During the seventeenth and eighteenth century, an absolute monarchy was the most common way for Western European nations to rule. An absolute monarchy was when a ruler has upmost power and is not confined to any laws, and has a belief of God given power called the Divine right of kings. In an absolute monarchy, the people did not have any rights to vote and/or independence. They had no say in political decisions, and they didn’t have any individual rights.
The scientific Revolution introduced people into new ways of thinking which lead them to question why they allowed absolute monarchies to rule them in unfair ways. With the introduction of questioning monarchies, Europeans began to challenge traditional decisions and change their ways. This lead to the era called the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment era was a time of questioning. The people began examining religious and economic rights, social equality, and individual freedom. This was a time of major growth for European nations. However the Age of the Enlightenment tended to un-notice the push for women’s rights. Some english philosophers overlooked it in favor of the middle class. Even though women’s rights was not taken into account, European citizens wanted a constitutional government and natural born rights. Therefore, the main idea of the Enlightenment was for limited government and the need for individual natural born rights.
Women’s rights were largely unpopular in the western european society.
Molly Wollstonecraft was an activist for women’s rights. Wollstonecraft was an english writer who advocated for women’s equality. Her book A Vindication of the right of women, pressed for educational reforms for the female society. Wollstonecraft believed that woman should have been able to get access to an education just as freely as men could. She relied on the opinion that woman needed to be able to find their own excellence in knowledge to be able to obtain their own self identity. She advocated that both genders, male and female, be placed under the same standards of education. She urged the propose that the only way to fulfill women to follow out their roles is to allow them to be unleashed from the boundaries and to benefit from the natural born rights of all humans on Earth. (Document 6) Condorcet was another strong activist for female reforms.
Condorcet was an early European philosopher who supported equality for women and members of all races. Condorcet believe that philosophers and legislators violated human natural rights. In his book Admission of Women to the rights of citizenship , he acknowledged that natural born rights were addressed and layed down for humans of the male gender, but were completely disregarded and was not spoken about for females. He addressed that women have all the necessary tools to acquire all the reasoning and ideas that men can, and just need the opportunity to prove it. (Document 10) Although these philosophers made extraordinary pushes for women’s rights, Europeans never batted an eye in the direction of the reform proposition in the Enlightenment era until the late 19th century. Absolutism was also a major issue in the 19th century.
Absolute monarchies were commonly popular in early days before the Age of the Enlightenment. A statement issued from Louis XIV court priest Bishop Bossuet says that rulers need to have a strong and powerful hold on citizens in a society and the economy to prevent overthrow and or defeat. Louis XIV was a modern pre enlightenment absolute ruler. Absolute rulers; including himself, believed that all their power needed and used for ruling came from God and God only. (Document 2) Living under absolute rule like this meant no freedoms. Their were no laws, so things could drastically change very quickly since a ruler believed he was only responsible for himself and God. Things for people in towns of absolute rule were treated poorly, expected to do crazy unreasonable and unfair things. Absolutism was abolished in most western European societies and thus replaced with the central idea of constitutionalism.
Constitutionalism grew to become something that became wildly popular over the course of the Age of Enlightenment. Absolutism; a structure in which was wildly popular in western Europe, became a lesser necessity in effective ruling countries. A constitutional government is where all the government’s power is not solely limited to one individual person, but is distributed evenly among several governmental groups. Thomas Hobbes wrote in his book The Leviathan, that for man to live happy and content in life, that he must give up all of his freedoms to have a more stabilized government. From that point forward, to keep people afraid of breaking the law and of the punishment that would follow, it would be up to the government to maintain the authority. This is an example of the derailing absolute government tactic of absolutism. (Document 1)
However, Charles De Montesquieu wrote in The spirit of the laws that in every system of power to maintain the identification of peace that a government needs to have three equal balances of power. Charles De Montesquieu was a French judge, and political philosopher. It is stated that these three equal balances of power would have complete control over all parts of the law. Those three power sources were what Charles referred to as the three branches of government. The three branches of government consisted of three equal groups called the Legislative branch, the Executive branch, and the Judicial branch.
Charles describes that the Legislative branch has all the power to construct new laws. This branch also has the authority to correct and or change laws that have previously been formed. The second power structure he outlined in his book is the Executive branch. He exclaims that the Executive branch is to have the ability to maintain and control public security. Also to have the utmost capacity to be able to enforce and carry out the laws to the public that are set in place by the Legislative branch. The Judicial branch was the last of the three equal powers mentioned in his book. The Judicial branch was the power in the system that was in charge of punishing individuals of the population that did not abide by the laws placed before them from the Legislative branch. The Judicial branch had to differentiate and settle disputes between individuals of the society.
Charles believed that that if one single person had all the capability described, that they would have soly looted the country of all say in government, ruin civilization and society, and enforce unfair laws like a tyrant. He said that this is what the Princes in Europe tried to accomplish, they attempted to obtain all the absolute power, but ultimately ended in tragic failure. Charles states that Absolute governments are not the right and or correct forms of government, and that society needs to open up their eyes and accept that constitutionalism in the new era of modern government. (Document 7) Cesare Beccaria, an Italian Criminologist, economist, philosopher and politician in the late seventeen hundreds, advocates in his book The Spirit of the Laws, that criminals and violators who have been convicted of a crime will be announced innocent until proven guilty.
