What Arguments Did The Supporters And Opponents


What Arguments Did The Supporters And Opponents Of Absolutism Use To Defend Their Respective Positions Essay, Research Paper

During the 17th century the leaders of France and England wanted absolute rule. Both countries wanted absolutism in the form of a Monarchy, with the king being the single ruler. However, France succeeded and obtained absolutism but England was forced into a more constitutional form of government where multiple political institutions ruled. Both had forms of absolute Monarchies but other issues brought troubles for the English, mostly Parliament. We ll see how political powers such as James I, Bishop Bosuett and Thomas Hobbes supported the idea of absolutism. Then we can see how Parliament and the Aristocracy led England to constitutional government.

James I gave several points why a single ruler, the king, deserved to have absolute power. He believed that kings posses the same qualities that God does and they are direct descendants of God. for kings are not only God s Lieutenants upon earth and sit upon God s throne, but even by God himself they are called gods. It even states in the scriptures that kings are called Gods. James I believed that this alone should give kings the Divine Right and to dispute what God and the scriptures say is blasphemy. Also for this reason kings should be considered above the law. James I supported the previous statement with a good king, though to be above the law, will subject and fame his actions thereto, for example s sake to his subjects *

* True Law of Free Monarchies and a Speech to Parliament (1598), in Marvin Perry, Sources of Western Tradition: From Scientific Revolution to Present. V II( Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1995), 20.

So although he may be above the law his rulings are for the best of the people. James I also suggested that because the king is the over-lord of the land he is therefore master over every person that inhabits his land and has power over the life and death of every one of his subjects. James I also argued that Kings had a certain Paternal right to absolute power. Kings are also compared to fathers of families: for a king truly parens patride {parent of the country}, the political father of the country. *

Bishop Bossuet also believed that the kings had the Divine Right. He compares all of the qualities that both God and kings posses that are similar. God is infinite, God is all. The prince, as prince, in not regarded as a private person: he is public personage As all perfection and all strength are united in God, so all the power of individuals is united in the person of the prince. *2 He then states how God defines holiness itself and goodness and these aspects resemble the majesty of God. Therefore he believes that because these same image lie within the majesty of the prince there is a direct relationship between the two. His theory is that because the prince does so much that is similar to the majesty of God, he should then be looked upon as a God as well and must be given the Divine Right.

Although Hobbes was in favor of absolutism he took a different approach. He believed in a much more secular idea and defied the Divine Right. He believed that men are more equal than unequal and because of this idea he finds that the nature of man is strongly egotistical and every man is for himself.

* James I, True law of free monarchies 1598, in Perry, Sources, 20

*2 Donald Akagan et al., Bishop Bossuet Defends the Divine Right of Kings, The Western Heritage, VII (New York: Macmillan 1995), 466

This leads to three reasons of quarrel; First, Competition; Secondly, Diffidence; thirdly, Glory. Hobbes states the nature of man as an all out war and only a strong ruling entity will end the perpetual battle and provide safety. He feels that a centralized power -the state- would provide a secure environment with sovereignty. He says the state must have supreme power, or society will collapse and the anarchy of the state will return. *

The disintegration of absolutism in England was greatly due to Parliament. James I believed in the Divine Right and hoped to rarely call upon Parliament. The main roll of Parliament was to work with the king to produce funds to support the state. During the time of James I revenues were falling. However, instead of calling upon Parliament to get funds James I started levying (outside of Parliament). Needless to say Parliament wasn t thrilled with the king going behind their back. Then under the reign of Charles I the war broke out with Spain. Although Parliament did support the war they did not adequately finance it because they distrusted the Monarch. So like James I, Charles I resorted to extra funds outside of Parliament. Once again this infuriated Parliament, so when they convened in 1628 they brought up the Petition of Right. This document limited the king s powers especially without convening Parliament. However, until the war with Scotland in 1640 no large funds were needed so Charles I dissolved Parliament again. Almost always due to some religious war kings needed Parliament. This story went on and on, kings used Parliament for a while for revenue during war times and then dropped them. When James II took the throne he managed to enrage the Aristocracy even more by imprisoning several Anglican bishops which were direct attacks against the nobles and landowners.

* Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651), in Perry, Sources, 22.

Before James II son was to take the throne Whig and Tory members decided to invade England to preserve the Anglican Church and Parliament government. In sure defeat James II fled to France and Parliament gave the throne to William and Mary. This completed the bloodless, Glorious Revolution. Lastly through the Bill of Rights Parliament limited the monarchs to rule only with the consent of the Parliament. Gradually during the 17th century Parliament was forced to step in and aid the monarchy and finally got fed up with the kings and made itself part of the English government.

Even though the English monarchs didn t get their wishes in the way of total rule their new form of government not only came about in a much more peaceful way but was also more efficient and just. On the other hand the French monarchs got what they wanted but it was the result of massive bloodshed and destruction. Then under Louis XIV rule the French people revolted against the monarch and began the horrific French Revolution.

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