Absolutism and constitutionalism in western europe summary



Absolutism and constitutionalism in western europe summary


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Absolutism and constitutionalism in western europe summary





The seventeenth century was a period of revolutionary transformation. That century witnessed agricultural and manufacturing crises that had profound political consequences. A colder and wetter climate throughout most of the period meant a shorter farming season. Grain yields declined. In an age when cereals constituted the bulk of the diet for most people everywhere, smaller harvests led to food shortages and starvation. Food shortages in turn meant population decline or stagnation. Industry also suffered. While the evidence does not permit broad generalizations, it appears that the output of woolen textiles, one of the most important manufactures, declined sharply in the first half of the century. This economic crisis was not universal: it struck various sections of Europe at different times and to different degrees. In the middle decades of the century, Spain, France, Germany, and England all experienced great economic difficulties; but these years saw the golden age of the Netherlands. 


Meanwhile, governments increased their spending, primarily for state armies; in the seventeenth century, armies grew larger than they had been since the time of the Roman Empire. To pay for these armies, governments taxed. The greatly increased burden of taxation, falling on a population already existing at a subsistence level, triggered revolts. Peasant revolts were extremely common;' in France, urban disorders were so frequent an aspect of the social and political landscape as to be "a distinctive feature of life. 112 


Princes struggled to free themselves from the restrictions of custom, powerful social groups, or competing institutions. Spanish and French monarchs gained control of the major institution in their domains, the Roman Catholic church. Rulers of England and some of the German principalities, who could not completely regulate the Catholic church, set up national churches. In the German Empire, the Treaty of Westphalia placed territorial sovereignty in the princes' hands. The kings of France, England, and Spain claimed the basic loyalty of their subjects. Monarchs made laws, to which everyone within their borders was subject. These powers added up to something close to sovereignty. 


A state may be termed sovereign when it possesses a monopoly over the instruments of justice and the use of force within clearly defined boundaries. In a sovereign state, no system of courts, such as ecclesiastical tribunals, competes with state courts in the dispensation of justice; and private armies, such as those of feudal 


lords, present no threat to royal authority because the state's army is stronger. Royal law touches all persons within the country. 


Sovereignty had been evolving during the late sixteenth century. Most seventeenth-century governments now needed to address the problem of which authority within the state would possess sovereignty-the Crown or privileged groups. In the period between roughly 1589 and 1715, two basic patterns of government emerged in Europe: absolute monarchy and the constitutional state. Almost all subsequent European governments have been modeled on one of these patterns. 


*How did these forms of government differ from the feudal and dynastic monarchies of earlier centuries? 


*In what sense were these forms "modern"?


*What social and economic factors limited absolute



*Which Western countries most clearly illustrate the

new patterns of political organization?


*Why is the seventeenth century considered the

C4golden age of the Netherlands"?


This chapter will explore these questions. 




In the absolutist state, sovereignty is embodied in the person of the ruler. Absolute kings claimed to rule by divine right, meaning they were responsible to God alone. (Medieval kings governed "by the grace of God," but invariably they acknowledged that they had to respect and obey the law.) Absolute monarchs in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had to respect the fundamental laws of the land, though they claimed to rule by divine right. 


Absolute rulers tried to control competing jurisdictions, institutions, or interest groups in their territories. They regulated religious sects. They abolished the liberties long held by certain areas, groups, or provinces. Absolute kings also secured the cooperation of the one class that historically had posed the greatest threat to monarchy, the nobility. Medieval governments, restrained by the church, the feudal nobility, and their own financial limitations, had been able to exert none of these controls. 


In some respects, the key to the power and success of absolute monarchs lay in how they solved their financial problems. Medieval kings frequently had found temporary financial support through bargains with the nobility: the nobility agreed to an ad hoc grant of money in return for freedom from future taxation. In contrast, the absolutist solution was the creation of new state bureaucracies that directed the economic life of the country in the interests of the king, either forcing taxes ever higher or devising alternative methods of raising revenue. 


Bureaucracies were composed of career officials appointed by and solely accountable to the king. The backgrounds of these civil servants varied. Absolute monarchs sometimes drew on the middle class, as in France, or utilized members of the nobility, as in Spain and eastern Europe. Where there was no middle class or an insignificant one, as in Austria, Prussia, Spain, and Russia, the government of the absolutist state consisted of an interlocking elite of monarchy, aristocracy, and bureaucracy. 


Royal agents in medieval and Renaissance kingdoms had used their public offices and positions to benefit themselves and their families. In England, for example, Crown servants from Thomas Becket to Thomas Wolsey had treated their high offices as their private property and reaped considerable profit from them. The most striking difference between seventeenth- century bureaucracies and their predecessors was that seventeenth century civil servants served the state as represented by the king. Bureaucrats recognized that the offices they held were public, or state, positions. The state paid them salaries to handle revenues that belonged to the Crown, and they were not supposed to use their positions for private gain. Bureaucrats gradually came to distinguish between public duties and private property. 


Absolute monarchs also maintained permanent standing armies. Medieval armies had been raised by feudal lords for particular wars or campaigns, after which the troops were disbanded. In the seventeenth century, monarchs alone recruited and maintained armies-in peacetime as well as wartime. 1,ings deployed their troops both inside and outside the country in the interests of the monarchy. Armies became basic features of absolutist, and modern, states. Absolute rulers also invented new methods of compulsion. They concerned themselves with the private lives of potentially troublesome subjects, often through the use of secret police. 


The word absolutism was coined only in 1830, two centuries after the developments it attempts to classify occurred. Some scholars today deny that absolute monarchy was a stage in the evolution of the modern state between medieval feudal monarchies and the constitutional governments of recent centuries. As one student of early modern France writes, "I believe the prevailing historiographical concept of Absolute monarchy' is a myth promulgated by the royal government and legitimized by historians."' Such historians prefer the term administrative monarchy, by which they mean that the French state in the seventeenth century became stronger in that it could achieve more of its goals, it was centralized from Paris, and its administrative bureaucracy greatly expanded. Although h the administrative monarchy interfered in many aspects of the private individual's daily life, it did not have the consent of the governed, and it especially lacked the idea of the rule of law-law made by a representative body~--the administrative monarchy was actually limited, or checked, in ways that traditional interpretations of absolute monarchy did not consider. 4 


The rule of absolute monarchs was not all-embracing because they lacked the financial and military resources and the technology to make it so. Thus the absolutist state was not the same as a totalitarian state. Totalitarianism is a twentieth-century phenomenon; it seeks to direct all facets of a state's culture-art, education, religion, the economy, and politics-in the interests of the state. By definition, totalitarian rule is total regulation. By twentieth-century standards, the ambitions of absolute monarchs were quite limited: each sought the exaltation of himself or herself as the embodiment of the state. Whether or not Louis XIV of France actually said, "L'Etat, c'est moi!" (I am the state!), the remark expresses his belief that he personified the French nation. Yet the absolutist state did foreshadow recent totalitarian regimes in two fundamental respects: in the glorification of the state over all other aspects of the culture and in the use of war and an expansionist foreign policy to divert attention from domestic ills. All of this is best illustrated by the experience of France, aptly known as the model of absolute monarchy. 


The Foundations of French Absolutism:  Henry IV, Sully, and Richelieu


In 1589 Henry IV (see page 491) inherited an enormous mess. Civil wars had wracked France since 1561. Catastrophically poor harvests meant that all across France peasants lived on the verge of starvation, fighting off wolves and bands of demobilized soldiers. Some provinces, such as Burgundy, suffered almost complete depopulation. Commercial activity had fallen to one third its 1580 level. Nobles, officials, merchants, and peasants wanted peace, order, and stability. "Henri leGrand" (Henry the Great), as the king was called, promised "a chicken in every pot" and inaugurated a remarkable recovery. Henry may have been the first French ruler since Louis IX, in the thirteenth century, genuinely to care about his people, and he was the only king whose statue the Paris crowd did not tear down in the Revolution of 1789. 


Henry converted to Catholicism and sought better relations with the pope. He tried to gain Protestant confidence by issuing the Edict of Nantes in 1598 (see pages 491 and 553) and by appointing the devout Protestant Maximilien de Bethune, duke of Sully, as his chief minister. Aside from a short, successful war with Savoy in 1601, Henry kept France at peace. Maintaining that "if we are without compassion for the people, they must succumb and we all perish with them," Henry sharply lowered taxes on the overburdened peasants. In compensation for the lost revenues, in 1602-1604 he introduced the paulette, an annual fee paid by royal officials to guarantee heredity in their offices. 


Sully proved to be an effective administrator. He combined the indirect taxes on salt, sales, and transit and leased their collection to financiers. Although the number of taxes declined, revenues increased because of the revival of trade.5 One of the first French officials to appreciate the possibilities of overseas trade, Sully subsidized the Company for Trade with the Indies.  He started a country-wide highway system and even dreamed of an international organization for the maintenance of peace. 


In only twelve years, Henry IV and Sully restored public order in France and laid the foundations for economic prosperity. By the standards of the time, Henry IV's government was progressive and promising. His murder in 1610 by a crazed fanatic led to a severe crisis. 


After the death of Henry IV, the queen-regent Marie de' Medici headed the government for the child-king Louis XIII (r. 1610-1643), but in fact feudal nobles and princes of the blood dominated the political scene. In 1624 Marie de' Medici secured the appointment of Armand jean du Plessis-Cardinal Richelieu (15851642)-to the council of ministers. It was a remarkable appointment. The next year, Richelieu became president of the council, and after 1628 he was first minister of the French crown. Richelieu used his strong influence over King Louis XIII to exalt the French monarchy as the embodiment of the French state. One of the greatest servants of that state, Richelieu set in place the cornerstone of French absolutism, and his work served as the basis for France's cultural hegemony of Europe in the later seventeenth century. 


