The following academic paper highlights the up-to-date issues and questions of Patronage Elizabeth. This sample provides just some ideas on how this topic can be analyzed and discussed.
The English government in the 16th century lead and promoted by Queen Elizabeth operated with a system of political patronage and grants of monopoly. These methods were used to organize the governing class as the Queen lacked a civil service, local officials and an army which would allow her to enforce her will; thus Elizabeth had to reward the governing class for her to secure the throne.
However, it can be argued that the system was both corrupted and inefficient; many believe Elizabeth’s regime was marked with cheating, bribery and unjust practices and that it did not operate effectively.
On the other hand, it was argued that the system was indeed one of high quality by standards of the historical age; especially when compared to other Western European countries at the time.
We also shouldn’t judge the operation of Elizabethan’s government by our modern standards. Source B is a letter dated back in 1595 from the Dean of Durham to Lord Burghley thanking him for his promotion to bishopric. The letter is filled with flattering and obsequious language such as descriptions of Burghley being an “especial patron to see”, and that he “now pleased God and Her Majesty” with the “extraordinary furtherance”.
Such a use of language suggests some degree of corruption as the Dean of Durham only got the position because of his pleasing attitude to Lord Burghley and that he isn’t the best man for the job.
There is also potential for inefficiency as Dean of Durham might not be a good bishop but only one which “sucks up” to Lord Burghley. Furthermore, the Dean of Durham said he is “unworthy” of the job; this shows that even he himself does not believe he will do a good job or he is trying to flatter Burghley by degrading himself. The Dean of Durham is also offering to repay his promotion by “presenting your Lordship with a hundred pounds in gold”.
This suggests corruption as the Dean of Durham is paying to buy the position and he only got the promotion because of his wealth; not ability. It shows that the system is inefficient as it allows such actions. Surely, if the Dean of Durham felt that he deserves the position; there will be no need for the gold. On the other hand, the arguments above can be countered. Firstly, the letter is of a friendly and excited tone thus we can see that the two men share a good relationship; which means they will work well together.
The Dean of Durham also looks as if he is passionate and ready for the position suggesting he will be efficient with doing his job. As for the giving of the gold; there is no evidence stating Lord Burghley ever asked for and accepted the gold; therefore it is not corruption as there has been no deal between the two prior the promotion. From my knowledge of language, formality and customs of the 16th century, the flattering language can simply be seen as a sign of appreciation and is no more than politeness. The gold giving is no more than a custom of thanking for the promotion; thus, corruption did not occur.
I also understand that Lord Burghley was a honest, trusted and highly respected figure and is arguably Elizabeth’s favorite; thus there is no need and no reason for him to be bribed with a hundred pound of gold. Source C criticizes Elizabethan’s government for showing “certain defects”, referring to the system being faulty in that it hands too much power to too few. Wallace MacCaffrey also suggests that the system “lacked adequate safeguards” which shows that there is little order putting the question of efficiency into doubt.
As a result, Lord Burghley had to “ceaselessly supervise” to stop the “worst abuses”. This suggests that politicians were corrupted as they lacked self discipline; more worrying, “protection waned with the ageing statesman’s health and strength”. The fact that the system was so dependent on one man shows inefficiency; there is also potential for corruption once Lord Burghley retires. The competition was also “too small” again suggesting inefficiency due to the lack of participation leading to the limitation of ideas.
The governing class tried to “increase incomes by any means” by “exploiting his opportunities”. This suggests that the system is inefficient in the first place in that it allows people to abuse it; it also shows that the governing class wasn’t accountable or responsible for their actions therefore allowing them to be corrupted. To add to this, I also know that the system at the time was largely based on patronage, meaning if one wanted to rise up the political ladder; one had to do so through some degree of favoritism and corruption.
This shows that the system was inefficient and promoted corruption. “Reckless competition” was also present; this may lead to inefficiency in governing. Giving an example outside the source, the rivalry between Burghley and Leicester in 1570s is a demonstration that aggressive competition was present from the very top of the government. Another example would be the power struggle between Robert Cecil and the Earl of Essex in 1590s which immensely threatened government stability and underlined the system’s inefficiency.
Quoting historian Keith Randall “there was a never ending process of competitive jockeying for position going on”. The fact that there were “black markets” where “political influence was brought and sold” shows corruptions was present. This is because the inefficient system allowed power to be distributed to the hands of the rich and therefore was not equal. I can further back this point by bringing in my knowledge on the power of politicians at the time. Politicians then had the right to prosecute those who had infringed some act of parliament and they could keep a portion of the fine.
