Louis xiv

Louis XIV gained power for himself and his national government through absolutism. Absolutism is unlimited power in government and society. In government to be an absolutist the king would have unlimited power in all forms of the government such as the legislative, judicial, executive, and revenues. As an absolutist Louis would have unlimited power in the society by controlling the economy and church. To control the church he would follow the divine right of kings, which goes along with absolutism, and be a figure to the people that is spoken through by God. That way the people would follow the king, believe what he says, and consider him sacred. Thomas Hobbes worded best what would happen if absolutism did not come into effect in his book The Leviation’. Louis perfected the machinery of government of which he imposed his will on France and made himself the subject of his subjects’ loyalty. To accomplish this he organized civil services, reorganized the military, improved the economy, and greatly expressed his power. Louis’ first step was to expand the civil services. He staffed his government with men who would obey him w/out question. Instead of filling the position with nobles, he appointed advisors drawn largely from the middle class. This way the people only had claim to what the king gave them and could take away. He kept the reins of he government firmly in his own hands and didn’t let the nobles get a chance to overpower him. He made it so that all the decisions made were his decisions. Louis proposed to expand the activities of the central government. He in practice and theory became the master of his kingdom. The number of state servants grew enormously. The amount of state servants that used to be at 600, in the beginning of his reign, grew to 10,000. A new kind of royal officials appeared. They were called intendants; they gathered information for the king and supervised the enforcement of his decisions. They brought a new kind of order to France. One of the most significant features of the new order was the reorganization of the French army. Michel le Tellier and his son the Marquis de Louvois were responsible for the reorganization. The two men created not only a fighting force bigger than that of any other country in Europe, but also a military establishment with a pyramidal structure of responsibility and authority. Louis’ army became a complex military machine of more than 400,000 men, managed for him by ministers and led by generals. The creators of the army gave it formal structure. They had positions of authority such as the Secretary of State for War who was a civil servant, Marshals of France who gave orders to the generals, captains and colonels, and lieutenant colonels and lieutenants who took over the captains’ job of directing the troops. These positions were watched over by the intendant de l’armee(royal spectators). A marshal in the army developed the art of fortification and France was surrounded with an impenetrable ring of fortresses. The army would have continued to thrive if they had sufficient funds for it, and the men were fighting for a cause that they were personally committed to. Another one of the most significant features of the new order was the coordination of the French economy. Jean Baptiste Colbert was totally devoted to this cause. He operated to a clear and precise economic doctrine, mercantilism. His goal was to foster industry and industrial exports. Colbert began by setting the King’s own affairs in order. He instituted a regular system of bookkeeping and audits, so that the government would have accurate records of its income and expenditures. He ferreted out corrupt officials, especially dishonest tax collectors, so that all the money collected would in fact end up in the royal treasury. He established a bureaucracy of clerks and a corps of intendants to carry out these tasks, placing them under the close supervision of a supreme council on finance. With this apparatus, he set out to give France a thriving national economy. Every new order built upon an old order involves destruction as well as creation–and so it was with Colbert’s work. He destroyed internal tariff barriers in order to free internal commerce, and built a great system of roads and canals to facilitate the movement of goods and people. He disrupted local commercial practices by giving the kingdom a single, uniform commercial code. He undermined the traditional functions of guilds by incorporating them into his bureaucracy and giving them the task of regulating not quantity, but quality. He changed the very shape of the French economy by discouraging unprofitable enterprises and introducing new ones that seemed likely to increase French exports and swell the royal treasury. Louis XIV of England made a great display of his power. He made himself the symbol of the state. He created the palace of Versailles from scratch to a magnificent center of European culture. He also imposed on his court as etiquette as rigorous and intricate as that of an oriental despot. He made himself up to be the grandest in everything he did and it was such a great honor for anyone to be involved with him. For nearly 75 years Louis supplied Europe with dazzling visual proof of the power and majesty of his state. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. This certainly did happen near the end of Louis’ reign. He overstepped his boundaries and pursued power as an end to itself. He gravely injured his country’s reputation and put all of Europe at odds against him. He demonstrated that absolute power can bring an end to a divided nation Louis XIV worked hard to achieve absolutism and made an example to us all of what the consequences, good and bad, are.


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