Absolutism in England
The religious wars greatly impacted European thought. By the 17th century, many concluded that only a strong, centralized government free of competition from nobleman (and commanding the people’s loyalty) could provide the order and security needed to secure a tranquil and productive life.
The successful ruler must be absolute, complete with a standing army to crush opponents and a widespread bureaucracy to collect all of the necessary taxes.
In such a state, there could be only one king, one law, and one faith.
Nowhere was this phenomena more apparent than in Louis XIV’s France.
However, although the Stuart kings of England desired such autocracy and English philosophers defended the divine right of kings, during the 17th century a very different kind of state came into being in England than in France.
The English found a way to create both a strong monarchy and a representative government, complete with a modicum of religious toleration.
Between 1603 and 1715 England experienced the most tumultuous years of its long history.
Puritan resistance to the Elizabethan religious setlement merged with parliamentary opposition to the Stuart kings’ aspirations for absolute monarchy.
3 foreigners occupied the English throne, and between 1649 and 1660 England had no king at all.
Yet by the end of the century of crisis, England was the European model of limited monarchy, parliamentary government, and religious toleration.
The first of England’s foreign monarchs, James VI of Scotland (the son of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots) succeeded the childless Elizabeth as James I of England.
This first Stuart king inherited the Crown and its royal debt of nearly 500,000 pounds, a divided church, and a combative Parliament.
James’ advocacy of the divine right of kings in A Trew Law of Free Monarchies alienated Parliament and the politically powerful Puritans.
To raise additional revenue, James levied taxes (impositions) w/o Parliament’s consent.
As the rift between James and Parliament widened, the religious problems worsened.
Puritans had hoped that James’ protestant background would incline him to support their efforts to “purify” the Anglican church.
They were wrong. In January 1604 James issued the Millenary Petition to maintain and enhance the Anglican episcopacy.
Preferring flight from England to Anglican conformity, Puritan separatists founded Plymouth colony in Cape Cod Bay (N. America)
James pro-Spanish foreign policy also displeased the English.
After concluded a much needed peace with Spain in 1604, James increased suspicions when he tried to relax the penal laws against Catholics.
Then in 1618, at the outbreak of the Thirty Years War, James’ hesitation to send troops to aid Protestants in Germany made folks question his loyalty to the Anglican church.
Charles I flew even more brazenly in the face of Parliament and the Puritans than did his father.
Unable to get enough money from Parliament for the Spanish war, Charles also levied new tariffs and duties and tried to collect discontinued taxes.
He subjected the English to a forced loan, imprisoned folks who refused to pay, and billeted troops in transit to war zones in private English homes.
A furious Parliament convened in 1628 (taxes were being illegally collected to support a war that was going bad)
Parliament expressed its displeasure by making the kings’ request for more money conditional on his recognition of the Petition of Right, a big boost to constitutional freedoms everywhere . . .
Henceforth, there would be no forced loans or taxation without the consent of Parliament.
No freeman can be imprisoned without due cause.
Troops cannot be quartered in private homes.
Charles agreed to the petition, but there was little hope that he would keep his word.
In August 1628, Charles chief minister, Buckingham, was assassinated – deepening the mistrust between Charles and Parliament.
In 1629 Parliament declared that religious innovations leading to “popery” and the levying of taxes without its consent were acts of treason.
Chucky got upset and dissolved Parliament quicker than a slug bathed in salt at a BBQ (he didn’t recall parliament until 1640, when war with Scotland forced him to do so).
Charles new chief minister (Thomas Wentworth) instituted the policy of thorough in which the king exercised absolute royal control of England, independent of Parliament.
Neglected laws were enforced; existing taxes were extended into new areas (inland collection of ship money).
Charles had neither the royal bureaucracy nor the standing army to rule as an absolute monarch.
Charles and his religious minister, William Laud, tried to impose the English Episcopal system and a prayer book identical to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer on the Scots.
Faced with Scottish resistance, Charles sought financial help from Parliament. They refused to consider his request until Charles agreed to redress a long list of political and religious grievances.
Charles dissolved Parliament again in May 1640
In the summer of 1640, the Presbyterian Scots invaded England and defeated an English army at the battle of Newburn.
Charles was forced to reconvene Parliament on their terms.
The Landowners resented Charles’ financial measures
Ditto the merchant classes
Archbishop Laud and the Earl of Stafford were both impeached by the House of Commons
Convicted by a Parliamentary bill of attainder, Stafford was executed in 1641.
