Franceand England: A comparison of GovernmentsIn Early Modern Europe, countries werediscovering and changing the ways in which they operated. While some, fora period of time stuck to their old traditional ways, others were embarkingon a journey that would change the course of their country.
This paper,will explore and evaluate the two different government styles of Franceand England ? one keeping with the traditional ways of their ancestorswhile the other attempted and succeeded in changing their system of governmentforever. The French government was ruled by KingLouis XIV from 1643-1715 and was considered to be an Absolutist Monarchy. It was believed that the King had all the power and answered only to God,not the people of his country. It was believed that God ordained the Kingto be in charge and so if any were to go against the King, they were goingagainst God. “. .
. . Those who are its subjects must be submissive and obedient. . . otherwisethey would resist God.
” This was very evident in the writings ofJean Domat and Jacques Benique Bossuet. Jean Domat and Jacques Benique Bossuetwere adamant supporters of the idea of an absolutist government. Both menfelt that in order for a country to survive one person must rule it andthat person was in charge of all. Anyone who resided in that country wasto follow the laws set forth by the king and not question his authority.
“. . . It is the universal obligation of all subjects in all cases to obey theruler’s orders without assuming the liberty of judging them. ” Byremaining under one ruler, the country would have the best known defenseagainst division among the people and would ensure the survival of thecountry. Absolutist Monarchy, according to Bossuet,was “the most natural.
most enduring. . . strongest form of government.
“Bossuet argues that the people should not change what God has created andfurthermore, since the government, which has been in place for hundredsof years, needed no adjustments, there was no reason to change or alterthe political structure. Domat and Bossuet’s ideas and theoriesheld strong, as France remained an Absolutist monarchy, for the time. TheEnglish Monarchy was not as successful for the will of the people triumphedover tradition and a new style of government was born. England’s Monarchy was being threatenedby the development of new institutions (common law, Magna Carta, and theParliament).
The Monarchy’s reaction to the new institutions and the crueltreatment of its subjects resulted in Parliament’s creation of the Petitionof Rights. The king, unwilling to consent, dissolved the Parliament (whichwould not meet again until 1640), gaining complete control over England. When Parliament did reconvene, a civil war ensued between those who wantedto reduce the royal authority and those who supported it. The end resultwas the beheading of Charles I allowing Oliver Cromwell and the Parliamentto rule over England.
After Cromwell’s death, the Parliamentrealized that England needed a new leader and invited Charles II back fromexile to rule over England. Charles II never reinstated the AbsolutistMonarchy that his father had tried to keep, yet worked with Parliamentto run the country. After his death, James II became the new King and whenhe tried to reinstate the absolutist Monarchy; Parliament removed him asKing of England. From then on, Parliament would rule over England, decidingon its laws and creating the Bill of Rights, reducing the Monarchy to asymbol of what had been, giving them no power over the English subjects. John Locke’s writing, Second Treatise onGovernment, is one of the western world’s foundational expressions of liberalism.
Locke supports the idea of abolishing the Absolutist government and makingway for a government that would consist of several men creating laws forthe common good of the countries subjects. “Political Power is that power,which every man having in the state of nature, has given up into the handsof the society, and therein to the governors, whom the society hath setover itself, with this express tacit trust, that it shall be employed fortheir good. “In Early Modern Europe, France and Englandstarted out with the same system of government: an Absolutist Monarchy. As tensions grew with the people and the monarchy in England, the Monarchywould give way to the Parliament, establishing, in theory, that all ofEngland’s subjects were created equally and were to be treated equally.
The French government would remain with their form of government, for awhilelonger believing that they would only remain a united country if one persongoverned them. France and England both strived to keeptheir countries united each taking a different approach. France was unableto unite the lower classes as its government catered to the aristocracyand shunned those of a lower class. England, however, was able to breakaway from the class distinctions with the creation of the Parliament andcreate laws that were somewhat more equal to all English subjects, regardlessof their class distinctions. In the end, England’s reformation froma Monarchy to a Parliament would pave the way for other countries to followin their footsteps. While France tried hard to remain with its traditionalways of an Absolutist government, England’s success in a collective governingboard would eventually lead the French to believe that they could be asuccessful government without having the Monarchy rule.