A Christian Survey of World History
Louis XiV, Revolution, Napoleon, I
*This is an unedited and unoffical print version of R.J. Rushdoony’s lecture.
R.J. Rushdoony: 00:01 Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, we thank thee that we can begin and end our days with thee. We thank thee at the beginning of a new year that our times are in thy hands who doeth all things well. We pray, our Father, for all those who suffer behind the iron curtain for their faith, that thou wouldst be with them to strengthen them and to deliver them. We thank thee, our Father, that we have the assurance in this grim struggle against the powers of darkness that thou art he who shall prevail, that greater is he that is within us then he that is in the world. Our God, in this confidence we study thy workings in the past and face all our tomorrows in the confidence of thy grace. In Jesus’ name, amen. Since our study of world history is a survey, inevitably we must skip over a great deal that is very pertinent and very interesting. It would be worthwhile, for example, to take time to deal with the continuing force of feudalism far beyond the Middle Ages into the modern era. As a matter of fact, the world of feudalism is today the most virile part of the modern world.
R.J. Rushdoony: 01:41 The two countries that are the most feudalistic in the modern world are the United States and Japan. Japan got a heavy dose of feudalism from the Portuguese missionaries, the samurai. The business world of Japan gains its vitality from a feudalistic structure. The whole nature of the American system is feudalistic. The county comes from the word count, the realm of a count, only without a count. It’s a law area. The United States and Japan are the two most feudalistic areas in the world today, and they have the greatest freedom and also the greatest ability to function. Local authority and civil government prevails, and local loyalties in feudalism were very powerful, and people do develop local loyalties in this country. They will be from a particular part of the South, a particular county. They will be people from a particular part of the West, a particular county or community. This was characteristic of feudalism. There was no such thing as a national feeling in the time of feudalism. As a result, the world of feudalism was not conscious of national or racial lines but of religious lines and local loyalties.
R.J. Rushdoony: 03:21 The world of feudalism thus is a very different world from ours. For one thing, people traveled around a great deal in the feudalistic world, far, far more than we today realize. When we look for example at the life of the man who in the era we shall be studying tonight, the late 17th and early part of the 18th century, was the most powerful figure of his day, regarded by many to this day as the greatest man of his century, we find a very surprising thing. The man in question was a Frenchman, Duke Francois-Eugene of Savoy, Prince of Piedmont, Margrave of Saluzzo.
R.J. Rushdoony: 04:17 Incidentally, he never fought for France in his life. He was rejected by Louis XIV when he applied for generalship of the armies as too presumptuous. For one thing, he was too powerful in his background for Louis XIV to want to give an important figure so much power. Eugene, Prince Eugene was related to every royal family of Europe. On top of that, to give you an idea of the feudal world which he was a part of and how in the feudal world you could just pick up and go anywhere, and serve any monarch you felt, and then after you finished serving him you could go over to the person on the opposite side of the fence and you were not a traitor. You were just a feudal lord serving whoever bought your services. Of course, there was no feeling about intermarriage between peoples, and so people like Prince Eugene represented a very varied kind of background, as did almost every royal family of the day.
R.J. Rushdoony: 05:25 To give you an idea of the ancestry of Prince Eugene, he was predominantly French but also German, Roman, Byzantine and Armenian. He also had Spanish, Portuguese, Scandinavian, English, Czech, Hungarian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Russian, and Mongol bloods. He could trace his ancestry back to Thomas Aquinas. He could also trace it back to the Bourges family. His mother was the niece of Cardinal Mazarin. There was nobody of any consequence throughout Europe, the Middle East, and way back almost to China that he was not related to. He was a league of nations in one man, and that was routine for the day. It was very commonplace.
