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John Ponet

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Short Treatise On Political Power


By John Ponet
Political Science

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John Ponet

John Ponet (c. 1514- August, 1556), was the bishop of Winchester, also Bishop of Rochester and a controversial religious leader.

Ponet graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Queens' College, Cambridge in 1533. He was elected a fellow in the same year: and proceeded to obtain a Masters of Arts in 1535. He was a pupil of Thomas Smith, who claimed that the new pronunciation of Ancient Greek had been introduced by himself, Ponet, and John Cheke.

Ponet was ordained a priest at Lincoln on 10 June 1536. By 1545, he was chaplain to Thomas Cranmer.

By November 1548, Ponet had married, even though the Parliament of England had not yet removed the ban on clerical marriage. The following year he dedicated a work defending clerical marriage to Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset.

In 1549, Ponet published A Trageodie, or, Dialoge of the Unjust Usurper Primacy of the Bishop of Rome, a translation of a work by Bernardino Ochino.

Following Somerset's fall from political power, Ponet was arrested in November 1549. However, by Lent 1550, he had been sufficiently rehabilitated to preach before the court and Edward VI of England. In March 1550, he was nominated to the see of Rochester, and was consecrated at Lambeth on 29 June. In January 1551, he was appointed to a commission to investigate anabaptists in Kent. And on March 8, 1551, he was appointed to the see of Winchester in place of Stephen Gardiner.

In July 1551, a consistory court at St Paul's announced the formal separation of Ponet from his wife on the grounds that she was already married to a Nottingham butcher. On 25 October of the same year, he married the daughter of one of Cranmer's financial officers.

After Wyatt's Rebellion, Ponet left England for Strasbourg, where he and his new wife settled. A child was born to them in 1554, and they were granted citizenship in February 1555.

In 1556, Ponet published An Apologie Fully Answeringe ... a Blasphemous Book - another work on clerical marriage, as well as his most important work, A Shorte Treatise of Politike Power, in which he put forward a theory of justified opposition to secular rulers. The United States President, John Adams, noted that Ponet's Treatise was the seminal volume that later political philosophers such as John Locke expanded upon.

Ponet died at Strasbourg in August 1556.



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