Juan Donoso Cortés bigraphy, stories - Philosophers

Juan Donoso Cortés : biography

May 6, 1809 - May 3, 1853

Juan Donoso Cortés, marqués de Valdegamas (6 May 1809 – 3 May 1853) was a Spanish author, political theorist, and diplomat. His father, Pedro Donoso Cortés, was a descendant 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), The Catholic World, Vol. V, N°. 25, April, 1867. 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.


"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)


  • 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

  • M.H. Gill & Son, 1879.
    • Essays on Catholicism, Liberalism and Socialism: Considered in Their Fundamental Principles, Cornell University Library, 2010.
  • In Menczer, Béla, 1962. Catholic Political Thought, 1789-1848, University of Notre Dame Press.
    • pp. 160-176.
    • pp. 177-182.
  • 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.


File:Donoso Cortés.jpg

Mausoleo de Goya, Meléndez, Donoso y Moratín (Madrid) 04.jpg|Tomb of Juan Donoso Cortés at San Isidro, Madrid.


In his Political Theology (1922), political philosopher Carl SchmittMcNamara, Vincent J. Modern Age, Winter 1995. 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.


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