Juan Donoso Cortés

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Juan Donoso Cortés
Juan 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.[1]


Cortés was born at Valle de la Serena (Extremadura). At 11, he had finished his education in the humanities, and at 12, he had begun the study of law at the University of Salamanca; at 16, he received his degree of licentiate from the University of Seville, and at 18, he became professor of literature at the College of Caceres.[2]

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.[3] His views began to modify after the rising at La Granja, approaching a counterrevolutionary 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,[4] Donoso Cortés issued his Ensayo Sobre el Catolicismo, el Liberalismo, y el Socialismo Considerados en sus Principios Fundamentales (1851),[5] was written at the instance of Louis Veuillot, who was an intimate friend of the author and places. 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[6][7] 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.[8]


  • 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 Vols., Editorial Católica, 1946.
  • Obras Completas. Edición, Introducción y Notas de Carlos Valverde, 2 Vols., Editorial Católica, 1970.

English translations of Donoso Cortés


"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 Montalembert, June 4, 1849.)[9]

"It follows from this that the Church alone has the right to affirm and deny, and that there is no right outside her to affirm what she denies, or to deny what she affirms. The day when society, forgetting her doctrinal decisions, has asked the press and the tribune, news writers and assemblies, what is truth and what is error, on that day error and truth are confounded in all intellects, society enters on the regions of shadows, and falls under the empire of fictions…"[10]

"The doctrinal intolerance of the Church has saved the world from chaos. Her doctrinal intolerance has placed beyond question political, domestic, social, and religious, truths—primitive and holy truths, which are not subject to discussion, because they are the foundation of all discussions; truths which cannot be called into doubt for a moment without the understanding on that moment oscillating, lost between truth and error, and the clear mirror of human reason becoming soiled and obscured…"[11]


  1. Botti, Alfonso (2006). "Donoso Cortés, Juan (1809–1853)." In: Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Politics. Westport: Greenwood Press, p. 176.
  2. Neill, Thomas Patrick (1951). "Donoso Cortés." In: They Lived the Faith; Great Lay Leaders of Modern Times. Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, p. 244.
  3. Verdeguer, Suárez (1989). "Los Comienzos Parlamentarios de Donoso Cortés", Revista de Estudios Políticos, No. 65, pp. 7–34.
  4. Acedo Castilla, José Francisco (1956). Donoso Cortés y la Revolución del 1848. Sevilla: Sección de Crónicas y Publicaciones del Excmo. Ateneo de Sevilla.
  5. "Church and State," The Catholic World, Vol. V, No. 25, 1867, pp. 1–14.
  6. McNamara, Vincent J. (1995). "Comments on Carl Schmitt and Juan Donoso Cortes," Modern Age, Vol. 37, No. 2, pp. 182–185.
  7. Ulmen, Gary (2002). "Carl Schmitt and Donoso Cortes," Telos, No. 125, pp. 69–79.
  8. Schmitt, Carl (2005). Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty. University of Chicago Press. pp. 51–66. ISBN 0-226-73889-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Quoted by Jean Joseph Gaume, Paganism in Education. London: Charles Dolman, 1852, p. 206.
  10. Essays on Catholicism, Liberalism and Socialism, Considered in their Fundamental Principles, tr. William McDonald. Dublin: M.H. Gill & Son, 1879.
  11. Essays on Catholicism, Liberalism and Socialism, Considered in their Fundamental Principles, tr. William McDonald. Dublin: M.H. Gill & Son, 1879.


