AP European History Notes

Chapter 16: Absolutism and Constitutionalism in Western Europe

  1. Absolutism
    1. ​Introduction
      1. In the absolutist state, sovereignty is embodied in the person of the ruler and absolute kings claimed to rule by divine right, (they were responsible to God alone)
      2. Absolute kings secured the cooperation of the nobility, the greatest threat to monarch
      3. The key to the power and success of absolute monarchs lay in how they solved their financial problems and the absolutist solution was the creation of new state bureau-cracies that forced taxes ever higher or devised alternative methods or raising revenue
        1. Bureaucracies were posed of career officials appointed/accountable to the king
        2. The key difference between seventeenth-century bureaucracies and their predecessors was that they served the state as represented by the king (public or state positions and not supposed to use their positions for private gain)
      4. Absolute monarchs also maintained permanent standing armies (secret police)
      5. Rule of absolute monarchs was not totalitarian
        1. Totalitarianism: seeks to direct all facets of a state’s culture—art, education, religion, the economy, and politics—in the interests of the state (lacked resources)
        2. Resembled totalitarianism in 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
    2. The Foundations of French Absolutism: Sully and Richelieu
      1. The Huguenot-turned-Catholic Henry IV ended the French religious wars with the Edict of Nantes and with his minister Maximilian de Bethune, duke of Sully, laid the foundations of later French absolutism
        1. Henry lowered the taxes on the overburdened peasantry
        2. Sully began to build up the treasury by reviving an annual tax, the paulette, on people who had purchases judicial and financial offices who had preciously been exempt from taxation (provided a specific amount of revenue each year)
        3. In twelve years, Henry IV and Sully restored public order in France and laid the foundations for economic prosperity -- Henry IV murdered in 1610
      2. After the death of Henry IV, Marie de’ Medici headed the government for the child-king Louis XIII but the feudal nobles and princes of the blood dominated politics
      3. In 1624, Marie de’ Medici secured the appointment of Armand Jean du Plessis (Cardinal Richelieu) to the council of ministers -- became first minister of the Crown
        1. Richelieu’s policy was the total subordination of all groups and institutions to the French monarchy and broke up the power of the nobility by reshuffling the royal council, leveling castles, and executing aristocratic conspirators against the king
        2. He divided France into thirty-two generalites (districts) in each of which a royal intendant had extensive responsibility for justice, police, and finances
        3. 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
        4. Intendants were to use their power to enforce royal orders in the generalites of their jurisdiction and to weaken the power and influence of the regional nobility
      4. French foreign policy under Richelieu was aimed at the destruction of the fence of Habsburg territories that surrounded France (factor in political future of Germany)
      5. Richelieu supported foundation of the French Academy and standardization of French language by the academy of philologists
      6. Richelieu and Louis XIII temporarily solved their financial problems by sharing the money from increased taxation with local elites
      7. Jules Mazarin was appointed as the successor of Richelieu and when Louis XIII died in 1643, a regency headed by Queen Anne of Austria governed for the child-king Louis XIV and Mazarin became dominant power in the government
      8. Mazarin provoked aristocratic rebellion (frondeurs -- the nobility and middle class) called the Fronde in 1648 when he proposed new methods of raising state income
      9. Fronde showed the government would have to compromise with the bureaucrats and social elites, the economy would take years to rebuild, and Louis XIV decided the only alternative to anarchy was turning to absolute monarchy
    3. The Absolute Monarchy of Louis XIV
      1. The reign of Louis XIV (“Sun King”) was the longest in European history and the French monarchy reached the peak of absolutist development
      2. Louis grew up with absolute sense of his royal dignity and he married Queen Maria Theresa, whom he married as a result of a diplomatic agreement with Spain
      3. Louis XIV achieved constituted collaboration with the nobility rather than absolute
      4. French government rested on the social and political structure of France and Louis XIV installed his royal court at Versailles that was used to awe subjects and visiting dignitaries (state policy) -- others constructed versions of Versailles
      5. Beginning in the reign of Louis XIV, French became the language of polite society and the vehicle of diplomatic exchange
