Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
The Lawyer refuting his own Arguments
By Sir John Fortescue (c. 1394–1476)
From A Declaration upon Certain Writings lately sent out of Scotland

The Learned Man.—Your wisdom, sir, conceiveth well how sergeants and advocates, that be right worshipful men, argue daily to prove the titles of their clients, and after that, in a like case, for another client, they argue to the contrary intent, and be not for that, nor ought to be, blamed. So also do the judges in matters of great difficulty wherein they be also indifferent, as they be, for such disputation is to them best mean to find the right in every doubtous case. Gracian also, that compiled the book of the Law Canon, called Decrees, in all his questions which he maketh in the cases which he putteth there, called causes, disputeth for either party of every question. Thus doth Saint Thomas 1 in Secunda Secundæ, and in all his books whereas he asketh any questions; and thus do all the clerks that determine any matters in schools; for this order is no doubleness, but argument and proof of cunning and virtue. And sith your writings, which ye have made in the matters in the which I now move you, were but arguments, and ye no Judge, but a partial man, servant to him for whose favour ye made the arguments, and his cause is now expired, and he dead, ye may now honestly and commendably, without any note of blame, argue to the contrary intent of that ye have done before this time, if ye find reasons and grounds to do so. And also ye be now bound in conscience and by right to do so, considering that ye be the king’s liegeman, and of his Council, and found in his noble grace also great clemency and favours as ever did man sith he first reigned upon us; and peradventure your old arguments and writings may else turn and be occasion to his harm, or to the infamy of the title by which he reigneth upon us, which I am right sure you would not were so. And, sir, if you write as I move you to do, and then it fortune your writing to be not of such effect as ye intend, which thing methinketh you dread greatly, the king shall not be harmed thereby; for his highness may then make other notable and cunning men to make better writing therein, wherein they shall find less difficulty when they have seen your writings.
  Fortescue.—Sir, your reasons and motives be so great that, if I do not as ye move me, I dread that men shall hold me self-willed; and therefore I will essay and do as ye desire me. The matter which ye say I wrote, and is so greatly against the king, is this: I wrote how that me seemed no woman ought soverainly or supremely to reign upon man. Which matters I pretended to prove by the judgments which God gave upon the first woman when she had sinned, saying to her these words, Eris sub potestate viri, et ipse dominabitur tui, which be written in the book of Genesis, the third chapter, and be such in English, “Thou shalt be under the power of man, and he shall be thy lord”; which words, spoken to that woman, were, as I then wrote, spoken to all the kind of women, as the words then spoken by God to the first man were said to all mankind. This matter ye now desire that I will so declare, and also the matters of a book which I wrote in Latin to enforce mine intent herein, as the king, our sovereign lord, be not harmed by them in his titles of England or of France. Sir, as to the first point in which ye desire my declaration, I hope to find not difficulty. For our Lord said not in His aforesaid judgement that a woman should be under the power and lordship of all men, or of many men, but He said indefinitely or indeterminably that she should be under the power and lordship of man; which is true if she be under the power or lordship of any man. For logicians say, Quod propositio indefinita est vera si in aliquo supposito illa sit vera, and by that reason she is under the power and lordship of man if in any kind of subjection she be under the power and lordship of any man. Wherefore howbeit that there be many kinds of lordships called by diverse names in Latin, as is Dominium regale, Dominium politicum, Dominium despoticum, and such other; if a woman be under the power of man in one of the kinds of lordships, she is under the lordship of man. And that every woman is under the power and lordship of some one man, which is all that she is arted 2 unto by the aforesaid judgment in Genesis, may not be denied; for every woman is under the power and lordship of the pope, which is a man, and he vicar of Christ, God and man. And though his power and lordship were but spiritual, yet the being under that power and lordship is a being under the power and lordship of man. Wherefore the aforesaid text of Genesis, or anything by me deduced thereof, may not prove that a woman may not reign in a kingdom of which the king hath no sovereign in temporalities, sith she abideth alway subject to the pope. And by the same reason it may not hurt the king in his titles to his aforesaid two realms.  2
  Item, this matter is argued in the aforesaid Latin book in this form. God commanded, and by His judgement established, that every woman shall be under the power and lordship of man; then, by the same commandment and judgement, He commanded that no woman shall be free or exempt from the power and lordship of man; for, as I wrote there, Precepto uno contrariorum eorum alterum prohiberi necesse est. 3 But a woman to reign in a kingdom, of which the kingdom is subject to no man in temporalities, is a woman to be free and exempt from the power and lordship of man; it shall then necessarily ensue that no woman may reign in any such kingdom; for it were supremely and sovereignly to reign upon man, wherethrough she were then not under the power and lordship of man. This is the strongest argument that is made in the said book by reason of the aforesaid text of Genesis. Wherefore if this argument be clearly destroyed, the first matter which ye desire me to declare is then clearly declared. Now truly I am right sorry that ever I made any such argument; for it is an informal tale, and no kind of syllogism. Wherefore the minor is impossible, and therefore not true; and the consequent, if it might be called a consequent, is not necessary. Wherefore this manner of argument proveth nothing.  3
Note 1. Saint Thomas.  Thomas Aquinas, one of whose works is named as in the text. [back]
Note 2. arted = compelled (Lat. artare). [back]
Note 3. precepto uno contrariorum eorum alterum prohiberi necesse est = one of two contraries being enjoined, the other of them must necessarily be forbidden. [back]

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