Chapter 16:

Absolutism and Constitutionalism in Western Europe



a)In absolutist state, sovereignty is embodied in the person of the ruler- claimed diving right. Regulated religion, secured cooperation of nobility

b)Bureaucracies of civil servants apptd by king- from middle class (France) or nobility b/c no lower class existed (Spain, E. Europe). Bureaucrats recognized that the offices they held were public positions, state paid their salaries

c)Standing armies were recruited, new methods of compulsion

d)Administrative monarchies did not have consent of the governed, no law made by representative body

e)Totalitarianism seeks to direct all facets of state’s culture (art, education, religion), absolutists lacked financial, military, and technological resources to do so

i)Absolutist monarchs sought to be the embodiment of the state

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

i)Henry IV inherited mess- civil wars, peasant starvation, depopulation, people wanted peace, order

(1)Inaugurated remarkable recovery, genuinely cared about people, only king whose statue not torn down during Revolution of 1789

(2)Converted to Cath., Edict of Nantes for Prot, appointed Prot. Maximilien de Bethune chief minister, except war with Savoy kept peace, lowered taxes, pauelette annual fee to guarantee heredity in royal offices, combined taxes, subsidized Company for Trade with the Indies,

ii)After assassination of Henry IV, Marie de’ Medici headed govt of child-king Louis XIII- nobles dominated political scene

(1)Appointed Cardinal Richelieu to council of ministers, later pres of council, first minister of French crown

(2)Total subordination of all groups and institutions to French monarchy, curbed power of nobility, reshuffled royal council, crushed aristocratic conspiracies, royal commissioners called intendants,

(a)32 generalities led by intendants, apptd from noblesse de robe, not from district, recruited for army, collected taxes, checked nobility, enforce royal orders, regulate economic activities

(3)Edict of Nantes “Law of Concord”- gave money to support Prot. armies, 1627 L. XIII decided to end Prot. military and political independence “state within a state”, political disobedience by Prot.

(4)Siege of a Rochelle w. strong English and Dutch ties, Prot. Retained right of public worship but Cath. Liturgy reinstated, weakened aristocratic adherents of Calvinism

(5)Urban protests in Dijon, Bordeaux, Montpellier, Lyons, Amiens marked by popular anger and in punishment of royal “outsiders” who announced or collected taxes

(6)Authorities allowed crowds to “burn themselves out”, royal edicts suspended, prisoners released, discussions initiated.

(7)Local municipalities better integrated into national structure, given power and support of Paris govt, swift and severe punishment for dissenters

(8)Foreign policy focused on destruction of Habsburgs that surrounded France- treaty with Gustavus Adolphus, rights gained in Alsace and Arras

(9)French Academy formed to standardize French language

(10)Revenues determine govts ability to enforce policies and programs, rights of some to vote taxes and tax exempt hurt French ability to tax

(11)Secured power of local elites, shared taxes with local powers, b/c French monarchy could not tax at will- limited French absolutism

(12)Raison d’ etat (reason of the state)- interest of state concerned, God absolves actions that would have been a crime

(13)Richelieu’s successor Cardinal Jules Mazarin, regent of Louis XIV, attempt to increase royal revenues led to civil wars knows as the Fronde

(a)Frondeur- anyone who opposed govt. influential segments of nobility, intendants, parlements, felt were being manipulated by crown and their interests ignored. Some felt taxes unnecessary, popular rebellions led by aristocrats spread to Paris,