Richelieu's policy was the total subordination of all groups and institutions to the French monarchy. The French nobility, with its selfish and independent interests, had long constituted the foremost threat to the centralizing goals of the Crown and to a strong national state. Therefore, Richelieu sought to curb the power of the nobility. In 1624 he' succeeded in reshuffling the royal council, eliminating such potential power brokers as the prince of Cond6. Thereafter Richelieu dominated the council in an unprecedented way. He leveled castles, long the symbol of feudal independence, and crushed aristocratic conspiracies with quick executions. For example, when the duke of Montmorency, the first peer of France and godson of Henry IV, became involved in a revolt, he was summarily beheaded. 


The constructive genius of Cardinal Richelieu is best reflected in the administrative system he established. He extended the use of the royal commissioners called intendants. France was divided into thirty-two generalites(districts), in each of which after 1634 a royal intendant held a commission to perform specific tasks, often financial but also judicial and policing. Intendants transmitted information from local communities to Paris and delivered royal orders from the capital to their g6n6ralit6s. Almost always recruited from the newer judicial nobility, the noblesse de robe, intendants were appointed directly by the monarch, to whom they were solely responsible. They could not be natives of the districts where they held authority; thus they had no vested interest in their localities. The intendants recruited men for the army, supervised the collection of taxes, presided over the administration of local law, checked up on the local nobility, and regulated economic activities-commerce, trade, the guilds, marketplaces-in their districts. They were to use their power for two related purposes: to enforce royal orders in the g6n6ralit6s of their jurisdiction and to weaken the power and influence of the regional nobility. As the intendants' power increased under Richelieu, so did the power of the centralized French state. 


In 1598 Henry IV's lawyers had drawn up the "Law of Concord." It had been published as the Edict of Nantes to create a temporary and provisional situation of religious toleration in order to secure not the permanent coexistence of two religions (the Calvinist, Reformed, or Huguenot faith and Roman Catholicism), but "religious and civil concord"-that is the confessional reunification of all French people under the king's religion, Roman Catholicism. The Edict of Nantes named 150 towns throughout France; the king granted Protestants the right to practice their faith in those towns, and he gave the towns 180,000 6cus to support the maintenance of their military garrisons. Huguenots numbered perhaps 10 percent of the total French population, most of them concentrated in the southwest. In 1627 Louis XIII, with the unanimous consent of the royal council, decided to end Protestant military and political independence, because, he said, it constituted "a state within a state." According to Louis, Huguenots demanded freedom of conscience, but they did not allow Catholics to worship in their cities, which he interpreted as political disobedience. 6 


Attention focused on La Rochelle, fourth largest of the French Atlantic ports and a major commercial center with strong ties to the northern Protestant states of Holland and England. Louis intended to cut off English aid, and he personally supervised the siege of La Rochelle. The city fell in October 1628. Its municipal government was suppressed, and its walled fortifications were destroyed. Although Protestants retained the right of public worship, the king reinstated the Catholic liturgy, and Cardinal Richelieu himself celebrated the first Mass. The military fall of La Rochelle weakened the influence of aristocratic adherents of Calvinism and was one step in the evolution of a unified French state. 


Louis XIII, Richelieu, and later Louis XIV also faced serious urban protests. Real or feared unemployment, high food prices, grain shortages, new taxes, and what ordinary townspeople perceived as oppressive taxation all triggered domestic violence. Major insurrections occurred at Dijon in 1630 and 1668, at Bordeaux in 1635 and 1675, at Montpellier in 1645, in Lyons in 1667-1668 and 1692, and in Amiens in 1685, 1695, 1704, and 1711. Sometimes rumor and misinformation sparked these riots. In any case, they were all characterized by deep popular anger, a vocabulary of violence, and what a recent historian calls "the culture of retribution"-that is, the punishment of royal "outsiders," officials who attempted to announce or to collect taxes. These officials often were seized, beaten, and hacked to death. For example, in 1673 Louis XIV's imposition of new taxes on legal transactions, tobacco, and pewter ware provoked a major uprising in Bordeaux. 


Municipal and royal authorities responded feebly. They lacked the means of strong action. They feared that stern repressive measures, such as sending in troops to fire on crowds, would create martyrs and further inflame the situation, while forcible full-scale military occupation of a city would be very expensive. Thus authorities allowed the crowds to "burn themselves out," as long as they did not do too much damage. Royal edicts were suspended, prisoners were released, and discussions were initiated. By the end of the century, municipal governments were better integrated into the national structure, and local authorities had the prompt military support of the Paris government. Those who publicly opposed government policies and taxes received swift and severe punishment. 


French foreign policy under Richelieu was aimed at the destruction of the fence of Habsburg territories that surrounded France. Consequently, Richelieu supported the Habsburgs' enemies. In 1631 he signed a treaty with the Lutheran king Gustavus Adolphus promising French support against the Catholic Habsburgs in what has been called the Swedish phase of the Thirty Years' War (see page 499). French influence became an important factor in the political future of the German Empire. Richelieu acquired for France extensive rights in Alsace in the east and Arras in the north. 


Richelieu's efforts at centralization extended even to literature. In 1635 he gave official recognition to a group of philologists who were interested in grammar and rhetoric. Thus was born the French Academy. With Richelieu's encouragement, the French Academy began the preparation of a dictionary to standardize the French language; it was completed in 1694. The French Academy survives as a prestigious society, and its membership now includes people outside the field of literature. 


All of these new policies, especially war, cost money. In his Political Testament, Richelieu wrote, "I have always said that finances are the sinews of the state." He fully realized that revenues determine a government's ability to inaugurate and enforce policies and programs. A state secures its revenues through taxation. But the political and economic structure of France greatly limited the government's ability to tax. Seventeenth century France remained "a collection of local economies and local societies dominated by local elites." The rights of some assemblies in some provinces, such as Brittany, to vote their own taxes; the hereditary exemption from taxation of many wealthy members of the nobility and the middle class; and the royal pension system drastically limited the government's power to tax.  Richelieu and, later, Louis XIV temporarily solved their financial problems by securing the cooperation of local elites. The central government shared the proceeds of tax revenue with local powers. It never gained all the income it needed. Because the French monarchy could not tax at will, it never completely controlled the financial system. In practice, therefore, French absolutism was limited. 8 


In building the French state, Richelieu believed he had to resort to drastic measures against persons and groups within France and to conduct a tough anti-Habsburg foreign policy. He knew also that his approach sometimes seemed to contradict traditional Christian teaching. As a priest and bishop, how did he justify his policies? He developed his own raison d'eat (reason of state): "Where the interests of the state are concerned, God absolves actions which, if privately committed, would be a crime." 


Richelieu persuaded Louis XIII to appoint prot6g6 Jules Mazarin (1602-1661) as his successor. An Italian diplomat of great charm, Mazarin had served on the council of state under Richelieu, acquiring considerable political experience. He became a cardinal in 1641 and a French citizen in 1643. When Louis XIII followed Richelieu to the grave in 1643 and a regency headed by Queen Anne of Austria governed for the child-king Louis XIV, Mazarin became the dominant power in the government. He continued Richelieu's centralizing policies, but his attempts to increase royal revenues led to the civil wars of 1648-1653 known as the "Fronde." 


The word fronde means "slingshot" or "catapult," and a frondeur was originally a street urchin who threw mud at the passing carriages of the rich. But the Fronde originated in the provinces, not Paris, and the term frondeur came to be applied to anyone who opposed the policies of the government. Many individuals and groups did so. Influential segments of the nobility resented the increased power of the monarchy under Louis XIII and what they perceived as their diminished role in government. Mazarin could not control them as Richelieu had done. Royal bureaucrats, judges in the parlements, and intendants who considered their positions the means to social and economic advancement felt that they were being manipulated by the Crown and their interests ignored.10 The state's financial situation steadily weakened because entire regions of France refused to pay taxes. The French defeat of Spanish armies at Rocroi in 1643 marked the final collapse of Spanish military power in Europe; the victory also led the French people to believe that because peace was at hand, taxes were unnecessary. When a desperate government devised new taxes, the Parlement of Paris rejected them. Popular rebellions led by aristocratic factions broke out in the provinces and spread to Paris.11 As rebellion continued, civil order broke down completely. A vast increase in the state bureaucracy, representing an expansion of royal power, and new means of extracting money from working people incurred the bitter opposition of peasants and urban artisans. Violence continued intermittently for the next twelve years. 


The conflicts of the Fronde had three significant results for the future. First, it became apparent that the government would have to compromise with the bureaucrats and social elites that controlled local institutions and constituted the state bureaucracy. These groups were already largely exempt from taxation, and Louis XIV confirmed their privileged social status. Second, the French economy was badly disrupted and would take years to rebuild. Third, the Fronde had a traumatic effect on the young Louis XIV. The king and his mother were frequently threatened and sometimes treated as prisoners by aristocratic factions. On one occasion, a mob broke into the royal bedchamber to make sure the king was actually there; it succeeded in giving him a bad fright. Louis never forgot such humiliations. The period of the Fronde formed the cornerstone of his political education and of his conviction that the sole alternative to anarchy was absolute monarchy. The personal rule of Louis XIV represented the culmination of the process of centralization, but it also witnessed the institutionalization of procedures that would ultimately undermine the absolute monarchy. 




