Political Systems Thematic Essay
Political Systems Thematic Essay
History and culture of many nations and societies have been affected by political systems. In the 1600s-1700s two political systems, absolute monarchy of France and the constitutional monarchy of England, have affected Europe. Absolute monarchy is when a ruler rules with absolute, or total, power. A constitutional monarchy is when laws limit the power of the monarch so they cannot rule absolutely. These two political systems affected not only their own country, but the whole of Europe as well. Mainly under the influences of the two leaders Louis XIV, Charles II, James II, Prince William, and Queen Mary.
One of the most known rulers that ruled with absolute power in France was Louis XIV. Louis ruled for many years and was considered one of the most powerful rulers in French history. Louis often said, “L’état, c’est moi”, which means, “I am the state”. Louis ruled with absolute power, which is why he considered himself to be the embodiment of France. He used his power to rule absolutely, which was shown in the many things he did. Louis also backed up all he did by saying he had the right to rule with Divine Right, or it was as if he was a part of God, God giving him his power to rule. When Louis first became king in 1643 he was only five years old and the current leader of France was Cardinal Mazarin. People, especially nobles, hated him because he increased taxes and strengthened the central government. Violent rebellions tore France apart and many nobles even threatened young Louis’ life. Once the rebellion was over, Louis still did not forget the nobles threats and vowed to become so strong that the nobles wouldn’t be able to overpower him.
When Louis took full power of France in 1661, he was twenty-three years old and took no time in ordering commands. He weakened the power of the nobles by excluding them from his council. He increased the power of intendants, people who administered justice and collected the taxes. To strengthen central power, Louis would communicate with local officials regularly. Louis worked hard to help France attain it’s cultural, political, and economic brilliance. Jean Baptiste Colbert, the minister of finance, helped Louis the most in achieving these goals. He expanded manufacturing, placed high tariffs on imported goods, encouraged people to move to colonies, and supported mercantilism. After Colbert’s death, Louis created a policy which slowed down France’s economic progress.
He also cancelled the Edict of Nantes, which protected the religious freedom of Huguenots. When Louis got rid of the Edict of Nantes, it caused many Huguenot artisans and business people to flee the country, leaving France without many skilled workers.Another thing that Louis did was build the palace of Versailles, a huge palace that stretched for 500 yards. Louis also forced his country to fight several wars, considering France had an army other countries could not even match. The other countries were eventually able to join forces and match France’s strength, in which Louis began to impose more taxes to pay for army finances. When Louis eventually died, he left behind a legacy yet he also left behind many debts and a ruined France. Although France was now a power to be reckoned with, the debts and bad harvests had an affect on the people and they had resentment because of the royal abuse they took.
One could define a constitutional (limited) monarchy as a rule when the King or Queen’s power was limited by law, document, and legislature. One could also characterize a limited monarchy as when the King or Queen have to share power with a Parliament, a body of representatives that makes laws for their nation. The King or Queen must also ask Parliament before they make any laws, go to war, or raise taxes. It is shown that England did indeed have a constitutional monarchy in many ways. For instance, when Prince William and Queen Mary took the throne, they had to vow to govern England according to Parliament and the English laws and customs. Parliament also made sure to limit royal power by creating a Bill of Rights. Then, after 1688, no British monarch could ever rule without getting the consent of Parliament beforehand. These few examples help show how England was changed into ruling with a limited monarchy.
One reason the English decided to change their political systems was because of the English Civil War between Oliver Cromwell and King Charles I. King Charles 1 was always in need of money, mainly because he was in war with France and Spain. Parliament refused to give him funds so he dissolved it, though he had to call it back together to raise taxes. Parilament continued to refuse until Charles signed the Petition of Rights, which he ignored once he signed it and got his money. This caused outrage through Parliament because the King dissolved them once more, making it seem as though King Charles was beginning to become absolutist. He imposed all sorts of fees and taxes on the people. King Charles also tried to impose his religion, Anglican, on the people of London and even the Presbyterian Scots. They rebelled and threatened to invade England, which forced the King to have to conjure some new money for this threat. Although, this gave Parliament a new reason to oppose the King. Parliament began to pass laws to limit Charles power, which angered him.
Charles fled to the North and assembled an army of people who were still loyal to him. Eventually this led to the English Civil War against opposers and supporters of the King, although both sides were never giving up, the Parliment’s side gained a new military leader, Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell was able to successfully overthrow King Charles, putting him in prison and putting him on trial for treason. Being found guilty, King Charles was sentenced to death and then killed. After the Civil War, the British people went through two leaders before Prince William and Queen Mary took the throne. People called this the Glorious Revolution because the two rulers were able to overthrow King James II without bloodshed. The English were granted new rights once William and Mary took over.
The ruler couldn’t suspend Parliament’s laws, raise taxes without Parliament’s consent, interfer with the freedom of speech, and they couldn’t punish citizens who petition the king about grievances. Although the people of England gained this Bill of Rights, there were times when Parliament and the monarch did not always agree on one thing. When the two of them disagreed on something, it brought government to a standstill. This led to the development of the Cabinet System, a group of government ministers and one Prime Minister. The ministers acted for the King but they really represented the major party of Parliament. They became the link between Parliament and the monarch. Eventually, the cabinet became the center of policymaking and power. The Cabinet System was mainly created to become a link between the Parliament and monarch when the two couldn’t agree on something. This political system continues on through England to this day.
One could argue that political systems have affected the culture and history of many societies and nations. Two examples of this would be the absolute monarchy of France and the constitutional monarchy of England. An absolute monarchy is when rulers use total power to rule and a constitutional monarchy is when the ruler’s power are limited by laws and legislature. Absolute monarchy in France under Louis XIV consisted of a young king’s memory of when the nobles tried to kill him which led to his absolutist ways. He built a large palace called Versailles and went to war with many different countries, piling up debts for France. He weakened the noble’s power and strengthened the central government. Although Louis used his power absolutely, he did make France into one of the most powerful countries of its time.
The constitutional monarchy which truly began with the rule of Prince William and Queen Mary. English monarchs couldn’t rule without getting the consent of Parliament, a group of representatives for the state, nor could they raise taxes or pass laws without Parliament. People were given new rights under the Bill of Rights and new systems, like the Cabinet System, were made to help keep the new government system strong. Both of these political systems had a monarch as their primary ruler, although the way they ruled was very different.
Absolute monarchs ruled with their total power, able to make laws and raise taxes on their own, though it was still frowned upon. Limited monarchs could only make laws and raise taxes with consent of Parliament, and their power was limited by laws. Both of these two political systems seemed to lead to the next one, mainly because of the English Civil War. The people saw how the English Civil War destroyed their country and its people, which led to the need for a limit on the royal’s power. As the people realized that absolutism needed to be stopped, it gave birth to the new idea of constitutional monarchy, which still thrives as of today.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 12 October 2016
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