Cardinal Richelieu's Endeavors in the World Today

Cardinal Richelieu was one of the most influential political religious men of the 17th Century. Appearing first as a representative to the States-General (1), Richelieu established his opinions early. He advocated for entrusting bishops with more political power and ensuring the Church was exempt from taxes (1).

Although not intentionally, much of his political philosophy is paralleled by the Ayatollahs of Iran. With the limited education given to the middle and lower classes following Richelieu’s reign, and only the success of the wealthy insured, the unstudied events that occurred throughout Richelieu’s reign were bound to repeat themselves. Conflict with the divine right of the kings, war with the Huguenots, and peasant dismay with having to pay the majority of the taxes were all to be mirrored in the modern world. With the theory of Divine Right of Kings in mind, an idea supported by Richelieu (1), the kings of then acted just as the Republicans in the Senate are acting now. The Senate Republicans are blocking President Obama’s third straight nominee for the U.S.

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Court of Appeals. The Republicans are opposing Obama’s prospect in an attempt to keep the court slanted to the right. This has brought about a debate over whether or not the President should have the ability to shape the Court of Appeals. The Senate Republicans are acting with a state of mind that echoes the Divine Right of Kings. They are disregarding outside opinions, as well as the need for compromise in politics, and acting in a manner that calls for their way–or the highway.

If the Republicans recognized that there is more to politics than building the biggest military and ensuring that the black President fails, then maybe there would be compromise and productivity in the Senate. The conflict with Huguenots that occurred under Cardinal Richelieu’s rule is mirrored in what is happening in Syria currently. Recently in Syria, a Syrian military base was attacked by rebels on Sunday, November 17th, leaving thirty-one Syrian soldiers dead. The attack appears to be a retaliation by the rebels after Syrian troops continued to fight in Damascus, Aleppo, and in a mountainous region known as Qalamoun. This event mirrors Cardinal Richelieu’s struggle with Huguenots. The Syrian rebels are similar to the Huguenots in that they too are religiously supported and have major military power (1).

Just as the Huguenots were backed by Charles I of England (1), the Syrian rebels are backed by China and Russia by way of their sale of weapons to the rebels. When Cardinal Richelieu was Secretary of State during the Thirty Years’ War, military costs were rising (1). To earn more money to fund the military, he implemented a higher tax on salt and land (1). The nobility, clergy, and the wealthiest of the bourgeoisie were exempt from the tax (1). This caused the poor and small middle class of the time to be responsible for paying this tax (1).

The peasants of the time were upset with this. They protested and turmoil broke out among the peasant class (1). However, Richelieu violently squashed the common people (1). These events were replicated 375 years later in Zucotti Park in lower Manhattan. Peaceful protestors were infuriated because they, middle and lower class citizens, had to carry the burden of paying the majority of taxes.

They took to the streets in early September 2010, and by October, had thousands of people join not only in New York, but in over 100 camps around the world. While many say that they had a mixed and unclear message, the group, self named the 99%, wanted the bourgeoise to pay their fair share in taxes- taxes which, like the ones Richelieu imposed (1), would pay for an oversized military. However, with a bourgeoisie mayor in power, and a police commissioner without an understanding of the First Amendment, they too were violently squashed and left to live in fear of expressing their right to free speech. When asked why we study history, the best response is: So we do not repeat it. Socially, economically, and politically, the same conflicts Richelieu faced are similar to what leaders of today endure and will continue to endure if they do not learn from our mistakes.

The replication of ancient conflicts poses the question: How can we prevent this? If one looks at both the events of Richelieu’s rule and the events of modern times, there is a common matter of a deficient education system. While our government does ensure an education, it does not ensure that the partakers of the education are adequately equipped to go out and productively contribute to the modern world. If our country does not learn that history should not only be taught enough to ensure a passing grade on a standardized test, but rather to create a lifetime thinker who questions, reads, and thinks critically, we are bound to repeat the same mistakes as our predecessors.