Laud was imprisoned and executed in 1645.
The Courts of Star Chamber and of High Commission were abolished
Levying new taxes w/o Parliament’s consent and the inland extension of ship money became illegal.
It was resolved that no more than 3 years should elapse between meetings of Parliament.
Parliament could not be resolved without its own consent.
The accomplishment of the Long Parliament was the lasting declaration of the political and religious rights of the English people represented in Parliament against autocratic govt.
Parliament remained divided over religious reform.
Presbyterians (majority) wanted to reshape England along Calvinist lines with local congregations subject to higher representative governing bodies (presbyteries).
Independents wanted ever congregation to be its own final authority.
A considerable number of conservatives were determined to preserve the English church, as is
In 1641 a rebellion erupted in Ireland, requiring an army to suppress it.
Parliament did not trust Charles with an army, so on December 1, 1941 they presented him with the “Grand Remonstrance,” a 200 article summary of popular and parliamentary grievances against the crown.
In January 1642 Charles invaded Parliament with his soldiers to arrest Pym and the other leaders.
Shocked by the king’s actions, the House of Commons passed the Militia Ordinance giving Parliament control of the army.
Civil War gripped England from 1642-46
Will England be ruled by an absolute monarch or by a parliamentary gov’t.
Will the English religion be conformist high Anglican and controlled by the king’s bishops or cast into a ore decentralized, Presbyterian system of church governance.
Cavaliers: Charles’ supporters, located in he northwestern half of England. (Nobility)
Roundheads: Parliamentary opposition with its stronghold in the southeastern half of the country. (Townspeople)
Two factors led to Parliament’s victory
a) An alliance with Scotland in 1643 consummated when John Pym convinced Parliament to accept the terms of the Solemn League and Covenant, which committed Parliament, like the Scots, to a Presbyterian system of church government.
b) The Parliamentary army was reorganized under Oliver Cromwell.
Cromwell tolerated and established majority church that permitted Protestant dissenters to worship outside it.
In 1644, the allies won the Battle of Marston Moor (largest engagement of war)
In Dec. 1648 Colonel Thomas Pride barred Presbyterians (the majority in Parliament) from taking their seats.
The Independent Rump Parliament then exercised supreme military power in England.
On Jan. 30, 1649, Charles was tried by a special court and executed as a public criminal.
The monarchy, House of Lords, and the Anglican Church were all abolished.
From 1649 – 1660 England officially became a Puritan republic.
Cromwell’s army conquered Ireland and Scotland during this time, creating the single political entity of Great Britain
In 1653 the House of Commons entertained a motion to disband the expensive 50k man army).
Cromwell responded by disbanding Parliament.
Thereafter, Cromwell ruled as Lord Protector.
Cromwell became hated as his military dictatorship proved as ineffective as Charles’.
Cromwell’s army and foreign adventures were very expensive. Trade and commerce suffered throughout England and near chaos reigned.
The people resented Puritan prohibitions on the theatre, dancing, and drunkenness.
Cromwell treated Anglicans as poorly as Charles treated Puritans.
When he died in 1658, the English had tired of their Puritan experiment and wanted to return to traditional institutions of government.
The Stuart monarchy was restored in 1660 when Charles II, son of Charles I, returned to England to much fanfare.
With charm and political skill, Charles II returned England to the status quo of 1642 (Hereditary monarch on British throne; Anglican church restored)
Because of his secret Catholic sympathies, Charles favored a policy of religious toleration.
He wanted to allow all persons outside the Church of England, Catholics as well as Puritans, to worship freely so long as they remained loyal to the British Crown.
But the Anglicans in Parliament had other plans.
They didn’t think Patriotism and religious issues could be so separate.
Between 1661 and 1665, through a series of laws known as the Clarendon Code, Parliament excluded Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, and Independents from the religious and political life of the nation.
Penalties were imposed for attending non-Anglican worship services.
Strict adherence to the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine Articles was required.
Anyone who wanted to serve in local gov’t had to swear loyalty oaths to the Church of England
Under Charles II, England challenged the Dutch to become Europe’s commercial and business center.
Navigation Acts were passed requiring all imports into England to be carried on English ships or in ships registered to the same country as the goods it carried.
Laws were intended to cut Dutch out of lucrative shipping market.
A series of naval wars broke out between England and Holland.
