Front Page Titles (by Subject) 103.: The Age of Unlimited Princely Power - Judgments on History and Historians
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103.: The Age of Unlimited Princely Power - Jacob Burckhardt, Judgments on History and Historians 
Judgments on History and Historians, ed. Alberto R. Coll (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999).
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The Age of Unlimited Princely Power
The age of ecclesiastical dispute is definitely at an end, but appearances still deceive insofar as intolerance continues and there are isolated notable conversions.
Within the different creeds it appears that religious ideas no longer dominate the world. A wholly secular cabinet policy has not only taken the place of spiritual motives, but, with the exception of England, overmastered worldly-constitutional class forces. The nobility has little use any more for political effectiveness and everywhere seeks only dispensation and display.
It is of little moment that Rome, too, has again secularized itself. Since Alexander VII the popes have lacked any European stature; they are no more important than the church state is able to make them. Even against the Peace of Westphalia Rome has only a feeble protest. It is of little importance, further, that the Jesuits are now only bent on possession and power and are inclined to take the side of the individual countries in which they reside. Even if things were different, cabinet despotism and sultanism would carry the day and take into their service art, splendor, and every higher form of life, on the Protestant as well as the Catholic side. (Unfortunately this does not prevent intolerant actions in individual countries, nor the attitude that uniformity of faith is politically convenient. This is part of negative religion which essentially consists in hating the others.)
Given this absolutist state of affairs, the primacy of one state was inevitable, in keeping with the inner necessity of despotism which in addition to power at home also demands power abroad.
Just as surely as Spain had formerly striven for this position, France now had to do it, a country which at that time was infinitely more powerful, relatively speaking, than it is today, with by far the strongest army, conservatively estimated at 120,000 men. Russia and North America did not yet exist as far as European politics were concerned, Brandenburg was as yet no more powerful than Saxony, Austria (and for a long time England as well) had been bought by bribing the ministers, and Spain was mortally weak.
Internally, the princes, the clergy, the nobility, and parliament had hitherto passed themselves off as the state, and the middle class, let alone the masses, could not yet pretend to be the state. Any attempts at group action, special privilege, political organization, and so on had regularly fallen before ruthless monarchs. Then Louis said, “L’état c’est moi.”
The creed does not matter. Except for England, the Protestant rulers have become as despotic as the Catholic ones, and in matters of creed they are fully as intolerant. For the Catholic rulers’ authorization of perjury and other questionable things they have substitutes of their own.
The Protestant nobility for its part (Sweden and elsewhere) squeezes the people dry, like their Catholic counterparts, and even more ruthlessly.