According to Thomas Hobbes, the central drive in every human is "a perpetual and restless desire of Power, after Power, that ceaseth only in Death." The seventeenth century solved the problem of sovereign power in two fundamental ways: absolutism and constitutionalism. The France of Louis XIV witnessed the emergence of the fully absolutist state. The king commanded all the powers of the state: judicial, military, political, and, to a great extent, ecclesiastical. France developed a centralized bureaucracy, a professional army, and a state-directed economy, all of which Louis personally supervised. For the first time in history, all the institutions and powers of the national state were effectively controlled by a single person. The king saw himself as the representative of God on earth, and it has been said that "to the seventeenth century imagination God was a sort of image of Louis XIV.30 


As Louis XIV personifies absolutism, so Stuart England exemplifies the evolution of the first modern constitutional state. The conflicts between Parliament and the first two Stuart rulers, James I and Charles 1, tested where sovereign power would rest in the state. The resulting civil war did not solve the problem. The Instrument of Government, the document produced in 1653 by the victorious parliamentary army, provided for a balance of government authority and recognition of popular rights; as such, the Instrument has been called the first modern constitution. Unfortunately, it lacked public support. James 11's absolutist tendencies brought on the Glorious Revolution of 1688 to 1689, and the people who made that revolution settled three basic issues. Sovereign power was divided between king and Parliament, with Parliament enjoying the greater share. Government was to be based on the rule of law. And the liberties of English people were made explicit in written form in the Bill of Rights. The framers of the English constitution left to later generations the task of making constitutional government work. 


The models of governmental power established by seventeenth-century England and France strongly influenced other states then and ever since. As American novelist William Faulkner wrote, "The past isn't dead; it's not even past." 


The Court at Versailles

            Although the Duc de Saint-Simon (1675-1755) was a soldier, courtier, and diplomat, his enduring reputation rests on his Memoirs (1788), an eyewitness account of the personality and court of Louis XIV A nobleman of ancient lineage, Saint-Simon resented Louis's "domestication" of the nobility and his promotion of the bourgeoisie. The Memoirs, excerpted here, remains a monument of French literature and an indispensable historical source, partly for its portrait of the court at Versailles. 

            Very early in the reign of Louis XIV the Court was removed from Paris, never to return. The troubles of the minority had given him a dislike to that city; his enforced and surreptitious flight from it still rankled in his memory; he did not consider himself safe there, and thought cabals would be more easily detected if the Court was in the country, where the movements and temporary absences of any of its members would be more easily noticed.... No doubt that he was also influenced by the feeling that he would be regarded with greater awe and veneration when no longer exposed every day to the gaze of the multitude. 

            His love-affair with Mademoiselle de la Valliere, which at first was covered as far as possible with a veil of mystery, was the cause of frequent excursions to Versailles.... The visits of Louis XIV becoming more frequent, he enlarged the chateau by degrees till its immense buildings afforded better accommodation for the Court than was to be found at St. Germain, where most of the courtiers had to put up with uncomfortable lodgings in the town. The Court was therefore removed to Versailles in 1682, not long before the Queen's death. The new building contained an infinite number of rooms for courtiers, and the King liked the grant of these rooms to be regarded as a coveted privilege.

            He availed himself of the frequent festivities at Versailles, and his excursions to other places, as a means of making the courtiers assiduous in their attendance and anxious to please him; for he nominated beforehand those who were to take part in 

them, and could thus gratify some and inflict a snub on others. He was conscious that the substantial favours he had to bestow were not nearly sufficient to produce a continual effect; he had therefore to invent imaginary ones, and no one was so clever in devising petty distinctions and preferences which aroused jealousy and emulation. The visits to Marly later on were very useful to him in this way; also those to Trianon [Marly and Trianon were small country houses], where certain ladies, chosen beforehand, were admitted to his table. It was another distinction to hold his candlestick at his coucher; as soon as he had finished his prayers he used *to name the courtier to whom it was to be handed, always choosing one of the highest rank among those present.... 

            Not only did he expect all persons of distinction to be in continual attendance at Court, but he was quick to notice the absence of those of inferior degree; at his lever [formal rising from bed in the morning], his coucher [preparations for going to bed], his meals, in the gardens of Versailles (the only place where the courtiers in general were allowed to follow him), he used to cast his eyes to right and left; nothing escaped him, he saw everybody. If any one habitually living at Court absented himself he insisted on knowing the reason; those who came there only for flying visits had also to give a satisfactory explanation; any one who seldom or never appeared there was certain to incur his displeasure. If asked to bestow a favour on such persons he would reply haughtily: "I do not know him"; of such as rarely presented themselves he would say, "He is a man I never see"; and from these judgments there was no appeal. 

            He always took great pains to find out what was going on in public places, in society, in private houses, even family secrets, and maintained an immense number of spies and tale-bearers. These were of all sorts; some did not know that their reports were carried to him; others did know it; there were others, again, who used to write to him directly, through channels which he prescribed; others who were admitted by the backstairs and saw him in his private room. Many a man in all ranks of life was ruined by these methods, often very un. ly, without ever being able to discover the reason; and when the King had once taken a prejudice against a man, he hardly ever got over it.... 

            No one understood better than Louis XIV the art of enhancing the value of a favour by his manner of bestowing it; he knew how to make the most of a word, a smile, even of a glance. If he addressed any one, were it but to ask a trifling question or make some commonplace remark, all eyes were turned on the person so honored; it was a mark of favour which always gave rise to comment.... 

            He loved splendour, magnificence, and profusion in all things, and encouraged similar tastes in his Court; to spend money freely on equipages [the king's horse carriages] and buildings, on feasting and at cards, was a sure way to gain his favour, perhaps to obtain the honour of a word from him. Motives of policy had something to do with this; by making expensive habits the fashion, and, for people in a certain position, a necessity, he compelled his courtiers to live beyond their income, and gradually reduced them to depend on his bounty for the means of subsistence. This was a plague which, once introduced, became a scourge to the whole country, for it did not take long to spread to Paris, and thence to the armies and the provinces; so that a man of any position is now estimated entirely according to his expenditure on his table and other luxuries. This folly, sustained by pride and ostentation, has already produced widespread confusion; it threatens to end in nothing short of ruin and a general overthrow. 


Questions for Analysis

1. How would you define the French court? Why did Louis XIV move it to Versailles? 

2.By what means did Louis control the nobility at Versailles? Why did he use those particular means~ 

3.Consider the role of ritual and ceremony in some modern governments, such as the U.S. government. How does it compare to Louis XIV's use of ceremony, as portrayed by Saint Simon? 

4.Saint-Simon faulted Louis for encouraging the nobles' extravagance. Is that a justifiable criticism? 




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Absolutism and constitutionalism in western europe summary

Chapter 16: Absolutism and Constitutionalism in Western Europe (ca. 1589-1715)

I. Absolutism

A. Absolute Monarchs

1. In the 17th and 18th centuries absolute monarchs claimed absolute sovereignty based in divine right.

2. Nonetheless, at this time in history absolute monarchs generally were sill bound by the law: They did not have unlimited royal power.

3. Absolute monarchs strove for the centralization of power to eliminate competing jurisdictions and institutions in their territories.
a. They also secured the cooperation of the nobility.

4. In contrast to medieval monarchs who negotiated taxation with nobles on a case-by-case basis, absolute monarchs set up bureaucracies that they controlled to collect taxes on a regular basis.

5. Bureaucrats in the 17th century began to distinguish between their public duties and private property.

6. Absolute monarchs maintained permanent standing armies.

7. Absolutist states were not totalitarian because they lacked the financial, military, and technological resources to exercise total control over society.

8. Like 20th century totalitarian states, the absolutist regimes glorified the state above all and used war to divert attention from domestic problems.

B. The Foundations of French Absolutism: Henry IV, Sully, and Richelieu

1. Henry IV lowered taxes on peasants and his chief minister, Sully, streamlined tax collection.

a. As the economy revived, tax receipts grew.
b. But Henry IV did introduce the paulette: an annual fee paid by royal officials to guarantee heredity in their offices.

2. Cardinal Richelieu curbed the power of the nobility by reshuffling the royal council, leveling castles, and executing aristocratic conspirators against the king.

a. The guiding force behind his domestic policies was the subordination of all groups and institutions to the monarchy.
b. French foreign policy under Richelieu focused primarily on the prevention of the Habsburgs from unifying the territories surrounding France.

3. Richelieu divided France up into thirty-two generalités supervised and monitored by one intendant each.

a. The intendants were beholden to the king only and generally came from the new, judicial nobility: the nobility of the robe (not the older nobility of the sword)

4. The intendants recruited soldiers for the army, supervised tax collection, kept an eye on the local nobility, presided over the administration of local laws, and regulated economic activity.

5. In 1627 Louis XIII moved to destroy Huguenot (French Protestant) independence because they refused to allow Catholics freedom of worship in Huguenot cities.

a. The center of the struggle between the French crown and the Huguenots’ in 1627 was La Rochelle.

6. During the later 17th century urban revolts bases on resentment of high taxation were common.

7. Richelieu supported foundation of the French Academy and standardization of the French language by the Academy.

8. Richelieu and Louis XIV temporarily solved their financial problems by sharing the cut from increased taxation with local elites.

9. Following the deaths of Louis XIII and Richelieu, Richelieu’s successor, Mazarin, provoked an aristocratic rebellion that became known as the Fronde (1648-1653), which occurred early in the reign of Louis XIV.

a. High taxes were the most important issue.
b. The most important lesson Louis XIV learned from the Fronde was that the sole alternative to anarchy was absolute monarchy, even at it also informed his decision to make local elites and nobles tax exempt.


C. The Absolute Monarchy of Louis XIV

1. Louis XIV secured the collaboration of the nobility in projects that increased his prestige and theirs

2. Louis XIV’s royal court at Versailles was a tool of state policy, overawing subjects and visiting dignitaries.

a. Other European monarchs constructed their own versions of Versailles.

3. French language and culture became fashionable at courts all over Europe.

4. Louis used court ceremonies, entertainments, spies, and informers to reduce the power of the great nobility.

5. Louis staffed his administration with members of the nobility of the robe or the upper middle class, to show that he was not going to share power.

