Limitations of Louis XIV's Absolutist Research Paper

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Beik underlines the fact that collecting a huge amount of data required much more personnel and a far better way of communicating with the city and the village representatives, than Colbert could have ever dreamed of at that time. Nevertheless his achievements in collecting this date are remarkable. Based on these gatherings and his intuition and economic knowledge, Colbert was able to prepare and present to the king reforms destined to improve the macro economic situation as well as to solve some of the deficits that were already adding up as a result of the king's insatiable passion for war. While Colbert was the advocate of reducing taxes and favoring the revenues resulting from manufacturing and trade, the actual royal response comes from the receipts dated from the year Colbert started his collecting data and Madame de Maintenon's time. The king decided when to pay and how much the taille -- the land tax -- the major source of income for Versailles, was to be paid. Analyzing these receipts, the author reaches the conclusion that the criterion one used to establish and collect the amount of these taxes was arbitrary, lacking a sound economic background. "As Colbert pointed out in 1670, it was possible to ruin the rural economy by setting too high an initial figure."

Even if the king was aware of the importance of a healthy and smoothly running agricultural system as well as that of other revenues generating economic sectors, he was however not very interested in the well being of the peasantry and the further development of the manufacturing and trade related activities remained insignificant at a national scale. He inherited from his mother's governing a system of high taxation implemented by cardinal Mazarin that impoverished the peasantry and the town citizens alike. A financial system based on the collection of taxes and their advancement into the king's vaults as loans with high interests developed based on the continuing need for this almost unique type of financing: "Financiers, backed by investments from a wide circle of royal officers and court nobles, advanced the money to the king, using anticipated tax revenues as security"

. The tax payers were thus continually charged for the rest f the society that depended upon their financing. The powerful and rich merchants for various cities in France were too isolated and thus could hardly represent a steady and rising source of revenues for the state.

By comparison, the state of affairs of the provinces from the system of justice in the country was of importance to the king. The "Letters Patent for the Establishment of the Grand Jours," a document written in Paris, Aug 31, 1665, testifies the king's intentions to favor justice. On one hand, the king was the supporter and promoter of an ancient class system, based on privileges resulting form rank and position or the support of a certain privileged category, on the other he was the initiator of special courts in the provinces, destined to protect the weak from the powerful and discretionary nobles. An excerpt form the above mentioned Letters shows the king's intention to send a message of power and authority over his whole kingdom, regardless of how close to his court one came from: "Because the lawlessness during the foreign and civil wars that have desolated our kingdom for the past thirty years has not only weakened the force of the laws and the rigor of the ordinances but also introduced a great number of abuses, in both the administration of our finances and the distribution of justice, the first and principal objective that we have set for ourselves, the one to which we have devoted all of our efforts after the consolidation of our conquests, the establishment of public security, the restoration of our finances, and the reestablishment of our commerce, has been to see that justice reigns and to reign by justice in our state, persuaded that that there is nothing that we owe our subjects more or for which we are more responsible to God, from whom alone we hold our crown."

Such efforts to support commerce and the encourage guilds to produce more and increase import -- export activities as well as those above mentioned destined to restore justice where it had been missing for decades were sporadically manifested during king Louis XIV's reign and proved to be inconclusive for this sector of the economy as well as for his relationship with the provinces and the grassroots. In the context of the general situation of commerce and manufacturing during Louis XIV's rule, the above mentioned letter proves the king's interest to send a message of supreme authority to the entire kingdom and his subjects. His interest in the matter, was however limited. Rather than a real inclination towards developing a viable economic system and a sound justice system, the king was focused on asserting his authority. The transition from the feudal to the modern state was far from happening under this king's rule.

But the most important sector which gave the king the possibility to exercise his power and assured his invincibility was the army. In his book, Beik mentions a military revolution that took place during the first decades of Louis XIV's reign, which was inevitable for his later military pursuits. The military reform had drastic effects on all economy sectors since it needed immense amounts of financial and human resources. The exponential increase of the king's army did not however indicate a stage of evolution in society as a whole. The army supported the king and his military pursuits and developed separately from the rest of the sectors. However, there are nuances in this analysis since the scientific advancements of the time changed the means of production and the military techniques and tactics as well.

Beik uses the documents presented in his book Louis XIV and Absolutism to support his conclusion that Louis XIV's reign was characterized by burgeoning and compromise between Versailles and the provinces on one side and between the king and the sword and robe nobles on the other. The Church, another strong institution in Louis XIV's time was another center of influence the king had to juggle with. He was king by divine right, but he had to find a balance with the other center of power coming from the pope.

He managed to persuade the rest of the population, the majority, to accept his undisputed authority and to support him. There is still research necessary to be undertaken in order to establish de degree of influence the royal commissioners had in various provinces and the results of their activity on the economic and social situation of the respective territories. The king encouraged a traditional developing of the French society and focus was on expansion through military pursuits.

Beik, W. 2000. Louis XIV and absolutism: a brief study with documents. Bedford / St. Martin's

William Beik, Louis XIV and Absolutism: A Brief Study with Documents. (New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000), 3

William Beik, Louis XIV and Absolutism: A Brief Study with Documents. (New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000)


William Beik, Louis XIV and Absolutism: A Brief Study with Documents. (New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000)

William Beik, Louis XIV and Absolutism: A Brief Study with Documents. (New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000), p. 82


William Beik, Louis XIV and Absolutism: A Brief Study with Documents. (New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000)

William Beik, Louis XIV and Absolutism: A Brief Study with Documents. (New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000), 84

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William Beik, Louis XIV and Absolutism: A Brief Study with Documents. (New…[continue]

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