      6. Louis XIV separated power from status and grandeur using court ceremonies, entertainment, spies, and informers to reduce the power of the nobility
      7. Councilors of state came from the recently ennobled or the upper middle class and chose bourgeois officials because he wanted people to know by the rank of men who served him that he had no intention of sharing power with them
    4. Financial and Economic Management Under Louis XIV: Colbert
      1. Finance was the grave weakness of Louis XIV’s absolutism because the professional bureaucracy, the court of Versailles, and extensive military reforms cost money
      2. With the rich and prosperous classes exempt, the tax burden fell heavily on the poor peasants because tax revenues fell short of the government’s needs
      3. Louis XIV named Jean Baptiste Colbert, the controller general of finances and later came to manage the entire royal administration and became chief financial minister
        1. Mercantilism: collection of governmental policies for the regulation of economic activities, especially commercial activities, by and for the state
        2. In seventeenth- and eighteenth-century economic theory, a nation’s international power was thought o be base on its wealth, specifically its gold supply
        3. Colbert using his principle theory, insisted that the French sell abroad and buy nothing back and used subsidies for domestic industries, tariffs, and policies to attract foreign artisans in order to make France self-sufficient and to boost exports
      4. Colbert’s most important work was the creation of a powerful merchant marine to transport French goods and promoted colonization of French territories in N. A.
      5. The national economy, however, rested on agriculture (many peasants emigrated)
    5. The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes
      1. The absolutist state also attempted to control religion and in 1685, Louis XIV evoked the Edict of Nantes because he wanted to pursue “one king, one law, one faith”
      2. In the early years of Louis XIV’s reign, religious liberty was not a popular policy and the monarchy never intended religious toleration to be permanent
      3. While contemporaries applauded Louis XIV, scholars in the eighteenth century did not for the negative impart on the economy and foreign affairs (Huguenots left)
    6. French Classicism
      1. The art and literature of the age of Louis XIV was termed the “French classicism,” which imitated the subject matter and style of classical antiquity, that their work resembled that of Renaissance Italy and that French art possessed the classical qualities of discipline, balance, and restraint
      2. After Louis’s accession to power, the principles of absolutism molded the ideals of French classicism; individualism was not allowed, and artists’ efforts were directed to the glorification of the state as personified by the king
      3. Louis XIV enjoyed music and theater using them as a backdrop for court ceremonies
        1. Nicholas Poussin is considered the finest example of French classicist painting and was deeply attached to classical antiquity believing that the highest aim of painting was to represent noble (The Rape of the Sabine Women)
        2. Jean-Baptiste Lully’s orchestral works combined lively animation with the restrained austerity typical of French classicism (also composed court ballets)
        3. Francois Courperin, whose harpsichord and organ works possessed the regal grandeur the king loved, and Marc-Antioine Charpentier (solemn religious music)
        4. Jean-Baptiste Poquelin was a playwright, stage manager, director, and actor, produced comedies that exposed the hypocrisies and follies of society; his contemporary Jean Racine analyzed the power of love with tragedies
    7. Louis XIV’s Wars
      1. In 1666 Louis appointed François le Tellier (later marquis de Louvois) who created a professional army that employed the soldier but the king himself took command and directly supervised all aspects and details of military affairs
      2. Louvois used several methods in recruiting troops by dragooning (men seized off the streets), conscription, and the lottery after 1688 (regiments of foreign mercenaries)
      3. Under the strict direction of Jean Martinet, the foreign and native-born soldiers were turned into a tough, obedient, military machine (commissariat established to feed the troops, ambulance corps, uniforms and weapons standardized, and training program)
      4. Louis XIV made territorial gains in the Low Countries and Lorraine before his armies could not fight anymore (William of Orange became king of England, joined the League of Augsburg, composed of Habsburg, Spain, and Sweden, and Louis could not compete against the Bank of Amsterdam and the Bank of England after 1694
      5. Claude Le Peletier, minister of finance, resorted to devaluation of the currency, old device of selling offices, tax exemptions, and titles of nobility
      6. High taxes to support the military and bad weather from 1688-1694 led to revolts and mass starvation in some areas of France (at least one-tenth of its population lost)
