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Donoso Cortés, Juan Francisco María de la Salud


Spanish statesman and writer on philosophy, politics, history, and theology; b. Valle de Serena (Extremadura), May 9, 1809; d. Paris, May 5, 1853. Donoso, son of a lawyer and landowner, studied civil law at the universities of Salamanca and Seville (182028). His student's zeal for the Enlightenment ended in skepticism tending to eclecticism. In 1832 he supported liberal constitutional monarchy under María Cristina against the Carlist absolutists. Having first taught literature at Cáceres (182930), he took up work in the Ministry of Justice in Madrid (1833). Between 1834 and 1838 he emerged as a leading political theorist of the moderate party. His writings and Atheneum lectures presented an influential synthesis of bourgeois liberalism upholding the monarchy and the Church. He followed Cousin's eclecticism and Guizot's doctrinaire liberalism until about 1842, when he turned toward the quasi-theological tradition alism and conservatism of Joseph Marie de maistre and Louis Gabriel Ambroise de bonald, with whom he was later ranked. During Espartero's era (184043), he was an exile in France defending María Cristina's claims. As a deputy in the Cortes after 1843, he edited a conservative reform of the constitution, but in 1845 called for a liberal relationship of Church and State based on "mutual independence." In 1846 he became Marqués de Valdegamas, and in 1847 he entered the Spanish Academy with a beautiful address on the Bible.

Donoso experienced a "conversion" in 1847 because of his brother's death and his belief that a new era was beginning in which Europe would need a "dogmatic" philosophy and politics. He became fervently religious in thought and action, studied traditionalism and theology, and imitated the charity of St. vincent de paul. He welcomed the liberal reforms of pius ix (1847) as a "dogmatic" example of "Catholic liberty" that presaged other papal teachings for modern society, but after the revolutions of 1848 he was persuaded that only conservative dictatorship and general religious revival not liberal concessionscould save society from anarchy. His "Speech on Dictatorship" (1849) made him famous as Europe's theorist of reaction. Metternich, Frederick William IV, Pius IX, Guizot, Louis Napoleon, Ranke, Schelling, and Brownson all esteemed his ideas, and Veuillot and Montalembert became his friends.

Becoming an authoritarian democrat and rejecting middle-class liberalism, Donoso advocated a new order based on Catholic social teachings, which might be introduced through salutary reforms by vigilant governments but which would depend for success upon a moral and religious revival. This was a theme of his great parliamentary "Speech on Europe" (1850), in which he saw a rationalistic and materialistic Europe heading for revolutionary and socialistic "catastrophe"; in his view, only Catholicism could save civilization. As ambassador in Paris (185153) he hoped in vain that Louis Napoleon would sponsor a renewed "concert of Europe" and a pattern for conservative reform. After 1852 he expected the revolution eventually to spread around the world, to bring first demagogic anarchy, then a despotic and anti-Christian communist world-state, and finally socialistic anarchy and barbarism. If a religious renewal came in time, liberalism and socialism might turn Christian; otherwise, Christianity would rebuild world civilization on the ruins.

Donoso's Ensayo sobre el catolicismo, el liberalismo, y el socialismo (Barcelona 1851) was a prophetic criticism of rationalism, middle-class liberalism, and nascent socialism, but it also offered a theory of order based on theology. Conservative Catholics hailed it; liberal Catholics thought its "absolutes" and paradoxes misrepresented the Catholic position theologically, politically, and historically. His letter to Cardinal Fornari (1852) has been called his "syllabus of errors," anticipating the papal document. His letters to Montalembert (1849) presented St. Augustine's "two cities" as "Catholic civilization" vs. "philosophic civilization," and the Ensayo has been called his "City of God." His philosophy (or theology) of history drew also on Vico and the Apocalypse.

Bibliography: Obras completas, ed. j. juretschke, 2 v. (Biblioteca de autores cristianos 7; 1946). e. schramm, Donoso Cortés: Leben und Werke eines spanischen Antiliberalen (Hamburg 1935). p. d. westemeyer, Donoso Cortés: Staatsmann und Theologe (Münster 1940). t. p. neill, They Lived the Faith (Milwaukee 1951) 242266. p. r. viereck, Conservatism (New York 1956). j. chaix-ruy, Donoso Cortés: Théologien de l'histoire et prophète (Paris 1956). j. t. graham, Donoso Cortés on Liberalism (doctoral diss. microfilm; St. Louis U. 1957). b. monsegÚ, Clave teológica de la historia según Donoso Cortés (Badajoz 1958).

[j. t. graham]

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