Lecture: Civil War and Revolution
More political history. The Stuart period is undoubtedly the most important era in the political development of England, and, by extension, that of the United States of America.
James I: Divine Right of Kings
With James I we mark the end of the "ideal" government of the Tudors. To the Tudor monarchs, including Elizabeth, the perfect government was one in which the crown retained financial independence, but was in partnership with the nobility and gentry. To a large extent, the Tudor monarchs had achieved this goal. But James (son of Mary, Queen of Scots) faced many new challenges.
The most important was James' belief in Divine Right rule. As you read in his document on kingship, James believed that the king was divinely appointed and responsible only to God for the leadership of the country. This was not a cynical or self-serving view, however; James took his responsibility (and his accountability to God) very seriously. But the Tudors had never held such a view, due to the religious turmoil of their era.
A second challenge was James' personality, which was great for ruling Scotland as James VI but unsuitable for England. James was shrewd, vulgar, realistic, wily, and pragmatic. He was short and ugly, and not at all glib or charming. These were all assets in Scotland, where rule was dependent on the respect one earned from tribal chieftains. But England had become accustomed to Elizabeth's long reign, one of charm and grace. This personality conflict was complicated by James' neglect of government. He was frequently absent from London, usually on hunting trips. He did not appoint any able Privy councillors to deal with the House of Commons, and he allowed poor Speakers of the House to take charge. These Speakers, who had to be approved by the king, were frequently outmaneuvered by Parliamentary members into doing their bidding.
James' household and company showed no better management. He lavished wealth and power on personal favorites, and was especially partial to handsome young men. The best example (because he plays such an important role in early Stuart rule) is George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham. He and other handsome guys were given monopolies on the sale of certain goods, which increased inflation and angered the middle class.
As a result of these factors, James' era shows a rise in the power of Parliament, a body increasingly filled with lawyers who wanted to make sure that the king ruled under the law. Parliament began to claim rights it had never had or which had never been used. It claimed Parliament could impeach royal councillors, an old medieval rule which hadn't been used in centuries. It claimed it could declare personal monopolies illegal, and discuss foreign policy at its sessions. James' favorites unwittingly played into Parliament's increasing power. For example, during the Thirty Years War in 1624, Catholic Spain invaded Protestant Bohemia and took over. Parliament wanted war with Spain, but James didn't. But the Duke of Buckingham wanted war too. He had recently taken the heir, Charles, to Spain to attempt a marriage contract with a princess, and had failed. This humiliation inspired him to war, and he convinced James to do something unheard of: ask Parliament whether England should cut off diplomatic relations with Spain. This was outrageous if Parliament was not supposed to be discussing foreign policy. Indeed, in 1621, James had dismissed Parliament for claiming the right to discuss foreign policy, and here he was asking them to do so only three years later!
Charles I and Civil War
When James died, his son Charles inherited the throne. Like Henry VIII, he was a second son, and only became heir upon his elder brother's untimely demise. Charles was a kind man (in fact, he's my favorite English monarch), very shy and interested in the arts. He was one of the great art patrons of the age, making possible the careers of people like Anthony van Dyck. Van Dyck painted so many famous portraits of Charles that the moustache/beard fashion worn by him is still called a Van Dyck.
Charles was, like his father, an absolutist monarch who took Divine Right seriously. He was also, like his father, bewitched by the Duke of Buckingham. Buckingham controlled foreign policy for three years because Charles let him do it. He dragged England into the French sphere by arranging the marriage of Charles to Henrietta Maria, princess of France. He then got England into war on behalf of the French Catholic crown against the French Hugeunots, who were Protestant. This was pretty much a reversal of Tudor pro-Protestant policy. The war cost a fortune; Charles had to plead for subsidies from Parliament. Then, Buckingham provoked war against France. The Commons said "no" to more money, and impeached Buckingham.
