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The Rise Of The Sovereignty Of The People

1923 words - 8 pages

From the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, Europe went through a period of intense thorough transformation. Even though religious wars in Europe had ended by the end of the seventeenth century through the Treaty of Westphalia, Religion was not the only matter that generated conflict among Europeans. The intellectual atmosphere generated by the Age of Enlightenment generated conflict with the Roman Catholic Church as well as with the Monarchial authorities because many European and Euro-American thinkers made use of reason to study the natural world as well as human behavior, doubting the fairness of their religious, economic, social, and political systems. As a result, many enlighten thinkers, commonly known as philosophes, questioned the principles of absolutism, a form of government in which the monarchs had the exclusive right to make laws. These philosophes formed new ideas of liberty and progress, which were distributed across Europe and the Americas. Even though some European thinkers defended the traditional system of absolutism, the Age of Enlightenment led to a series of revolutions in Europe and Euro-America that promoted the notion of autonomy and influenced the creation of new governmental systems, challenging and ultimately weakening the traditional system of European royal absolutism.
Absolutism had grown strong in several European states from the mid seventeenth century to the end of the eighteenth century, and even as the system began to weaken, some influential Europeans strongly defended absolutism by clarifying its favorable functionality and religious bases. Some philosophes, such as Thomas Hobbes, believed that human nature was evil; hence, humans could not direct themselves and needed a king to guide them. As a result, kings had authority to set laws and rule as they pleased without being arbitrated. According to the theory of the Divine Right of Kings, the right to rule over the people came directly from God. Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, one of the greatest preachers of the seventeenth century, claimed that royal authority, which is given by God, is paternal, absolute, and invincible (document 30, page 147-148). During the heyday of this theory, most people believed in a supreme God who had created the universe, and thus, seeing kings as divine creatures chosen by God to rule over His earth seemed logical. Jacques-Benigne Bossuet claimed that "the royal throne [was] not the throne of man, but the throne of God himself" (document 30, page 147). As a result, many people feared standing against the authority of the kings because they feared to be standing against the direct authority of God. Bossuet stated that “[kings did not need to] render account to anyone or the orders he gives" (document 30, page 148). Such idea strongly attracted the tsar Peter the Great, who in 25 years issued more than 3,000 decrees to westernize Russia. Even though Peter the Great gave some kind of autonomy to his subjects by allowing them to gain...

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