6. The phrase, attributed to Louis XIV that best characterizes his reign is “I am the state.” (“L’état, c’est moi”)
7. He would always refuse to call the Estates-General to raise money even when France had increasing financial problems.

a. The meeting of the Estates-General, representatives of the French people, was the only lawful way a monarch could raise taxes in France.
b. But a meeting of the Estates-General would unite the nobility against the monarch and force him into giving concessions of his power in return for increased taxes.

8. In 1685 Louis XIV formally revoked the Edict of Nantes because he viewed it as an affront to his own claims to power.

D. Financial and Economic Management under Louis IV: Colbert

1. In Louis XIV’s France, tax exemptions for elites placed the greatest tax burden on the peasantry.

2. Mercantilism

a. Louis’s chief financial minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, used subsidies for domestic industries, tariffs, and policies to attract foreign artisans to make France self-sufficient and to boost French exports to bring in gold.
b. Mercantilistic theory stated that government should intervene to secure the largest share of limited resources.
3. Colbert expanded the French navy and merchant marine and promoted colonization of French territories in North America.

a. He also improved the transportation system within France.

4. Among the weaknesses of the French financial system under Louis XIV included:

a. the sale of the job of tax collector to “tax farmers.”
b. high military expenditures
c. noble immunity from taxation
d. many middle-class tax exemptions

E. French Classicism

1. French “classicism” refers to imitation of Roman and Greek artistic models together with the values of discipline, restraint, and balance in art.

2. After the 1660s French artists and musicians generally had to glorify the state and Louis XIV himself: Who was referred to as the “Sun King.”

3. Nicholas Poussin exemplifies French classicism in painting (Rape of the Sabine Women), Jean-Baptiste Lully in music, and Moliere and Racine in theater.

F. Louis XIV’s Wars

1. Louis was a conqueror – France was at war for thirty-three of the fifty-four years of his reign.

2. Louis developed a large, efficient, disciplined army subordinate directly to himself. He also reformed the French military in several ways:

a. Created an efficient supply system.
b. Standardized weapons and uniforms.
c. Formed a rational system of training and promotion.
d. Established an ambulance corps to look after the wounded.

3. Louis made territorial gains in the Low Countries and Lorraine before his armies ran out of steam in the early 1680s.

4. High taxes to support the military and bad weather from 1688-1694 led to mass starvation in some areas of France.

a. Pillaging troops and a slump in exports also contributed to the economic crisis.
5. The War of the Spanish Succession

a. After the death of King Charles II of Spain in 1700 passed the Spanish throne to Louis XIV’s grandson, England, Holland, Austria, and Prussia formed the Grand Alliance against France to preserve the balance of power and check French maritime expansion in the Americas, Asia, and Africa.

b. The Grand Alliance feared the prospect of Louis XIV controlling both the French and Spanish thrones.

6. The Peace of Utrecht

a. The war ended in 1713 with the Peace of Utrecht and stopped France, finished Spain as a great power, and expanded England’s overseas empire.

b. England gained the most from the war including the acquisition of Gibraltar and the Spanish slave trade, the asiento.

c. Reestablished a balance of power in Europe and ended the French dominance.

G. The Decline of Absolutist Spain in the Seventeenth Century

1. Spanish absolutism preceded that of the French.

a. In the 1500s the kingdom of Castile developed the characteristics of an absolute monarchy.

2. Gold and silver from the Americas were the basis for Spanish power.

3. The lack of a middle class (due in part to the expulsion of the Moors and Jews), agricultural crisis, population decline, and failure to invest in productive enterprises meant that by 1715 Spain was a second-rate power.

4. Spain extended itself in wars it could not afford in the 1600s.

a. The final collapse of Spain as a great military power was symbolized by the defeat at the Battle of Rocroi.

5. To solve their increasingly disastrous financial difficulties, Spanish monarchs often resorted to canceling the national debt, which made it difficult for them to obtain loans in the future.
6. The expense and failure of the effort to repress the Dutch Revolt also drained the Spanish economy.

7. Population decline as well as intellectual and psychological malaise (as a result of the oppression of the Spanish Inquisition) also contributed to Spain’s decline.

II. Constitutionalism

A. While France, and later Prussia, Russia, and Austria evolved absolutism, England and Holland developed constitutionalism – the limitation of government by law.

1. Constitutionalism is not the same as democracy.

B. The Decline of Royal Absolutism in England

1. In spite of a disordered and bloody 17th century, England emerged a constitutional monarchy.

2. Elizabeth I’s successor James I asserted his divine right to absolute power, antagonizing Parliament.

3. The House of Commons, the members of which were largely members of a new wealthy and powerful capitalist class in England, objected.

4. James and his successor, Charles I (r. 1625-1649) appeared to be sympathetic to Catholicism; Puritans in the House of Commons were suspicious.

5. English Civil War

a. In 1640 Charles had to summon Parliament to request funding to suppress a rebellion in Scotland (against the imposition of Anglican liturgy).
b. As Parliament passed laws limiting Charles’s powers, an Irish uprising precipitated civil war.
c. Charles tried to raise funds by collecting “ship money: - a coastal defense tax levied illegally on inland counties.
d. This caused conflict with Parliament: the only government body that had the legal right to raise taxes.
e. When Charles tried to arrest several members of Parliament who spoke out against him he sparked a civil war between Parliament and the Monarch.
f. The aristocracy loyal to Charles became known as the Cavaliers.
g. The forces loyal to Parliament became known as the Roundheads.
h. The Cavaliers were eventually defeated and Charles fled to Scotland: But the Scots handed him back over to Parliament.
i. In spite of the trial and execution of Charles I in 1649 by Parliament, the civil war did not resolve the problem of sovereignty.
The Glorious Revolution, which came at the end of the seventeenth century, forced the English king to recognize that he must rule in accordance with the laws they approved.
The Glorious Revolution, one of three great revolutions in the Western world in this period, introduced the ultimate power of a representative body. The American Revolution spelled out the roles of government institutions and the rights of citizens. The French Revolution went furthest in asserting the principles of liberty and equality for all people.

C. Puritanical Absolutism in England: Cromwell and the Protectorate.
In England, the monarchs realized that having the support of Parliament—the body of nobles and wealthy commoners who claimed to represent the nation—was an advantage.
Passionate Protestants, Puritans in particular, felt that the Anglican church was too Catholic. They also wanted a church more free from government. The resulting conflict and persecution led to many Puritans emigrating to New England.
When the Stuarts and, in particular, James I, took over the throne, they tried to reestablish an absolute monarchy. Both James and his son Charles I operated without consulting Parliament. Between 1629 and 1640, Charles ruled without Parliament in a period known as the Eleven Years’ Tyranny.


a. England became a Puritan military dictatorship run by Parliament’s most successful general, Oliver Cromwell, from 1649-1660.

Civil war broke out in 1642 between supporters of the king (Cavaliers or Royalists) and those of Parliament (Roundheads). Parliament won, principally because of the New Model Army of its leader and military genius, Oliver Cromwell. His army was made up chiefly of extreme Puritans known as the Independents. They believed they were doing battle for God.

b. Oliver Cromwell attempted to create a community of puritanical saints.
c. The English Navigation Act of 1651 was passed at this time, which required that English goods be transported on English ships.
d. When he died in 1658, most English, who were Anglican and not Puritan, had had enough of this.
Cromwell purged Parliament of anyone who had not supported him and executed Charles I in 1649. The execution of the king horrified much of Europe. Parliament abolished the monarchy and the House of Lords, and declared a republic, or commonwealth.
Cromwell soon dismissed Parliament and set up a military dictatorship. He ruled until his death in 1658. Parliament then restored the monarchy, and Charles II took the throne. Under the restored Stuart monarchy, Parliament kept much of the power it had gained. It restored the Church of England as the state religion and restricted some rights of Catholics and Puritans.
To counter the possibility of a Catholic monarch returning to the throne, specifically Charles’s brother James, Parliament introduced the Exclusion Bill to bar James from the throne if he professed his Catholicism. This bill created two political groups: the anti-Catholic Whigs, and the Tories, who favored a lawful succession to the throne.
In 1685, James II became king. He was a devout Catholic. James named Catholics to high positions in the government, armed forces, and universities. Conflict over religion again brewed.

D. The Restoration of the English Monarchy

1. Charles II (r. 1660-1685), the son of Charles I, was invited back to England from exile in France.

2. He attempted to conciliate Parliament by creating an advisory council of five men, known as the Cabal, who were also members of Parliament.

3. When Charles was caught in 1670 in secret negotiations with Louis XIV for subsidies in exchange for a gradual Catholization of England and an alliance against the Netherlands, panic swept England.

4. When his brother James II (r. 1685-1688), an open Roman Catholic, succeeded Charles II, there was trouble.
Parliament did not want James II’s Catholic son to assume the throne. A group of English noblemen invited the Dutch leader, William of Orange, husband of James’s daughter Mary, to invade England. William and Mary raised an army and marched to England. James and his family fled, so with almost no violence, England underwent its “Glorious Revolution.” The issue
was who would be monarch.

5. James placed many Catholics in high administrative positions and declared universal religious tolerance.

a. Seven Anglican bishops responded by refusing to read James’s proclamation.
b. They were arrested but subsequently acquitted.

6. When James’s wife produced a son, there was fear that a Catholic dynasty was now assured.

E. The Glorious Revolution

1. Parliament offered the throne to James’s Protestant daughter Mary and her Dutch husband, Prince William of Orange.

2. In December 1688 James fled to France and William and Mary were crowned king and queen of England as co-monarchs.

William and Mary accepted the throne in 1689 along with a Bill of Rights, which set forth Parliament’s right to make laws and levy taxes. As well, standing armies could be raised only with Parliament’s consent. The rights of citizens to bear arms and to a jury trial were also part of the document. The Bill of Rights helped create a government based on the rule of law and a freely elected Parliament. It laid the ground for a limited, or constitutional, monarchy.
The Toleration Act of 1689 gave Puritans, not Catholics, the right of free public worship. Few English citizens were persecuted for religion ever again, however. By deposing one king and establishing another, Parliament had destroyed the divine right theory of kingship

3. This was significant because the idea of divine right was destroyed and one monarch was replaced by another with minimal bloodshed.

