Century Views on Government

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17th Century Views on Government

  1. According to James I, the monarch possesses complete unquestioned power over every part of the State and everyone in it. He needs no advice or contribution from the Parliament, and the Parliament cannot exert any power without his permission. He holds supremacy over every single person in his kingdom, and can use his power to change, make, or delete laws at his will. He possesses this power because it is his born blood-right, since the royal line of kings had been founded before Parliament, law, land boundaries, and other restrictions of government. The monarch is the original, ultimate form of government and therefore possesses the ultimate power over all other parts of governing that arose later.

  2. The English Parliament, unlike James I, believes that the will of the people is supreme. The Parliament claims that it has the right to be involved in affairs concerning government, monarchy, and the Church of England. It also is involved in law making; punishment of criminals, daily matters, and justice court while every member maintains freedom of speech and reason. They hold these powers and rights because they embody the public of England, which is the source of power in society. People have the greatest authority in the nation, and the Commons and Parliament unite all the people for cohesive will.

  3. In response to the people’s requests to share power in government, Charles I of England insisted that it is the people’s right to be governed by him, and it is a privilege to be ruled by an organized government with a good monarch. He claims that the sovereign sacrifices himself for his nation, and that if he were not the monarch than the people without their king would not be able to enjoy liberty. It is for the best of public as a whole if the nation and its liberty are united under a single ruler.

  4. According to Thomas Hobbes, people create government for their own financial, commercial, militarily, and cultural security. The government provides industries with trade, farmers with land, a standing army for protection, and boundaries for refuge. They chose a ruler to condense all their desires and wills into one unified voice so that the chosen ruler can act on behalf of the entire state as one. His judgment is more concrete than the mixed opinions of individuals, therefore taking the rights of all the people as a whole and ruling with complete authority over them.

  5. John Locke believes that community has the right to rebel against its government in the circumstance that the government goes against the will of the people. The bond of trust between the public and the representatives they authorized to rule is broken when government acts against the mind of the nation. If the general public feels their safety and wellbeing is threatened by a decision of government, they have the right to rebel.

  6. According to Bishop Bossuet, monarchy is the best form of government because it is the original, most natural form of governing established and the most common and oldest. Because it is naturally inherited into humanity, monarchial government is the easiest to follow and eliminates dissension, which brings many problems to the state. Unity abolishes internal discord and prevents civil conflict.

  7. Bossuet believes that royal power is completely absolute, and kings have the right and responsibility to control every part of the peoples’ lives. He has this right because he was chosen by God as the caretaker of humanity, and his throne is as mighty as the throne of God himself. Kings are sacred, and have the right to provide for their people.

  8. Bossuet believes that kings are not above the laws, and are subjects like everyone else, but they do not get penalized for breaking or changing laws. The decisions of the king are for the good of the people, and therefore it is his responsibility to make decisions as he pleases (as long as it’s for the good of his subjects).

  9. Jean de la Bruyere says that a successful monarch is the “father of his people”; he is responsible for who lives and dies in the kingdom, who is subjected to which laws, and is in control of all goods of all peoples in his domain.

  10. Duke de Saint-Simon thinks Louis XIV was not a good monarch because he was too vain, and showed his hubris as his weakness. His desire to be a sole absolute ruler caused him to become spoiled and conceited, and his doting nobles and ministers observed this weakness. In response, they praised him continuous until they wormed away his power. His ministers eventually gained more authority through flattery, and Louis XIV was left clueless and focused only on his own personal pleasure. Unlike a proper absolute monarch, Louis XIV’s power was pooled by his noble class.

  11. Frederick William of Prussia believes that a good monarch must be a father to the people, who loves his subjects heedlessly of their religion. He must support trade, listen to clergy and nobility, be civil and diplomatic, encourage fondness from your subjects, and be restrained with emotions. He must hold his position strongly, and avoid being overly haughty to show any weakness. Pay attention to court and make sure laws and justice are running right. Summary: be tactful, observant to everyone in your court, and keep infrastructure and court well conditioned. Don’t let personal flaws be revealed to your people, and take every opportunity for triumph.


  1. The views on government of the English monarchs differ from those of the Parliament because the kings of England prefer to see themselves in a more absolutist light than the Parliament. In Document 1, James VI claims that the king is more powerful than the Parliament, and thinks of himself as the “true” source of authority in the state. He believes he has control over every person’s life, including the lives of the members of Parliament and other representatives. Like James VI, Charles I said that the king had control of the Parliament, and therefore his will overpower the will of the people and his decisions were for the good of the state. In contrast, the House of Commons in Document 2 insists that the Parliament is the bequest of the peoples of England, and that their right of freedom of speech trumps the king’s claim of authority. In the “Declaration of the Supremacy of Parliament” in Document 3, it is stated that all people are equal under God, and thus the public has supreme power in government and law. Therefore, the kings are no different than normal citizens and the absolutist attitude to English government is demolished by Parliament.

  2. In the eyes of Thomas Hobbes, people are chaotic and unable to make decisions for themselves because of their conflicting personalities, desires, and ideas. Therefore absolute monarchs provide the security and stability for unruly human nature to thrive without clashing, by unifying the public desires into one will. On the other hand, John Locke thinks that people have the right to sustain individual will, and should not have to submit their trust and wellbeing to the oppression of monarchy. He claims that in the case when the public feels threatened by the decisions taken by monarchy, they have the right to display their distinctive wills and lively ideas, which were so belittled by Hobbes, by revolting against government.

  3. According to the documents, there were 3 main opinions on where the power to govern originated. First was the theory that kings inherited authority when the land was initially distributed and boundaries originally drawn by ancient peoples. James VI in Document 1, holds this theory when he insists that the royal succession of kings came with the ownership of the land; laws, government, and Parliament came after the establishment of the king. The second opinion on the right to authority comes from Bishop Bossuet, who in Document 7, strongly states that kings got the their power from God himself, and that kings are the ministers and lieutenants of God on earth. The will and rule of the king is a direct link to the will of God, and kings are sacred bodies with complete power over their people. In Documents 2 and 3, the representatives in the House of Commons and Parliament take a different approach and claim that it is not one individual person who holds the authority to rule government, but the general will of the public as a whole. They claim that Parliament and the system of representation is the most affective and supreme source of government because it signifies the desires of the people, from the people, without the restrictions of an absolute monarch.

  4. The ideal government as envisioned during the 17th century consisted of a good ruler, a substantial trade and commerce system, and good law. Documents 8 and 10 both describe ideal absolute monarchs. A king must be wise, fatherly, and caring while maintaining proper infrastructure and taxation over his people. Because of the control and stability he provides, other aspects of a nation can grow such as commerce and trade. Government must also take into consideration the will of the people, as stated in Document 2. People must be involved in government so they can see firsthand the effects and improvement in governing. Finally, the government must provide security for the state, as shown in Document 5. In taking common concern for peace and safety, providing a standing army, and protecting boundaries, government secures all aspects of life in the State and delivers a strong, sturdy governing system.

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