R.J. Rushdoony: 06:25 Today that would be unheard of, but Louis XIV himself had quite a few strains of blood in him. Louis XIV was French, he was Spanish, he was English, he was German. He was quite a few other things including Jewish and Moorish. As a matter of fact, there is some belief that they had a Moorish girl who was put into a convent. We do know definitely there was a Moorish girl who was in a convent who was regularly visited by the Queen, Maria Theresa, together with the ladies of the court, and her background and everything was kept very much a mystery. This thus was routine in that day.
R.J. Rushdoony: 07:18 It was nationalism that limited this kind of thing. It limited the boundaries and because of mercantilist policies by British, by French, by German, or by Austrian, or whatever the case might be, it restricted internationalism and confined people to their frontiers.
R.J. Rushdoony: 07:44 There was another aspect of the world of this era that we touched on last time when we dealt with the Spanish and their contempt of work. It was carried perhaps the greatest extreme in Spain, but it characterized every country of Europe. The nobility and the royalty had a contempt for work ethics. Work was seen as the lot of peasants. Well, the middle classes of course who combined work with foresight, thrift and planning, and grew rich and powerful were therefore hated and despised everywhere. They were especially despised because by and large the people who did this were of two classes: Protestants, Huguenots and Puritans, and Jews. So much so that it was a common belief in Europe that if you were a Protestant you were really a secret Jew. You had to be. To this day, for example, in France the banking is in the hands of Jews and Protestants, and they’re regarded really as foreigners. The French finance minister today is a protestant banker, Giscard d’Estaing. Now, as a protestant he’s the last man normally that a French government and someone like Pompidou would call to be finance minister, but he was finance minister earlier under de Gaulle as well. Perhaps the most influential financial thinker is Jacques Rueff, who is of a Jewish background in part. Here you have Rueff and Giscard d’Estaing, a French protestant. The reason of course is that this is the kind of ground where you don’t find good French Catholics, you see. Now, the work ethics was associated therefore with Protestants and Jews, in particular Calvinistic Protestants. This is why, incidentally, and there’s been a study made of this very recently, Jamestown was such a failure. The men who went to Jamestown were all of the gentry. They were anti-Puritan and they didn’t believe in work. Their idea was that they were going to go out there and round up the Indians and tell them, “All right, boys, you do the work,” and the Indians had other ideas, and the colony failed.
R.J. Rushdoony: 10:35 It was only as settlement was made by those who had the Puritan work ethics that America began to prosper. This of course was the reason for the eminence of England and America, the Puritan element there. France, when it kicked out the Huguenots, the French Calvinists, began thereafter to face economic problems, because the work ethics had been in effect abolished.
R.J. Rushdoony: 11:10 This period to the 17th and 18th centuries was the period of the Enlightenment, the triumph of humanism. Now, the birth of the Enlightenment was in England, but France then carried it to its logical conclusion. In a sense, the era we are going to be considering tonight requires us to concentrate on France because France was the world leader in the latter part from the 17th century up until almost the French Revolution and again for a while through Napoleon.
R.J. Rushdoony: 11:53 France was, as it were, the center of the world. Therefore, France pioneered in so many things, and to this day France is in a sense a step ahead of the world in carrying the logic of the modern era to its conclusion. Some of the things many people dislike in France are precisely the kind of thing that you find in every other country of the western world, only the French have logically gone a little ahead, a little further down the road with regard to it. During this era and far earlier, well before the Reformation, French had Gallicanism. Now, Gallicanism in a sense was the same thing as Anglicanism. It was the French church separated to a very large degree from Rome, still nominally Catholic but really virtually independent of the Pope. This ended with Napoleon. Work, as I indicated, was despised. Jews and Protestants were the working rich and therefore aliens. They were so much despised that on one occasion when the Duke of Saint-Simon, who was not a fool but a very intelligent man, saw Louis XIV chatting in a friendly way with a wealthy French banker, Samuel Bernard, he was very shocked and thought it was disgraceful that the king of France should talk to a banker, a working man. This was a shameful thing in his eyes.
