Continuity and Discontinuity in Transylvanian Romanian Thought An Analysis of Four Bishopric Pleas from the Period between 1791 and 1842
Based on the analysis of four Romanian bishopric pleas, the article examines the connection between the reform movements of the 1790s and 1830s. The subject of the analysis is the political and intellectual-historical background of the 1791 Supplex Libellus Valachorum and the pleas of 1834, 1838 and 1842, with particular focus on how the authors of the pleas formulated their concepts of the future and the relationship between the pleas and concepts of natural law.
If one examines the pleas side by side, the key concept in each of them, with the exception of the plea of 1838, was repositioning (reponere, repositione, repunere), but the meaning of this concept changed significantly over time. In the case of the Supplex Libellus Valachorum, the argumentation based on social contracts and the customary law definition of feudal rights was replaced with a positive legal argumentation built on actual acts of laws. On the other hand, in the plea of 1838 the concept of handling nations as living beings is unmistakably recognizable, together with the idea of their rise through civilization and culture. This change of paradigms caused a change in the aims of the pleas as well. Eventually, their main aim was not merely to secure rights, but to establish auspicious circumstances for the development of a nation conceived of as a living being. The goal became to prepare for cultural development and establish the conditions necessary for culture to flourish. Thus, although at first glance the argumentations of the documents seem to have a lot in common, in fact one can clearly discern how the community-related concepts of Transylvanian Romanian Romanticism started to gain ground, while at the same time the tropes appearing in the Supplex Libellus Valachorum started to undergo a transformation.
Keywords: Transylvania, Transylvanian Romanians, Supplex Libellus Valachorum, social contract, natural law, eighteenth century, nineteenth century, political thinking, Romanian Enlightenment, Romanian Romanticism