      7. In 1694, the controller general of finance, Louis Pontchartrain, imposed the capitation, an annual poll tax on the theory that the poor would pay more willingly if they knew that the rich also were taxed (entire population participated in war effort)
      8. The War of the Spanish Succession involved the dynastic question of the succession to the Spanish throne; King Charles II of Spain died in 1700
        1. Charles passed the Spanish throne to Louis XIV’s grandson (Philip of Anjou); England, Holland, Austria, and Prussia united against France to preserve the European balance of power and check the French expansion in the Americas, Asia, and Africa (Louis XIV reneged on the treaty and accepted the will)
        2. The war, which ended in 1713 with the Peace of Utrecht, applied partition and Philip, remained the first Bourbon king of Spain (French and Spanish never unite)
        3. The Peace of Utecht represented the balance-of-power principle in operation, setting limits on the extent to which any one power could expand
        4. The treaty completed the decline of Spain as a great power, expanded the British Empire, and marked the end of French expansionist policy
    8. The Decline of Absolutist Spain in the Seventeenth Century
      1. Spanish absolutism had preceded the French and in the sixteenth century, Spain (Kingdom of Castile) developed the standard features of absolute monarchy
      2. Gold and silver from the Americas were the basis for Spanish power but the lack of a strong middle class, expulsion of Jews and Moors, the agricultural crisis and population decline, the failure to invest in productive enterprises, the intellectual isolation and psychological malaise all combined to reduce Spain to a lower power
      3. The Spanish-Atlantic economy decreased when trading with other countries started and colonies began to develop their own local industries
      4. Thousands entered economically unproductive professions or became a priest or nun
      5. Philip IV left the management of his several kingdoms to Count-Duke of Olivares who devised new sources revenue but wanted to return to imperial tradition to solve
      6. The imperial traditions demanded the revival of war and Spain became part of the Thirty Years’ War; by the Treaty of the Pyrenees of 1659, which ended the French-Spanish wars, Spain was compelled to surrender extensive territories to France
      7. The most cherished Spanish ideals were military glory and strong Roman Catholic faith by the decadence of the Habsburg dynasty and the lack of effective royal councilors contributed to the Spanish failure (Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes)
  2. Constitutionalism
    1. Introduction
      1. England and Holland evolved toward constitutionalism: the limitation of government by law -- implies balance between authority of government and rights of the subjects
      2. A nation’s constitution may be written or unwritten, but the state must govern according to the laws and people look on the laws as protectors of rights and liberties
      3. However, a constitutional government was not fully democratic in that all people have the right to participate either directly or indirectly in the government of the state and therefore, democratic government is tied up with the franchise (the vote)
    2. The Decline of Royal Absolutism in England (1603-1649)
      1. In the seventeenth century, England executed one king, experience a bloody civil war, dictatorship, then restored son, and finally established constitutional monarchy (1690)
      2. Success of Elizabeth I rested on political flexibility, careful management of finances, selection of ministers, manipulation of Parliament, and sense of dignity and devotion
      3. Her successor, James I, lacked the common touch, was devoted to the theory of the divine right of kings, lectured the Hose of Commons, implied total royal jurisdiction over the liberties, persons, and properties, and antagonized the Parliament
      4. The House of Commons appreciated its own financial strength, intending to use that strength to acquire a greater say in the government, brought around by many changes
        1. The dissolution of the monasteries and the sale of monastic land enriched many
        2. Agricultural techniques such as the draining of wasteland and the application of fertilizers had improved the land and its yield
        3. People invested in commercial ventures at home, such as the cloth industry, and through partnerships and joint stock companies engaged in foreign enterprises
      5. The members of the House were largely members of a new wealthy and powerful capitalist class that objected against the king on the issue of religion
        1. Many English people were dissatisfied with the Church of England established by Henry VIII and reformed by Elizabeth and many Puritans wanted to “purify” the Anglican church of Roman Catholic elements
        2. Others were attracted to John Calvin’s theology, which included hard work, sobriety, thrift, competition, postponement of pleasure, and linked sin and poverty with weakness and moral corruption
