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Rights, Resistance, and Revolution: The Protestant Foundations of Rights and Revolution


John Witte Jr.


Emory University School of Law


“Rights, Resistance, and Revolution in the Western Tradition: Early Protestant Foundations,” Law and History Review 26 (2008): 545-570

Abstract:     
This article discusses the development of rights talk in the pre-Enlightenment Protestant tradition, especially as formulated by the sixteenth-century Calvinist theologian and jurist, Theodore Beza. Responding to the horrific persecution born of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 1572, Beza mobilized classical, Catholic, and Protestant sources alike to develop a coherent Calvinist theory of rights, resistance, and revolution against tyrants. This article details Beza's arguments, places his work in its historical and intellectual context, and highlights the innovations Beza contributed to the intersection of legal, political, and theological teachings. It concludes by showing how Beza's theory of subjective rights and resistance to tyranny helped to plot the course of modern democratic and constitutional theory.

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Date posted: September 15, 2007 ; Last revised: July 16, 2014

Suggested Citation

Witte, John, Rights, Resistance, and Revolution: The Protestant Foundations of Rights and Revolution. “Rights, Resistance, and Revolution in the Western Tradition: Early Protestant Foundations,” Law and History Review 26 (2008): 545-570 . Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1014726

Contact Information

John Witte Jr. (Contact Author)
Emory University School of Law ( email )
1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-6980 (Phone)
404-712-8605 (Fax)
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