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  • A

    style='font-size:31.5pt;font-family:ATClassicRoman;color:black'>BSOLUTISM IN THE HABSBURG AUSTRIAN EMPIRE

     

    FRENCH ABSOLUTISM AND IMPERIALISM

    The monarchical absolutism that was so fashionable in the 17th and 18th centuries

    gave the ruler almost unlimited power, an efficient administrative

    39

    bureaucracy, and a fiscal policy that provided the means of taxation to build

    a strong army and state. State control of the economy called mercantilism also

    promoted economic growth, which made possible the buildup of military

    strength and the beautification of capital cities. It was the French monarchy

    that provided a splendid example of absolute monarchy for Austria, as well

    as Prussia and many of the other German princes of Bavaria, Saxony, and

    Hanover. The Treaty of Westphalia (1648) had given the German princes full

    sovereignty to control their states and conclude foreign alliances, as well as

    the independence to resist the authority and power of the Holy Roman

    Emperor. They could imitate Louis XIV, who followed the theory of princely

    absolutism to the letter and disregarded the traditional prerogatives of the

    Estates and the provincial diets so well expressed in his motto I am the

    State. It should be remembered that princely absolutism did not begin in

    17th-century France, for its code was already formulated during the Renaissance

    by the Italian Niccolò Machiavelli (14691527) and in France by the

    jurist Jean Bodin (153096).

    Besides pursuing the ideals of absolutism, Louis XIV established the largest

    standing army that Europe had ever seen, and he was determined to protect

    France against Habsburg encirclement, and to extend Frances frontiers into the

    territories of the Holy Roman Empire. Besides the independence given to the

    German princes by the Treaty of Westphalia, the treaty also provided France

    with the opportunity to influence German affairs. Louis XIV assumed the role

    of protector of the prerogatives of the German princes. The first such intrusion

    occurred at the death of the emperor Ferdinand in 1657, whereupon Louis tried

    to secure the election of the elector of Bavaria. The election of Leopold I

    (16581705), the Habsburg archduke of Austria, was immediately opposed by

    the Rhenish League of German princes in alliance with France. Louiss program

    of national aggrandizement included expanding Frances frontiers to

    include most of the territories on the left bank of the Rhine. The Rhine River

    was to become Frances natural eastern boundary. Unbelievably, most German

    princes supported him along with Sweden. In 1667 Louis invaded the Spanish

    Netherlands and managed to keep 11 cities in Flanders according to the Peace

    Treaty of Aachen (1668). After Louis ended the Dutch War with the Peace of

    Nijmegen (1678), he attacked the Holy Roman Empire and occupied Alsace

    and Lorraine and the Imperial city of Strasbourg. With the exception of Brandenburg,

    which was allied to the French, many German princes decided to join

    the emperor and the kings of Spain and Sweden in the League of Augsburg

    (1686), which led to the French attack on the Palatinate. Now the coalition

    against Louis was joined by England. The indignation of the German Protestant

    princes was aroused by the deprivation of religious freedom of the French

    Huguenots. Some 200,000 emigrated from France to Holland, England, and

    Prussia. In 168889 the cities of the Palatinate, including Worms, Speyer,

    Mannheim, and Heidelberg, were senselessly devastated, including their historic

    monuments and art treasures. The remains of the castle of Heidelberg still

    stands as testimony to the rapaciousness of the French. Louis lost the war in

    the Palatinate. By the Peace of Ryswik (1697) Louis lost most of his conquests

    with the exception of Strasbourg and the occupied areas of Alsace, which he

    40 Germany

    was able to keep because the emperor was preoccupied with the renewed

    threat of a Turkish invasion.

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