Ch 09 Commonwealth and Compromise

Ch.09-Commonwealth & Compromise

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CHAPTER IX: COMMONWEALTH AND COMPROMISE

SECTION 4: THE COMPROMISE OF 1688

 

THE EVENTS OF 1681 APPEARED TO SHOW A COMPLETE REVERSAL AND UNDOING OF THE CIVIL WAR AND COMMONWEALTH GAINS.

THE WHIGS FOUGHT THE CLARENDON CODE AND CHARLES II’S VICTORY IN REORGANISING THE MACHINERY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT, BUT, FEARING ARREST, MANY FLED THE COUNTRY IN NOVEMBER 1682.

PLOTS TO OVERTHROW CHARLES WERE DISCOVERED, AND RUSSELL AND SIDNEY WERE CAPTURED AND EXECUTED.

DURING 1683-84, MOB RULE FOLLOWED, AND ATTACKS WERE MADE ON WHIG STRONGHOLDS, INCLUDING IN LONDON. MANY PROVINCIAL TOWNS SURRENDED THEIR CHARTERS BEFORE WORSE BEFELL THEM.

CHARLES WAS ASSURED OF A TORY HOUSE OF COMMONS, IF EVER HE SHOULD NEED TO CALL ONE TOGETHER, AND THE WHIG PARTY APPEARED TO HAVE DISPERSED AND BEEN DESTROYED.

YET, THE COUNTER REVOLUTION WAS NEITHER COMPLETE NOR AS SECURE AS IT APPEARED.

THE SOCIAL BASIS OF THE WHIGS COMPRISED THE CLASS OF PROSPEROUS MERCHANTS, AND THEY WERE DOING WELL AND WERE STRONGER THAN EVER.

THE PERIOD BETWEEN 1660 AND 1668 HAD BEEN ONE OF RAPID COMMERCIAL EXPANSION. AN ALLIANCE WITH PORTUGAL AND CLOSER TIES WITH SPAIN AND HER COLONIES OPENED NEW MARKETS FOR ENGLAND. THE PLANATIONS IN THE WEST INDIES GREW STEADILY. THE EAST INDIA COMPANY BECAME NOT ONLY AN IMPORTANT TRADING POST, BUT ALSO A POLITICAL FORCE, AND ALL OF THIS WAS IN THE HANDS OF THE WHIGS.

CHARLES WANTED INDEPENDENCE FROM THE STATE, AND THAT IS WHAT HE GOT. SUBSIDIES COULD NOT BE COUNTED ON, AND THE TORIES PROVED AS TIGHT FISTED THEN AS TODAY.

SOONER OR LATER, THE GOVERNMENT WOULD BE FORCED TO GO CAP IN HAND TO THE CITY AND THAT WOULD ENTAIL CONFORMING TO THE LATTER’S TERMS!

THINGS DID NOT HAPPEN THIS WAY BECAUSE JAMES PLAYED INTO THE HANDS OF THE WHIGS BY TRYING TO PUSH THE COUNTER REVOLUTION TO FAR AND TOO FAST.

RESTORING CATHOLICISM WAS A DISASTER, AS HE RELIED ON THE MOST REACTIONARY ELEMENTS OF THE COUNTRY, THE JESUITS AND THE CATHOLIC GENTRY.

HIS ATTEMPTS WERE UNWELCOME TO MANY CATHOLICS, WHO FORESAW FAILURE. ADDED TO THAT, IN 1685 THE FRENCH HUGUENOTS FLED CATHOLIC PERSECUTION. HUNDREDS OF THOUSAND WERE DISPERSED ALL OVER EUROPE, AND OVER 50,000 SETTLED IN ENGLAND. THEY WERE SILK WEAVERS, HATTERS, PAPERMAKERS AND GLASS BLOWERS. THEY BROUGHT THEIR INDUSTRIAL SKILLS TO ENGLAND AND TALES OF CATHOLIC ATROCITIES THAT LOST NOTHING IN THE TELLING.

YET JAMES’S REIGN OPENED FAVOURABLY ENOUGH WITH GENEROUS SUPPLIES FROM A PARLIAMENT PACKED WITH TORIES.

BUT, IN JULY, A RISING ON BEHALF OF THE DUKE OF MONMOUTH IN SOMERSET CRUSHED A RISING OF PEASANTS AND WEAVERS. THE REASON WAS A DEPRESSION. CERTAINLY, A DECADE LATER, THE TAUNTON CLOTHIERS COMPLAINED OF COMPETITION, LOW WAGES AND CHEAP WOOL. THE IRISH COMPETITION AFFECTED THE WEST COUNTRY BADLY.