        3. James I and Charles I gave the impression of being highly sympathetic to Roman Catholicism and Charles had supported the policies of William Laud, archbishop of Canterbury, who tried to impose elaborate ritual ceremonials in churches (Court of High Commission – enforced uniformity of church services)
        4. In 1637, Laud attempted to impose on the church organization in Scotland: a new prayer book, modeled on the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and bishoprics, which the Presbyterian Scots firmly rejected (Charles summoned Parliament)
      6. Long Parliament from 1640-1660 proceed to enact legislation that limited the power of the monarch and made arbitrary government impossible
      7. In 1641, the Commons passed the Triennial Act, which compelled the king to summon Parliament every three years and the Commons impeached Archbishop Laud and abolished the Court of High Commission
      8. The English Civil War (1642-1649) tested whether sovereignty in England was to reside in the king or in Parliament and the period between 1649 (after King Charles I was executed) to 1660 was called the “Interregnum” because it separated two monarchial periods, witnessed England’s solitary experience of military dictatorship
    3. Puritanical Absolutism in England: Cromwell and the Protectorate
      1. After King Charles I was beheaded on January 30, 1649, a commonwealth, or republican form of government, was proclaimed and legislative power rested on members of Parliament and executive power was lodged in a council of state
      2. Oliver Cromwell controlled the army that had defeated the royal forces and though called the “Protectorate,” rule under Cromwell constituted military dictatorship
        1. Oliver Cromwell came from the country gentry, the class that dominated the House of Commons in the seventeenth century and sat in the Long Parliament
        2. By infusing the army with his Puritan convictions, he molded the “New Model Army” and prepared a constitution, the Instrument of Government (1653) which gave executive power in a lord protector and a council of state and also provided for triennial parliaments and gave Parliament the sole power to raise taxes
        3. Cromwell tore up the Instrument but proclaimed quasi-martial law by dividing England into twelve military districts, each governed by a major general
        4. Cromwell tolerated Catholicism except Roman Catholics, crushed rebellion in Ireland, regulated the nation’s economy (mercantilism) and enforced a Navigation Act (1651) that required English goods be transported on English ships
        5. The government collapsed when Cromwell died in 1658 and restored monarchy
    4. The Restoration of the English Monarchy
      1. The Restoration of 1660 re-established the reign of Charles II, houses of Parliament, established Anglican church, the courts of law, and the system of local governments but failed to resolve attitude of Puritans, Catholics, and dissenters from the state church and what was to be the relationship between the king and the Parliament
      2. New members of the Parliament proceeded to enact a body of laws that sought to compel religious uniformity and according to the Test Act of 1673, those who refused the sacrament of the Church of England could not vote, hold public office, preach, teach, attend the universities, or even assemble for meetings (could not be enforced)
      3. The relationship between the Parliament and Charles II was due to the king’s appointment of a council of five men who served both as his major advisers and as members of Parliament, thus acting as liaison agents between the executive and the legislature (body known as the “Cabal” and was the ancestor of the cabinet system)
      4. Harmony existed on the understanding that Charles would summon frequent parliaments and that Parliament would vote him sufficient revenues
      5. But, because of insufficient revenue, Charles entered into a secret agreement with Louis XIV in 1670 in which the French king would give Charles 200,000 pounds ad in return, Charles would relax the laws against Catholics, re-Catholicizing England
      6. But details slipped out, a anti-Catholic fear swept England because Charles had no legitimate children and his brother and heir, James, duke of York, who publicly acknowledged his Catholicism, would inaugurate a Catholic dynasty
      7. James II succeeded his brother and in direct violation of the Test Act, James appointed Roman Catholics to positions in the army, the universities, and local government; James issued declaration of indulgence granting religious freedom to all
      8. Revolution was brought about when seven Anglican bishops reused to read James’s proclamation, were arrested but acquitted, and when James’s wife produced a son (Catholic dynasty seemed assured) and Parliament offered the throne to James’s Protestant daughter Mary and her Dutch husband, Prince William of Orange; in December 1688 James fled to France and William and Mary were crowned
