Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Essay on Absolutism

Short Essay on Absolutism

Absolutism is form of government in which the ruler at that time period is in control of every single aspect of politics and military in that country. France was one of few countries in European history that had a succession of several absolutist or semi-absolutist rulers in the 17th century.

Absolutism can most readily be compared to a dictatorship; however, the absolutist rulers would have even more power to themselves. Most absolutist rulers in the world’s history have been terrible, despicable men who only became so powerful because of a power trip.

However, absolutism could be an amazingly efficient way of running a government if the ruler was competent and listened to his people’s needs. Absolutism has a bumpy history, but there are many aspects of it that have the potential of creating a peaceful and prosperous country.


In France in the year 1624 there was a new form of government beginning to take shape called absolutism. It did not start as a completely absolutist state but reached this point gradually over the reign of many rulers. The main two of these, which truly started this revolution were two cardinals named Armand de Richelieu and Giulio Mazarin. They were both brilliant rulers and fought hard to create a government which continually gave them more power to rule over the French people.

They set up an unheard of system of checks and balances against the nobility, the bureaucracy and the Huguenots in order to hold them down and suppress the anger and power. Richelieu used his power to grant the Huguenots religious and political rights with the Peace of Alais. This in turn saved France many years of struggle and civil war amongst its peoples. Richelieu also created a newly improved way of controlling the taxes and local affairs in order to try to keep the people from uprising. Cardinal Mazarin continued these new policies of a centralization of the power in government and increased taxes. Mazarin was however, disliked by most of his people and especially the Parliament of Paris who wanted to see a more democratic style of government.

A Fronde occurred twice which is a popular revolt against the ruling party in government, which caused Mazarin to give in to some of the demands of Parliament. Mazarin was a very keen and intelligent man and was able to play the two parties who were against his rule against one another that in turn weakened both groups leaving him stronger than ever. After Mazarin’s death Louis the 14th continued these two great ruler’s legacy by becoming the first true absolutist ruler in history. Some of his major accomplishments while in his reign included turning France in to the center of all European powers by strengthening the already centralized government, creating a strong government, and showing the rest of the world how strong France had now become. Louis now aimed all of his attention to ridding his country of any internal issues or problems that would hinder his ability to grow along with his country. Louis gave himself “divine right,” which had not been spoken of since the medieval time period. However, he portrayed himself to the subjects as someone who wanted to always do what was good for the country’s future in Europe. Louis attempted to undermine all aspects of corporate life in France by trying to get all of his subjects to owe their loyalty to him rather than the church or the guilds.

Louis took advantage of his country’s rich agricultural future and focused much of his attention on trying to create more jobs and money by giving loans to rich private manufacturers. This would in turn boost France’s economy and create more job openings for immigrants from abroad to come and fill. Under Louis the 14th reign France prospered in every aspect of a country. This included economically, politically, socially, and militarily. If it weren’t for the constant wars, which hindered the French they would have become a much more powerful state under the absolutist rule than they eventually did become.

The history of absolutism obviously shows how much good can come to a country if the ruler is kind yet hard-working. Absolutism, under the rule of Louis the 14th, took France, a country in ruins after years and years of bloody wars, and turned it into a world superpower. To France, after being continually controlled by several weak incompetent rulers, absolutism was just what the doctor ordered. The French people were in dire need of a strong ruler to step up and take complete control of a government in turmoil and make it something more. Louis, without even a full education, used his powerful voice and stature to make himself look all-powerful to the people who would in turn praise his ruling. He used their resources to the fullest creating an ultra-strong economy and military. Absolutism allowed him to make up his mind quickly on a topic and get it down fast because there was no one to hinder the process such as a Parliament.

Without needing a vote for every law being passed in the state he could run the government more efficiently, but only because he had the countries needs in mind as well as his personal glorification. Another major advantage of an absolutist rule is that there is a much more direct link of communication between the ruler and the people because there is no need for the ruler to have to ask his “advisors” or “representatives” what the people are thinking. Instead he can go out and talk to the people himself in order to understand what their needs are so that he can better perform and help them to live a better lifestyle. Finding out directly from the people what their needs are is much more efficient and reliable than an advisor or a poll of some sort.

Wartime is another time when a quick decision or action is much needed. With a democracy or other type of partially democratic society there is much needed time spent debating and voting on whether war is an option. In an absolutist state there is quick action taken to either stop an offensive attack from another country or start a war of your own in order to expand your nations borders to once again increase your power. Louis the 14th started many wars, good or bad is a whole different paper, but he was able to do it without conflict and he was able to get the resources to his army because Louis was able to do it himself. Lastly, an absolutist state is advantageous because as Louis the 14th showed us, it can bring a country together if it is run properly. King Louis created an identity for the French people that they had never before realized, which dramatically increased the moral of the people and their view of him.

Absolutism is and forever will be overshadowed by its shady past. Besides the amazing reign of King Louis the 14th no other ruler has successfully been able to accomplish a happy or even semi-happy nation. Revolts and public uprisings hover over the absolutist way of government, which cover the amazing possibilities that are prevalent in an absolutist society. Absolutism, including the fact that it must be run by a good ruler, can run a nation much more efficiently in all aspects of daily life. Economically it increases production, and militarily it helps a country to expand as its ruler sees fit. The time period that we live in today will no longer accept the absolutist rule as a possibility because the public believes it will suppress the desire to make decision for themselves through voting or create a dictatorship which has never been a positive outlook for any country involved. Absolutism is way of governing that will forever be debated upon as whether it was good or bad for the nation that was consumed by it.

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