Petitions and Ship Money
Fearing a trial in the House of Lords, Charles did the unthinkable: he took responsibility for Buckingham's actions. This was a frightful thing to do, constitutionally. It undermined the long-standing legal principle that the king is simply father and care-taker of the country; all decisions are the responsibility of his ministers. This principle had been designed, not to protect the king from prosecution, but to enable him to remain legally above the daily decisions of his Privy councillors. Without this device, the king was no more than a servant of the state, instead of its supreme head. Charles then dissolved Parliament (also his legal right) and declared a "forced loan", imprisoning those who wouldn't pay for the war with France. This failed; the members simply didn't pay. Charles was forced to call Parliament again in 1628, and the members immediately presented him with The Petition of Right, which you have read. Parliament must willingly agree to any subsidies, said the document.
In August of the same year, 1628, the Duke of Buckingham was assassinated on his way to another reversal of policy: relieving the French Protestants (Huguenots) fighting the Catholic crown at La Rochelle. The murderer was John Felton, a naval officer who was anti-Catholic and probably mentally unbalanced. Parliament had spent years trying to convince Charles to get rid of Buckingham, refusing him money for anything until he was fired. Charles had asserted Divine Right, hardly tactful (or helpful) in this situation. With Buckingham's death, the tension between king and Parliament abated for a time. Charles made peace with Spain and France, and with his wife. He had been a very neglectful husband while under Buckingham's spell, but now devoted his time and his heart to Henrietta Maria. She gave birth to his heir a year later, and Charles became a devoted father too.
Beginning in 1629, Charles decided it was better to rule without Parliament, which he did for seven years. He developed new taxes and fines which channeled money directly to the crown, so he wouldn't have to rely on Parliamentary subsidies. Until 1635, these taxes and fines were all legal. They were based on precedent, such as forest laws (remember the Normans?) and town charters. But in 1635, Charles tried to levy what was called "Ship Money" to build up the Royal Navy. There was a precedent for such a tax. Coastal towns had occasionally been levied such a tax when there was a naval threat. But this "Ship Money" was to be collected in all towns. It was a low tax, fairly developed and collected by able administrators, with all accounts audited. But it became a constitutional issue, and went to the courts when many towns refused to pay. There was, essentially, a "taxpayers' (British: ratepayer's) revolt" against Ship Money.
Laud and Scotland
There were religious issues too. John Felton was not the only anti-Catholic person in Britain; most were members in good standing of the Anglican Church founded by Henry VIII and perpetuated by Elizabeth. Elizabeth, you may recall, had walked a fine line between "popery" (bringing back Catholicism) and "Puritanism" (eliminating all images and ceremony from the church) with her middle-of-the-road Anglicanism. But with the Stuarts, England faced the distinct possibility of popish contamination. James I had downplayed the issue, and was married to a Protestant. But Charles was more "high church", and had married a Catholic princess. Buckingham had been markedly pro-Catholic, and had been married to a Catholic noblewoman. Relations with Catholic Spain and Catholic France were now cordial.
Even more, Charles was cozy with the Archbishop of Canterbury, a "high church" devotee named William Laud. Charles and Laud wanted to revive ritual and ceremony in the English church, and increased the power of the bishops as the king's councillors. Since the king is the head of the Anglican Church, he can do anything he wants in this regard. The "high church" actions taken by Charles and Laud offended Puritans and the generally anti-clerical Anglicans alike. Combined with a Catholic queen and an increasingly pro-Spanish policy, rumors emerged of a "popish plot" to take over England and make it Catholic again.
In 1637, these issues caused war with Scotland. Laud installed the English prayer book at the same time as Charles installed higher taxes in Scotland, all without consulting either the Scottish council or parliament. Scotland responded with rebellion and the abolishment of bishops in the Scottish church. Charles needed money to invade Scotland and put down the rebellion, so he had to call Parliament after almost eight years.
The Civil War
In November of 1640, Parliament met to consider Charles' request. But they didn't spend much time on this. Instead, they took the opportunity of being in session to begin passing many bills, reversing royal acts. They got Ship Money and most taxes declared illegal, asserting Parliament's right to approve all revenue-raising. And they weren't afraid of the Scots; they seemed to see the army Charles was raising against Scotland as a more serious threat. By 1641, in what is called the "Long Parliament", they were working with great efficiency, voting subsidies for their own control of the army. Then Ireland rebelled, which was considered proof of the "popish plot", since Ireland was Catholic. Parliament passed the "Grand Remonstrance", a big list of grievances against Charles.
