Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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CONCLAVE. Conclave is formed of two Latin words cum, with, and clavis, a key. The name conclave was given to the assembly of cardinals charged with the election of a pope, because they were kept under lock and key until they came to an agreement.


—In 1049 pope Nicholas II., in a synod, caused to be conferred on the cardinals, alone, the right of conducting the election of the pope. The college of cardinals, which figures as a body since the eighth century, were obliged to ask the consent of the people and the clergy of Rome to the election of a pontiff. The popular vote, the vote of the clergy of Rome, and the consent of two-thirds of the members of the conclave, were necessary to the election of the pope. With these conditions the election of the pope had rather a broad basis; but several elections gave rise to dissension. Influences from abroad were brought to bear; and, on this account, the clergy and people of Rome were deprived of all participation in papal elections.


—This revolution was accomplished under Gregory X., who, by new regulations, had the right of election conferred on the cardinals alone. Foreign influences, however, did not cease on that account; they were not less active although lessened. The conclave had in its body members belonging to the dioceses of every part of the Catholic world; the elections often took a long time; and, to force the cardinals to decide more quickly, coercive means were resorted to. If the cardinals, after three days of deliberation, did not agree on the choice of a pope, they were allowed only one dish for a meal and were kept in close confinement.


—Later, a part of the usages of the ancient rule were modified. They were fixed as follows: before beginning their deliberations, the members of the conclave took an oath, of which the following is the formula: "I take to witness Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is to be my Judge, that I shall vote for him whom I should vote for before God." As soon as two-thirds of the votes are united on the same person, the election is accomplished. The signatures of the electors are verified, the new pope takes a name, and is adored (this is the word used) by his former colleagues. Then he is announced to the people collected outside, and is carried and enthroned on the altar of Saint Peter, and the work of the conclave is over.


—Thus, as we have seen, it is the cardinals alone who elect the popes. On this account their office has great importance; for it is evident, as well from the history of the past as of modern times, how necessary it is that a pope should be elected in the interests of peace and conciliation. Every state is interested in this, and its cardinals can not, or should not, neglect the interests of their country.


—In a conclave for the election of a pope, France, Austria and Spain can each demand the exclusion of one cardinal; but they can make use of their right of veto only before a majority of votes is assured to some one of the cardinals.


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