What reactions emerged from the theory of absolutism?

The most important reaction to the theory of absolutism was undoubtedly the French Revolution. The Revolution was based on the theory of the rights of man. This inevitably contradicted the underlying assumptions of absolutism, which held that supreme power was vested in a single individual.

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The French Revolution was undoubtedly the most influential and enduring reaction to absolutism. The ideology of absolutism had been challenged for quite some time by those who believed fervently in the rights of man.

According to what were then radical new ideas, every single human being was endowed with certain rights simply by virtue of being human. In an American context, as articulated in the Declaration of Independence, these included life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

In absolutist states such as ancient regime France, such rights were never acknowledged by the authorities. The king had absolute power over his subjects, who had no rights to speak of. The very notion of the rights of man was anathema to the supporters of absolutism. Such ideas were considered dangerously subversive, undermining as they did the indivisible sovereignty of the state.

The worst fears of absolutism’s supporters were realized when the French Revolution broke out in 1789. Although France initially remained a monarchy, it was no longer an absolute monarchy. The king would have to share power with an elected assembly. Furthermore, the underlying ideology of the Revolution found expression in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, which enshrined the radical idea that people possessed certain rights simply by virtue of being human.

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