If law (lex), and freedom from law by a supreme power, are accepted in this sense, I concede to the judgment of Bodin, Petrus Gregorius, Cujas, Doneau, Duaren, and other jurists. But by no means can this supreme power be attributed to a king or optimates, as Bodin most ardently endeavors to defend. Rather it is to be attributed rightfully only to the body of a universal association, namely, to a commonwealth or realm, and as belonging to it. From this body, after God, every legitimate power flows to those we call kings or optimates.
Therefore, the king, prince, and optimates recognize this associated body as their superior, by which they are constituted, removed, exiled, and deprived of authority.
For however great is the power that is conceded to another, it is always less than the power of the one who makes the concession, and in it the pre-eminence and superiority of the conceded is understood to be reserved. Whence it is shown that the king does not have a supreme and perpetual power above the law, and consequently neither are the rights of sovereignty his own property, although he may have the administration and exercise of them by concession from the associated body. And only so far are the rights of sovereignty ceded and handed over to another that they never become his own property.
Bodin defends the opposite position by distinguishing between the sovereignty of the realm and of the ruler.But if sovereignty is therefore twofold, of the realm and of the king, as Bodin says, I ask which is greater and superior to the other? It cannot be denied that the greater is that which constitutes the other and is immortal in its foundation, and that this is the people. Nor can it be denied that the lesser is that which appears as one person, and dies with him. The king represents the people not the people the king, as we explain later. And greater is the power and strength of many than of one. Whence the supreme monarch is required to give an account of his administration, is not permitted for his own pleasure to alienate or diminish the provinces, cities, or towns of his realm, and can even be deposed. …
We must now define this supreme power. We attribute it by right of sovereignty to the associated political body, which claims it for itself alone. In our judgment, it is derived from the purpose and scope of the universal association, namely, from the utility and necessity of human social life.
According to this position, therefore, the nature and character of imperium and power will be that they regard and care for the genuine utility and advantage of subjects. Vásquez demonstrates this when he says that there is no power for evil, but only for good, none for doing harm or for ruling in the interest of pleasure or selfaggrandizement, but only for considering and supporting the genuine utility of subjects. Whence Augustine says that to rule is nothing other than to serve the utility of others, as parents rule their children, and a man his wife. …
Universal power is called pre-eminent, primary, and supreme not because it is above law or absolute, but in respect to particular and special subordinate power that depends upon it, arises and flows from it, returns in time to it, and is furthermore bound to definite places. Such is the power that is given to universal administrators, and to special heads of provinces as their deputies, delegates, administrators, procurators, and ministers. All have only the use and exercise of power for the benefit of others, not the ownership of it