4. The Glorious Revolution was guaranteed by a Bill of Rights passed by Parliament.

a. The Bill guaranteed the independence of the judiciary, the sole power of Parliament to make laws, and freedom of debate in Parliament.
b. All Protestants were granted religions toleration.

5. John Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690) was a defense of the Glorious Revolution.

a. Locke maintained that government was a contract between ruled and ruler for the protection of life, liberty, and property.

John Locke wrote a political work called Two Treatises of Government (1690). He argued against the absolute rule of one person. Locke believed that before the development of society and politics people lived in a state of freedom and equality, not violence and war. In this state people had natural rights—rights with which people were born.

6. The Glorious Revolution was not a democratic revolution, because few English subjects could vote in the election of Parliament.

Locke believed, however, that in the state of nature people had trouble protecting their natural rights. They agree to establish a government to secure and protect these rights. The contract between people and government establishes mutual obligations. People should be reasonable towards government, and government should protect the people’s rights. If the contract is broken, people have a right to overthrow the government.

7. The cabinet system of government evolved in the 18th century.

a. The Cabal was the historical antecedent to this system.
b. In this system a cabinet of ministers responsible primarily to Parliament governed.
c. The power of the monarch grew weaker and weaker.
Locke’s ideas were important to the American and French Revolutions. They were used to support demands for constitutional government, the rule of law, and the protection of rights. Locke’s ideas are found in the American Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

8. The Glorious Revolution is considered the triumph of England’s Parliament, Constitutional Monarchy, and Cabinet Government.

a. Between 1688 and 1715, England was a constitutional monarchy controlled by an aristocratic oligarchy.

9. The English House of Commons changed between the early 16th century and the early 17th century.

a. The members of the House of Commons in the early 17th century were generally wealthy gentry (land owners) who were also capitalist businessmen.
b. They were simply wealthier than the members in the early 16th century.
England’s Glorious Revolution created a constitutional, or limited, monarchy in which the monarch shared power with Parliament.

F. The Dutch Republic in the 17th Century.

1. The Dutch system of government rested on the assemblies of wealthy merchants in each of the seven provinces called “Estates.”

a. Political power in the Dutch Republic was controlled by an oligarchy of wealthy merchants.

2. A federal assembly, or “States General” ran foreign policy, but was responsible to the provincial “Estates.”

3. The States General appointed a representative or stadtholder in each province.
a. Some men held the post of stadtholder in all seven provinces.

4. The cohesion and power of the Dutch Republic ultimately rested on its immense commercial power and prosperity.

5. The Netherlands was the only realm in early modern Europe with almost complete religious toleration.

6. In 1650 the Dutch owned half of all the ships in Europe and controlled much of European trade.

a. The primary instrument of Dutch overseas imperialism was the Dutch East India Company.

7. In the 17th century the Dutch probably had the highest standard of living in the world and was the greatest commercial power in Europe.

8. The Dutch “Golden Age” was based on several factors:

a. Fishing and overseas transport.
b. Religious toleration.
c. The moral and ethical precepts of Calvinism.
d. A strong navy.

9. Dutch power began to decline around the time of the War of the Spanish Succession due to this and the other wars of the 17th century.



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Absolutism and constitutionalism in western europe summary


McKay Supplement Notes

Chapter 16- Absolutism and Constitutionalism in Western Europe (ca 1589-1715)

