A Quick Look at Aquinas on Government

Issac Wayne over at Biblical Worldview:

In his later years, in the Summa Theologica, Aquinas proposed a hybrid of the three. The best form of government, he argued, would be one where a monarch would be kept in check by a group of elected aristocrats who were put into power by a polity of the masses. Sound familiar? Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were impacted by these ideas five hundred years later as they wrote the founding documents of America.

So, did Aquinas influence the American Founders? Brandon over at Siris points out some passages from the Summa Theologica supporting consent of the governed (slight editing):

A law, properly speaking, regards first and foremost the order to the common good. Now to order anything to the common good, belongs either to the whole people, or to someone who is the vice regent of the whole people. And therefore the making of a law belongs either to the whole people or to a public personage who has care of the whole people: since in all other matters the directing of anything to the end concerns him to whom the end belongs. (ST I-II, 90.3)

Accordingly, the best form of government is in a state or kingdom, where one is given the power to preside over all; while under him are others having governing powers: and yet a government of this kind is shared by all [ad omnes pertinet], both because all are eligible to govern [ex omnibus eligi possunt], and because the rulers are chosen by all [ab omnibus eliguntur]. For this is the best form of polity, being partly kingdom, since there is one at the head of all; partly aristocracy, in so far as a number of persons are set in authority; partly democracy, i.e.government by the people [potestate populi], in so far as the rulers can be chosen from the people [ex popularibus possunt eligi principes], and the people have the right to choose their rulers [ad populum pertinet electio principum]. (ST I-II, 105.1)



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