Juan Donoso Cortés

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Juan Donoso Cortés
Donso Cortés portrayed with his orders and decorations.
Born Juan Donoso Cortés
(1809-05-06)6 May 1809
Valle de la Serena, Spain
Died 3 May 1853(1853-05-03) (aged 43)
Paris, France
Occupation Politician, diplomat, writer
Nationality Spanish

Juan Donoso Cortés, marqués de Valdegamas (6 May 1809 – 3 May 1853) was a Spanish author, conservative and catholic political theorist, and diplomat. He was a descendant, through his father Pedro Donoso Cortés, of the conquistador Hernando Cortés.


Donoso Cortés was born at Valle de la Serena (Extremadura). At the age of eleven, he had finished his education in the humanities, and at twelve had begun the study of law at the University of Salamanca; at sixteen he received his degree of licentiate from the University of Seville, and at eighteen became professor of literature at the College of Caceres. Carried away by the rationalism prevalent in Spain following upon the French invasions, he ardently embraced the principles of Liberalism and fell under the influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whom he later characterized as "the most eloquent of sophists".

He entered politics as an ardent liberal under the influence of Manuel José Quintana. His views began to modify after the rising at La Granja, approaching a counter-revolutionary outlook and became more marked on his appointment as private secretary to the Queen Regent. His political thought found its most lucid and orderly expression in his Lecciones de derecho politico (1837).

Alarmed by the proceedings of the French revolutionary party in 1848–1849, Donoso Cortés issued his Ensayo sobre el catolicismo, el liberalismo, y el socialismo considerados en sus principios fundamentales (1851),[1] was written at the instance of Louis Veuillot, who was an intimate friend of the author and places Donoso Cortés in the first rank of Catholic apologists and especially Ultramontanism. It is an exposition of the impotence of all human systems of philosophy to solve the problem of human destiny and of the absolute dependence of humanity upon the Catholic Church for its social and political salvation.

The Ensayo failed to arrest the movement fully against which it was directed, but, it remains amongst the finest specimen of political prose published in Spain during the 19th century.

He became ambassador at Paris and died there on 3 May 1853.

Donoso Cortés's works were collected in five volumes at Madrid (1854–1855) under the editorship of Gavino Tejado.


In his Political Theology (1922), political philosopher Carl Schmitt[2] devotes large portions of his final chapter ("On the Counterrevolutionary Philosophy of the State") to Donoso Cortés, praising him for recognizing the importance of the decision and of the concept of sovereignty.[3]


  1. ^ "Church and State," The Catholic World, Vol. V, N°. 25, April, 1867.
  2. ^ McNamara, Vincent J. "Comments on Carl Schmitt and Juan Donoso Cortes," Modern Age, Winter 1995.
  3. ^ Schmitt, Carl (2005). Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty. University of Chicago Press. pp. 51–66. ISBN 0-226-73889-2. 


Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 


  • Obras de Don Juan Donoso Cortés, Marqués de Valdegamas, Ordenadas y Precedidas de una Noticia Biográfica por Gavino Tejado, Impr. de Tejado, 1854-1855:
  • Obras Completas de Donoso Cortés, Juan, Marqués de Valdegamas, 1809-1853, 2 Vol., Editorial Católica, 1946.
  • Obras Completas. Edición, Introducción y Notas de Carlos Valverde, 2 Vol., Editorial Católica, 1970.

Works in English translation[edit]

  • Essays on Catholicism, Liberalism and Socialism, Considered in their Fundamental Principles, M.H. Gill & Son, 1879.
    • Essays on Catholicism, Liberalism and Socialism: Considered in Their Fundamental Principles, Cornell University Library, 2010.
  • [1] Letter to Cardinal Fornari on the Errors of Our Time.
  • In Menczer, Béla, 1962. Catholic Political Thought, 1789-1848, University of Notre Dame Press.
  • On Order: Two Addresses Newly Translated into English by Juan Donoso Cortes, Plutarch Press, 1989.
  • Selected Works of Juan Donoso Cortes: Contributions in Political Science, Praeger, 2000.
  • Donoso Cortes: Readings in Political Theology, R. A. Herrera ed., Sapientia Press of Ave Maria University, 2008.


"True progress consists in submitting the human element which corrupts liberty, to the divine element which purifies it. Society has followed a different path in looking upon the empire of faith as dead; and in proclaiming the empire of reason and the will of man, it has made evil, which was only relative, contingent and exceptional, absolute, universal, and necessary. This period of rapid retrogression commenced in Europe with the restoration of pagan literature, which has brought about successively the restoration of pagan philosophy, religious paganism, and political paganism. At the present time the world is on the eve of the last of these restorations, – that of pagan socialism." (Letter to Montalenbert)[citation needed]

"Catholicism is the law of life, the life of the intelligence, the solution of all problems. Catholicism is the truth, and everything that departs from it one iota, is disorder, deception, and error."[citation needed]


Further reading[edit]

  • Armas, Gabriel de. Donoso Cortés: su Sentido Trascendente de la Vida, Colección Cálamo, 1953.
  • Brophy, Liam. "Donoso Cortes: Statesman and Apologist," The Irish Monthly, Vol. 78, No. 927, Sep., 1950.
  • Graham, John Thomas. Donoso Cortés; Utopian Romanticist and Political Realist, University of Missouri Press, 1974.
  • Herrera, Robert A. Donoso Cortés: Cassandra of the Age, William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1995.
  • Kennedy, John J. "Donoso Cortés as Servant of the State," The Review of Politics, Vol. 14, No. 4, Oct., 1952.
  • McNamara, Vincent J. "Juan Donoso Cortés: un Doctrinario Liberal," Rev. Filosofía Univ. Costa Rica, Vol. XXX (72), 1992.
  • Neill, Thomas P. "Juan Donoso Cortés: History and 'Prophecy'," The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 40, No. 4, Jan., 1955.
  • Schramm, Edmund. Donoso Cortés: Su Vida y su Pensamiento, Espasa Calpe, 1936.
  • Schramm, Edmund. Donoso Cortés: Ejemplo del Pensamiento de la Tradición, Publicaciones Españolas, 1961.
  • Spektorowski, Alberto. "Maistre, Donoso Cortés, and the Legacy of Catholic Authoritarianism," Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 63, No. 2, Apr., 2002.
  • Tarragó, Rafael E. "Two Catholic Conservatives: The Ideas of Joseph de Maistre and Juan Donoso Cortes," Catholic Social Science Review, Vol. 4, 1999.
  • Wilson, Francis G. "Donoso Cortes: The Continuing Crisis," Journal of Inter-American Studies, Vol. 2, No. 1, Jan., 1960.
  • Sánchez Abelenda, Raúl. La Teoría del Poder en el Pensamiento Político de Juan Donoso Cortés, Editorial Universitaria de Buenos Aires, 1969.
  • Suárez Verdeguer, Federico. Introducción a Donoso Cortés, Rialp, 1964.
  • Suárez Verdeguer, Federico. Vida y obra de Juan Donoso Cortés, Ediciones Eunate, 1997.

External links[edit]