By 1642, there were armies in Ireland and Scotland, and England was approaching Civil War. Some historians believe there is a connection, claiming that the presence of military action in Ireland and Scotland created a situation where military violence became conceivable inside of England, making military solutions to political problems seem possible. Or maybe it was Charles himself who provoked civil war. He refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing as king, and left London. He went north to Nottingham, established a headquarters, and called on the Peers (House of Lords), the Commons (House of Commons), and the office-holders to join him by raising the Royal Standard. This was the traditional, feudal call to support the liege lord, and it forced a choice. Courtiers and many others dependent on the king for their livelihood followed immediately. Others tried to stay neutral. It became clear that Charles still considered himself head of the army, and that this army could be led against Parliament. There was no precedent for such a thing.
Parliament decided, even as war began, on a limited goal: get Charles to agree to Parliamentary sovereignty on the issues of (a) control of the army, and (b) approval of councillors. There was also vague discussion of some sort of religious compromise. Historians agree that the main political issue was indeed sovereignty, the right to make law. Charles believed the king had sovereignty; Parliament believed they had it. England has no written consititution; since Norman times the constitution has been one of precedent. Both sides could cite plenty of precedents. Although there are many other issues in the Civil War, the political issue is the decision of who has sovereignty in England.
When the Parliamentary troops defeated the king's army in 1646, Charles still refused to accede that Parliament had sovereignty, on any issue. He felt morally compelled, despite military defeat, to resume his rule and restore his authority. He resumed the war in 1648. Then a weird thing happened. The Parliamentary Army sent a petition back to Parliament from the field, requesting that they be permitted to bring the king to trial once they'd captured him. Parliament shelved the petition, refusing to consider such a thing. The Army then turned on London and physically occupied the approaches to Parliament at Westminster, blocking the entrance of members who were known to favor a treaty with the king rather than a trial. Only fifty members were allowed through; they were known as the "Rump" Parliament, and were under control of the Army. Oliver Cromwell, commander of the troops, was not present, but approved the action.
Trial and Death of Charles I
In 1649, after a military victory, the "Rump" put the king on trial for treason. According to Divine Right (and quite a lot of other political theory) such a thing is not possible. Just ask Henry VIII. Treason cannot be committed by a king because treason is an act against the state and the king is the state. Charles himself disputed the right of such a court to try him, as you read in Charles I and His Sentence. But it was worse than that. Charles was found guilty, and sentenced to execution. Other rulers in other countries had been executed before; such an action was not new. But in all other cases, the ruler was deposed first, then sentenced and executed as a private citizen. This was a legal and moral issue, and it was crucial to execute the person, not the monarch. We still have such distinctions today in the prosecutions of our public figures. But Cromwell was determined that the king should be beheaded "with his crown on", which was unprecedented.
And thus it was, on a cold winter day, that a scaffold was set up in front of the Banqueting Hall in Whitehall. The platform was at the level of the second story window (Brits would say first story) so that everyone could see. Charles put on two shirts, so that if he shivered from the cold the people would not think he was afraid. He said good-bye to his family, and walked out to the scaffold to be beheaded in front of the crowd.
From 1649 to 1657, England was ruled by Oliver Cromwell as a military dictatorship called The Commonwealth. Charts of the rulers and politics of Britain don't know what to do with this period; sometimes teachers don't even teach it, or they brush over it, as I'm about to do.
There are two important issues about the Commonwealth. The first related to the class structure and political rights. Parliament, and the Commonwealth government, was made up of educated, wealthy, established gentry. Such types also led the Parliamentary army. But the sovereignty they insisted on encouraged the lower classes to begin to think about their rights too. Some groups, such as the Levellers in your document, asserted the right of all English men to participate in government, even if they didn't own property. Other groups, like the Diggers, were even more radical. The Commonwealth leaders had to acknowledge that they never intended rights for all English men, but just for themselves. They were then resisted by more radical groups.
