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LECTURE XIII.: THE ENGLISH REVOLUTION. - François Guizot, General History of Civilization in Europe 
General History of Civilization in Europe by François Pierre Guillaume Guizot, edited, with critical and supplementary notes, by George Wells Knight (New York: D Appleton and Co., 1896).
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THE ENGLISH REVOLUTION.
We have seen, that during the course of the sixteenth century, all the elements, all the facts, of ancient European society had merged in two essential facts, the right of free examination, and centralization of power; one prevailing in religious society, the other in civil society. The emancipation of the human mind and absolute monarchy triumphed at the same moment over Europe in general.
It could hardly be conceived that a struggle between these two facts—the characters of which appear so contradictory—would not, at some time, break out; for while one was the defeat of absolute power in the spiritual order, the other was the triumph of absolute power in the temporal order; one forced on the decline of the ancient ecclesiastical monarchy, the other was the consummation of the ruin of the ancient feudal and municipal liberty. Their simultaneous appearance was owing, as I have already observed, to the circumstance that the revolutions of the religious society followed more rapidly than those of the civil; one had arrived at the point in which the freedom of individual thought was secured, while the other still lingered on the spot where the concentration of all the powers in one general power took place. The coincidence of these two facts, so far from being the consequence of their similitude, did not even prevent their contradiction. They were both advances in the march of civilization, but they were advances connected with different situations; advances of a different moral date, if I may be allowed the expression, although coincident in time. From their position it seemed inevitable that they must clash and combat before a reconciliation could be effected between them.
The first shock between them took place in England. The struggle of the right of free inquiry, the fruit of the Reformation, against the entire suppression of political liberty, the object aimed at by pure monarchy—the attempt to abolish absolute power in the temporal order, as had already been done in the spiritual order—this is the true sense of the English revolution; this is the part it took in the work of civilization.
But how, it may be asked, came it to pass, that this struggle took place in England sooner than anywhere else? How happened it that the revolutions of a political character coincided here with those of a moral character sooner than they did on the Continent?
In England, the royal power had undergone the same vicissitudes as it had on the Continent. Under the Tudors it had reached a degree of concentration and vigor which it had never attained to before. I do not mean to say that the practical despotism of the Tudors was more violent and vexatious than that of their predecessors; there were quite as many, perhaps more, tyrannical proceedings, vexations, and acts of injustice, under the Plantagenets, as under the Tudors. Perhaps, too, at this very period the government of pure monarchy was more severe and arbitrary on the Continent than in England. The new fact under the Tudors was, that absolute power became systematic; royalty laid claim to a primitive, independent sovereignty; it maintained a tone which it had never held before. The theoretic claims of Henry VIII, Elizabeth, James I, and Charles I, are very different from those of Edward I and III, although, in point of fact, the power of the two latter monarchs was nowise less arbitrary or extensive.* I repeat, then, it was the principle, the rational system of monarchy, which changed in England, in the sixteenth century, rather than its practical power; royalty now declared itself absolute and superior to all laws, even to those which it declared itself willing to respect.
There is another point to be considered; the religious revolution had not been accomplished in England in the same way as on the Continent; it was here the work of the monarchs themselves. It must not be supposed that the seeds had not been sown, or that even attempts had not been made at a popular reform, which would probably have soon broken out. But Henry VIII took the lead; power became revolutionary; and hence it happened, at least in its origin, that, as a redress of ecclesiastical abuses, as an emancipation of the human mind, the reform in England was much less complete than upon the Continent. It was made, as might naturally be expected, in accordance with the interests of its authors. The king and the episcopacy, which was here continued, divided between themselves the riches and the power, of which they despoiled their predecessors, the popes. The effect of this was soon felt. The Reformation, people cried out, had been closed, while the greater part of the abuses which had induced them to desire it, were still continued.
The Reformation reappeared under a more popular form; it made the same demands of the bishops that had already been made of the Holy See; it accused them of being so many popes. As often as the general fate of the religious revolution was compromised; whenever a struggle against the ancient Church took place, the various portions of the Reformation party rallied together, and made common cause against the common enemy: but this danger over, the struggle again broke out among themselves; the popular reform again attacked the aristocratic and royal reform, denounced its abuses, complained of its tyranny, called upon it to make good its promises, and not itself usurp the power which it had just dethroned.
At about the same time a movement for liberty took place in civil society; a desire before unknown, or at least but weakly expressed, was now felt for political freedom. In the course of the sixteenth century, the commercial prosperity of England had increased with amazing rapidity, while during the same time, much territorial wealth, much baronial property had changed hands. The numerous divisions of landed property, which took place during the sixteenth century, in consequence of the ruin of the feudal nobility, and from various other causes which I cannot now stop to enumerate,* form a fact which has not been sufficiently noticed. A variety of documents prove how greatly the number of landed properties increased; the estates going generally into the hands of the gentry, composed of the lesser nobility, and persons who had acquired property by trade. The high nobility, the House of Lords, did not, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, nearly equal, in riches, the House of Commons. There had taken place, then, at the same time in England, a great increase in wealth among the industrial classes, and a great change in landed property. While these two facts were being accomplished, there happened a third, a new march of mind.
The reign of Queen Elizabeth must be regarded as a period of great literary and philosophical activity in England, a period remarkable for bold and pregnant thought; the Puritans followed, without hesitation, all the consequences of a narrow, but powerful creed; other intellects, with less morality, but more freedom and boldness, alike regardless of principle or system, seized with avidity upon every idea, which seemed to promise some gratification to their curiosity, some food for their mental ardor. And it may be regarded as a maxim, that wherever the progress of intelligence is a true pleasure, a desire for liberty is soon felt, nor is it long in passing from the public mind to the state.
