1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hotman, François
HOTMAN, FRANÇOIS (1524–1590), French publicist, eldest son of Pierre Hotman, was born on the 23rd of August 1524, at Paris, his family being of Silesian origin. His name is latinized by himself Hotomanus, by others Hotomannus and Hottomannus. His father, a zealous Catholic, and a counsellor of the parlement of Paris, destined him for the law, and sent him at the age of fifteen to the university of Orleans. He obtained his doctorate in three years, and became a pleader at Paris. The arts of the barrister were not to his taste; he turned to the study of jurisprudence and literature, and in 1546 was appointed lecturer in Roman Law at the university of Paris. The fortitude of Anne Dubourg under torture gained his adhesion to the cause of Reform. Giving up a career on which he had entered with high repute, he went in 1547 to Lyons, and thence to Geneva and to Lausanne, where, on the recommendation of Calvin, he was appointed professor of belles-lettres and history, and married Claudine Aubelin, a refugee from Orleans. On the invitation of the magistracy, he lectured at Strassburg on law in 1555, and became professor in 1556, superseding François Baudouin, who had been his colleague in Paris. His fame was such that overtures were made to him by the courts of Prussia and Hesse, and by Elizabeth of England. Twice he visited Germany, in 1556 accompanying Calvin to the Diet at Frankfort. He was entrusted with confidential missions from the Huguenot leaders to German potentates, carrying at one time credentials from Catherine de Medici. In 1560 he was one of the principal instigators of the conspiracy of Amboise; in September of that year he was with Antoine of Navarre at Nérac. In 1562 he attached himself to Condé. In 1564 he became professor of civil law at Valence, retrieving by his success the reputation of its university. In 1567 he succeeded Cujas in the chair of jurisprudence at Bourges. Five months later his house and library were wrecked by a Catholic mob; he fled by Orleans to Paris, where L’Hôpital made him historiographer to the king. As agent for the Huguenots, he was sent to Blois to negotiate the peace of 1568. He returned to Bourges, only to be again driven away by the outbreak of hostilities. At Sancerre, during its siege, he composed his Consolatio (published in 1593). The peace of 1570 restored him to Bourges, whence a third time he fled, in consequence of the St Bartholomew massacre (1572). In 1573, after publishing his Franco-Gallia, he left France for ever with his family, and became professor of Roman law at Geneva. On the approach of the duke of Savoy he removed to Basel in 1579. In 1580 he was appointed councillor of state to Henry of Navarre. The plague sent him in 1582 to Montbéliard; here he lost his wife. Returning to Geneva in 1584 he developed a kind of scientific turn, dabbling in alchemy and the research for the philosopher’s stone. In 1589 he made his final retirement to Basel, where he died on the 12th of February 1590, leaving two sons and four daughters; he was buried in the cathedral.
Hotman was a man of pure life, real piety (as his Consolatio shows) and warm domestic virtues. His constant removals were inspired less by fear for himself than by care for his family, and by a temperament averse to the conditions of warfare, and a constitutional desire for peace. He did much for 16th-century jurisprudence, having a critical knowledge of Roman sources, and a fine Latin style. He broached the idea of a national code of French law. His works were very numerous, beginning with his De gradibus cognationis (1546), and including a treatise on the Eucharist (1566); a treatise (Anti-Tribonien, 1567) to show that French law could not be based on Justinian; a life of Coligny (1575); a polemic (Brutum fulmen, 1585) directed against a bull of Sixtus V., with many other works on law, history, politics and classical learning. His most important work, the Franco-Gallia (1573), was in advance of his age, and found favour neither with Catholics nor with Huguenots in its day; yet its vogue has been compared to that obtained later by Rousseau’s Contrat Social. It presented an ideal of Protestant statesmanship, pleading for a representative government and an elective monarchy. It served the purpose of the Jesuits in their pamphlet war against Henry IV.
See Bayle, Dictionnaire; R. Dareste, Essai sur F. Hotman (1850); E. Grégoire, in Nouvelle Biog. générale (1858). (A. Go.*)