 THE REBELS WERE SHOT AND RIDDEN DOWN AT SEDGEMOOR, AND, IN THE MAN HUNT THAT FOLLOWED, HUNDREDS WERE EXECUTED OR SHIPPED TO THE WEST INDIAN PLANATIONS.

THE GOVERNMENT TURNED THE REBELLION TO ITS ADVANTAGE AND INCREASED THE SIZE OF THE ARMY, WHICH HAD BEEN MOSTLY DISBANDED AS EVERY ATTEMPT BY CHARLES TO KEEP A STANDING ARMY HAD BEEN RESISTED. NOW JAMES HAD A FORCE OF 30,000 STRONG, AND THE 13,000 STATIONED AT HOUNSLOW TO ‘PROTECT’ LONDON WERE COMMANDED BY CATHOLIC OFFICERS.

JAMES BEGAN TO DISMANTLE THE CHURCH, REPLACING PROTESTANTS WITH CATHOLICS, AND APPOINTED CATHOLICS AS MAGISTRATES AND EVEN BISHOPS.

 IN 1667-8, A DECLARATION OF INDULGENCE WAS ISSUED SUSPENDING ALL LAWS BY WHICH CATHOLICS WERE BARRED FROM MILITARY AND CIVIL OFFICE.

FOR THE OLD PURITAN GUARD, THIS WAS A STEP TOO FAR. HATRED OF POPERY WAS STRONG, AND IT WAS OBVIOUS THAT RELIGIOUS TOLERANCES GAINED WERE BEING ABUSED.

ANGLIAN CLERGY REFUSED TO CARRY OUT A ROYAL ORDER TO READ THE DECLARATION IN THEIR CHURCHES, AND, WHEN SEVEN BISHOPS WERE ARRESTED AND TRIED, THEY WERE AQUITTED AND FOUND THEMSELVES STRANGELY AS HEROES OF THE PURITAN LONDON CROWD.

IN BREAKING WITH THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND, JAMES WAS BREAKING WITH THE TORY SQUIREARCHY, WHOM CHARLES HAD SEIZED UPON AS ONE CLASS UPON WHOM ABSOLUTE MONARCHY MIGHT BE BASED.

THIS MADE JAMES’S FAILURE CERTAIN.

WHIGS AND TORIES JOINED IN OPEN DISCUSSION WITH WILLIAM OF ORANGE, AGREEING TO SUPPORT OPEN REBELLION IN ENGLAND.

WILLIAM ASSEMBLED A FLEET AND AN ARMY AND WAITED NERVOUSLY, CONCERNED THAT LOUIS OF FRANCE WOULD ATTACK.

IN NOVEMBER 1688, HE LANDED AT TORBAY. JAMES’S SUPPORTERS FLED OR DESERTED TO WILLIAM. THE MOST NOTABLE WAS JOHN CHURCHILL, SOON TO BE KNOWN AS THE DUKE OF MALBOROUGH. WITHOUT AN ARMY, JAMES WAS HELPLESS AS THE ARMY HAD, LIKE MALBOROUGH, DESERTED TOO.

JAMES FLED, AND A CONVENTION MET IN FEB 1689 TO OFFER THE THRONE JOINTLY TO WILLIAM AND MARY. THE CONVENTION DECLARED ITSELF A PARLIAMENT AND PROCEEDED TO PASS THE BILL OF RIGHTS, WHICH ALLOWED THE WHIGS TO SUPPORT A MONARCH TO EXIST.

THE KING WAS NO LONGER IN CONTROL OF THE ARMY OR THE JUDGES, FORBIDDEN TO DISPENSE LAWS OR SUSPEND THEM.

CONTROL OF FINANCE PASSED TO PARLIAMENT WHICH MUST BE CALLED EVERY THREE YEARS AND NOT BE IN EXISTENCE FOR LONGER THAN THAT TIME.

(IN 1716, THE WHIGS EXTENDED THIS TO SEVEN YEARS BECAUSE AN ELECTION AT THAT TIME WOULD HAVE PRODUCED A TORY MAJORITY.

IN 1911, IT WAS FIXED AT FIVE YEARS BUT NOTHING CAN PREVENT ANY PARLIAMENT PROLONGING ITS OWN LIFE INDEFINITELY, AS HAPPENED DURING THE GREAT WAR.)