  1. Absolutism
    1. Absolutism defined
      1. In the absolutist state, sovereignty resided in kings—not the nobility or the parliament—who considered themselves responsible to God alone.
      2. Absolute kings created new state bureaucracies and standing armies, regulated all the institutions of government, and secured the cooperation of the nobility.
        1. Some historians deny that absolutism was a stage of development that followed feudalism, but, instead, was “administrative monarchy.”
      3. The absolutist state foreshadowed the modern totalitarian state but lacked its total control over all aspects of its citizens’ lives.
    2. The foundations of French absolutism: Henry IV, Sully, and Richelieu
      1. Henry IV cared for his people, lowered taxes, achieved peace, and curtailed the power of the nobility.
      2. His minister, Sully, brought about financial stability and economic growth.
      3. Cardinal Richelieu, the ruler of France under King Louis XIII, broke the power of the French nobility.
        1. His policy was total subordination of all groups and institutions to the French monarchy.
        2. He changed the royal council, leveled castles, and crushed aristocratic conspiracies.
        3. He established an efficient administrative system using intendants, who further weakened the local nobility.
        4. They delivered royal orders, recruited men for the army, collected taxes, and more.
      4. Through the Edict of Nantes, Henry IV and given religious freedom to Protestants (Huguenots) in 150 towns, but Louis XIII decided otherwise.
        1. He defeated the city of La Rochelle in 1628 and re-instituted the Catholic mass.
        2. Richelieu and the French kings faced many urban protests over high taxes and food shortages.
        3. Local authorities usually let local riots “burn themselves out.”
      5. Under Richelieu, France sought to break Habsburg power.
        1. He supported the struggle of the Swedish king, Gustavus Adolphus, against the Habsburgs.
        2. He acquired land and influence in Germany.
      6. Richelieu supported the new French Academy, which created a dictionary to standardize the French language.
      7. The French government’s ability to tax was severely limited by local rights and the taxexempt status of much of the nobility and the middle class.
      8. Mazarin continued Richelieu’s centralizing policies, but these policies gave rise to a period of civil wars known as the Fronde.
        1. Fronde meant anyone who opposed the policies of the government.
        2. Many people of the aristocracy and the middle classes opposed government centralization and new taxes; rebellion was widespread.
        3. The conflicts hurt the economy and convinced the new king, Louis XIV, that civil war was destructive of social order and that absolute monarchy was the only alternative to anarchy.
  2. The absolute monarchy of Louis XIV
    1. Louis XIV, the “Sun King,” was a devout Catholic who believed that God had established kings as his rulers on earth.
    2. He feared the nobility and was successful in collaboration with them to enhance both aristocratic prestige and royal power.
    3. He made the court at Versailles a fixed institution and used it as a means of preserving royal power and as the center of French absolutism.
      1. The architecture and art of Versailles were a means of carrying out state policy—a way to overawe his subjects and foreign powers.
      2. The French language and culture became the international style.
      3. The court at Versailles was a device to undermine the power of the aristocracy by separating power from status.
      4. A centralized state, administered by a professional class taken from the bourgeoisie, was formed.
    4. Financial and economic management under Louis XIV’s minister, Colbert
      1. Louis’s wars were expensive, but the tax farmers took much of the taxes while the nobility paid no taxes at all.
      2. Mercantilism is a collection of governmental policies for the regulation of economic activities by and for the state.
      3. Louis XIV’s finance minister, Colbert, tried to achieve a favorable balance of trade and make France selfsufficient so the flow of gold to other countries would be halted.
        1. Colbert encouraged French industry, enacted high foreign tariffs, and created a strong merchant marine.
        2. He hoped to make Canada part of a French empire.
        3. Though France’s industries grew and the commercial classes prospered, its agricultural economy suffered under the burdens of heavy taxation, population decline, and poor harvests.
    5. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes
      1. In 1685, Louis revoked the Edict of Nantes—then destroyed Protestant churches and schools; many Protestants fled the country.
      2. Why? Because Louis XIV hated division within France—and because most people supported this policy.
    6. French classicism in art and literature
      1. . French classicism imitated and resembled the arts of the ancients and the Renaissance.
      2. Poussin best illustrates classical idealism in painting.
      3. Louis XIV was a patron of the composers Lully, Couperin, and Charpentier.
      4. The comedies of Molière and the tragedies of Racine best illustrate the classicism in French theater.
  3. Louis XIV’s wars
    1. Louis kept France at war for 33 of the 54 years of his personal rule; the Marquis de Louvois created a professional army for Louis.
      1. The French army under Louis XIV was modern because the state, rather than the nobles, employed the soldiers.
        1. Louis himself took personal command of the army.
        2. Martinet created a rigid but effective system of training.
    2. Louis continued Richelieu’s expansionist policy.
      1. In 1667, he invaded Flanders and gained twelve towns.
      2. By the treaty of Nijmegen (1678) he gained some Flemish towns and all of FrancheComté.
      3. Strasbourg was taken in 1681 and Lorraine in 1684, but the limits of his expansion had been met.
      4. Louis fought the new Dutch king of England, William III, and the League of Augsburg in a war.
        1. The Banks of Amsterdam and England financed his enemies.
        2. Louis’s heavy taxes fell on the peasants, who revolted.
      5. This led to the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713), which was over the issue of the succession to the Spanish throne: Louis claimed Spain but was opposed by the Dutch, English, Austrians, and Prussians.
        1. The war was also an attempt to preserve the balance of power in Europe and to check France’s commercial power overseas.
        2. A Grand Alliance of the English, Dutch, Austrians, and Prussians was formed in 1701 to fight the French.
        3. Eugene of Savoy and Churchill of England led the alliance to victory over Louis.
        4. The war was concluded by the Peace of Utrecht in 1713, which forbade the union of France and Spain.
        5. The war ended French expansionism and left France on the brink of bankruptcy, with widespread misery and revolts.
  4. The decline of absolutist Spain in the seventeenth century
    1. Spain had developed an absolutist monarchy but by the 1590s it was in decline.
      1. Fiscal disorder, political incompetence, the lack of a strong middle class, population decline, intellectual isolation, and psychological malaise contributed to its decline.
      2. The Dutch and English began to cut into Spain’s trade monopolies.
      3. Spain’s supply of silver began to decline, leading to de-evaluation and bankruptcy.
        1. Spain had only a tiny middle class—which had to face many obstacles to their businesses.
        2. Aristocrats were extravagant and their high rents drove the peasants from the land.
      4. Spanish kings lacked force of character and could not deal with all these problems.
    2. Philip IV’s minister Olivares mistakenly thought that revival of war with the Dutch would solve Spain’s problems; war with France followed—all bringing disaster for Spain.
    3. The Treaty of the Pyrenees of 1659, which ended the FrenchSpanish wars, marked the end of Spain as a great power.
      1. Too much of Spain’s past had been built on slavery and gold and silver.
      2. Cervantes’s novel Don Quixote characterizes the impractical dreams of Spain.
  5. Constitutionalism evolved in England and the Netherlands in the seventeenth century
    1. Constitutionalism defined
      1. It is the limitation of the state by law; under constitutionalism, the state must be governed according to law, not royal decree.
        1. It refers to a balance between the power of the government and the rights of the subjects.
        2. A constitution may be written or unwritten, but the government must respect it.
        3. Constitutional governments may be either republics or monarchies.
      2. Constitutional government is not the same as full democracy because not all of the people have the right to participate.
    2. The decline of royal absolutism in England (1603-1649)
      1. The Stuart kings of England lacked the political wisdom of Elizabeth I.
      2. James I was devoted to the ideal of rule by divine right.
      3. His absolutism ran counter to English belief.
      4. The House of Commons wanted a greater say in the government of the state.
        1. James I had squandered much money on his friends.
        2. A new class of ambitious and rich country gentry and businessmen had emerged in the Commons.
        3. Bitter squabbles erupted between King and the Commons—the Commons wanted political power equal to its economic strength.
        4. Charles I ruled without Parliament from 1629-1640.
    3. Religious issues made relations between King and Commons even worse.
      1. Many English people, called Puritans, were attracted by the values of hard work, thrift, and selfdenial implied by Calvinism.
      2. The Puritans, who were dissatisfied with the Church of England, saw James I as an enemy.
      3. Charles I and his archbishop, Laud, appeared to be proCatholic.
    4. The English Civil War (1642-1649)
      1. Members of Parliament believed that taxation without consent was despotism, hence they attempted to limit royal power.
      2. A revolt in Scotland over the religious issue forced him to call a new Parliament into session to finance an army.
        1. The Commons passed an act compelling the king to summon Parliament every three years.
        2. It also impeached Archbishop Laud and abolished the House of Lords.
        3. Religious differences in Ireland led to a revolt there, but Parliament would not trust Charles with an army.
      3. Charles initiated military action against Parliament.
        1. The civil war (1642-1649) revolved around the issue of whether sovereignty should reside in the king or in Parliament.
        2. The problem was not resolved, but Charles was beheaded in 1649.
    5. Puritanical absolutism in England: Cromwell and the Protectorate
      1. With the execution of Charles I, kingship was abolished in 1649 and a commonwealth proclaimed.
        1. A commonwealth is a government without a king whose power rests in Parliament and a council of state.
        2. In fact, the army controlled the government; it wrote a constitution called the Instrument of Government, which gave power to Cromwell.
      2. Oliver Cromwell, leader of the “New Model Army” that defeated the royalists, came from the gentry class that dominated the House of Commons.
      3. Cromwell’s Protectorate became a military dictatorship, absolutist and puritanical.
        1. Cromwell allowed religious toleration for all, except Catholics, and savagely crushed the revolt in Ireland.
        2. He censored the press and closed the theaters.
        3. He regulated the economy according to mercantilist principles.
        4. The mercantilist navigation act that required English goods to be transported on English ships was a boon to the economy but led to a commercial war with the Dutch.
    6. The restoration of the English monarchy
      1. The restoration of the Stuart kings in 1660 failed to solve the problems of religion and the relationship between King and Parliament.
        1. The Test Act of 1673 stipulated that only Church of England members could vote, hold office, preach, teach, attend the universities, or assemble, but these restrictions could not be enforced.
        2. Charles II appointed a council of five men (the “Cabal”) to serve as both his major advisers and as members of Parliament.
        3. The Cabal was the forerunner of the cabinet system, and it helped create good relations with the Parliament.
      2. Charles’s proFrench policies led to a Catholic scare.
      3. Catholic James II violated the Test Act by giving government and university jobs to Catholics.
      4. Fear of a Catholic monarchy led to the expulsion of James II and the Glorious Revolution.
    7. The triumph of England’s Parliament: constitutional monarchy and cabinet government
      1. The “Glorious Revolution” expelled James II, installed William and Mary on the throne, and ended the divineright monarchy.
        1. It was “glorious” in that there was no bloodshed.
        2. It established the principal that power was divided between king and Parliament.
      2. The Bill of Rights of 1689 established the principal that law was made in Parliament, that Parliament had to meet at least every three years, that elections were to be free of Crown interference, and the judiciary was to be independent of the Crown.
        1. The political philosophy behind this revolution was John Locke’s claim that the people invented government to protect life, liberty, and property.
        2. Locke also claimed that there are natural, or universal, rights.
      3. In the cabinet system, which developed in the eighteenth century, both legislative and executive power are held by the leading ministers, who form the government.
    8. The Dutch republic in the seventeenth century
      1. The Dutch republic (the United Provinces of the Netherlands) won its independence from Spain—as confirmed by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.
        1. Dutch achievements in science, art, and literature were exceptional—a “golden age.”
      2. Power in the republic resided in the local Estates.
        1. The republic was a confederation: a weak union of strong provinces.
        2. The republic was based on values of thrift, frugality, and religious toleration, including that for Jews.
        3. Religious toleration fostered economic growth.
      3. The fishing industry was the cornerstone of the Dutch economy—stimulating shipbuilding, a huge merchant marine, and other industries.
      4. The Dutch East India Company was formed in 1602; it cut heavily into Portuguese trading in East Asia.
        1. The Dutch West India Company, founded in 1621, traded extensively in Latin America and Africa.
        2. Wages were high for all and most people ate well.
      5. War with France and England in the 1670s hurt the United Provinces.



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Absolutism and constitutionalism in western europe summary

The Age of Absolutism and Constitutionalism in Europe:

AP World History:



·     Karl Marx noted that all history is cyclical and a response to a previous period, this dialectical notion teaches us to examine patterns and trends with the purpose of predicting future events.    According to Marxist thought history responds logically and materially to the flaws of the previous period.  Using our knowledgebase of the previous section…it is clear that the previous age faced great challenges that led to new trends in the following era, trends that included Absolutism and the liberal response; constitutionalism.  In dealing with the political, religious, economic, and climatic problems of the day the leaders of state sought more power to deal with problems.  The response was a new political philosophy that had been in the works for a millennium; Absolutism.  Absolutism gives a monarch absolute or total authority in dealing with the state.  This power is absorbed by the Monarch and takes liberties away from elected representatives and citizens.  The response (dialectally) is constitutionalism, a system that seeks to enumerate the rights of citizens by limiting the rights and powers of the State.

·     These political ideas will manifest themselves in several locations; France, Russia, Austria, and Prussia.


France: The Model of Absolute Monarchy


·        The French Monarchy had been in a constant state of evolution since the fall of Rome.  Great monarchs had appeared, ideas solidified during the Renaissance, and conflict during the age of religious wars.  Henry IV revived the monarchy and laid the framework for the reign of the Great Monarch Louis XIV.

·        Henry IV: Huguenot turned Catholic king; ended the French Religious wars by granting his former group the Huguenots religious freedom and toleration with the Edict of Nantes.  Henry laid the groundwork for Absolutism in France.  The king took the following initiatives: denied influence to the royal council of the nobility, ended feudalism, lowered taxes on the peasantry, encouraged trade for economic strength.  Unfortunately his assassination will institute a crisis.  His successor Louis XIII was not yet ready to rule and was substituted (Hathesput) by Marie de Medici.  Henry’s initiatives suffered under the rule of a substitute without a mandate and as a result the nobility surged in authority. 

·        However, this dominance would be short lived after her appointment of Cardinal Richelieu who will be the lead minister on the royal council.  He will use incredible influence over the feeble minded Louis XIII to rule absolutely as a member of the royal councilor for 14 years.  He commanded total subordination of all groups and institutions in French society.  He used relentless energy and quick executions to quell any noble uprisings.  He refused to call a session of the legislative body the Estates General, due to the aristocratic tendencies of the nobility.  He combined federalism with the system of local intendants to control society at the local level and answer directly to him.  He viewed the Huguenots as a religious group with political ambitions and siege their walled city at La Rochelle and forced its submission.  They were allowed to practice their faith but were no longer to hold armed strongholds, which was synonymous with political strength.  His foreign policy was designed to crush Hapsburg influence in and around France.  Taxation was a complex web in France and could not be solely responsible for raising revenue so in its stead Richelieu commanded economic allegiance from local elites, the only form of political compromise allowed by Richelieu.  One problem that his intolerant attitude faced was the conflict between his religious inclinations as a cardinal and his desire for social control.  Thus, he came up with the political philosophy of “Reason of State” which is a Machiavellian philosophy of social control that states: “what is done for the state is done for by God…actions if privately committed would be a crime”.  Thus, giving him a blank check for control as God established states and they must be run to ensure his interests.  Richelieu’s legacy will continue as his protégé is appointed by Louis XIII to rule in the place of the young Louis XIV, Jules Mazarin will be a dominant power and dominant influence on the young king.  However, a response movement known as the Fronde arose in response the policies of Mazarin and caused a period of civil wars beginning in 1648.