The other issue was religious. Most of the Parliamentarian leaders were Puritans, like Cromwell. They believed that the war, the victory, and the execution of the king were part of God's plan to set up the Rule of the Saints (meaning themselves). Even the Rump Parliament couldn't agree to that, and they often opposed Cromwell's efforts to make the "Saintly" government popular with the people. Cromwell tried to lower taxes; Parliament raised them to fight a commercial war against the Dutch. Cromwell considered amnesty for the Royalists who had sided with the king; Parliament said no. Cromwell considered religious toleration, even for Catholics; Parliament said no.
Thus it was that Cromwell dissolved Parliament repeatedly, but he had to keep calling them back to govern the country. His Puritan cronies passed "moral" Puritan measures which defied English tradition, closing the theatres and pubs. The government became increasingly unpopular, and Cromwell's weak son, Richard, was unable to hold it together. By 1660, Parliament and the people wanted monarchy again.
The legitimate king, Charles II (son of Charles I), was restored by a Parliamentary act of both houses. Charles had been living in France, and returned to create a court and a culture that were extraordinary in their wealth, bawdiness, and support of scientific endeavors. The court was based on Charles' powerful personality.
Charles loved his hunting spaniels devotedly. Unlike his father, he was not at all shy, nor was he stubborn about Divine Right. He was extravagant in his personal favors, particularly with women, but gave few favorites any political influence. He was fascinated by science and patronized discoveries, founding the Royal Society. He was smart enough to avoid religious issues; not being very religious himself, he wanted toleration of Catholics and an alliance with the French against the Dutch. Not being very intelligent economically, he didn't realize that France was a bigger trade threat than the Dutch.
His reign was one of extraordinary events. The plague hit London in 1665, followed by the Great Fire in 1666. The Puritans saw this as God's punishment for the Restoration. Sir Christopher Wren, the architect, rebuilt much of London in the classical style.
Theatre was revived after the dark days of Puritanism. Women, who had previously been forbidden from careers on the stage, were permitted in the acting profession. Many, such as Nell Gwynn (one of the king's many mistresses), had substantial careers in the theatre, becoming stars and the consorts of influential men.
Literary achievements were not as lively, tending to focus on Puritan themes. The most famous example is Milton's poem "Paradise Lost", in which virtue must be fought for in immoral times. Other than this work, poetry tended to be seen as extravagant, and the era is an age of prose.
Massive commercial expansion occurred, however, with the end of personal monopolies. England founded colonies and supported them in America and India, colonies which rivalled those of France and Holland. The Navigation Acts, first conceived by Cromwell, were renewed in 1660. These Acts permitted English goods to be shipped only in English ships. These ships, interestingly enough, were acquired from the Dutch during the Anglo-Dutch wars of the Commonwealth, when 1,700 ships were taken.
Most serious politically was the formation of parties over the issues of Exclusion and war with France. Parliament wanted Catholics permanently excluded from office, and passed Exclusion acts to this end. But Charles' brother James, the heir to the throne since Charles had no legitimate children (only 14 bastards), was openly Catholic. Charles himself tried to stay out of the discussion (undoubtedly remembering his father's punishment for interfering with Parliament). Parliament also wanted war with France, to relieve the Protestant Dutch in Holland. There were rumors of a French popish plot, designed to kill Charles and put James on the throne. (This one is really silly, since Charles was very popular with the French.) Charles did not want war with France; he still thought they were less of an economic threat than the Dutch.
One party formed around an alliance between the court and the Anglican bishops (against Exclusion and against war with France). The opposition called them "Tories", meaning Irish horse thieves. The other party was called the Whigs (favoring Exclusion and war with France). They were named by the Tories, after Scottish Whiggamore rebels. The best thing Charles could do was rule without Parliament during the hottest part of the conflict, which he did from 1681-1685. He got his money from an increase in customs income and excise taxes (for example, Parliament had allowed the king to collect an excise on beer, in return for abolishing the last remnants of knightly service).
