virile office". In the ''
ancien régime ''Ancien'' may refer to * the French word for "ancient Ancient history is a time period from the History of writing, beginning of writing and recorded human history to as far as late antiquity. The span of recorded history is roughly 5,000 ...
'', the king's heir was held to assimilate the body politic of the old king in a physical "transfer of corporeality" upon his accession.


In the United States

James I James I may refer to: People *James I of Aragon (1208–1276) *James I of Sicily or James II of Aragon (1267–1327) *James I, Count of La Marche (1319–1362), Count of Ponthieu *James I, Count of Urgell (1321–1347) *James I of Cyprus (1334–13 ...
in the second charter for Virginia, as well as both the
Plymouth Plymouth () is a port city status in the United Kingdom, city and unitary authority in South West England. It is located on the south coast of Devon, approximately south-west of Exeter and south-west of London. It is bordered by Cornwall to ...
and
Massachusetts Charter The Massachusetts Charter of 1691 was a Royal Charter, charter that formally established the Province of Massachusetts Bay. Issued by the government of William III of England, William III and Mary II of England, Mary II, the corulers of the Kingdo ...
, grant body politic.


Hobbesian state theory

Aside from the doctrine of the king's two bodies, the conventional image of the whole of the realm as a body politic had also remained in use in Stuart England:
James I James I may refer to: People *James I of Aragon (1208–1276) *James I of Sicily or James II of Aragon (1267–1327) *James I, Count of La Marche (1319–1362), Count of Ponthieu *James I, Count of Urgell (1321–1347) *James I of Cyprus (1334–13 ...
compared the office of the king to "the office of the head towards the body". Upon the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, however, parliamentarians such as William Bridge put forward the argument that the "ruling power" belonged originally to "the whole people or body politicke", who could revoke it from the monarch. The
execution of Charles I The execution of Charles I by Decapitation, beheading occurred on Tuesday, 30 January 1649 outside the Banqueting House on Whitehall. The execution was the culmination of political and military conflicts between the cavaliers, royalists and the ...
in 1649 made necessary a radical revision of the whole concept. In 1651,
Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes ( ; 5/15 April 1588 – 4/14 December 1679) was an English people, English philosopher, considered to be one of the founders of modern political philosophy. Hobbes is best known for his 1651 book ''Leviathan (Hobbes book), Levi ...
's ''
Leviathan Leviathan (; he, לִוְיָתָן, ) is a sea serpent noted in theology and mythology. It is referenced in several books of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (;
'' made a decisive contribution to this effect, reviving the concept while endowing it with new features. Against the parliamentarians, Hobbes maintained that sovereignty was absolute and the head could certainly not be "of lesse power" than the body of the people; against the royal absolutists, however, he developed the idea of a
social contract In moral and political philosophy, the social contract is a theory or model that originated during the Age of Enlightenment and usually, although not always, concerns the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual. Soci ...
, emphasising that the body politic—Leviathan, the "mortal god"—was fictional and artificial rather than natural, derived from an original decision by the people to constitute a sovereign. Hobbes's theory of the body politic exercised an important influence on subsequent political thinkers, who both repeated and modified it. Republican partisans of the
Commonwealth A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good In philosophy, economics, and political science, the common good (also commonwealth, general welfare, or public benefit) is either what is share ...
presented alternative figurations of the metaphor in defence of the parliamentarian model. James Harrington, in his 1656 '' Commonwealth of Oceana'', argued that "the delivery of a Model Government ... is no less than political Anatomy"; it must "imbrace all those Muscles, Nerves, Arterys and Bones, which are necessary to any Function of a well order'd Commonwealth". Invoking
William Harvey William Harvey (1 April 1578 – 3 June 1657) was an English people, English physician who made influential contributions in anatomy and physiology. He was the first known physician to describe completely, and in detail, the systemic circula ...