ON THESE TERMS, THE WHIGS BECAME LOYAL AND ENTHUSIASTIC MONARCHISTS, SINCE THE MONARCH DEPENDED ON THEM FOR THEIR EXISTENCE. THE TORIES FELT THEIR EXISTENCE DEPENDED ON THAT OF THE MONARCH AND WHO WERE CONSEQUENTLY FAR LESS EXACTING IN THE TERMS UPON WHICH THEIR SUPPORT WAS GIVEN.

THE “GLORIOUS REVOLUTION” AS KARL MARX SAID, “BROUGHT INTO POWER, ALONG WITH WILLIAM OF ORANGE, THE LANDLORD AND CAPITALIST APPROPRIATORS OF SURPLUS VALUE. THEY INAUGURATED THE NEW ERA BY PRACTICISING ON A COLOSSAL SCALE, THEFTS OF STATE LANDS, THEFTS THAT HAD HITHERTO BEEN MANAGED MORE MODESTLY. THE ESTATES WERE GIVEN AWAY, SOLD AT A RIDICULOUS FIGURE OR EVEN ANNEXED TO PRIVATE ESTATES BY DIRECT SEIZURE.

“ALL THIS HAPPENED WITHOUT THE SLIGHTEST OBSERVATION OF ETTIQUETTE. THE CROWN LANDS THUS FRAUDULENTLY APPROPRIATED. TOGETHER WITH THE CHURCH ESTATES, SO FAR AS THESE HAD NOT BEEN LOST AGAIN DURING THE REPUBLICAN REVOLUTION, THEY FORM THE BASIS OF TODAYS PRINCELY DOMAINS OF THE ENGLISH OLIGARCHY.

“THE BOURGEOIS CAPITALISTS FAVOURED THE OPERATION WITH THE VIEW, AMONG OTHERS, TO PROMOTING FREE TRADE IN LAND, TO EXTENDING THE DOMAIN OF MODERN AGRICULTURE ON THE LARGE FARM SYSTEM, AND TO INCREASING THEIR SUPPLY OF AGRICULTURAL PROLETARIANS READY TO HAND.

“BESIDES,THE NEW LANDED ARISTOCRACY WAS THE NATURAL ALLY OF THE NEW BANKOCRACY, OF THE NEW-HATCHED ‘HAUTE FINANCE’ AND OF THE LARGE MANUFACTURER, THEN DEPENDING ON PROTECTIVE DUTIES”

THE ‘REVOLUTION’ OF 1688 PLACED IN THE WHIGS HANDS FOR THE NEXT CENTURY THE CONTROL OF THE CENTRAL STATE APPARATUS.

THEY LEFT IN TORY HANDS THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT OF COUNTY DISTRICTS, CREATING A DUALISM AND POLITICAL CONFLICT THROUGHOUT THE 18th CENTURY AND BEYOND.

WILLIAM WAS PREPARED TO ACCEPT ANY CONDITIONS, PROVIDED HE COULD SECURE WEALTH AND MANPOWER TO USE AGAINST FRANCE. BEFORE THIS, HE HAD TO SECURE IRELAND AND SCOTLAND.

JAMES LANDED IN IRELAND, WHERE HE HAD AN ARMY READY AT HAND, BUT IN 1690 WILLIAM DEFEATED THE JACOBITE ARMY AT THE BATTLE OF THE BOYNE, AND IN 1691 THE LAST IRISH GENERAL SURRENDED.

ONE CONDITION FOR SURRENDER WAS GIVEN BY WILLIAM, WHO PROMISED RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE FOR IRISH CATHOLICS. A PROMISE IMMEDIATELY BROKEN BY THE PASSING OF PENAL LAWS, WHICH DEPRIVED THEM OF ALL CIVIL AND RELIGIOUS RIGHTS.

THE NEW CONQUEST OF IRELAND BEGAN. LANDS WERE CONFISCATED BY WILLIAM AND LORD BENTINCK, AND HENCEFORTH IRELAND WAS RULED BY BRUTAL FORCE AS A COLONY WHICH EXISTED FOR THE ENGLISH BOURGEOISIE.

IN SCOTLAND, THE HIGHLAND RISING HAD INITIAL SUCCESSES, BUT FAILED AT KILLIECRANKIE. THE LOWLANDERS WERE READY TO EXPEL JAMES, AND BY1692 WILLIAM WAS UNDISPUTED THROUGHOUT THE BRITISH ISLES.

IN THE COMING PERIOD, THE CENTRE OF INTEREST SHIFTS FROM INTERNAL POLITICAL STRUGGLE TO FRANCE AND ECONOMIC CHANGES LEADING TO THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION.

NEXT

CHAPTER X: WHIG ENGLAND, WAR FINANCE

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