Ch 09 Commonwealth and Compromise

Ch.09-Commonwealth & Compromise

Hits: 1868

CHAPTER IX: COMMONWEALTH AND COMPROMISE

SECTION 3: THE COMPROMISE OF 1660

 

ON THE DEATH OF CROMWELL, HIS SON RICHARD ‘TUMBLEDOWN DICK’ WAS DECLARED PROTECTOR, BUT HE WAS USED AS A PAWN IN A POLITICAL TURMOIL.

THE ARMY REFUSED TO RECOGNISE HIM, AND HE RESIGNED, THOUGH THE ARMY WAS HEADING FOR FRAGMENTATION.

THE COMMONWEALTH DISAPPEARED IN A WELTER OF CONFLICTING FACTIONS. PARLIAMENT WAS DISSOLVED AND NEW ELECTIONS CALLED FOR.

CHARLES, IN EXILE, WAS APPROACHED AND RECALLED, AND, IN ‘THE DECLARATION OF BREDA’, HE PROMISED A GENERAL PARDON, EXCEPT FOR THOSE DIRECTLY INVOLVED WITH CHARLES I’S EXECUTION. HE UNDERTOOK TO ALLOW RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE AND TO RESPECT EXISTING PROPERTY RELATIONS.

THE NEW PARLIAMENT MET, MADE UP OF ROYALIST  PRESBYTERIANS, AND ITS FIRST ACT WAS TO INVITE CHARLES TO RETURN.

AFTER THE CEREMONIES WERE OVER, THE FRENCH AMBASSADOR WROTE TO LOUIS XIV:

“THIS GOVERNMENT HAS A KING, BUT, AT THE BOTTOM, IT IS FAR FROM BEING A MONARCHY.”

CHARLES I HAD CLAIMED TO BE KING BY ‘DIVINE RIGHT’: CHARLES II KNEW BETTER AND WAS KING BY PERMISSION OF LANDLORDS AND MERCHANTS IN PARLIAMENT AND COULD BE DISMISSED AS EASILY AS HE HAD BEEN SUMMONED.

CHARLES II SURVIVED BY EXPLOITING THE DIFFERENCES WITHIN THE RULING CLASSES AND BY KEEPING HIS INTENTIONS TO HIMSELF.

THE ‘RESTORATION’ INCLUDED RE-OWNERSHIP OF CROWN AND CHURCH LANDS, BUT LANDOWNERS RID THEMSELVES OF THE FEUDAL DUES OWED TO THE CROWN, WHICH GAVE CHARLES AN EXCISE DUTY, AND THEREFORE SHIFTED THEIR OBLIGATIONS FROM CROWN TO STATE.

BY THIS ACTION, KARL MARX SAYS THEY “VINDICATED FOR THEMSELVES THE RIGHTS OF MODERN PRIVATE PROPERTY IN ESTATES, WHERE PREVIOUSLY THEY HAD ONLY HAD A FEUDAL TITLE.”

IN THIS RESPECT, THE RESTORATION WAS A COMPLETION RATHER THAN A REVERSAL OF THE REVOLUTION.

SETTLEMENTS OF PRIVATE CLAIMS WERE MORE DIFFICULT BECAUSE LANDLORDS FELL INTO TWO CATEGORIES, CAVALIER ROYALISTS AND PRESBYTERIAN ROYALISTS, AND SO EARLIER PAYMENTS AND FINES WERE NOT EASILY RESOLVED.

THE WHOLE MESS CREATED DIVISIONS. IN 1661, A NEW PARLIAMENT MET AND WAS NOW DOMINATED BY ROYALIST GENTRY. THOSE PREVIOUSLY POLITICALLY ACTIVE IN THE COMMONWEALTH WITHDREW FROM PUBLIC NOTICE.

THE CAVALIER PARLIAMENT OF 1661 SAW THE PRESBYTERIANS AS A POLITICAL PARTY.

“A PARLIAMENT OF LEWD YOUNG MEN CHOSEN BY A FURIOUS PEOPLE TO SPITE THE PURITANS”

REVENGE WAS BEING ENACTED.

THE FIRST WORK OF PARLIAMENT WAS TO PRODUCE THE ‘CLARENDON CODE’, NAMED AFTER HYDE, EARL OF CLARENDON, WHICH DROVE THE PURITANS INTO ILLEGALITY AND INCLUDED A DISMANTLING OF THE PURITAN PARTY AND ITS POWER IN THE TOWNS AND CHURCH.

THE CLARENDON CODE DESTROYED PRESBYTERIANISM AND INDEPENDENTS TOO, AND ONLY CONVERTS FOUND THEIR WAY INTO THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND, WHERE THEY LATER FORMED A WING OF THE WHIG PARTY.