R.J. Rushdoony: 13:49 You can see how this perspective, which was characteristic of all of Europe and England, apart from the Puritan Huguenot tradition and the Reform tradition also in Switzerland and the Netherlands but not quite to the same degree, why it created problems in these societies and why inescapably it led to the development of revolutionary trends against the aristocracy.
R.J. Rushdoony: 14:27 Now, Louis XIV, whose dates are 1638 to 1715, had a long reign as a king. He was a small boy when he succeeded his father, Louis XIII. He was a king therefore for well over 65 years. That’s a long reign, from the time he was a boy well into his 70s. He was a very intelligent monarch. He was a very physically strong and virile man, a man of tremendous abilities. It’s very, very easy with Louis XIV, as many such strong people do, to detest him thoroughly and also to have a tremendous admiration for him. It’s very nigh impossible to know much about Louis XIV without reacting very strongly one way or another to Louis XIV.
R.J. Rushdoony: 15:49 He was very much a calculating person. He was in his own way the leader of a new secularism and a departure from Christianity, and yet with all of that he was personally very devout. He was a man who placed a great deal of emphasis on proper form. Thus, he had for many years a series of mistresses until the Queen died, and he married one of his mistresses, Madame de Maintenon, who was a very devout woman of a Protestant background who had turned Catholic, and then he was very faithful to her thereafter. He was a very virile man as I indicated because when he was more than 70 Madame de Maintenon went to the bishop and asked if it were still necessary to give in to Louis’s sexual demands, which were at least once a night.
R.J. Rushdoony: 16:56 Now, as he came to rule, he had a number of ideas in mind that governed him absolutely. One was a dread of the feudal nobility. All his life, he was working against them but never openly at war with them. Acting as their friend, as their companion, but doing everything to undercut them.
R.J. Rushdoony: 17:25 I pointed out last time that France was a series of kingdoms, a collection of kingdoms, rather than one unified people. Some of those kingdoms had been very great realms, very wealthy realms, of unbelievable wealth during the Middle Ages. Now they had been brought together. Louis the XI had been one of the prime movers of bringing them together and Henry IV, his grandfather. Louis XIII had furthered that under Richelieu. But when Louis XIV was a small boy, this whole settlement was almost destroyed by a revolt of the nobility trying to reestablish their independent realms, their separate kingdoms, so that for a while as a boy he lived in great fear that any time he might be taken captive or even killed by these warring lords and the whole realm destroyed. He never outgrew the fear of that, the fear of the power of the nobility.
R.J. Rushdoony: 18:40 As a result, he worked to nullify it. He brought the nobility to the court to prevent them from building up their power base in their particular realms. If a lord was from Burgundy, which had been an independent kingdom, or Aquitaine, which had been a powerful kingdom, or Normandy, a powerful kingdom, and so on, they came to the court. They stayed there unless the king gave them permission to leave.
R.J. Rushdoony: 19:17 He gave them all kinds of ritual offices, and he made everything in the court an elaborate semi-religious state ritual with himself the king as it were God on earth and these as the high priests so that he in no time at all had the nobility fighting with each other to try to get important positions that would put them close to the king, to be lord of the Chamber pot, for example, which meant that first thing in the morning you were there by the king’s bed with a chamber pot. Or lord of the wardrobe so that you handed him his bathrobe when he got up and so on. You were there to say something to the king and to put into a word on this and that, you see.
R.J. Rushdoony: 20:13 Everything was made into an elaborate ritual. It seems ridiculous to us that men who had ruled realms, had been powerful, had armies would be quarreling and struggling to get the honor from somebody else of handling a chamber pot or a bathrobe. But Louis very shrewdly made this everything, made everything a ritual. Then every night, gambling so that the lords were hooked on this. They became gamblers who enjoyed doing nothing but sitting around, and going through the ritual during the day, and dreaming of getting some little job whereby they handed something to the king, and then at night gambling.