    5. Triumph of England’s Parliament: Constitutional Monarchy and Cabinet Government
      1. The English call the events of 1688 to 1689 the “Glorious Revolution” because it replaced one king with another with a minimum of bloodshed and William and Mary accepted the English throne from Parliament recognizing supremacy of Parliament
      2. Parliament framed their intentions in the Bill of Rights, which was formulated in direct response to Stuart absolutism; law was made by parliament not by the Crown
        1. Parliament had to be called at least every three years
        2. Both elections to and debate in Parliament were not to be interpreted by Crown
        3. The Crown could no longer get judicial decisions by threats of removal
        4. There was to be no standing army in peacetime—a limitation designed to prevent the repetition of either Stuart or Cromwellian military government
        5. Granted freedom of worship to Protestant dissenters and nonconformists
      3. The Glorious Revolution found its best defense in political philosopher John Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government maintaining that people set up civil governments to protect life, liberty, and property
        1. Under a tyrannical government, the people have the natural right to rebellion
        2. Locke linked economic liberty and private property with political freedom and Locke served as the great spokesman for the liberal English revolution of 1688
        3. The revolution placed sovereignty in Parliament and Parliament represented the upper classes; the great majority of English people acquired no say in their government
      4. The cabinet (derived from the small private room in which English rulers consulted their chief ministers) system of government evolved and in a cabinet system, the leading ministers, formulated common policy and conducted the business of country
      5. During the administration of one royal minister, Sir Robert Walpole (1721-1742), the idea developed that the cabinet was responsible to the House of Commons (The Hanoverian king George I, normally presided at cabinet meetings throughout reign)
      6. In the English cabinet system, both legislative power and executive power are held by the leading ministers, who form the government (prime minister)
    6. The Dutch Republic in the Seventeenth Century
      1. The seven northern provinces of the Netherlands formed the United Provinces and Philip III compromised and the Peace of Westphalia meant the Dutch independence
      2. The seventeenth century witnessed Dutch scientific, artistic, and literary achievement and is often called the “golden age of the Netherlands”
      3. The Republic of the United Provinces of the Netherlands was a constitutional state
        1. Within each province an oligarchy of wealthy merchants called “regents” handled domestic affairs in the local Estates and the provincial Estates held all power
        2. A federal assembly, or States General, handled matters of foreign affairs
        3. The States General did not possess sovereign authority since all issues had to be referred back to the local Estates, and the States General appointed a representative, the stadholder, in each province (Estates assembled at The Hague)
        4. The Dutch were republican, the government was controlled by wealthy merchants and financiers, and was a weak union of strong provinces
      4. The political success of the Dutch rested on the phenomenal commercial prosperity of the Netherlands and moral and ethical bases of that commercial wealth were thrift, frugality, and religious toleration (allowed people to practice religions in private)
        1. Toleration attracted a great deal of foreign capital and investment
        2. The Calvinist province of Holland under its highest official, Jan van Oldenbarne-veldt, allowed Catholics to practice their faith
      5. The fishing industry was the cornerstone of the Dutch economy and the Dutch merchant marine was the largest in Europe (sixteen thousand merchant ships)
      6. In 1602, a group of regents of Holland formed the Dutch East India Company, a joint stock company (seized the Cape of Good Hope and established trading posts)
      7. Trade and commerce brought the Dutch prodigious wealth and low prices
      8. Although the initial purpose of the Dutch East and West India companies was commercial—import of spices and silks to Europe—the Dutch found themselves involved in the imperialist exploitations of parts of East Asia and Latin America
      9. War with France and England in the 1670s hurt the United Provinces, the long War of the Spanish Succession drained Dutch labor and financial resources and the peace signed in 1715 to end the war marked the beginning of Dutch economic decline

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How to cite this note (MLA)

Aboukhadijeh, Feross. "Chapter 16: Absolutism and Constitutionalism in Western Europe" StudyNotes.org. Study Notes, LLC., 29 Dec. 2013. Web. 30 May. 2024. <https://www.apstudynotes.org/european-history/outlines/chapter-16-absolutism-and/>.