Seventeenth Century Writing Assignment (L35)

1.) What were Cardinal Richelieu’s primary aims?

Cardinal Richelieu’s primary aims after becoming chief minister were simply to do what was in the best interest of France. He, being a fairly religious man himself, believed in and practiced religious toleration for the sake of peace. Even when found in conflict, he was a merciful and humane man. However, religious toleration aside, he did have a set political view. Richelieu wanted the centralization of France, and had faith in the rule of a king. Another primary focus of his energy was in expanding royal power for short-term revenue increases; with this, sales of offices exploded. The common people were not pleased with this.

2.) What factors contributed to the decline of Spain?

Of the many events and issues that contributed to the decline of Spain, the key issues were religious intolerance (leading to revolts/outbreaks), Spain’s overly large international ambitions, strong state control (no free market, increasingly strict government dependence enforcement), and widespread expensive warfare.

3.) What is constitutionalism? Discuss the views of Juan de Mariana, as laid out in the reading for lesson 33.

Constitutionalism is the understanding that there are limits on (in this case, a king’s power, or) government control. It is also the knowledge that each man is a sovereign being, and not only does government authority come from some fundamental law, but without the people to be governed, (rulers) politicians are simply meek, powerless people. Constitutionalism is the understanding that we the people, are the power; we do have authority and we are free.

Juan de Mariana is described to have been an extremely well learned man who strongly opposed absolutism as well as authoritarianism (and totalitarianism). His carefully assembled moral philosophy served him well in his abilities to pick tyrants from honest rulers where the masses had been fooled, and steered him the course of an author. He published at a point, that he believed the people had a right to commit regicide (in order to protect the new religion). Not only did he say that any individual had the right, but that in fact, they had the responsibility to themselves and others to end the wrongdoing (tyranny or otherwise). He was also largely against (government) inflation.

4.) What do you think Thomas Hobbes’ main arguments are in the excerpts you read?

Excerpts mentioned have been taken from Hobbes’ Leviathan; chapter XIII Of the Natural Condition of Mankind as Concerning Their Felicity and Misery. Each point directly relates to the other chapters mentioned in the question and so a restatement wasn’t necessary. 

In Hobbes’ Leviathan, several key arguments are made. The first of which being that all people are equal in one sense. This certain quality of man which would connect them all, said Hobbes, was that “…as to the strength of body, the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination or by confederacy with others…”(Hobbes ¶ 1) . He adds in that although man will consider physical advantages of another, he will always underestimate another man’s wit and wisdom compared to his own; man’s inability to place himself below another (internally) makes every man equal.

Hobbes also said that the life of man is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,” (Hobbes ¶ 9) and that man at the core, is utterly selfish and evil. His argument begins to branch out, into the state of nature of man, and pinpoints the agenda of each human being; satisfaction of self-interest (any and all). He describes mankind as a violent breed, full of irrational and unpredictable conflict.

Quite quickly Hobbes is able to jump from condemning man wild and dangerous, to claiming they need to be controlled. “Hereby it is manifest that, during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war, and such a war as is of every man against every man (Hobbes ¶ 8). It becomes crystal clear that Hobbes is an authoritarian at this point; (more or less a Statist nowadays). He believed all people needed a sovereign to keep the peace; under this rule the people would fear the sovereign, rather than fearing each other. Giving them a common enemy was supposed to unite them in Hobbes’ words. Executive, judicial and, legislative power will all be combined and under the control of the sovereign during this period.


Hobbes, Thomas. “Lesson 34 – Absolutism.” Ron Paul Curriculum. Ron Paul Curriculum, n.d. Web. 8 Dec. 2014. (URL has been left out due to the fact that the website page is for RPC members only; for any member who would like to access this page of excerpts it can be found in the Western Civilization II course: lesson 34 – scroll below the video.)



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