(b)Results: govt would have to compromise with bureaucrats and leaders of local institutions that contributed to state bureaucracy, French economy badly disrupted, as a child Louis XIV scared by break-in and therefore believed the only answer to anarchy was absolute monarchy

g)The Absolute Monarchy of Louis XIV

i)Mazarin informal education- had Louis attend council meetings and study state papers

ii)“The complete domestication of the nobility”- nobility agreed to participate in projects that both exalted the monarchy and reinforced aristocrats prestige

iii)Interests of the nobility and monarchy coincided re: repression of Huguenots

iv)Thru mutual collaboration the nobility and king achieve goals neither would have won without the other- increased taxation, increased access to king

v)Royal court at Versailles, required all great nobility to live there for part of the year

vi)Art and architecture used to overawe his subjects and foreign visitors

vii)French became language of high society and diplomatic exchange, slowly replaced Latin as the language of international scholarship, due to imitation of French society by foreigners

viii)By excluding the highest nobles from councils, king weakened their ancient right to advise him and participate in govt, operas, gossip occupied noble’s time- separated power and grandeur, cooperation in exchange 4 status and gra.

ix)Several councils of state, intendants acted for council throughout France, steam of information between local districts and Versailles, centralized gov’t

x)Councilors from upper middle class, service a means of social mobility, no power shared they only represented the king

xi)No meeting of Estates General no united nobility, no first minister, spying

h)Financial and Economic Management Under Louis XIV: Colbert

i)Expanding professional bureaucracy, court of Versailles, and military reforms were all costly.

ii)Taxes did not generate enough revenue- tax farmers pocketed money

(1)Old agreement said could not tax nobles, middle class many exemptions

(2)Tax burden fell heavily on those least able to pay= poor peasants

iii)King named Jean-Baptiste Colbert as controller general of finances

(1)Mercantilism- collection of governmental policies for the regulation of economic activities by and for the state

(2)International power was thought to be based on nation’s wealth and gold

(3)Favorable balance of trade, France should sell abroad + buy nothing back

(4)French self-sufficient, outflow of gold halted, debtors would pay the state

(5)State support for old industries and new ones- cloth, rugs, mirrors, steel and firearms

(6)State inspection to ensure high-quality products

(7)Guilds- organization of craftsmen, absolute power over workers

(8)Built roads and canals (Canal des Deux Mers), abolished domestic tariffs and increased international tariffs

(9)Creation of powerful merchant marine to transport French goods

(10)Peasants shipped to inhabit Canada, exploration of America, Robert La Salle claimed rich Mississippi delta “Louisiana” for the king

(11)France became leader in industrial productivity, commercial classes prospered, however national economy rested on agriculture- bad harvests, deflation of currency, fluctuation of grain prices resulted in the emigration of peasants and population decline less tax revenue

i)The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes

i)New law ordered destruction of churches, closing of schools, baptism of Huguenots, exile of pastors who refused to renounce their faith

ii)French monarchy never intended religious toleration to be permanent, religious unity politically necessary to realize goal of “one king, one law, one faith”

iii)Religious liberty was not a popular policy, aristocrats begged for revocation

iv)Tens of thousands of Huguenots emigrated, France lost sills and tax revenues, however only minor effect of economic development

j)French Classicism

i)Art and literature imitated subject and style of classical antiquity, similar to Renaissance Italy, classical qualities of discipline, balance, restraint

ii)Nicholas Poussin- spent time in Italy, The Rape of Sabine Women, painter

iii)Jean-Baptiste Lully- orchestral works combined animation and austerity

iv)Francois Couperin, Marc-Antoine Charpentier- musicians, Te Drums

v)Jean Baptiste Poquielin, “Moliere”, playwright, director, actor- Tartuffe, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Les Femmes Savantes, ridiculed bourgeois

vi)Jean Racine- tragic dramas on Greek and Roman legends

k)Luis XIV’s Wars

i)Francois le Tellier- secretary of state for war, created professional army that iwas modern in the sense that the state, not nobles, employed soldiers

ii)Dragooning (seizing ppl off street bums, drunks), conscription, lottery

iii)Jean Martinet- recruited and trained foreign mercenaries and local troops

iv)Commissariat established to feed troops, ambulance corps, training system

v)Continued expansionist policies of Richelieu, invaded Flanders, Spanish Netherlands, and French Comte

vi)Invaded Holland, involved HRE and Spain- ended with Treaty of Nijmegen

vii)Attempted to support army of 200,000 against nations of Europe, Bank of Amsterdam and Bank of England

viii)Task exceeded French resources, Claude Le Peletier (Colbert’s successor) resorted to devaluation of currency, selling offices, tax emption, and title of nobility to pay for military revolution

ix)To raise revenue for war Louis ordered all silverware be handed to the mint

x)Didn’t work, taxes passed on to peasants led to widespread peasant revolts

xi)Series of bad harvests 1688 ad 1694 resulted in starvation, 1/10 of pop killed

xii)War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713)

