Power after the English Civil war and the French Revolutionby Rit Nosotro
Compare the English Civil war and the French Revolution in which both countries executed their kings. Discuss the effects of the sudden power management vacuum.
This essay will compare and contrast the French Revolution and the English Civil War. It will do this by briefly describing the events of both the English Civil War and the French Revolution, comparing and contrasting the events that led to the execution of Louis XIV and Charles I, analyzing the resulting events and comparing and contrasting the effects of the need to fill the power vacuum.
The English Civil War was starting to brew when, the Scottish king, James I came into power. During his reign, he was a very autocratic king and offended the parliament by his extravagant spending. His son, Charles I, also inherited this attitude to the parliament. However, Charles made things more difficult by marrying a Spanish Catholic princess, which offended Protestant England. Charles was also more arrogant with Parliament and more forceful. This was shown when he tried to arrest five parliament members at the advice of a friend
From 1629-1640, Charles did not call Parliament into session which frustrated Parliament to the point where it refused to grant the king any funds unless he would agree to limit his power. The king refused to do this causing both sides to resort to their military.
These events caused the English Civil War to escalate into a struggle with the King and his supporter's, the Cavaliers, on one side and the Puritans, on the other. In the beginning of the war, it looked like the king would end up winning the war until Oliver Cromwell and his supporters entered the war, on the Puritan side. Cromwell's soldiers were called the Ironsides, as they were a very hard army to defeat. Cromwell's support and entrance into the war caused a large momentum shift from the King to the Parliament. By 1647, the Parliament had captured their king and the Parliament had fully established itself as the new government. The Parliament decided to "try" the king before passing sentence. Coincidentally, before this happened, the army removed the more moderate members of parliament.
However, when the King was brought before the court to answer the charges he refused to do so forcing the Parliament pass sentence, which was decapitation. This however still left a power vacuum in the English government, a power vacuum into which Oliver Cromwell stepped. However, through time, Cromwell proved himself a dictator, not much better than Charles I. This caused the English people to overthrow Cromwell and, in a surprising move, to invite Charles II, Charles I's son, to rule as long as he would rule with limited power. This ended the English Civil War.
The French Revolution, although it was similar to the English Civil war, was more desperate and passionate as it was driven by the starving French peasants. The French Revolution was started by dissatisfaction in the middle and lower classes. The government was riddled with financial problems and costs. In addition, the Age of Enlightenment had introduced new ideas about government which cause the French people to question their divinely appointed absolute monarchy and wonder whether they should have a change. As the various divisions increased, the peasants continued to starve and be oppressed by the nobles.
During this time, no checks in place to limit King Louis XIV's power and Louis XIV was an absolute ruler by divine right. In essence, he could do basically anything. However, during the Enlightenment Age, new political ideas were birthed which introduced doubts about whether or not a nation needed a king.
These doubts, as to how well Louis could rule and manage the country, were strengthened, as the parliament was bankrupt from the Seven Year's war. The parliament decided to put an end to this exorbitant spending by forcing Louis XIV to call a meeting of the Estates-General if he wanted to borrow more money.
The French parliament, known as the Estates-General, was made up of three estates. The first was made up of the nobles, the second was comprised of the middle class and the third was fabricated of the peasants and lower class who made up most of the population. The Third Estate wanted to write a constitution, which the king and the first and second estate refused to do. The Third Estate became frustrated as it felt that it was the estate, which was the representative of the majority of the French people. Taking drastic steps, it dubbed itself the National Assembly of France and refused to disband, until they were, listened to, in the Tennis Court Oath.
As the third estate gained more power, Louis XIV gathered his troops, which threatened the people. The Third Estate tried to get weapons by capturing the Bastille, and although there were not many weapons in the Bastille, it was a huge moral boost for the Third Estate.
The National Assembly challenged the king by writing the Decrees of August 4 and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. The court of Louis XIV refused to accept these documents, as they would have abolished tax advantages, feudal dues, and many more revenue-producing items. As tensions grew, Louis XIV called for outside military help and received some from Prussia and Austria who jointly invaded France. Louis was put in prison as the Prussians gained ground. However, in(date), the Prussians were defeated and another political dispute grew between the two major parties in the parliament to the point where many people were being dragged into the street to be executed. This was called the Reign of Terror, in which many people were executed including many of the nobles, approximately two thousand . The Third Estate finally got its wish when it found and sent King Louis XIV to the guillotine on September 1st, 1715.
The French Revolution and the English Civil War were both different and the same. They were both the same in that they were born out of an extreme dislike for the King and the way he treated the people. However, the French Revolution was also born out of the fact that the peasants were severely oppressed and were in a starving. The French Revolution was more passionate and more desperate than the English was. The English Civil War was also a war to get rid of one king while the French Revolution was out to do away with kings.