  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). [https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikisource.org%2Fwiki%2FCatholic_Encyclopedia_%281913%29%2FJuan_Francesco_Maria_de_la_Saludad_Donoso_Cort%C3%A9s "Juan Francesco Maria de la Saludad Donoso Cortés" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Armas, Gabriel de (1953). Donoso Cortés: su Sentido Trascendente de la Vida. Madrid: Colección Cálamo.
  • Balakrishnan, Gopal (2000) "The Enemy: An Intellectual Portrait of Carl Schmitt." London: Verso
  • Brophy, Liam (1950). "Donoso Cortes: Statesman and Apologist," The Irish Monthly, Vol. 78, No. 927, pp. 416–421.
  • Dempf, Alois (1937). Christliche Staatsphilosophie in Spanien. Salzburg: Pustet.
  • Fagoaga, Miguel (1958). El Pensamiento Social de Donoso Cortés. Madrid: Editora Nacional.
  • Galindo Herrero, Santiago (1957). Donoso Cortés y su Teoría Política. Diputación Provincial de Badajoz, Badajoz.
  • Graham, John Thomas (1974). Donoso Cortés; Utopian Romanticist and Political Realist. University of Missouri Press.
  • Gutiérrez Lasanta, Francisco (1949). Pensadores Políticos del Siglo XIX. Madrid: Editora Nacional.
  • Herrera, Robert A. (1988). "The Great in the Small: Donoso Cortes' Variations on a Theme from the Civitas Dei," Augustiniana, No. 1-4, pp. 140–147.
  • Herrera, Robert A. (1995). Donoso Cortés: Cassandra of the Age. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.
  • Kennedy, John J. (1952). "Donoso Cortés as Servant of the State," The Review of Politics, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 520–550.
  • McNamara, Vincent J. (1992). "The Hegelianism of Young Donoso Cortés." In: Saints, Sovereigns, and Scholars. New York and Geneva: Peter Lamb, pp. 337–348.
  • McNamara, Vincent J. (1992). "Juan Donoso Cortés: un Doctrinario Liberal," Rev. Filosofía Univ. Costa Rica, Vol. 30, No. 72, pp. 209–216.
  • Monsegú, Bernardo (1958). Clave Teológica de la Historia según Donoso Cortés. Badajoz: Impr. de la Excma. Diputación Provincial.
  • Neill, Thomas P. (1955). "Juan Donoso Cortés: History and 'Prophecy'," The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 40, No. 4, pp. 385–410.
  • Regalado García, Antonio (1967). "The Counterrevolutionary Image of The World," Yale French Studies, No. 39, pp. 98–118.
  • Sánchez Abelenda, Raúl (1969). La Teoría del Poder en el Pensamiento Político de Juan Donoso Cortés. Editorial Universitaria de Buenos Aires.
  • Schmitt, Carl (2002). "A Pan-European Interpretation of Donoso Cortes," Telos, No. 125, pp. 100–115.
  • Schramm, Edmund (1936). Donoso Cortés: Su Vida y su Pensamiento. Madrid: Espasa Calpe.
  • Schramm, Edmund (1952). Donoso Cortés: Ejemplo del Pensamiento de la Tradición. Madrid: Ateneo.
  • Spektorowski, Alberto. "Maistre, Donoso Cortés, and the Legacy of Catholic Authoritarianism," Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 63, No. 2, pp. 283–302.
  • Suárez Verdeguer, Federico (1964). Introducción a Donoso Cortés. Madrid: Rialp.
  • Suárez Verdeguer, Federico (1997). Vida y obra de Juan Donoso Cortés. Pamplona: Ediciones Eunate.
  • Tarragó, Rafael E. (1999). "Two Catholic Conservatives: The Ideas of Joseph de Maistre and Juan Donoso Cortes," Catholic Social Science Review, Vol. 4, pp. 167–177.
  • Tejada, Francisco Elías de (1949). Para una Interpretación Extremeña de Donoso Cortés. Diputación Provincial de Cáceres.
  • Viereck, Peter (1956). Conservatism from John Adams to Churchill. Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc.
  • Westemeyer, Dietmar (1940). Donoso Cortés: Staatsmann und Theologe. Münster: Regensberg.
  • Wilhelmsen, Frederick (1967). "Donoso Cortes and the Meaning of Political Power," The Intercollegiate Review, Vol. 3, No. 3, pp. 109–127.
  • Wilson, Francis G. (1960). "Donoso Cortes: The Continuing Crisis," Journal of Inter-American Studies, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 45–63.

External links