The Glorious Revolution
When Charles died in 1685, his brother James tried to retain Parliamentary loyalty by agreeing to protect the Church of England (despite the fact that he himself was Catholic). He benefitted from the fact that the Whigs, who wanted Exclusion, had been discredited by their own acts of violence (including a plot to murder Charles II). Parliament and the public were becoming increasingly Tory. But Whig violence was also a real threat to James II. Some Whigs rebelled to get the Duke of Monmouth (one of Charles II's bastard sons) on the throne. James II put down the rebellion, executing the Duke and transporting the other rebels to the colonies (a punishment many considered worse than death).
James was a careful, loyal man, but he was politically stupid. He should have listened to the Earl of Danby. Danby was the creator of the Tory Party, the party of the crown in Parliament. He had created a solid alliance between James' supporters and Anglican bishops, which hadn't been easy. He urged James into an ongoing, friendly relationship with the Anglican church. But James wouldn't listen.
James II: Catholic Toleration
James was an ultraroyalist and a Catholic. He felt his father (Charles I) had lost England and the civil war because he had been too lenient. He later admitted that he himself could have held onto England if he had considered religion to be a private matter, but that he had to do his duty to God. So he did.
He insisted that Parliament tolerate Catholicism. He introduced Catholics into offices, the army, and universities. He created High Courts with Catholic judges, who attacked the Anglican bishops. They also attacked the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which had Ecclesiastical Commissions for deciding cases. James' judges did such things as firing the Chancellor of Cambridge University for failing to grant a degree to a Benedictine monk.
When Parliament would not agree to all this "Inclusion", James dissolved their session. In 1687, he created the Declaration of Indulgence, giving liberty of worship to all Catholics and Dissenters (including Puritans, Quakers, and other radicals). The Declaration was directly opposed to Parliamentary exclusion laws. The monster of sovereignty was rearing its ugly head again.
James II then made things worse in 1688 by ordering all clergymen to read the Declaration of Indulgence from their pulpits on two successive Sundays. The Archbishop of Canterbury and six other bishops desperately petitioned James to rescind the order. James declared all seven of them in rebellion and put them in the Tower. The case of the Seven Bishops was the clearest sign that James was losing control of the country. He hand-picked the judges but the Bishops were aquitted anyway in just nine hours.
William and Mary
On the night of the verdict on the Seven Bishops, a letter signed by seven prominent men, including the Bishop of London, the Early of Danby (founder of the Tories!), and Whig leaders, went to King William of the Netherlands. The letter was an invitation to come to England and take the throne.
It was the beginning of the "Glorious Revolution", and there was more at stake than just a few unruly bishops. James' appointees had made clear their popish intentions. But worse than that, James himself had made a Catholic dynasty imminent with the birth of his son. James had fathered this son by his second wife; with his first he had sired a daughter (Mary, who was married to King William of the Netherlands). The son was a complete surprise, and when James had him christened a Catholic it became apparent that a Catholic dynasty was emerging, headed by a king who thought he had sovereignty. The situation was unacceptable.
King William really wasn't a king; he was stadtholder of the Netherlands, a nation consisting of several regions (including Holland) which had unifed and achieved independence against Spain in the 16th century (you may recall that Elizabeth had helped them). But William was also the grandson of Charles I through Charles' daughter Mary (you have your chart, yes?) as well as being married to James II's first child. He was Dutch, of course, and you may recall Charles II hadn't trusted the Dutch. It was to William's advantage to secure an alliance with England against Louis XIV's expansionist France, which was the real commercial threat to both England and the Netherlands.
So William brought his army across the channel, cleverly avoiding the English navy. He did not want a battle, which might force English patriotism to go against him. After realizing that all the English army's officers were for William, James II fled to France. Sixty peers then prevailed on William to call a Parliament, and 300 previous Parliamentary members met as a Convention Parliament to set up a government with the joint rulers, William III and Mary II.
This is another crucial moment in constitutional history. The Convention Parliament gave the throne to William and Mary conditionally. The condition was assent to a Bill of Rights (see your document) which reaffirmed Parliamentary sovereignty. In fact, the Bill only had one new element: it ended the financial independence of the monarch by allowing Parliament to vote minimal revenue. This would ensure that Parliament would be called frequently; there would be no ruling without it. Everything else in the Bill simply affirmed old precedents and rights.