(1)Caused by territorial disputes+ and Spanish dynastic succession

(2)In 1698 European treaty agreed Charles II’s Spanish possessions split between king of France and the HRE (brother-in-law)

(3)Charles will (death in 1700) left land to Philip of Anjou, Louis’ grandson

(4)Louis reneged on treaty, Dutch and English would not accept French acquisition of the Span. Neth. And the rich trade with Span. Colonies

(5)Union of Span. and Fr. would have upset balance of power

(6)1701 English, Dutch, Austrians, and Prussians formed Grand Alliance against Luis XIV, claimed to fight to protect France from becoming too strong in Europe,

(a)Overseas maritime rivalry among France, Holland, and England had created serious international tension

(b)Check France’s expanding commercial power in N.A., Asia, and Africa

(7)Eugene, prince of Savoy (HRE) and Englishman John Churchill (of Marlborough) two great soldiers who dominated the alliance- won battles in 1704 at Blenheim in Bavaria, Raillies

(8)Peace of Utrecht

(a)Louis’s grandson Philip remained first Bourbon king of Spain

(b)French and Spanish crowns would never be united

(c)France surrendered, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Hudson Bay to Eng.

(d)England gained Gibraltar, control of African slave trade, Dutch gained little because Austria received the former Spanish Netherlands

(9)P of U represented balance of power principle, Spanish decline, Eng power, end of French expansionist policy, forty thousand offices sold, France on the brink of bankruptcy

l)The Decline of Absolutist Spain in the Seventeenth Century

i)16th century- permanent bureaucracy staffed by professionals, standing army, national taxes, servicios- fell heavily on poor

ii)Lack of middle class due to expulsion of Jews and Moors, agricultural crisis, failure to invest in productive enterprise, pathological malaise reduced Spain by 1715 to a second rate power

iii)Flow of silver from Mex. And Peru cut by colonies trade with English and Dutch, as well as local industries developing= lo longer had to buy from Spain

iv)Metal produced steadily declined, expenditures exceeded income- devaluation of coinage and cancellation of the national debt were solutions, no conf. in state

v)Ppl condemned moneymaking, entered unproductive professions, extravagance of nobles led to increased rents, ppl fled to cities

vi)Philip III, Philip IV, and Charles II were weak, left govt to rule of others

vii)Involvement in Thirty Years War w. an empty treasury brought disaster

viii)Peasant revolts, war with French in Belgium

ix)Treaty of Pyrenees- 1659- ended French-Span. wars, surrendered many lands to France, marked end of Spain as a great power

x)State councils run by aristocrats, as supply of bullion decreased power of the Spanish state declined, ignored mercantile and scientific ideas,

xi)Pessimism and fatalism, lack of will to reform, poor councilors

xii)Don Quixote- Miguel de Cervantes- idealistic but impractical


a)Constitutionalism- the limitation of government by law, balance between power of govt and rights of subjects. State must govern according to the laws

b)Democracy all ppl have the right to participate- not all ppl had franchise (the vote)

c)The Decline of Royal Absolutism in England (1603-1649)

i)Success of Elizabeth I rested on flexibility, careful finances, good ministers, clever manipulation of Parliament, and devotion to work

ii)James I (cousin) succeeded, lacked common touch, poor judge of character, society hostile to Scots, Scottish accent

