The Theory of Absolutism

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The Theory of Absolutism

Absolute monarchy or absolutism meant that the sovereign power or ultimate authority in the state rested in the hands of a king who claimed to rule by divine right. But what did sovereignty mean? Late sixteenth century political theorists believed that sovereign power consisted of the authority to make laws, tax, administer justice, control the state's administrative system, and determine foreign policy. These powers made a ruler sovereign.

One of the chief theorists of divine-right monarchy in the seventeenth century was the French theologian and court preacher Bishop Jacques Bossuet (1627-1704), who expressed his ideas in a book entitled Politics Drawn from the Very Words of Holy Scripture. Bossuet argued first that govemment was divinely ordained so that humans could live in an organized society. Of all forms of gov ernment, monarchy, he averred, was the most general, most ancient, most natural, and the best, since God established kings and through them reigned over all the peoples of the world. Since kings received their power from God, their authority was absolute. They were re sponsible to no one (including parliaments) except God. Nevertheless, Bossuet cautioned, although a king's au thority was absolute, his power was not since he was limited by the law of God. Bossuet believed there was a difference between absolute monarchy and arbitrary monarchy. The latter contradicted the rule of law and the sanctity of property and was simply lawless tyranny. Bossuet's distinction between absolute and arbitrary gov emment was not always easy to maintain. There was also a large gulf between the theory of absolutism as ex pressed by Bossuet and the practice of absolutism. As we shall ...

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... then a noble. These governors were required to spend a large amount of time at Louis’ extensive palace of Versailles, which allowed Louis to monitor the generalités very closely. Religiously, Louis revoked the Edict of Nantes and declared France a Catholic state. Louis hoped that religious unity and centralization would lead to stronger unity in the country as a whole. He expelled or executed any Protestants who refused to convert, and the Catholics supported most of his actions. Although he delegated most of the power in France to himself, Louis did acknowledge the power and authority of the Parlement of Paris, which helped to regulate local administration and taxes, but overall, Louis stripped the nobles and aristocracy of most of their powers. Louis XIV long rule gave France the time it needed to transform from a divided nation to a centralized and powerful one.

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