The Ideal of the Mixed Constitution and the Early Modern State in Hermann Conring’s Commentary on Machiavelli’s Prince
The first professor of political science in Germany, Hermann Conring, has been called the “German Machiavelli” for his emphasis on a political science independent of theology, ethics, and law. It has been argued that his revised Latin translation of and notes on Machiavelli’s Prince displayed an unusually candid embrace of the Florentine and his methods, despite the occasional caveat and disagreement. The first translation of the Prince into Latin, the translation revised by Conring, was executed by Silvestro Tegli, an Italian Protestant who lived in exile first in Geneva and then in Basel. Tegli, it has been argued, translated the Prince as part of a heterodox attempt to translate Italian authors who were skeptical of the authoritarian use of religion and who supported republican forms of government. In this paper, I would like to explore whether this agenda was still relevant when Conring reworked Tegli’s edition one hundred years later. In doing so, I hope to evaluate further whether there was a confessional aspect to the idea of the state and state building in seventeenth century Germany, and whether the legacy of Machiavelli in Germany is better understood as the harbinger of the autonomy of the political and the value neutral state, of liberal religion and republican forms of government, or even some combination of the two.