(1)“The Trew Law of Free Monarchy”- monarch has divine right, responsible only to God, rebellion is the worst crime

(2)Stuart concept of absolutism- total jurisdiction over liberties, persons, and properties of English men and women

(3)Elizabeth left debt, James squandered money on lavish court,

(4) House of Commons held pocketbook, wanted voice in royal expenditures, religious reform, and foreign affairs- wanted sovereignty

iii)Great social change during 16th century

(1)House of Commons wealthy from dissolution of monasteries

(2)Agricultural techniques and fertilizers improved land and yield

(3)Precise amounts kept- + renting and leasing parcels of land

(4)Investment in commercial ventures, marriages great social mobility

(5)Capitalist- invested profits to make more money, income rose faster than prices

iv)Commercially successful became country gentry, better educated House of Commons, wanted political power corresponding to economic strength

v)Charles I attempt to govern without parliament (1629-1640) thru arbitrary nonparliamentary means  led to crisis

d)Religious Issues

i)Puritans wanted to purify Anglican church of Roman Catholic elements- elaborate vestments and ceremonies, bishops, wedding rings, posit. of altar

ii)Most ppl were Calvinist- emphasized hard work, thrift, competition-

(1)“Protestant work ethic” fit with economic approaches of many business people and farmers, represented prevailing values of members of HOC

iii)James and Charles supported William Laud, archbishop of Canterbury, to impose elaborate rituals and ceremonials

(1)Uniformity enforced through the “Court of High Commission”

iv)1637 Laud introduced new Anglican prayer book and bishoprics in Scotland, which Presbyterians firmly rejected revolted

(1)Charles forced to summon Parliament to fund army in 1640

v)Charles had financed govt thru levies considered illegal by most English ppl, Parliament not willing to trust king with an army

vi)“Long Parliament”- 1640-1660- passed legislation to limit power of monarch and made arbitrary govt impossible

(1)1641 Triennial Act- compelled king to summon Parliament every 3 years

(2)Impeached Laud and abolished Court of High Commission

vii)Irish oppressed by English landlords, harsh governors, remained Catholic rebelled against England, Charles had no army to fight Scots and Irish

viii)English Civil War (1642-1649)- Charles instigated military action against Parliamentary forces

(1)Charles army from nobility, rural gentry, mercenaries

(2)Parliamentary forces militia of London, squired w. business cnxns,

(3)To decide sovereignty in king or Parliament, did not resolve problem

(4)War ended in 1649 w. execution of Charles on treason charges

ix)1649-1660 Interregnum- separated 2 monarchial periods, military dictatorship

e)Puritanical Absolutism in England: Cromwell and the Protectorate

i)Leviathan- Thomas Hobbes maintains sovereignty derived from ppl w. contract

ii)Commonwealth (republican govt) established after Charles I beheaded

iii)“Protectorate”- power held b army that defeated royal forces, Oliver Cromwell controlled the army

(1)Constitution- Instrument of Government (1653)- power in a lord protector and council of state, triennial parliament- power to raise taxes

(2)Cromwell tore document up, England divided into 12 military districts, generals acted thru justices of the peace

(3)Religious toleration declared, ahead of its time, but Irish Catholicism= sedition, Cromwell crushed Irish rebellion

(4)Mercantilist economic policies- Navigation Act (1651) required English goods be transported on English ships, welcomed Jews

(5)Military govt collapsed when Cromwell died in 1658, ppl wanted civilian got, restoration of low and social stability

f)The Restoration of the English Monarchy

i)Restoration of 1660 re-established monarchy under Charles II, restored both houses of Parliament, Anglican church, courts of law, local governments

ii)Parliament passed lows to compel religious uniformity- Test Act of 1673- if one did not receive Eucharist of Ch. of England could not vote, hold office, preach, teach, attend university, or assemble—were not enforced

iii)Cabal- 5 members of Parliament who served as kings advisors, liaison between executive and legislature

