John Floyd

(1574—1649) Jesuit and religious controversialist

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John Floyd was born in Badlingham, Cambridgeshire and died in St Omer. Floyd was a member of a Catholic family, and was educated on the Continent, where he became a priest and a Jesuit. He studied at the Jesuit School at Eu in Normandy, and was admitted to the English College at Rheims in 1588, and at Rome in 1590. In 1592 he joined the Society of Jesus, taking the four vows in 1609. He was ordained priest around 1599. Floyd served briefly on the Catholic mission to England, but spent most of his career as a talented teacher, preacher and writer at Rome, Valladolid, Louvain, and especially at the English College of St Omer. He was amongst the most able English Jesuit controversialists of the generation after Robert Parsons. Floyd's many writings included books against Marc' Antonio De Dominis and William Chillingworth, and contributions to the debate over the nature of episcopacy, conducted between the Gallican backers of Bishop Richard Smith and his Jesuit opponents. After consulting his friend Edward Weston, Floyd published work critical of Gallican ideas in 1630. In 1631 thirty-one propositions taken from his strongly anti-Gallican An apology of the Holy Sea … (a reply to a book by Matthew Kellison) were condemned by the Sorbonne, and defended by Floyd. Floyd's most important political work was Deus et Rex siue dialogus, in quo agitur de fidelitate … Iacobo Regi in regnis suis praestanda (1619). An English version appeared in 1620 under the title God and the King. Or a dialogue wherein is treated the allegiance due to … King James within his dominions. This book is traditionally attributed to Floyd alone, but it is highly likely that the Jesuit Joseph Creswell had a hand in its composition, and it was carefully vetted by the Catholic authorities. In 1615 James I had authorized a dialogue entitled God and the King, which put forward the principles of divine right kingship. Floyd's book was a response, attacking the idea that monarchy is jure divino and instead claiming that all governments derive their authority from the consent of the people, who at first wielded sovereignty; the extent of the power of particular rulers depends on the conditions upon which the sovereign people transferred authority to them. In the 1590s, Parsons and other Jesuits had deduced from such notions the legitimacy of actively resisting heretical or tyrannical governors who exceeded the limits of their authority. After the assassination of Henry IV of France in 1610, Jesuits typically became far more conservative and reticent on resistance. Floyd's God and the King is an excellent, succinct and lucidly expressed example of ultramontane Catholic political thinking in the years after the assassination of the French king, when Jesuits were anxious to dissociate themselves from ideas of tyrannicide. Floyd combined considerable learning in scholastic theology and philosophy with a lively prose style and considerable polemical skill.

From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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