BUCHANAN, George

(1506-1582)
George Buchanan, a humanist scholar and convert to Calvinism, was the author of De jure regni apud Scotos (The Right of the Kingdom in Scotland, 1579). This book defended the deposition of Queen Mary Stuart* in 1567 and argued in favor of the right to resist ungodly rulers.
Buchanan was educated first at Aberdeen, Scotland, and later at Paris, where he subsequently taught and distinguished himself as an author of Latin poems and plays. He returned to his native Scotland in 1561, abandoning Roman Ca­tholicism for the Calvinist teachings of John Knox.* During the 1570s and 1580s he was employed as a propagandist for the government, and it was during these decades that his most important work was published.
Buchanan's resistance theory was composed in response to dramatic events that had recently overtaken his country. In 1567 a revolt had taken place against Queen Mary of Scotland, a Roman Catholic who had outraged Scottish Prot­estant nobles by marrying the earl of Bothwell, the alleged murderer of Mary's second husband, Lord Darnley. In the aftermath of the queen's expulsion, her infant son was installed as James VI,* and a regency government was established under the Protestant earl of Moray. Catholic opinion in Europe was out­raged at this turn of events; in response, the new government sought to justify its actions in print. Buchanan was enlisted for the important work.
Buchanan's first contribution was A Detection of the Doings of Mary, Queen of Scots (1571), a hostile biography designed to injure the deposed queen's reputation by making her complicit in the murder of her husband and thus unfit to govern as a Christian prince. This work was followed by De jure regni, which was first published in 1579 but circulated in manuscript before this date. The book, which was dedicated to the boy king James VI, was reissued several times both in Scotland and on the Continent, and it remained in print into the eigh­teenth century.
In De jure Buchanan argued that legitimate monarchs gain their power by popular consent. In his view, rulers were charged with the maintenance of justice as established in law, and the authors of the law are the estates of the realm acting on behalf of the entire nation. On the other hand, tyrants are defined as those who secure power without the consent of their subjects, or who exercise their power in opposition to the known rule of law. Tyrants rule in pursuit of their own selfish interests; legitimate monarchs always place the welfare of the larger community of the realm first. Resistance to tyrants is always justified, even to the extreme of using military force or assassination. Buchanan's call for a general revolt and even tyrannicide is more radical than anything proposed by continental resistance theorists in the late sixteenth century.
Bibliography
I. D. McFarlane, Buchanan, 1981.
William Spellman

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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