Cesare promotes in is work that the government cannot take away a persons protection of natural rights, unless that individual is charged with the violation of the law in which they were convicted. He is also a strong advocate for anti-torture. He states that torture is useless, unimportant, and gets a society nowhere. Cesare says that criminals should only suffer the punishment by the laws laid in place for everyone, not by torture. (Document 8) This is an example of a constitutional government. In a constitutional government, the Judicial branch is in charge of all disciplinary actions forgoed on criminals. This is the same system of government in which Cesare Beccaria advocated for in his work for being innocent until proven guilty. With all the cooperation of the people, the constitutional government has to hold up the honorability of being able to have a general understanding of the needs and wants of the rule abiding citizens. This is proposed in John Locke’s book The second treatise of government.
John locke is an english philosopher and political theorist who contributed many vast ideas to the Enlightenment era. Locke believed that governments over society’s need to have a basic understanding of the people, and that the people need to know that the government will limit things, but leave them with most freedoms. He also says that when governments of the era (referring to absolutism) fail, that people will have to turn to creating a new law-making body of multiple groups of citizens. This is called a legislative. A legislative is a group of people who get together and have the power to create and change laws for a society. (Document 3) The concept of a legislative branch was previously mentioned in an excerpt from Charles De Montesquieu The Spirit of the Law. An enlightenment thought that became popular was Jean-Jacque Rousseau’s concept of the Social Contract.
The Social Contract is an implicit agreement among the members of a society to cooperate for social benefits. Rousseau was a philosopher, composer, and writer who influenced much of the progression in the Enlightenment era. Rousseau believed that the government should follow the general will of the people, meaning that much of the power decionaly will be left up to the members of the society. He states that people should all have the same rights, but that one can lose one’s rights if broken a law that was voted in by the people to be adopted by the government. (Document 5) This directly ties to the Judicial branch concept mention by Charles De montesquieu in the Spirit of the Laws. All statements mentioned led to a formation of a constitutional government which was what the people pushed for as one of the main reasons for the enlightenment.
The people of society not only mentioned the push for constitutional governments, but also rallied on the need for equality and the freedom to have natural born rights. During the age of absolute monarchies, citizens were never introduced into freedoms and rights. The Scientific Revolution introduced new ways of thinking, which led people to question why they never had the rights they are believed to be born with. John Locke in his book The Second treatise of Government which was written in 1689 has a chapter called Of the State of Nature which expresses the necessity for natural rights. At this time pre Enlightenment thoughts were starting to occur, the Scientific Revolution was trading hands into the era of the Enlightenment. In this chapter Locke stated that all men are born equal, and have the freedom to do so what they want with their lives. Momentarily, he mentioned that people should also be equal with each other, without the subordination or subjection of riveling, competing social classes.
This piece of work was written in the context of aftermath from the Scientific Revolution in reference to man’s natural rights as an individual, and as well as where he stands with government involvement with the people. His book represents the Enlightenment era in a way of referring to the push for one’s individual rights which was commonly known to be a big deal in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. (Document 3) Freedom of religion was one very important right pushed in the enlightenment. Voltaire author of Candide was a philosopher who advocated for this. Voltaire was an Enlightenment writer, historian, and english philosopher. He was famous for being know to advocate and push for rights of religion. Voltaire in this excerpt tries to achieve peoples thoughts by putting them in a scenario of religion rights in England, and how multi levels of religion to no levels of religion matter. He states that in England; the city he lives in; that if it were confined to one sole individual religion, that there would be absolute mad chaos. However, he says that if the government would only allow two religions, that people would cut each others throats. In the end he states that if many various religions were allowed, that people would converse with each other in a peaceful and happy manner.
In which would lead to a more content country and society. By examining this piece of work, the author hopes to confide in the government that the push for freedom of religion will overall better the society as a whole, and prevent further acts of violence against man to man and man to government. Volitars motives for writing and sharing this is to promote an understanding that allowing people to have a freedom of choosing what religion they would like to associate with will ultimately adversitze peace to an ever ending growing society. This promotes people’s understanding that religion rights will calm a violent community, and lead us to question why these rights were not applied in the first place. Knowing this allows civilians to understand that this leads to a more peaceful nation for the betterment of everyone. (Document 9) This is direct connotation to the peoples push for rights. Civilians rallied around Voltaire’s opinion, agreeing with him that the need for religious freedom was important, thus needed to be addressed and reformed. Natural born rights and individual freedoms were one of the many serious things adapted to the main idea of the Enlightenment.
During the seventeenth and eighteenth century absolute monarchs ruled over most of Western Europe. The monarchies had utmost power and had not determined any set laws. However, people began to further their knowledge on constitutional governments, and realize that the system in which they were confiding in was not working. Another main issue was the lacking persurence of individual rights. Thanks to Enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke, and Voltaire, people’s point of view shifted to where natural born freedoms became liberties to all citizen of a nation. All in all individual natural born rights and the need for a constitutional government pushed society to betterment, and ultimately set the speed for the common world known as today.
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