Politicians might prosecute simply for the money and that the justice system could be brought off by the wealthy; showing elements of “legalized robbery” as historian Randell suggests. Furthermore, the courts language was in Norman Court French making law inaccessible and obscure to the general public proving that the justice system was inefficient and unfair that the majority couldn’t read the law. This lead to corruption as only the rich and the elite could understand it. Lastly, the writer of Source C states the “poverty of the Crown” lead to “unwise concessions” such as “grants of monopoly”.
Elizabeth was inefficient as she only looked at short term benefits whilst ignoring the long term consequences. From my own knowledge, I know that the 1590s to the early 1600s was not a good time for many of the English population. They had just suffered from three consecutive bad harvests and poverty was rife. What monopolies will do is allow prices to be pushed up immensely, leading to inflation. Surely, an efficient governing body will try to lower prices instead of increasing them. At the end of Source C it states that “Englishmen were turning away from their bad old habits of conspiracy and treason”.
However, from my knowledge I can counter the statement by brining in the Earl of Essex who was involved with conspiracies to overthrow Elizabeth’s regime after he lost his patent on sweet wines in 1600; he was later on executed for treason. This shows that the system of government was corrupted as men like the Earl of Essex placed personal wealth above the country. However, there are arguments that disagree with Elizabeth’s system of government as being both corrupted and inefficient. First of all, we can see from Source C that Burghley “staved off the worst abuses”.
He continuously and constantly “supervised” the system of political patronage showing that effective methods were imposed which efficiently prevented corruption. Furthermore, the argument that the Crown made “unwise concessions” can be countered by stating that the she had to fix short term and immediate challenges first before looking into the long term; this is supported by the fact that Parliament made it hard for Elizabeth to have financial access therefore she did not really have a choice.
Also, the idea of handing out monopolies was one which was financially efficient for Elizabeth; as Source C says it “offered an increase in income for no outlay”. The writer Wallace MacCaffery concludes that “high praise must be given for the transformation” of England’s politics and that “a new political order” has been established. This implies that the government was much less corrupt and much more efficient then before; highlighting the improvement and progress of the systems of government as a whole. This can be backed up with some of my own knowledge of the successes of the period.
First of all, population doubled in the 16th century therefore Elizabeth entered a period of hardship to lead. Her regime successfully imposed a long lasting and effective means of poor relief which helped ease poverty. Furthermore, social stability was generally enjoyed so as religious and political steadiness. It is also worth noting that under Elizabeth’s government the Spanish Armada was successfully defeated. It is therefore argued that none of the above accomplishments could have been present without a corruption-free and efficient system of government.
Furthermore, although there were individuals like the Earl of Essex; there were many men who served in the genuine interest of their country. The 1800 unpaid volunteers as Justices of Peace was an example; they had to do a lot of traveling and it was an effort consuming position and there was little or no financial gain. Apart from the ideas from the sources, there was a very important element which formed the systems of government. This was the position of the throne and her prerogative powers which helped secure efficiency and solidarity of the country.
Elizabeth held on to the powers to call, prorogue and dissolve Parliament, declare war and make peace, appoint and dismiss ministers and judges, determining monarch’s marriage and naming a successor. Elizabeth was also careful in not handing too much power away to Privy Council; she would not interfere with the daily running of it so it could run efficiently, however whenever it came to important decisions about the country the Queen would make sure she makes the final call.
This made the decision making process efficient as there was only one person making the decisions and disputes were prevented. Furthermore, potential cases of corruption were dismissed as the Queen makes the final decisions so there is no use buying off politicians or advisors. Corruption and inefficiency is also relative to the people’s expectation of government. I know that in the 16th century, the government did not intervene nearly as much as governments do now with social or economical problems.
The government was simply expected to keep the realm safe and secure, to help in disasters and to run the finance of the crown and country; it must be said that Elizabeth’s government did a reasonable job in those areas. To conclude, I cannot agree with the statement that the Elizabethan systems of government were both corrupt and inefficient for three reasons. Firstly, we must understand that 16th century Britain has a very different political structure as to the one we currently have. There were no democratic features such as elections, political parties or the media.
This meant that the nature of politics was inevitable to that of favorism – you had to get on someone’s good side if you wanted to excel and advance. Indeed, this would now be what we call corruption, however, back in the time it accepted as standard practices and was part of the social norm. Secondly, the prerogative powers of the Queen provided the system with both fairness and efficiency. Indeed, we will call Elizabeth’s position as a dictator nowadays but back in the time, a solid leader who held the powers to make the final calls to the most important issues was very much needed.
Thirdly, the successes of the period cannot be ignored. Elizabeth’s regime did have its glorious days such as defeating the Spanish Armada. But most importantly it was the long term stability which citizens enjoyed under Elizabeth’s government. In contrast to other Western European countries at the time, Britain had excellent social, political and religious stability which is a testimony of the success of a fair, just and efficient system of government.