ROYALISTS WERE STRONGLY ANGLICAN AND BECAME THE MODERN TORIES. THE STRUGGLE CONTINUED BETWEEN WHIG AND TORY AND, IN ESSENCE, BECAME A STRUGGLE BETWEEN TOWN AND COUNTRY.

 HOWEVER, PARLIAMENTS CHANGED LITTLE, AND CHARLES DISCOVERED HOW DIFFICULT IT WAS TO GET MONEY.

 IN 1665, WAR BROKE OUT WITH HOLLAND OVER TRADE DISPUTES AND LAND IN AMERICA AND THE EAST.  THIS WAS WHEN NEW YORK BECAME BRITISH.

OVERALL, THE WAR WAS INDECISIVE, AND ENGLAND WAS DISTRACTED BY FRANCE, WHICH WAS BECOMING THE MOST SERIOUS ENEMY, JUST AS CHARLES WAS ANXIOUS TO BEFRIEND LOUIS XIV FROM WHOM HE HOPED TO GET FINANCE AND BECOME INDEPENDENT OF PARLIAMENT.

THE STRENGTH OF THE ANTI FRENCH FEELING RESULTED IN A TRIPLE ALLIANCE WITH PROTESTANT HOLLAND AND SWEDEN IN 1668.

CHARLES NEUTRALISED THIS WITH A SECRET TREATY WITH FRANCE AND UNDERTOOK TO DECLARE HIMSELF A CATHOLIC WHEN SAFE TO DO SO. IN RETURN, LOUIS WOULD GIVE CHARLES AN ANNUAL SUBSIDY TO MAKE HIM INDEPENDENT OF PARLIAMENT.

SO A THIRD DUTCH WAR, IN WHICH ENGLAND AND FRANCE WERE IN ALLIANCE, BEGAN IN 1672.

CHARLES COULD NOT INTERVENE EFFECTIVELY BECAUSE OF PARLIAMENT'S DISLIKE OF THE WAR AND EXTREME RELUCTANCE TO VOTE SUPPLIES.

THE GOVERNMENT WAS ALREADY BORROWING FROM THE LONDON GOLDSMITHS ON THE SECURITY OF FUTURE TAXES.

THE DIFFICULTIES BECAME A CRISIS WHEN IN 1672 IT REPUDIATED THE WHOLE DEBT OF £1,328,526.

THE INTEREST RATES ROSE TO 8%, BUT IT WAS NOT UNTIL LATER THAT THE CAPITAL SUM WAS INCORPORATED INTO THE NATIONAL DEBT. THE GOVERNMENT OF CHARLES SUBSEQUENTLY LOST SUPPORT OF THE LONDON FINANCE HOUSES.

AROUND THIS TIME, WE CAN PLACE THE ENDING OF THE ALLIANCE BETWEEN THE SQUIREARCHY AND THE UPPER CLASSES OF THE TOWNS, WHICH, UNDER TUDOR ELIZABETH, HAD HELD ENGLAND TOGETHER, DESPITE OPPOSITION FROM THE EARLY STUARTS WHOSE DISSOLUTION HAD WEAKENED THE COMMONWEALTH AND WHOSE TEMPORARY REVIVAL HAD STRENGTHENED THE RESTORATION.

CHANGE HAD COME FOR GOOD (EXCEPT FOR 1688). (See next section.)

THE LONG LIFE OF THE CAVALIER PARLIAMENT (1661-78) PROFESSIONALISED POLITICS IN ENGLAND WITH THE ONSET OF POLITICAL PARTIES. HOWEVER, UNDISGUISED CORRUPTION, WHICH CONTINUED INTO THE 18th CENTURY, MAKES SO MANY SUBSEQUENT CHANGES SO COMPLICATED TO ANALYSE, DESPITE THEM BEING SO INSIGNIFICANT.

ON THE ONE HAND, THERE WAS THE TORY SQUIRES. AGAINST THEM WERE THE WHIGS, A CURIOUS COMBINATION OF MERCHANTS, CAPITALIST FINANCIERS AND POWERFUL ARISTOCRATS LIKE THE DUKES OF BEDFORD AND DEVONSHIRE.

BEHIND THE WHIGS, AND MORE RADICAL, WERE THE LARGELY PURITAN LOWER MIDDLE CLASSES OF THE TOWNS AND INCLUDED THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY, WHO SKILLFULLY STIMULATED THE PASSIONS OF THE SLUM POPULATION.

AT TIMES, THIS DANGEROUS ALLY (THE WORKERS) WAS USED AGAINST THE WHIGS BY THE TORIES WITH TERRIBLE EFFECT.

