Bodin, John

, a French lawyer, and political writer, was born at Angers about 1530. In his youth he was supposed, but not upon good foundation, to have been a monk. He studied first at Toulouse, and after taking his | degrees, read lectures there with much applause, having a design to settle there as law- pro lessor, and with that view he pronounced an oration on public instruction in the schools but finding Toulouse not a sufficiently ample stage for his ambition, he removed to Pans, and began to practise at the bar, where his expectations being likewise disappointed, he determined to apply himself to literary occupations, and in this he had very considerable success. Henry III. who liked to have men of letters about him, admitted him into familiar conversation, and had such an opinion of him, that he sent to prison one John, or Michael de la Serre, who had written against Bodin, and forbid him under pain of death to publish his work but this courtly favour did not last. Thuanus ascribes the king’s withdrawing his countenance to the envy of the courtiers but others think it was occasioned by Bodin‘ s taking a political part in opposition to the king. He found an asylum, however, with the duke of Alene,on, who made him secretary of his commands, one of the masters of the requests of his palace, and grand master of his waters and forests. The insurgents in the Netherlands at this time intended to declare the duke their sovereign, and were said to be prompted to this by queen Elizabeth of England. Bodin, however, accompanied him into England and Flanders, but he had the misfortune to lose this patron in 1584.

In 1576 he was chosen deputy to the states-general of Blois, by the tiers-etat of Vermandois, and ably contended for the rights of the people, and particularly opposed those who would have all the king’s subjects constrained to profess the Catholic religion, which we can easily suppose effectually prevented the king from being reconciled to him. He after this appears to have resided at Laon, where, in 1589, he persuaded that city to declare for the league, and at the same time wrote to the president Brisson, a letter severely reflecting on Henry III. but this fault he afterwards repaired by securing the allegiance of Laon to Henry IV. He died of the plague at Laon, in 1596, leaving a character more dubious than that of any man in his time, and the light thrown upon it in his works is certainly not of the most favourable kind. It may be said, that although toleration was a word not known in his time, he appears to have cherished some liberal notions on the subject, but, as to religious principles, he had so little | steadiness, that he was by turns accounted, perhaps not always justly, a Protestant, Papist, Deist, Sorcerer, Jew, and Atheist; D’Aguessau, however, pronounces him a worthy magistrate, a learned author, and a good citizen. His first work was a commentary on Oppian’s “Cynogeticon,Paris, 1549, 4to, in which he is supposed to have availed himself rather too freely of the notes of Turnebus. He then published an introduction to the study of history, under the title “Methodus ad facilem Historiarum cognitionem,Paris, 1566, 4to, the principal fault of which is that it does not correspond with the title, being very desultory and immethodical. But that which procured him most reputation, was his six books on “The Republic,” a work equally immethodical with the other, and abounding in digressions and irrelevant matter, yet, for the time, an extraordinary collection of facts and reflections on political government. It was soon translated into other languages, and was read with much interest in an age when the principles of government were seldom discussed in books. When in England with the duke of Alenc,on, we are told that he found the English had made a Latin translation of it, bad enough, but, bad as it was, the subject of lectures at London and Cambridge. Bodin reports thus far himself; but that “it became a classic at Cambridge” has been supplied by his biographers, who were probably not aware that lectures on political government were then no part of Cambridge education, and if his book was explained and commented on there or at London, it must have been by individuals. In this work he introduces the influence of climate on the principles of government; and as Montesquieu has done the same, La Harpe, the French critic, terms Bodin’s book the “germ of the Spirit of Laws,” but this notion is far more ancient than either, and not indeed of much consequence, whether old or new. The first edition of these “Livres de la Republique” was printed at Paris, 1577, fol. and was followed by three' others, 1577, 1578, and 1580 but the edition of Lyons, 1593, and that of Geneva, 1600, are preferred, because they contain Bodin’s Treatise on Coins. He afterwards translated it into Latin, Paris, 1586, fol. an edition often reprinted, and more complete than the French, and several abridgements were published of it, both in Latin and French. His tables of law, entitled “Juris Universi Distributio,” were printed in 1578, and in the following year, | his “”Demonomanie des Sorciers,“to which was annexedA refutation of the book, de Lamiis,“of John Wier, physician to the duke of Cleves, who had undertaken to prove that the stories of witchcraft and sorcery have chiefly arisen from imposture or delusions of fancy. The literary character of Bodin, who defended this kind of superstition, incurred reproach, and he himself was suspected of being a magician. A work written by him, but never printed, and entitled” Heptaplomeron, sive de abditis rerum sublimium arcanis,“is said to have been an attack upon religion, and designed to invalidate the authority of revelation. By the seeming advantages which he gave in this work to the Jewish religion, he was suspected of being a convert to it; but it is more probable that he was a sceptic with regard to religion, and alike indifferent to all modes of faith. A little while before his death he published a Latin treatise, entitled” Theatrum Universae Naturae," in which he professes to pursue the causes and effects of things to their principles.1

1 Gen. Dict. Biog. Universelle. Blount’s Censura. Baillet Jugenaens de, Savans. —Saxii Onomast.