Although The Present State of Germany was first made available in English over three centuries
ago, it has been virtually unavailable in English since
the period of the American Founding.
By 1696, Pufendorf was well known in England as a
staunch defender of the Protestant cause and as one of the renovators of natural law. His writings were familiar
to such luminaries as Locke and figured prominently in James Tyrell’s Patriarcha non Monarcha (1681).
The editor of this volume, Michael J. Seidler,
describes this work of Pufendorf as “an account of German constitutional law detailing the historical
relations between the Emperor and the Estates as well
as an examination of the legitimating foundations of Imperial authority, a general analysis of the nature
and requirements of political sovereignty, and a reconceptualization of the different forms of political
order. … Its central distinction between so-called
regular and irregular states, resting on the question
of the locus of sovereignty, demotes the traditional
political categories into mere administrative
possibilities and thereby creates a more general
problematic of freedom and authority with which we are still wrestling today. That is, it raises, at a very early
stage in the contractarian tradition which we have
inherited, the basic question of how effective political
unity is compatible with competing values of diversity
and individual liberty.”
Samuel Pufendorf (1632–1694) was one of the most important figures in early-modern political thought. An exact contemporary of Locke and Spinoza, he transformed the natural law theories of Grotius
and Hobbes, developed striking ideas of toleration and of the relationship between church and
state, and wrote extensive political histories and analyses of the constitution of the German empire.
Edmund Bohun (1645–1699) was an English press license official and political writer who ended up as chief justice of South Carolina.
Michael J. Seidler is Professor of Philosophy at Western Kentucky
Knud Haakonssen is Professor of Intellectual History at the University of