R.J. Rushdoony: 21:11 They had no desire for work to begin with. Now they were tied to the court ritual and separated from their realms. This had great consequences for the future of France, because they were now separated from the common people on whom they depended for their income. They were courtiers whose life was governed by the court, who regarded it as the worst of punishment after a while to be abolished from the court for a while and sent back to their own estates.
R.J. Rushdoony: 21:53 Now, as I said, France was a collection of kingdoms with very different peoples. The Bretons, for example, were Celts, related to the Welsh. The Burgundians were a separate people, Germanic. In the south of France, you had people of a very different character where Syrian influence in the early part of the Middle Ages and the so-called Dark Ages had been very strong, very powerful, so you had a different kind of person there.
R.J. Rushdoony: 22:29 Now, while these lords were apart of these realms and spoke the local language, they had a closeness with these people, they understood their problems, they could rule them wisely. But once they became courtiers and spoke the language of the court, they were strangers to these people. This paved the way for their ultimate downfall, because they had nothing in common any longer with the people on whom they depended. But Louis XIV broke the back of feudalism in France by tying the people to the court and to a court ritual.
R.J. Rushdoony: 23:18 Then next, Louis XIV had a middle class cabinet. He went to these working people of the middle class and made them the real powers in the government. Now, these were people who however wealthy, however successful, were not important enough to take over the government. They were experts. They were a bureaucracy. The state was run by them, but none of them were able to dominate it because none of them were powerful enough individually or national figures.
R.J. Rushdoony: 24:08 It has been said that the first pentagon was Versailles and the court of Louis XIV, and very rightly so. It was even to the military extent, because he established there the first department of war in any modern sense. He had a corps of engineers to do the military planning. From a few thousand peace time army he raised the army to 100,000 in peace time and 400,000 in war. In peace time, they were busy planning.
R.J. Rushdoony: 24:47 The first Inspector General of his army was General Martinet, from whence we get the word martinet. That is somebody who’s a drill master and makes you toe the mark, do everything with precision. That is why the armies of Louis XIV triumphed for a long time all over the face of Europe until they were defeated by the man that Louis XIV had turned down, Prince Eugene of Savoy. Prince Eugene of Savoy not only defeated Louis XIV, the Duke of Marlborough was in association with Savoy, but he also drove the Turks back, and had he lived he intended to take Constantinople.
R.J. Rushdoony: 25:47 What Louis XIV did with his pentagon concept was to turn government from a one man thing as it had been into a bureaucracy so that after Louis XIV you have the development of the modern idea of the state, a group of bureaucrats and experts, a group of planners doing everything and one man at the top just saying, “Go ahead with this or with that,” simply administrating the bureaucracy.
R.J. Rushdoony: 26:28 Then another aspect of Louis XIV’s work, he built Versailles. Now, a little later I’ll show you some pictures of Versailles as well as Prince Eugene of Savoy, but Versailles was a very interesting concept. First, it was built out in the country outside of Paris some miles. Now, this was a very shrewd move on the part of Louis XIV. Louis recognized the power of a big city to dominate a government and to color its outlook. Any big city is likely to develop a large number of people, poor people, a rabble that can be a mob, that can dominate a government. He recognized also that a big city can color the outlook of a government, and so he felt never in Paris. The government must not be there. It must be at Versailles.
R.J. Rushdoony: 27:34 He rarely ever in his life set foot in Paris, which is a very interesting fact. The King of France who rarely went into Paris and then got out as quickly as he could, hated to stay overnight. If Paris wanted to see the king, they had to go to Versailles. Thus Paris, a very powerful city, was never able to exercise any influence on his government. Moreover, he built Versailles without any walls or without a moat to indicate his sense of security and power, to say, “I have a realm so powerful, so strong, and my peace time is army is such that nobody, neither the lords nor any foreign power can trouble me. Therefore, I will make my capitol, Versailles, out in the country like a garden, like a park.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 28:45 He had a zoo there with animals from all lands, statues everywhere, fountains, gardens, making it look like a new Garden of Eden, a new paradise. It was both his residence and the seat of his government. Versailles was copied by virtually every other country. We have an imitation of Versailles that Jefferson copied in Washington D.C.