·        Monarchy of Louis XIV: under the long reign of Louis XIV the absolutist state reached its zenith.  He dominated all aspects of French life, culture, politics, religion, and economics.   His philosophy was that god had put kings on earth to rule, to rule the earth.  Kings were a race apart and had to obey God’s laws and rule for the good of the people.  His experiences during the Fronde uprising led him to a policy of seclusion and secrecy, which became powerful political tools at his disposal.  Established the legendary royal palace at Versailles.  This former hunting lodge has become the world’s most elegant palace.  It was a tremendous symbol of the power of the state and was a powerful force unifying France under Louis’ rule.  The key to his centralizing control was his ability to over awe and dominates the nobility in France.  He did subjugate them but certainly involved them and often collaborated with them on matters of state.  Louis had kept the principals of Absolutist federalism established by Cardinal Richelieu.    As was the case he never called a meeting of the Estates General giving his critics no means of discourse on his policy initiatives. 

·        France had a long-standing policy to avoid taxation of the nobility allowing for taxation of the poor!  The poor peasants/laborers were forced to bear a heavy burden.  Gradually the French moved towards a policy of Mercantilism: or a collection of government policies for the regulation of economic activities especially those commercial by and for the state.  Involved things like a balance of trade, accumulation of gold, and self-sufficiency.  New industries were developed and cultivated through state support to ensure French economic independence.  Overall his impact was very positive, however…the merciless taxation of the farming class eventually led to the downfall of the French economy.

·        Louis XIV complicated matters with his revocation of the Edict of Nantes that had granted Huguenots religious tolerance.  This new practice called for the destruction of their schools and churches and immediate conversion to Catholicism.  Those who chose not to were exiled.  This was a poor move but was done to promote unity within the empire; it backfired leaving him open to criticism and without valuable citizenry.

·        The art and literature of the day is characterized as “French Classicism”.  French Artists imitated Renaissance Italy.  Art was a mandated act by the state to promote the state.  Those expressions of creativity that were favored by the King were those that have endured.  Plays of Moliere (Humor) and Racine (tragedy), the music of Lully and Charpentier.

·        One other method of exalting himself above others was Louis almost constant state sponsored warfare.  The military was reorganized, highly organized with the impression of a military machine.  He had gained modest territory but considering the expenditures, they must be considered unimpressive. (Map 564)  War of Spanish Succession: who was to succeed Charles I?    Charles I gave his Spanish empire to Louis XIV’s grandson Phillip of Anjou.  Phillip being Louis grandson would give France a favorable position economically and militarily.  This had violated a previous agreement, which would have not favored France so heavily; Louis was to split the Spanish empire with Holy Rome.  For the purposes of a balance of power the rest of Europe could not accept Louis and France possessing this kind of strength.   Thus, the Grand Alliance was formed led by the Dutch and the English to combat the acquisition by France.  The war was lopsided and Louis was forced to admit defeat in the Treaty of Utrecht, which ended the glory of Hapsburg Spain and the dream of a dominant France. (Map 564)


The Decline of Absolutist Spain In The Seventeenth Century


·                    Spain had developed absolutist tendencies well before France in the kingdom of Castile.   The glory of conquest had added to the credibility of the Spanish absolutists had vanished as Spain had fallen into economic ruin, political chaos and intellectual isolation.   Once the gold and silver stopped flowing in the wake of expansion, chaos emerged.  The demise of the Spanish Armada and the defeat at the ends of England damaged national pride and perspective.  The fake confidence spurred by the metallic wealth of the new world created a miniscule middle class that was losing confidence in the state.   Inflation produced the gold produced a major lack of confidence in the economy.  Yet spending and aristocratic tendencies remained high.  The monarchs were dwarfed by these problems as Absolutism works well when problems are solved!  Territorial wars and losses such as the Mantua conflict further complicated the loss of imperial confidence.  The inability to remove itself from the past (16th century) inspired the brilliant story Don Quixote.


Absolutism in Eastern Europe: Austria, Prussia, and Russia:


·                    Built on much different foundations than the situation in the West.  The East possessed a much different socio-economic situation and as a result Absolutism evolved much differently east of the Danube River.  The societies remained more feudal in nature, industrialization was far less advanced, the ideas of the Renaissance were non-existent, and society had not endured the religious tensions that had occurred in the West.  The major players were Austria, Russia and Prussia.

·                    Lords and Peasants: the role of peasants had been diminished by 1300, but the black death and the economic troubles to follow forced the Eastern Europeans to migrate back towards Feudal principles.  The Lords had used political contacts to force the subjugation of peasants.  Punishments for attempted movement were very harsh.  It got so bad that peasants were forced to work without pay!  In places like Poland and Russia, hereditary serfdom was implemented giving Serfs no rights or motivation.  This coupled the growth of estate (deep south US) agricultures.  This type of society places little emphasis on idea distribution or technological/industrial growth.  As a result the eastern version of Absolutism was vastly different due to the weak political and economic structure of the day.


Austria and the Ottoman Turks:


·        The Habsburgs of Austria emerged from the 30 years war period a battered entity.  They were the leaders of vast lands torn apart by war, lands with tremendous diversity religiously and economically.  Their ally the Holy Roman Empire was destroyed, something needed to happen to reassert their power.

·        Bohemian Czechs provided the answer, their revolt against the Habsburgs was crushed by the Habsburgs, and their nobility restructured to ensure loyalty for the Habsburgs. The re-conquered nobility thrived economically and gave unyielding support as the peasants suffered unbearably.  The first stages of Absolutism were in place.  This practice became widespread in the Habsburg Empire.  They also turned their attention to conquering the eastern empire of Hungary in opposition of the regions other powerful force; the Ottomans. 

·        Ottomans were an Islamic empire of Turks stationed in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.  They had had eyes on conquering Christian Europe through Vienna and Austrian Habsburg lands.  In 1683 they launched a massive siege on Christian Europe at Vienna.  The Viennese held out and the Habsburgs forced the Turks to defeat in the process conquering Hungary and Transylvania.

·        Despite the conquest, not all was well.  The Habsburg lands were incredibly diverse and did not fit well into an absolutist scheme.  The three parts (Austria, Bohemia and Hungary) all had unique needs and leaders.  The Hungarians for example never embraced the principles of Absolutism.  They resisted in large part due to their protestant roots, the Habsburg rule was in stark contrast to the tolerant nature of Islamic rule under the Turks, which recognized the virtue of all Christians.  Constant revolts by the Hungarians forced the Habsburgs to yield power to the Hungarians in terms of religion, politics, and culture. 


The Emergence of Prussia:


·              As peasants suffered in German lands, the princes suffered great losses of power.  As a result a new group of landed nobility; the Hohenzollern in particular gained authority.  The Hohenzollern who ruled as elected dukes, officials in Prussia were the largest landowners who extended their influence to politics.  The seat of their authority was the great city-state/province of Brandenburg (present day Berlin). The damages of the thirty years war enabled the family to assert absolute control under Frederick William (The Great Elector).  Frederick who had inherited the lands at 20 had a daunting task to attempt to bring the lands to order, vast wars with the nobility and provincial lands were fought.  His first initiative was to establish a system of taxation that could not be challenged and was distributed without consent!  Order was established by a series of warriors in his military class.  He was able to establish total control due to the chaos of the period and the appeal to the narrow self-interest of the ruling nobility.

·              His predecessor the neurotic Frederick William I, he of the obsession for tall soldiers.  Had a dog-eat-dog philosophy, outlook on society.  Military strength the key to society.  He established a strong clean bureaucracy that gave him total control through its effective administration.  Trend was set; give the nobles power in the form of $$$$ and you can establish a military absolutist state while taxing the Peasants into submission.


The Rise of Muscovy: Moscow


·                            Established initially by the invading Vikings, the great leader Oleg established the famous center city Kiev.  Ruled to a zenith by Iaroslav the Wise until his death in 1054.  Following his death, Russia degenerated into a feudal state in the European tradition.  Society divided into two classes: Boyars (nobles) and Serfs (everyone else).  The Mongol invasion, conquest and rule put an end to the bickering Boyars for a period of 200 years.  The threat of death unified Russia.  The princes of Moscow found great power in pleasing the Mongols (Alexander Nevsky among them), and became a hereditary class of ruling princes.  Eventually they became so powerful that they were able to replace the Mongol Khans themselves. 

·                            Ivan the Moneybags became an example of the power of these powerful new “opportunistic” princes.  He led a combined Russo-Mongol force against a neighboring prince and his forces operating against the Mongols.  His reward for victory was the title/honor of supreme taxpayer.  This title gave him the purse strings to control.  With each passing generation the princes gained control in Moscow.

·                            Ivan III stopped acknowledging the Khan as supreme ruler in 1480.  At least in the Mongol form, they ruled similarly and as absolutely as the Khan.  They had obtained most of their religious influence from the Byzantine empire so following the fall of Constantinople in 1453 they viewed themselves as the leaders of the 3rd Rome.  Intermarriage with the daughter of the Byzantine emperor solidified this status.  Russian rule was so absolute and Mongol in nature that even the Boyars, the landed saw huge tracts of their land absorbed by the King and redistributed amongst a newly created elite.

·                            Ivan the Terrible: Ivan IV ascended the throne at age 3.  He was insulted and neglected by the Boyars as he matured.  But at age 16 he pushed everyone aside and ruled with an absolute ferocity for a period of 40 years.  He defeated the last of the Mongols by 1556 giving him tremendous credibility.  However, his greatest move of strength was to eliminate all Boyars, and make all landed nobility that of the service nobility.  Meaning you own land, you owe allegiance and service to me, or you can be a peasant!  Not all was well however, an attempt to conquer Poland/Lithuania to gain land he was unsuccessful becoming increasingly unstable and demented.  After the death of his wife he became a hardened man dependent on violence to crush anyone in his way.  Ruling via terror with a powerful secret police. 

