Charron – Sovereignty and the Public Interest

Pierre Charron, in the 16th century, proposed a definition of sovereignty close to that of Jean Bodin.

Thus, in De la Sagesse, Pierre Charron maintains that sovereignty is a :

Perpetual and absolute power, without restriction of time or condition: (…) sovereignty is said to be such and absolute, in that it is not subject to any human laws or its own.

Pierre Charron, On Wisdom, I, 49

Thus, sovereignty is truly at the top of the pyramid of power. No law applies against it. One could qualify this statement and show that the divine law, at this important time for a theologian like Pierre Charron, is even more powerful and constrains sovereignty. Moreover, the latter remains ordered to reason.

To feed the reflection on the potential revolutions on behalf of the people, it is interesting to observe that Pierre Charron in the same work proposes or at least tries to reconcile the public interest and morality. To this end, one must be able to use “bad means” in case one would achieve a better and more important result.


One is forced to use bad means to avoid and get out of a greater evil, or to reach a good end: so much so that sometimes it is necessary to legitimize and authorize not only the things that are not good, but also the bad ones, as if to be good it was sometimes necessary to be a little bad. And this is seen everywhere in the police, justice, truth, religion.

Can we not, therefore, in the name of the interest of the State, curb a revolution in the making by crueler means?