R.J. Rushdoony: 29:22 Moreover, the architecture was humanistic. I pointed out last time how Philip II of Spain when he built the Escorial, his palace, again out in the country, made it with a chapel at the center and a monastery, also a mausoleum, so that the Catholic faith was at the center of his concept of rule. For Louis XIV, the chapel was at one side. The center of the building was his bedroom, and he ruled from his bedroom. He’d get up in the morning and after having eaten and bathed, he bathed daily, he would then receive a procession of his ministers, these middle class experts, make his decisions. This was the center.
R.J. Rushdoony: 30:27 Moreover, the fact that he reigned so long made his reign extremely important in that what he did could be made permanent. It could be made so much a part of the life of the nation because he ruled for so many years. It’s interesting to realize that Louis XV was not the son of Louis XIV. He was his great-grandson who succeeded as a boy of five. Louis XV, like his great-grandfather, reigned a long time, from 1715 to 1774, so that it was his grandson, Louis XVI, who succeeded him. In three monarchs, three generations are passed over because their reigns were so long.
R.J. Rushdoony: 31:35 Thus, Louis XIV made France the world power. There was a weakness in what Louis XIV did, great as it was and important as it was. He made French the language of international trade, of diplomacy, the world language, so that as a matter of fact French continued for a long time alongside of English as the international language and still does to a degree. But since the economic policy everywhere including France was mercantilist, that is buy American, buy French, buy this, just your own country, develop colonies as the source of raw materials and as your market, it put France at a disadvantage because the French simply were not navally oriented. They were a tremendous land power. Their army was always their strong point. Their navy they never did emphasize.
R.J. Rushdoony: 32:58 This meant that with a far flung empire, because India was French, Canada and much of America was French, Louisiana and adjacent areas was French, the Mediterranean was the area of French power and influence, but not being a naval power England was able to cut them back and to destroy them ultimately. They lost their colonies in America in the French and Indian War and also India, simply because of their naval inadequacy.
R.J. Rushdoony: 33:55 Now because of the mercantilist policy, this created a crisis for the French. How could they import raw materials, not having the colonies now, or export to colonies when they didn’t have the colonies? It created an economic crisis which ultimately led to the collapse with the revolution. If they had not lost the empire, there would have been no revolution. This is why France was the great ally of the Americans in the War of Independence. They had lost just a few years early the French and Indian War and their empire to the British. Well, America was the choicest part of the British Empire, and they were going to do everything to help the Americans kick out the British. This is why. It wasn’t altruism. They sent over troops, Lafayette and many others. They provided all kinds of foreign aid in the hopes that this would be the beginning of toppling the American power. If you’ll recall, part of the American strategy encouraged by the French was an invasion of Canada.
Speaker 2: 35:25 You meant toppling the English power.
R.J. Rushdoony: 35:34 What? Yes, toppling the English power, yes. Excuse me. However, this did not prevent the collapse. In fact, it very nearly led to a collapse both in Britain and in France. If it had not been for the Wesleyan revival and the evangelical revival within the Church of England, when the French Revolution occurred there would have also been a revolution in Britain. It was the religious aspect in Britain that prevented it from blowing up in a revolution.
R.J. Rushdoony: 36:23 Now, the French Revolution was the great opportunity for the radical humanists, the enlightenment thinkers who called themselves philosophes. I indicated earlier their sources were the English deists and thinkers and also the Dutch thinkers. There are several things that characterized these philosophes, very important for us to understand because what we have today and have in this century, especially since World War II, is the ideas, and the faith, and the spirit of the philosophes on the march all over the world.
R.J. Rushdoony: 37:04 They were urban first of all. Therefore, they had no sense of the reality of the soil and a man being bound to the earth. They saw things from the standpoint of big city people who with a wave of a hand assume you can do this and that and as though, well, the food is always going to be supplied. Those Slavs out there and the farms, the peasants, they are always provided, you see. They just assumed these things. They assumed production. They were planners pure and simple.
