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Absolutist and Constitutional Systems

By kanterm1 Mar 13, 2011 731 Words
During the sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe was going through very hard times. Some of the European nation was developing an absolutist system which is “a system of government in which the ruler claims sole and uncontestable power.” (Hunt 483) and some of the European nation was developing a constitutional system which is “a system in which the ruler shares power with an assembly of elected representatives.” (Hunt 484) Absolutism and constitutionalism faced huge competition with each other because “constitutionalism led to weakness in Poland-Lithuania but provided strong foundations for state power in England, the Dutch Republic, and the British North American colonies.” (Hunt 484) These English colonies found their most lasting appearance in the writings of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke.

Many people in Europe preferred absolutist systems and many people also preferred the constitutional systems. Thomas Hobbes justified absolute authority and Locke provided the basis for constitutionalism. The both of them argued that all authority came not from divine rights but from social contract among citizens. John Locke was a British philosopher who rejected the idea that Kings had a divine right to rule. Instead, he argued that people are the source of power, not Kings. Locke also argued that people are born with certain "natural" or "inalienable" rights. These include the right to "life, liberty Kanter

and property." He believed that government did not give people these rights, they are born with them and no government could take them away. According to Locke, people formed governments to protect their rights which he called a "social contract." People agreed to obey the government and in return, government had the responsibility to protect peoples natural rights. “Locke’s views promoted the belief that “all men are created equal,” a belief that challenged absolutist.” (Hunt 505)

The countries that gained a constitutional system was England, The Dutch Republic and The New World. The Dutch Republic gained independence from Spain in 1648 and it had already established a constitutional state. The Dutch and the English put aside their differences that originally put them to war. The Dutch and the English had a lot in common towards commerce and overseas empires and coming together good things started shaping the Atlantic world.

Thomas Hobbes however, had very different views about the political system. Hobbes was a royalist who became interested why people allowed themselves to be ruled and what would be the best form of government for England. In 1651, Hobbes wrote his most famous work, Leviathan. In it, he argued that people were naturally evil and could not be trusted to govern. He believed that an absolute system that gave all power to a King or Queen was best. He argued for unlimited authority in a ruler. Hobbes had stated his case by referring to science, not nature. “To Hobbes, human life in a state of nature-that is, any situation without firm authority- was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” (Hunt 504) Hobbes felt that nations, like people, were selfishly motivated. To Hobbes each country was in a constant battle for power and wealth. Governments were created, Kanter

according to Hobbes, to protect people from their own selfishness and evil. The best government was one that had the great power of a leviathan. Hobbes believed in the rule of a King because he felt a country needed an authority figure to provide direction and leadership. Because the people were only interested in promoting their own self-interests, Hobbes believed democracy would never work. Hobbes was a believer in the new scientific thought and that mathematical knowledge was the way to the truth. Though Hobbes supported absolutism, he did not believe that the ruler's power derived from God. Hobbes believed in Common Wealth system. This is a system, like absolutism, in which there is one absolute ruler. In Hobbes' system this ruler does not get his power from God, but he gets it more from the people. The countries that developed an absolutist system were France which included King Louis XVI, Fredrick William of Hohenzollern of Brandenburg-Prussia and the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold of Austria.

In conclusion constitutional and absolutist systems have many pros and cons between the two but I think that the best type of system would be constitutional because I don’t think a King or Queen should rule and not all people are born evil.

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