Enlightened Absolutism: A Failure of Reform
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Enlightened Absolutism: A failure of reform
After having read the assigned pages, I believe Enlightened Absolutism was not a success. In the countries and empires of Prussia, The Austrian Empire, and Russia they all had major problems with their nobility and the loyalty of the people. In each of these three powers they became obsessed with their militaries. The push to make their militaries bigger and stronger left out their citizens, overlooking the heart of any country: the people they ruled. This destroyed their nations.
During this time in the 1700s, the country of Prussia was becoming stronger and more powerful. Frederick William I, the ruler at the time, built up an army that was the fourth strongest in Europe. This cost a tremendous amount of money. The people had to pay for his military growth. His son, Fredrick II took control of the throne and continued to increase the army and then failed to make additional reforms. Though Fredrick I thought he was an enlightened monarch, his quest for power failed and the people did not experience true Enlightened Absolution.
The Austrian Empire was ruled by Maria Theresa who did not want to make reforms. According o our readings, “She was not open to the philosophes calls for reform” Her son though, Joseph II, had a reformation plan was massive. He issued thousands of decrees and laws to the country. Compared to his mother he did try to institute reforms that were based on Enlightened Absolutism, but his plan was too massive that it turned everybody against him. In fact at the end of his life when writing the words for his gravestone he wrote, “Here lies Joseph II who was unfortunate in everything he undertook.” Perhaps in another time he might have been considered a great leader but not in his day.
Finally, there was the failure of true Enlightened reform in Russia during the reign of Catherine II. She made a plan that included many laws that were issued to all the people, but human instinct for power took over. She was too focused on strengthening her military and expanding her kingdom. More and more of her people were put into serfdom, and reform stopped. In fact, a rebellion against Catherine started, led by Emelyan Pugachev, who was illiterate and a Cossack. The rebellion failed against the powers of Catherine II, she put an end to true reform.
It is because of these three examples that I believe Enlightenment Absolutism failed. Though it had its benefits on paper or even in words, in the 1700 to 1800s it largely failed. In the end, it was not the best form of government for nations throbbing for power.