R.J. Rushdoony: 37:43 Second, they were characterized by a total hatred of Christianity. Anything was tolerable, any kind of paganism, any kind of primitive religion, but not Christianity. Voltaire, for example, said, “Every sensible man, every honorable man must hold the Christian sect in horror.” The motto of these people was, “Wipe out the infamy”, the infamy being Christianity.
R.J. Rushdoony: 38:19 Then they had a motto, which they derived from Terrance in Silica, the Romans, “I am a man. I think nothing human alien to me.” Of course the meaning of this is you tolerate everything except Christianity. You tolerate every crime. You tolerate every pervert, because nothing human is alien to me. Again, you recognize a familiar temper of our day. Then Diderot declared, and I quote, “The magistrate deals out justice. The philosophe teaches the magistrate what is just and unjust,” unquote.
R.J. Rushdoony: 39:08 Now, historically it has been Christianity that has established right and wrong, and the law reflects what scripture teaches. But no, they said, “We will be. We the intellectuals, the philosophes, will be the new priests of humanity, so that we will say what the law should be and what right and wrong are. We will define all these things.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 39:39 Now, since the churches were politically controlled, these philosophes very quickly provided for the takeover of the churches in all the countries and politically appointed bishops in England, in France, in Germany and elsewhere who were unbelievers. This is a point which very few scholars will touch on. You find it here and there in footnotes, but the great destruction of the churches, whether in England or France or elsewhere, was by these political bishops, men who hated the church. You had one, for example, Archbishop of Canterbury whose wife was very much a slut. He had an illegitimate son who he promoted to office in the church and so on, that sort of thing. These were men who hated the faith. An opportunity to pull down a church or to destroy it was all to the good for them.
R.J. Rushdoony: 40:57 Then another aspect of these philosophes. Again, this is something that strikes a very familiar note. Homosexuality was the mark of membership in the in group. It was virtually required. If it wasn’t to your taste, you indulged it and you indulged in it. It was the mark of membership in the in group.
R.J. Rushdoony: 41:35 Then they believed in the omnipotence of criticism. This was their phrase. “The autonomy of the human mind, so that man like a god could pass everything in review before him and judge on men, on God, on the Bible. Man’s judgment is absolute.”
R.J. Rushdoony: 41:57 Then there was another thing that’s very indicative, very revealing. When I say this, I want you to do a little hard thinking about it. Guess who their hero was. Cicero. Cicero. When you examine what Cicero was, and you can look up Cicero in my book The One and the Many, I have quite a bit about him, you realize why he was. It’s very interesting that Cicero is being foisted on conservatives now as though he were a great hero. It’s very interesting that the woman who claims to be a Christian and has written a gooey book on Cicero as though he were a great hero, Taylor Caldwell, was in Los Angeles just last week and on New Year’s Eve was indulging in an occultist meeting where she was being hypnotized by Jess Stearn, an occultist leader, because she believes she has been reincarnated many times, and she sat down with Cicero and conversed with him, and later on had dinner one day with Nero. Now, this is the kind of thing that is very interesting. Cicero, the hero then, and Cicero being pawned off on us again by people, knowingly or foolishly, as a hero.
R.J. Rushdoony: 43:48 Another thing, science was despised by these people. Why? They regarded it as a Puritan movement, which it was. In England, it was despised by the lords because the scientists were all Puritans, and that was true. Moreover, they saw the intellectual as being the mind of the people, so that the revolutionary belief and spirit of the French Revolution could be summed up in the expression, “The will of the people makes the laws, and we are the will of the people.” In other words, you could tell them, “You poor slobs don’t know what you really want. We know what in your heart you truly want or should want.”
Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.
Learn more about R.J. Rushdoony by visiting: https://chalcedon.edu/founder