·                            Peasants began fleeing to the newly conquered areas to form militant armies known as Cossacks.   His solution ties the serfs to the land by giving the nobles the authority to hold them there.  He controlled the nobles so it was a hierarchy he controlled.

·                            His death in 1584 led to a period of chaos and confusion over who was to control the giant nation.  The period between his death and the death of his son Theodore were known as the time of troubles.  Relatives stumbled over their murdered relations to gain control of the throne.  The Cossacks proved most troublesome as they marched northward towards Moscow.  Not until a Polish Invasion in 1613 did the Nobles crush the disunity and unite under Michael Romanov, Ivan’s 16 year old grandson.

·                            Michael restored much of his grandfather’s autocratic principles.  His one mistake was relaxing the military tendencies of his grandfather leading to revolt after his death.   Religious disunity spurred Cossack revolts by 1670, the results were horrifying for Boyars, murder and mayhem were common tactics.


Peter the Great:


·                      Peter is often portrayed as some grandiose westernizer who wanted nothing but to unify the region under the principles of the enlightenment.  His reforms were military in nature in response to threats from Western Europe and The Cossacks.  He was also interested in continuing the territorial expansion that had yielded the Ukraine and Siberia.  43 years of Peterian rule yielded 1 year of peace!

·                      Peter viewed Russia’s army as an extension of their societal problems…backward and lagging behind the powers of the West.  He envied a highly sophisticated, trained infantry.  He required every noble to serve in his military or bureaucracy-for life.  Schools and universities were created to foster education not for the western purposes of learning, but to create a nation poised for warfare and conquest.  He tried to bring the Western spirit of advancement to Russia with the purpose of learning for military conquest.  He studied abroad, (sailing and shipbuilding) cut his beard, made others, brought foreigners to his court to study.  He made serfs more important to his court mandating membership and military commitment.  Taxes were very high and serfs were commissioned to work in western style factories.  His efforts returned only modest gains with conquest over Sweden bringing him Estonia and Latvia.  Russia was the dominant force in the Baltic Sea.  They lacked something that he coveted; a warm water port for constant commercial growth. 

·                      Peter’s innovations and advancements brought growth regardless of their intentions.


Absolutism and the Baroque:


·                      The grandeur and splendor of the absolutist rulers can be seen in their marriage with Baroque architecture.  The unification has given us some of the worlds most extravagant and grand structures.  Palace building became an undeniable symbol of the power of the day.

·                      Examples: Schonbrunn, and Wurzburg are great examples. 

·                      St. Petersburg, redesigned for Peter on some water logged islands in the Baltic Sea.  He wanted a city of grandeur built there, as it was to bear his name.  The city was built with a great plan to be the window of Europe and reflect his dedication to European principles.  Class segregated the city.


England: the Triumph of Constitutional Monarchy


·        England’s success and growth as a constitutional nation stood in stark contrast to the development of her peers.

·        Queen Elizabeth represented a zenith of Absolutist power in England.  But a century after her reign the constitutional nature of England had drastically limited the power of the Queen.  1 king had been executed, a bloody civil war, a murdered kings son restored, all illustrating great instability in England.

·        Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan.  An enlightened age text that defeated the vigorous approach of Absolutism, pointing to the status of society in the absence of such a sovereign.   However, this power must be transferred to the king via the people and a social contract to rule effectively in their interest. (Lord of the Flies).

·        James I succeeded Elizabeth and proved her greatness by his lack of.  Believed in divine right of kings and paid little attention to reform or performance.  His view and embracement of Absolutism did not blend with his results.  Attempted to undermine the influence of Parliament and Commons in particular.  Commons had the control of the purse strings of England.  They refused to give him the funding he requested for grandeur and circumstance—traits of absolutist kings like Louis XIV.  In this nature, Commons began to assume sovereign of its own.  The body was vastly different from its historical self, a group of loyal pushovers to the king.  They had become sovereign, reform, fiscal, and articulate leaders.  Social mobility was more common in England, thus expanding the power of the Commons. 

·        Religious conflict also shaped England, protestant reform had spread wide but how “deep” was it?  James and his son Charles I gave the impression of being highly sympathetic to the policies and institutions of the Papacy and Roman Catholicism.  The reform movements initiated by Charles and his Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud operated against the principles of the Scottish Presbyterians.  In order to suppress a revolt by the Scots Charles was forced to convene Parliament for the first time in 11 years.  Charles had gone around Parliament by finding alternative sources of revenue and not needing their approval to tax.  The policy had worked in the absence of a crisis the magnitude of the Presbyterian Revolt of 1640.  Their convening brought about the worst possible results for the King.  He saw a “Long Parliament” a session of 20 years with results that hampered the powers of the monarch.  Triennial Act: compelled the King to (Commons power through Magna Carta) call the Commons once per 3 years.  They impeached Laud, and abolished the House of Lords, and the ecclesiastical court of the high commission.  Civil War continued, as Commons would not trust him with an army all to himself. 

·        Ireland: a huge problem almost 1000 years after its acquisition by King Henry II in 1171.  The English Reformation of Henry VIII only made the divide between the staunchly Catholic Irish and their English rulers wider.  Charles could not put down rebellion in either Ireland or Scotland in the 1640’s as Commons would not put an army under his control.    Charles thus recruited an army of his loyalists as Parliament controlled the national army.  The result an English Civil War in 1642.  The question, who controlled England?  The Civil War will not resolve this problem.  It did end the problem that was Charles as he was executed in 1649.  Along with him, the monarch was abolished in favor of a commonwealth. 

·        However, the commonwealth controlled by Oliver Cromwell did not meet its expectations.  The expectation was that Cromwell would not have assumed the power he had.  However, given his high profile role as the leader of the army that defeated the monarchal forces he was the obvious choice.   He was a devout Puritan who motivated his army on their convictions making them an efficient fighting force.  His army had drawn a constitution, which Cromwell will tear up after disputes.  The constitution had implemented the changes that had been called for in the Triennial Act.  Cromwell established a “protectorate” with himself a protector. 

·        Cromwell’s age was one of tolerance with regards to everyone but Irish Catholics whom he considered seditious.  He crushed the rebellion of the Irish in 1649 with savagery leaving a legacy of hatred that has continued in to the second millennium.  He censored the Press, forbade sports, and closed theatres…sounds like the Taliban!  His government will collapse in 1658 after his death.  The experiment in the absolutism of one man was a mistake they would not forget.

·        Restoration: the restoration of 1660 re-established the Stuart dynasty by inviting Charles II the son of Charles I to return and rule with limits from Parliament.

·        During his reign the Commons attempted to promote religious unity by tying economic and political virtues with religious conformity. (Protestant)

·        Politics: Commons was determined to be superior over Charles who at first was cooperative.  He appointed a council of five men (ministers) to be his segue way between the monarch and parliament.  The council of five would pave the way for cabinet government; they were responsible to both Parliament and the King. 

·        Harmony was based on cooperation, the Commons being called and voting the king revenue and the King recognizing the vast power of the Parliament. This was the case until a secret agreement leaked out promoting religious tolerance for all Catholics if Louis XIV would pay him 200, 000 pounds annually.  This corruption was viewed as an attempt to re-catholocize England.  Given Charles lack of an heir, England freaked over the fact that his brother James I was a devout Catholic!  Fear spread on several levels, England’s possible Catholicism and the role of Louis XIV in England.  This was unacceptable.  Commons attempted to pass a law forbidding succession to a Protestant, Charles II dissolved Parliament.

·        James II was allowed to succeed his brother.  Tension was at an all time high.  James appointed Catholics to high offices, granted religious freedom to all.  He imprisoned church officials (Anglican) amidst great fan fare.  His wife produced an heir, which illustrated that a catholic dynasty was in the mix.  The Bloodless revolution (Glorious Revolution) occurred after eminent persons offered the throne to his eldest daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange both devout Protestants.  The King learning of this and the potential violence fled England to France and abdicated the throne.  In addition to the religious implications the new King and Queen recognized the supremacy of Parliament.  The document supporting this the Bill of Rights established a constitutional monarchy, a direct result of Stuart Absolutism.  The absence of a standing army and the writings of the brilliant philosopher John Locke put England in stark contrast with Europe.  Locke’s writings supported the initiatives of life, liberty, and property.  His writings establishing a series of natural rights and a social contract are the cornerstones of modern democracy.  England evolved into the current system (see government notes for specifics) of a constitutional monarchy with a prime minister heading a cabinet, chosen from Parliament.


The Dutch Republic in the 17th century:


·                      Following their ousting the Spanish Habsburgs the Netherlands charted a strong course for success.

·                      A period of prosperity, cultural flourishing and intellectual exploration followed.

·                      The political system of the region had no conformity in the region, no model.  It was a republic based on the oligarchic reign of the individual provinces merchants called Regents.  The estates as the regents were called held all the power and authority.  They controlled domestic policy where as the Federal Assembly the higher office at the national level controlled the foreign policy.  It was an odd power sharing initiative that has found home in the many recent governments of France. (5 in the last 60 years). 

·                      Naval supremacy, colonial dominance, and commercial excellence added to the prestige of the Netherlands.  The nation functioned so well due to the incredible size and power of their middle class.  They stood in stark contrast to Louis XIV France, middle class, religiously tolerant, with political freedoms, and a political structure outside of one man.  Their tolerance made Amsterdam the financial capital of the world.  They controlled the fishing industry of Europe, bought forests for ships and controlled trade in the Baltic region.  See map 588.  They pursued colonial interests through the Dutch East India Company, capitalizing on their tremendous naval skills, the Dutch traded all over the world.   Economically, politically, and socially they were as free, prosperous and stable as any society Europe has seen.  Their utopia will come to an end with long drawn out wars with France and England.


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