William Harvey
's recent discovery of the
circulatory system The blood circulatory system is a organ system, system of organs that includes the heart, blood vessels, and blood which is circulated throughout the entire body of a human or other vertebrate. It includes the cardiovascular system, or vascula ...
, Harrington presented the body politic as a dynamic system of political circulation, comparing his ideal
bicameral legislature Bicameralism is a type of legislature, one divided into two separate Deliberative assembly, assemblies, chambers, or houses, known as a bicameral legislature. Bicameralism is distinguished from unicameralism, in which all members deliberate and ...
, for example, to the ventricles of the human heart. In contrast to Hobbes, the "head" was once more dependent on the people: the execution of the law must follow the law itself, so that "''Leviathan'' may see, that the hand or sword that executeth the Law is ''in'' it, and ''not above'' it". In Germany,
Samuel von Pufendorf Samuel Freiherr von Pufendorf (8 January 1632 – 26 October 1694) was a German people, German jurist, political philosopher, economist and historian. He was born Samuel Pufendorf and Nobility, ennobled in 1694; he was made a baron by Charles XI ...
recapitulated Hobbes's explanation of the origin of the state as a social contract, but extended his notion of personhood to argue that the state must be a specifically moral person with a rational nature, and not simply coercive power. In the 18th century, Hobbes's theory of the state as an artificial body politic gained wide acceptance both in Britain and continental Europe.
Thomas Pownall Thomas Pownall (bapt. 4 September 1722 Old Style and New Style dates, N.S. – 25 February 1805) was a Kingdom of Great Britain, British colonial official and politician. He was governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay from 1757 to 1760 ...
, later the British governor of Massachusetts and a proponent of American liberty, drew on Hobbes's theory in his 1752 ''Principles of Polity'' to argue that "the whole Body politic" should be conceived as "one Person"; states were "distinct ''Persons'' and independent". At around the same time, the Swiss jurist
Emer de Vattel Emer (Emmerich) de Vattel ( 25 April 171428 December 1767) was an international lawyer. He was born in Couvet in the Canton of Neuchâtel, Principality of Neuchâtel (now a canton part of Switzerland but part of Prussia at the time) in 1714 and d ...
pronounced that "states are bodies politic", "moral persons" with their own "understanding and ... will", a statement that would become accepted
international law International law (also known as public international law and the law of nations) is the set of rules, norms, and standards generally recognized as binding between State (polity), states. It establishes normative guidelines and a common conceptua ...
. The tension between organic understandings of the body politic and theories emphasizing its artificial character formed a theme in English political debates in this period. Writing in 1780, during the
American Revolutionary War The American Revolutionary War (April 19, 1775 – September 3, 1783), also known as the Revolutionary War or American War of Independence, was a major war of the American Revolution. Widely considered as the war that secured the independence of t ...
, the British reformist John Cartwright emphasised the artificial and immortal character of the body politic in order to refute the use of biological analogies in conservative rhetoric. Arguing that it was better conceived as a
machine A machine is a physical system using Power (physics), power to apply Force, forces and control Motion, movement to perform an action. The term is commonly applied to artificial devices, such as those employing engines or motors, but also to na ...
operating by the "due action and re-action of the ... springs of the constitution" than a human body, he termed "the ''body'' politic" a "careless figurative expression": "It is not corporeal ... not formed from the dust of the earth. It is purely intellectual; and its life-spring is truth."


Modern law

The English term "body politic" is sometimes used in modern legal contexts to describe a type of
legal person In law, a legal person is any person or 'thing' (less ambiguously, any legal entity) that can do the things a human person is usually able to do in law – such as enter into contracts, lawsuit, sue and be sued, ownership, own property, and so o ...
, typically the state itself or an entity connected to it. A body politic is a type of taxable legal person in
British law The United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the European mainland, continental mainland. It co ...
, for example, and likewise a class of legal person in Indian law. In the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...
, a
municipal corporation A municipal corporation is the legal term for a local governing body, including (but not necessarily limited to) cities A city is a human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place i ...
is considered a body politic, as opposed to a private body corporate. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the theory of the state as an artificial body politic in the 1851 case ''Cotton v. United States'', declaring that "every sovereign State is of necessity a body politic, or artificial person, and as such capable of making contracts and holding property, both real and personal", and differentiated the United States' powers as a sovereign from its rights as a body politic..


See also

*
Social organism Social organism is a sociological concept, or model, wherein a society or social structure is regarded as a "living organism". The various entities comprising a society, such as law, family, crime, etc., are examined as they interact with other e ...
, the concept in sociology *'' Volkskörper'', the German "national body" *'' Lex animata'', the king as the "living law" *''
Kokutai is a concept in the Japanese language translatable as "system of government", "sovereignty", "national identity, essence and character", "national polity; body politic; national entity; basis for the Emperor of Japan, Emperor's sovereignty; Ja ...
'', a related Japanese concept * Royal ''we''


References

{{Reflist Political philosophy Biopolitics English legal terminology Political metaphors