European History Pt. 14 — Restoration

Last time, I looked at the brief spell of English history in which Oliver Cromwell ruled the country as Puritan dictator. It didn’t go very well.

After 1660,  the monarchy was restored in Charles II, but its crucial to point out that the PARLIAMENT was also restored. It soon took on a crucial new powers by changing property so that it more closely resembled modern property. Landowners were not burdened with feudal fees and dues. As a response to this change, they agreed to pay taxes (at a somewhat high amount) so that the country (the king) had a flexible source of money. The book makes it clear that this decision by parliament allowed wealthy landowners to completely run the country for about a century and a half. Also, the backlash against puritans took place and the Anglican church was reestablished with new power.

Of course, all of this harmony didn’t last long. Charles was thought to be inclined toward Catholicism — and indeed he was. Unknown to most people, in 1670, he formed the secret treaty of Dover with Louix XIV. He was to help him in the war against the Dutch and then afterward possibly return to the Catholic Church. Parliament responded to the war with the Dutch with the Test Act of 1673, which forbade Catholics from serving in a variety of public roles. Some, the exclusionists, wanted to keep James II (Charles II’s brother and lawful successor) from becoming King. His avowed Catholicism was the reason.

Test Act 1673 — Prevented Catholics from entering public office. When combined with the discrimination against dissenter (puritans), Anglicans ran the government almost exclusively.

Whigs: Those who liked the test act, and who were suspicious of the French and of Catholics.

Tories: those who supported the King. They were tolerant of the Catholics, but were most excited, religiously, by Anglicanism.

James II became king anyway, and as predicted, he upset everyone, especially when he had a son and baptized him Catholic. So, whigs and tories united and went to Mary, married to William III of the Netherlands. He agreed to become king of England in return for English aid against Louis XIV. William then invaded (but with written invitations from many English nobles). This was in 1689. In 1690, at the battle of Boyne river, James II was defeated and William became king. Of course, Louis XIV gave aid to James and maintained him at his court, hoping to plant him back on the throne.

Crucially, the parliament, as a condition of giving William the throne, imposed a series of restrictions on royal power. The king could not suspend laws, could not maintain taxes without parliamentary consent, etc. This was the beginning of the true parliamentary era in English politics. The book also makes the point that religious tensions, while still officially under a cloud of discrimination against the dissenters (puritans) and Catholics (test act), became quite tolerant, and that people of all religions could find a place in government through backchannels.

In 1707, Scotland was merged with England, and the two became a “United Kingdom” and British became used to refer to the English and the Scots.


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