6 "enlightened" despots in 2nd half of 18th century. 1st rank: Frederick the Great, Catherine the Great, and Joseph II. 2nd rate: Don Carlos (formerly of Naples, later Charles II of Spain), Emperor Leopold II, and Gustavus III of Sweden. Really tyrants, but confined revolution to France and delayed collapse of monarchy 125 years.
Term comes from German Aufklärung--philosophes, economists, and encyclopaedists. Little practical experience--rather worked out their theories like Euclid.
3 Philosophes stand out: Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Rousseau
Voltaire had negative force--"a hater of evil rather than a lover of good." Candide, Micromegas, Philosophical Dictionary, Essays on Newton.
Rousseau and his Émile.--enlightened despots preferred Voltaire and Montesquieu, who argued that man needs gov't to control him. Rousseau preferred revolution.
Economists are physiocrats. Rousseau proved the essential goodness of men; the Physiocrats proved the natural goodness of the soil, which provided wealth through crops and minerals. This originated by Quesnay and formulated by Gournay as Laissez faire et laissez passer--major disciples Louis XVI's minister Turgot and Adam Smith.
Ideas published in books and pamphlets and discussed in salons.
Encyclopaedia published 1751-1772 edited by Diderot and D'Alembert. Attacked religious superstition, protectionism, and arbitrary power of the crown--thus twice repressed and confiscated. But fascinated with its long technical articles. Voltaire's story of Louis XV and Mme Pompadour arguing over gunpowder and calling for its 21 volumes!
Frederick the Great lived 20 years after the 7 Years' War. Thanks to philosophes he had compulsory education, extention of religious toleration to the Jesuits, judicial reform (abolition of torture!) and codification of the law. Prussia became the most efficient nation in Europe--though perhaps also the most morally corrupt.
Catherine the Great daughter of a German princeling. Elizabeth and Frederick the Great picked her as the bride of the Grand Duke Peter (cf. Marie Leczinsky). Peter a drunk degenerate--his devotion to Frederick the Great--tried to Prussianize the Russian army and turn the Orthodox Church Lutheran. Coup of "Katherina Alexeieuna" who ruled for 34 years (1762-1796)
Catherine's failed reforms--her meeting with Diderot, her commission to reform the law (200 sessions!), the sad fate of her serfs--Pugachov's rebellion (1790-1775--see Pushkin's novel The Captain's Daughter). Advert in St. Petersburg Gazette 1789: "For sale a hairdresser and a pedigree cow." Catherine's vaccination!
Joseph II and his mother Maria Theresa. He lectures his sister Marie Antoinette and judges the French. Views on toleration. Tries to unite country by refusing crown in Budapest and supressing Hungarian, Italian, and Croation--wanted Vienna the capital and German the language. Hungarians withhold support from his Turkish war (and he gives way) and Austrian Netherlands break into open revolt and form United States of Belgium (settled by Leopold). Thought he was a failure, but preserved Austro-Hungarian Empire until World War I!
Poland, Sweden, and Turkey separated the centrol German powers from their rival Russia and thus were ripe for partition. Gustavus III saved Sweden, and the partition of Turkey postponed (mostly) til 19th century. Only Poland run over in the classic diplomatic crime of the 18th century.
First partition made possible by the death of Augustus III in 1763. Russia already controlled most of Poland and wanted to preserve the old constitution with its "liberum veto" and elected monarchy. Frederick wanted valley of the lower Vistula to link up Pomerania with East Prussia. Austria didn't care, but wanted "compensation" if Poland split up. France had 2 policies: official non-intervention favored by Choiseul and the interventionist plan of Louis XV's "King's Secret."
Russia gave throne to Stanislas Poniatowski, one of Catherine's former lovers, a would-be enlightened despot. Polish nobles formed Confederation of Bar when he tried to introduce religious toleration. France sent Doumouriez to help the conservative nobles, and following lead of Francis I got Turkey to declare war on Russia.
Disaster! Lack of discipline of Polish nobles, who refused to arm their serfs. Inefficiency of Turks--cannon and turbans!
Frederick proposed the partition of Poland to bring about "peace." "Maria Theresa wept, but she took." Treaty signed 1772 at St. Petersburg. Austria got Galicia--2 1/2 million people. Frederick got East Prussia (except Danzig!)--700,000, Catherine got part of Lithuania--1 1/2 million. Russians looted; Frederick transported 7,000 girls to East Prussia with featherbeds and pigs.
Frederick to Joseph: "I shall not be alive, but in twenty year's time it will be necessary for both of us to join in alliance against Russian despotism."
2nd and 3rd partitions 1793 and 1795.
In 1770 Catherine inposed Treaty of Kutchuk Kainardji that began the partition of Turkey. Russia got Sea of Azov and independence of the Crimia, freedom to navigate the Black Sea and to protect Christians in Turkish empire.
Then in 1781 Catherine and Joseph took more. Russia got North Coast of Black Sea as far west as Odessa. Moldavia and Wallachia (Rumania) are free states, and Austria annexes Serbia and Bosnia. "To Byzantium!"