During this time, Charles tightened his grasp on Britain’s North American and Caribbean colonies.
Charles wanted more money, so in 1670 England and France formally allied against the Dutch in the Treaty of Dover.
Charles pledged to announce his conversion to Catholicism when circumstances permitted in exchange for 167K pounds from Louis XIV + 250K pounds per year from France.
In 1672, in an attempt to unite the English people behind the war with Holland, and as a sign of good faith to Louis XIV, Charles issued a Declaration of Indulgence suspending all laws against Roman Catholics and Protestant non-conformists.
However, Parliament refused to grant money for the war until Charles rescinded the measure.
Charles withdrew the measure, and Parliament passed the Test Act requiring all officials of the crown, civil and military, to swear an oath against the doctrine of transubstantiation - a requirement that no loyal Roman Catholic could reasonably meet.
The Test Act was aimed at the king’s brother James, the duke of York, heir to the throne and recent convert to Catholicism.
In 1678 a notorious liar, Titus Oates, swore before a magistrate that Charles’ Catholic wife, through her physician, was plotting with Jesuits and Irishmen to kill the king so that James could assume the throne.
The matter was taken before Parliament, where it was believed.
In the ensuing hysteria, known as the Popish Plot, several people were tried and executed.
Suspicious of Parliament, Charles turned to customs duties and assistance from Louis XIV for revenue. As such, he ruled from 1681 – 85 w/o recalling Parliament.
During those years, Charles drove the earl of Shaftesbury into exile, executed several Whig leaders for treason, and bullied local corporations into electing members of Parliament submissive to the royal will.
When Charles died in 1685, he left James the prospect of a Parliament filled with loyal royal friends.
Unfortunately, James II did not know how to make the most of a good thing. He alienated Parliament by insisting on the repeal of the Test Act.
When Parliament refused, he dissolved it and appointed known Catholics to positions on the court and in the army.
In 1687, James issued a Declaration of Indulgence which suspended all religious tests (for holding office) and permitted free worship.
Local candidates for Parliament who opposed the declaration were removed from their offices by soldiers and replaced by Catholics.
In 1688 James imprisoned 7 Anglican bishops who had refused to publicize his suspension of laws against Catholics.
Under the guise of a policy of toleration, James was actually trying to subject all English institutions to the power of the monarchy.
His goal was absolutism and the English feared James planned to imitate the policy of Louis XIV.
In 1685 Louis had revoked the Edict of Nantes (which had protected French Protestants for almost a century) and had returned France to Catholicism using dragoons when people protested.
A national consensus quickly formed against the monarchy of James II.
On June 20, 1688, James’ second wife, a Catholic, gave birth to a son, a male Catholic heir to the English throne.
The English had hoped that James would die w/o a male heir and that the throne would revert to his Protestant eldest daughter, Mary, the wife of William III of Orange.
Within days of the birth of a Catholic male heir, Whig and Tory members of Parliament formed a coalition and invited William to invade England to preserve “traditional liberties” of the Anglican Church and parliamentary government.
In Nov. 1688, William of Orange arrived with his army and was received without opposition by the English people.
In the face of sure defeat, James fled to France and the protection of Louis XIV.
With James out of the picture, Parliament declared the throne vacant and proclaimed William and Mary the new monarchs in 1689.
Thus they completed a successful “bloodless revolution.”
William and Mary recognized a Bill of Rights that limited the powers of the monarchy and guaranteed the civil liberties of the English privileged classes.
Henceforth, England’s monarchs would rule by the consent of Parliament and would be subject to law.
The Bill of Rights prohibited Roman Catholics from occupying the English throne.
The Toleration Act of 1689 permitted worship by all Protestants and outlawed Roman Catholics and anti-Trinitiarians.
In 1701, The Act of Settlement was the final measure closing the century of strife.
Bill provided for the English crown to go to the Protestant House of Hanover in Germany if Queen Anne, the second daughter of James II and the last of the Stuart Monarchs, was not survived by her children.
Consequently, in 1714 the Elector of Hanover became King George I of England, the third foreign monarch to occupy the English throne in just over a century.
The Glorious Revolution of 1688 established a framework of government by and for the governed.
It received classic philosophical justification in John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government (1690)*
Although not a “popular” revolution (like the American and French a century later) the Glorious Revolution established in England a permanent check on monarchical power by the classes represented in Parliament.