(1)Cabal answerable in Parliament for kings decisions, gave rise to concept of ministerial responsibility- royal ministers must answer to Commons

iv)Parliament did not grant Charles sufficient revenues, so in 1670 entered into secret agreement with King Louis XIV of France in which:

(1) Gave Charles 200,000 pounds annually and in exchange

(2)Charles relaxed laws against Catholics, gradually re-Catholicize England

(3)Support French against Dutch, convert to Catholicism himself

v)When details leaked hysteria spread, fear brother James would inaugurate a Catholic dynasty, Parliament passed exclusion act but Charles dissolved Parl.

vi)James II succeeded brother, against Test Act appointed Catholic ministers to positions of power + in army, issued declaration of religious freedom to all

(1)7 bishops of C of E petitioned king, imprisoned and acquitted

(2)June 1688 wife produced a male heir, dynasty seemed ensured

(3)Fear of RC monarchy supported by France prompted group of eminent persons to offer English throne to James’ Protestant daughter Mary and Dutch husband William of Orange

(4)James, queen, son Fled to France, pensioners of Louis XIV

g)The Triumph of England’s Parliament:Constitutional Monarchy and Cabinet Gov.

i)1688-1689 “Glorious Revolution” bloodless, destruction of divine monarchy

ii)William and Mary took throne, supremacy of Parliament, sovereignty split btwn king and Parliament, king ruled with consent of the governed

iii)Bill of Rights- response to Stuart absolutism

(1)Laws made could not be suspended, elections and debate “free” from interference, independent judiciary, no standing army, freedom of worship, required English monarch be Protestant

iv)Second treatise of Civil Government (1690) by John Locke- ppl set up govt to protect life, liberty, property, all people had natural rights, if denied= tyranny

(1)People had right to rebel under tyranny, economic liberty + private prop.

v)Actions of 1688-1698 were not a democratic revolution b/c sovereignty placed in Parliament, which represented upper classes, majority still had no say

vi)18th century cabinet system evolved- ministers with seats and support of majority in House of Commons formulate policy and conduct business of government

(1)Influence of Crown in decision making declined, both legislative power and executive power are held by the leading ministers

h)Dutch Republic in the Seventeenth Century

i)17th century “golden age of Neth.”- Scientific, artistic, literary achievement

ii)Within each of 7 provinces oligarchy of wealthy merchants called “regents” handled domestic affairs in the local Estates

iii)Federal assembly called States General handled foreign affairs, no sovereignty

(1)Stadholder- appointed rep. of States General, responsible for defense and order

iv)Regents guarded local independence, nevertheless Holland had largest navy and most wealthy, dominated republic and States General, therefore Estates gathered in Holland’s capital- The Hague

v)Dutch confederation ruled by wealthy but had middle-class and not aristocratic values, repelled foreign attacks by Spain, France, England

vi)Political success rested on commercial prosperity of Netherlands

(1)Protestant values of thrift, frugality, religious toleration and no interference from govt as long as religion conducted in private

vii)Toleration attracted great foreign capital and investment, Bank of Amsterdam became Europe’s best source of cheap credit and commercial intelligence

viii)Fishing industry cornerstone of Dutch economy, led to largest merchant marine in Europe, lowest shipping costs, bought in bulk + could undersell all

(1)Although famous exports, wealth depended mainly on transport

ix)1602 Group of regents from Holland formed Dutch East India Company

(1)Investors received percentage of profit proportional to investment

(2)Dominated East Asian trade,

(3)Dutch West India company 1621 traded w. Latin America and Africa

x)Wealth from trade and commerce brought high standards of living- granaries ensured little fluctuation in grain prices, high salaries, few food riots

xi)Dutch East and West India Companies involved in imperialist exploitation

(1)1652- Cape Town in Africa, fueling station for ships

xii)1670s War of the Spanish Succession- William of Orange used English wealth as King William III in Dutch fight against Louis XIV

(1)Peace signed in 1713 marked beginning of Dutch economic decline