03-Absolutism - 002_Absolutism.doc READINGS: ABSOLUTISM...

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002_Absolutism.doc READINGS: ABSOLUTISM Bossuet: On the Nature and the Properties of Royal Authority Hobbes: The Leviathan Jacques Benigne Bossuet: Jacques Benigne Bossuet (1627-1704), bishop of Meaux, was one of the great orators and polemicists of the reign of Louis XIV. Appointed tutor to the dauphin (the king's heir), Bossuet wrote for his edification a series of works expounding the divine rights and Godappointed duties of kings. The following passages are taken from one of these, the Treatise on Politics, Based on the Very Words of Holy Writ, most of which was composed in 1678. In the great orderly pattern of seventeenth-century thought, one thing still remained to be settled: the nature and justification of political authority. In the Middle Ages this had rested with God and had been shared equally between God's representatives on earth-the pope and the prince. With the Reformation, this ideal equilibrium had been broken: where once only one pope had reigned, now there were several, each claiming ultimate religious authority for his version of God's will and revelation. The result was a growth in the power of princes at the expense of the Church. Where, once upon a time, religious authority had provided the sanction of political power, under the new dispensation political authority guaranteed and reinforced this or that form of religion. By a natural evolution, it came to be argued that ultimately the prince was the significant representative of God on earth, ruling his country by divine right and dispensation. This was the thesis of Bossuet, but it was challenged by a rival theory based on a justification more immediate and worldly than the will of God: the contract. The contract theory of government, which appealed to the common sense of an increasingly businesslike public, presented society as the result of an agreement between its members, and the political form of society-its system of government-as arising out of a similar agreement. The contract theory was not necessarily more liberal than that of divine right: the king of Hobbes is a less restrained and probably harsher ruler than Bossuet's. But, in the hands of Locke, the logical implications of contractual relationships were carried to revolutionary conclusions: a contract was seen for what it had always been: an undertaking with mutual obligations binding on both parties and with sanctions for failure to carry out its terms. This new view severely shook the firm, unquestioned basis of monarchical power. On the Nature and the Properties of Royal Authority Firstly, royal authority is sacred; secondly, it is paternal; thirdly, it is absolute; fourthly, it is subject to reason . ... God establishes kings as his ministers, and reigns through them over the peoples. We have
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This note was uploaded on 02/15/2011 for the course HISTORY 106 taught by Professor Dennis during the Spring '11 term at Loyola Chicago.

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03-Absolutism - 002_Absolutism.doc READINGS: ABSOLUTISM...

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