This moment in constitutional history is brought to you by John Locke. In his Second Treatise on Government, Locke justified the Glorious Revolution by claiming that the job of a ruler is to protect life, liberty, and property. If a monarch fails to do this, the people have a right to rebel. This was a new philosophical bent.
The older philosophies, like that of Thomas Hobbes, tended to justify absolutist or Divine Right rule. Hobbes claimed that before people made government (the "state of nature"), life was "nasty, brutish, and short". People gave up their freedoms, which were causing them harm as they killed each other competing for things, submitting to a monarch who was absolute. Hobbes had been writing in the Civil War era, justifying Charles I's sovereignty.
But Locke said, no, in the "state of nature" life was OK, except that people took each other's property. They created the monarchy to protect their property and freedoms. According to Lockean theory, James II had been threatening life, liberty and property, and therefore Parliament had a right to remove him and bring in William and Mary. Later, Thomas Jefferson's "Declaration of Independence" would use "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", but the idea was the same: the people have the right to overthrow a ruler who is depriving them of their rights.
William and Mary, once on the throne, immediately declared war on France, which Parliament willingly funded. This would do three things. First, it would save England from French popery. Second, it would save England from James II, who was trying to make a comeback by invading Ireland in hope of Irish support. He didn't get it; the Irish wanted Ireland for themselves, but they lost to William's army. William reconquered Ireland, and brought firm Protestant rule to the island. Although four-fifths of the population were Catholic, Catholics were not allowed to vote, practice law, purchase land, or own a horse worth over five pounds. They became virtual slaves (more on this later). The third reason Parliament agreed to war against France was that it would be financially feasible because of the Bank of England, which backed long-terms loans with Parliamentary revenue and joint-stock investors. This allowed the first national debt, and the new stock exchange allowed a freer flow of dealing in government securities. England was still at war with France when Anne, Mary's sister, took over as monarch.
Queen Anne (1702-1714) and the Hanoverian Succession
Anne was plagued by gout, miscarriages, and dead children. She bore fifteen children, none of whom were still alive when she succeeded at the age of 37. Although her era was one of great literary and artistic achievement (watch for Queen Anne furniture at the auction house), it was haunted by the succession crisis. Scotland would play a crucial role in both this crisis and the greatest success of her reign.
Anne's main achievement was the Act of Union (1707) with Scotland. With the Restoration in 1660, Scotland had recovered her own parliament, but had been denied independence. She had also been forced by the Navigation Acts to trade only with England. William had granted Scotland a free parliament in return for support against James II, but this didn't solve the problem of Scotland's increasing poverty and crippling trade restrictions. Scots sought Union with England in order to benefit from trade; by being unified with England, Scotland would no longer be on the outside of trade, but would be enforcing the Navigation Acts against others while enjoying their benefits in Scotland. Anne supported the Treaty of Union, in which Scotland gave up her parliament again, but retained her own law and the Presbyterian Church. She became part of the new "Great Britain", an entity including not only England, Wales and Scotland, but also Ulster (the northern area of Ireland, full of Protestants, which William III had secured).
Under Anne, the Tories enjoyed some success too. They wanted to end the long war with France, which was supported by the Whigs. The voters were tired of the war, and the declining profits of trade. They were also tired of the Whigs persecuting innocent Dissenters, who were often responsible for advances in science and engineering. But the Tories were internally divided about the succession, which would prevent their political dominance. Some Tories were right-wing Jacobites, who wanted James III (James II's son, known as the Great Pretender) crowned as king. Other Tories were against this, which split the party and gave the Whigs a majority. The Whig Parliament passed an act giving George I, of the German House of Hanover, the crown in 1714.
The Jacobites immediately responded with a rebellion called the Jacobite Rising in 1715. Tories in Northern England joined with 10,000 Scots. The Scots felt that a Stuart king, even if he was a Catholic, was better than a Protestant who was German.
The Jacobite rising was put down, and George I declared all Tories to be traitors. This turned the Tories, the traditional party of the crown, against George. The Tories, who had always called James "James Stuart, the Great Pretender" began to toast "James III" in defiance. But eventually George I was accepted, because he did the one thing so important to most of the English: he supported Anglicanism.
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