Benevolent despot refers to an authoritarian rule which is characterized by kindness and generosity. It also refers to enlightened absolutism which is a situation when rulers are influenced by enlightenment. Enlightened monarchs tended to allow religious toleration, freedom of speech and the press and right to hold private property. Most of them fostered arts, sciences and education.
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Fredrick II, The Great had ideas of the French enlightenment in his youth and maintained the ideas throughout his life. Fredrick declined to endorse the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713. This was an idea which was very common with the enlightened monarchs and absolutists who believed that that they had right to govern by birth and would generally refuse constitutions.
Joseph the second was another benevolent despot. He differed from great contemporary rulers. He felt contented of his obligation to speak for the state without any control by laws and the awareness of his own form of rule. He threatened to quit his position so as to persuade his mother to halt her dislike for religious toleration which was one of the main characteristics of benevolent despots.
Five main reasons why Joseph the Second emperor of Austria and Fredrick the Great of Russia were called benevolent despot
- They allowed religious toleration
- They allowed freedom of speech and Press
- They allowed the right to hold Private property
- They fostered arts and Science
- They fostered education