STRUGGLES CONTINUED UNTIL A PANIC REARED. A POPISH PLOT WAS EXPOSED. IT WAS JUST A STORY, BUT WAS BELIEVED, AND A REIGN OF TERROR BEGAN.

CATHOLICS WERE EXECUTED OR IMPRISONED. THIS UNPOPULARITY FOR THE CATHOLICS WAS LARGELY POLITICAL AND SOCIAL. “POPERY AND WOODEN SHOES” WAS THE CRY, A FRENCH SAYING.

PEOPLE BEGAN TO EQUATE CATHOLICS WITH POLITICAL ABSOLUTISM AND A LOW STANDARD OF LIVING.

ALL THIS, WHEN A DEGREE OF FAVOUR AND RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE TOWARDS ALL HAD BEEN SHOWN, BUT PEOPLE BELIEVED ANY STORY ABOUT THE POPISH PLOT, INCLUDING THE DEATH OF CHARLES, WHO HAD A HAND IN THE RUMOURS.

THE TORIES KNEW THE STORY WAS ABSURD BUT WERE AFRAID TO SAY SO. THE WHIGS AND SHAFTESBURY KNEW IT WAS ABSURD TOO, BUT SEIZED ON IT AS A WEAPON TO DESTROY THEIR POLITICAL ENEMIES.

THE GREAT MAJORITY OF THE POPULATION BELIEVED IT, AS DID MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT, AND, UNDER THESE CONDITIONS, THE WHIGS TOOK POWER AND DEMANDED THE DISBANDMENT OF THE ARMY, WHICH THEY BELIEVED TO BE COMMANDED BY CATHOLICS. THEY PERCEIVED THE KING INTENDED TO USE THE ARMY AGAINST THEM TO ESTABLISH ABSOLUTISM, SIMILAR TO THAT OF LOUIS XIV. THEY WERE SOMEWHAT JUSTIFIED IN THIS THINKING.

NEW ELECTIONS OF 1679 SAW THE WHIGS RETURNED WITH A MASSIVE MAJORITY, BUT IT WAS THE FIRST OF THREE SHORT PARLIAMENTS WHERE THE WHIGS WERE DETERMINED TO PREVENT JAMES FROM SUCCEEDING HIS BROTHER, CHARLES, AS KING.

 THESE EFFORTS FAILED BECAUSE CHARLES PLAYED FOR TIME AND THE REBUILDING OF THE TORY PARTY, AND ALSO THE WHIGS COULD NOT AGREE WHO SHOULD REPLACE CHARLES.

IT WAS EITHER MARY, A PROTESTANT, AND HER DUTCH HUSBAND WILLIAM OF ORANGE, OR THE DUKE OF MONMOUTH, A REPUTED SON OF CHARLES BUT WHOSE ILLEGITIMACY WAS AS CERTAIN AS HIS PATERNITY WAS DOUBTFUL.

MOST WHIGS SUPPORTED MONMOUTH. ALTHOUGH HE WAS THE SAME STOCK AS THE TORIES, THEY WOULD NOT HAVE ACCEPTED HIM, IN PART BECAUSE OF HIS ACTIONS OVER THE POPISH PLOT.

THE PARLIAMENT OF 1681 WAS SPLIT MORE EVENLY, BUT CHARLES HAD RUN OUT OF MONEY AGAIN, AND THE ARMY WERE UNPAID AND ABOUT TO MUTINY.

CHARLES SUMMONED PARLIAMENT TO OXFORD AND OFFERED A COMPROMISE BY WHICH JAMES WOULD SUCCEED BUT WILLIAM AND MARY WOULD ACT JOINTLY AND GOVERN IN HIS NAME.

AT THIS TIME, CHARLES’S OPPENENTS DID NOT REALISE A NEW ALLIANCE WITH LOUIS HAD RESULTED IN MORE CASH FOR CHARLES TO MAKE HIM INDEPENDENT OF PARLIAMENT.

WITHOUT WARNING AND AWAY FROM WHIG LONDON, CHARLES MOVED TO THE OFFENSIVE WITH TORY GENTRY, THE CHURCH AND THE ARMY. HE HAD A FORMIDABLE FORCE, TOO STRONG TO BE CHALLENGED, AND, FOR THE LAST FOUR YEARS OF HIS LIFE, HE RULED WITH MORE ABSOLUTE POWER THAN ANY OF HIS FAMILY BEFORE HIM.

NEXT
THE COMPROMISE OF 1688

We use cookies to improve our website and your experience when using it. Cookies used for the essential operation of the site have already been set. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our Privacy Policy.

I accept cookies from this site