In the English Civil war, the English parliament had become incensed at the arrogance of Charles I and his absolute monarchy. From King John and the Magna Carta down to James I, the English parliament had been gradually reducing the powers of a king, as he became willing to relinquish them. Charles I was not willing to do this and was very condescending to the English Parliament. These two factors eventually led to his execution.
Executing one's king, as the English did, was a shocking and revolutionary event. Until then, all nations had believed that a nation could not exist without the king and when the English executed theirs, it shocked the rest of the world. Charles, himself, probably did not expect it and at the very most, expected to be exiled. This was probably the reason why he did not want to defend himself in court. Not only this reason but his silence could have been stemmed from a few different reasons. 1) As a king, Charles felt he was above the law and the idea of the Parliament being able to try him was barbaric. 2) Charles may have had also felt that he didn't have to defend his actions as a king, which would only lead to him having to defend everything he did, which would be outrageous. 3) Charles could have thought that there was no point to defend himself, as the Parliament would probably have had a predetermined sentence. In the end, England fared very well until Cromwell established himself as the dictator, which forced England to turn to Charles II and ask him to rule with limited power. Other countries observed and had noticed that when a nation executes its king, it does not fall into total collapse but can still operate and function well, and in fact, perhaps be better off.
Although the factors that led to Louis XIV's demise are the more or less the same as the ones that led to Charles I's demise, these were more passionate. The French peasants were starving and were more seriously oppressed and taxed by the nobles. Louis XIV's flamboyancy and Marie Antoinette's spending did much to incite the wrath and indignation the peasants. The peasants had decided that the idea of kings no longer was a feasible option for government and decided that they would do a better job at ruling by themselves. The only way, in which they could remove the king, was to remove all his supporters as well. This meant the entire removal of the political system of France and starting from scratch.
This entire removal of the traditional government and an insertion of a new one proved more difficult a task than the National Assembly had thought. Without the presence of the government, tyrants such as Maximilien Robespierre and Georges Danton were able to rule and create havoc throughout the entire countryside. Something more difficult than the transition of the governments in France was starting a new government. In France, there were no longer those who knew how to rule as they were either dead or outside of France. This sudden vacuum of the knowledge of how to use power existed for a few years until Napoleon Bonaparte was able to fill that role by uniting the nation under a military vision.
In perspective, the English Civil War and the French Revolution were two events that were very significant. The English Civil War introduced a possibility that a nation could exist without a king and the French Revolution showed how dangerous completely removing an old government system can be to that particular nation.
A Biblical perspective on the English Civil War and the French Revolution is that both King Louis XIV and Charles I were poor kings. Louis the XIV was a flamboyant king and did not feed the poor. This eventually led to his execution by the famished masses. Charles I was king who was poorly equipped for the job and his arrogance to the Parliament eventually brought him down (Proverbs 16:18).
The Lord had warned Israel that a king would oppress them and they still desired a king. These leaders are human and some become wicked and oppress to extreme extents. This is the case with Louis XIV and Charles I. They abused the power that was given to them by helping themselves and not helping the rest of the population with their wealth. Their actions brought upon their punishment.
Although, killing an innocent life is not condoned in the Bible, if a person is not doing his job and will not leave than perhaps more desperate measures should be taken. Would executing both King Louis XIV and Charles I have been the right choice? The correct answer may never be found out in that question. If Louis XIV and Charles I would have persisted in their attitude toward the peasants, then perhaps it was justified to had have them both executed. However, if Louis XIV and Charles I would have changed their attitude, then it would not have been justifiable to execute them.
This essay has compared and contrasted the French Revolution and the English Civil War. It has done this by briefly describing the events of both the English Civil War and the French Revolution, comparing and contrasting the events that led to the execution of Louis XIV and Charles I, analyzing the resulting events and comparing and contrasting the effects of the sudden knowledge of how to use power vacuum. It is important to study the English Civil War and the French Revolution since; by studying revolutions, we can learn and become more aware of how to prevent wholesale massacres and other such disasters. Another item that can be learned is that, to rule and govern is a very hard job. Our governments need our prayer and God's help to rule our nation wisely.
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Young, Peter. The English Civil War. Eyre Methuen Ltd. 1974. Great Britian
Mounfield, Peter R. and Sut Cliffe, Anthony. " England". World Book 2001 ed.
Woloch, Isser. "French Revolution". World Book 2001 ed.
N/A. "Charles I: British Monarchs". http://www.britannia.com/history/monarchs/mon47.html
N/A. "James I: British Monarchs". http://www.britannia.com/history/monarchs/mon46.html
Knox, Ellis L. " HWC English Civil War." http://history.boisestate.edu/westciv/english/
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