A feeling of the same kind, a sort of creeping desire for political liberty, almost manifested itself in some of the countries on the Continent in which the Reformation had made some way; but these countries, being without the means of success, made no progress; they knew not how to make their desire felt; they could find no support for it either in institutions, or in the habits and usages of the people; hence this desire remained vague, uncertain, and sought in vain for the means of satisfying its cravings. In England the case was widely different: the spirit of political liberty which showed itself here in the sixteenth century, as a sort of appendix to the Reformation, found both a firm support and the means of speaking and acting in the ancient institutions of the country, and indeed in the whole framework of English society.
There is hardly anyone who does not know the origin of the free institutions of England. How, in 1215, a coalition of the great barons wrested Magna Charta from John; but it is not quite so generally known, that this charter was renewed and confirmed, from time to time, by almost every king. It was confirmed upwards of thirty times between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, besides which new statutes were passed to confirm and extend its enactments. Thus it lived, as it were, without gap or interval. In the mean time the House of Commons had been formed, and taken its place among the sovereign institutions of the country.* Under the Plantagenets it had taken deep root and become firmly established; not that at this time it played any great part or had even much influence in the government; it scarcely indeed interfered in this except when called upon to do so by the king, and then only with hesitation and regret; afraid rather of bringing itself into trouble and danger, than jealous of augmenting its power and authority. But the case was different when it was called upon to defend private rights, the house or property of the citizens, or in short the rights and privileges of individuals; this duty the House of Commons performed with wonderful energy and perseverance, putting forward and establishing all those principles which have become the basis of the English constitution. Under the Tudors the House of Commons, or rather the Parliament altogether, put on a new character. It no longer defended individual liberty so well as under the Plantagenets. Arbitrary detentions, and violations of private rights, which became much more frequent, were often passed in silence. But, as a counterbalance for this, the Parliament interfered to a much greater extent than formerly in the general affairs of government. Henry VIII, in order to change the religion of the country, and to regulate the succession, required some public support, some public instrument, and he had recourse to Parliament, and especially to the House of Commons, for this purpose.† This, which under the Plantagenets had only been a means of resistance, a guarantee of private rights, became now, under the Tudors, an instrument of government, of general policy; so that at the end of the sixteenth century, notwithstanding it had been the tool, and submitted to the will of nearly all sorts of tyrannies, its importance had greatly increased; the foundation of its power was laid, the foundation of that power upon which truly rests representative government.
In taking a view, then, of the free institutions of England at the end of the sixteenth century, we find them to consist: first, of maxims—of principles of liberty, which had been constantly acknowledged in written documents, and of which the legislation and country had never lost sight; secondly, of precedents, of examples of liberty; these, it is true, were mixed with a great number of precedents and examples of an opposite nature; still they were quite sufficient to maintain, to give a legal character to the claims of the friends of liberty, and to support them in their struggle against arbitrary and tyrannical government; thirdly, particular and local institutions, pregnant with the seeds of liberty, the jury, the right of holding public meetings, of bearing arms, to which must be added the independence of municipal administration and jurisdiction; fourthly and finally, the parliament and its authority became more necessary now than ever to the monarchs, as these having dilapidated the greater part of their independent revenues, crown domains, feudal rights, etc., could not support even the expenses of their households, without having recourse to a vote of parliament.
The political state of England then was very different from that of the Continent; notwithstanding the tyranny of the Tudors, notwithstanding the systematic triumph of absolute monarchy, there still remained here a firm support for the new spirit of liberty, a sure means by which it could act.
At this epoch, two national wants were felt in England: on one hand, a want of religious liberty and of a continuation of the reformation already begun; on the other, a want of political liberty, which seemed arrested by the absolute monarchy now establishing its power. These two parties formed an alliance; the party which wished to carry forward religious reform, invoked, political liberty to the aid of its faith and conscience against the bishops and the crown. The friends of political liberty, in like manner, sought the aid of the friends of popular religious reform. The two parties joined their forces to struggle against absolute power, both spiritual and political, now concentrated in the hands of the king. Such is the origin and signification of the English revolution.
It appears, then, to have been essentially devoted to the defence or achievement of liberty. For the religious party it was a means, for the political party it was an end; but the object of both was still liberty, and they were determined to pursue it in common. Properly speaking, there had been no true quarrel between the episcopal and Puritan party; the struggle was not about doctrines, about matters of faith, properly so called. I do not mean that these were not very positive, very important, and differences of great consequence between them; but this was not the main affair. What the Puritan party wished to obtain from the episcopal was practical liberty; this was the object for which it struggled. It must, however, be admitted that there did exist at the same time, a religious party which had a system to found; a set of doctrines, a form of discipline, an ecclesiastic constitution, which it wished to establish—I mean the Presbyterians; but though it did its best, it had not the power to obtain its object. Acting upon the defensive, oppressed by the bishops, unable to take a step without the sanction of the political reformers, its necessary allies and chieftains, liberty naturally became its predominant interest; this was the general interest, the common desire of all the parties which concurred in the movement, however different in other respects might be their views. Taking these matters then altogether, we must come to the conclusion, that the English revolution was essentially political; it was accomplished in the midst of a religious people and a religious age; religious ideas and passions often became its instruments; but its primary intention and its definite object were decidedly political, a tendency to liberty, the destruction of all absolute power.
I shall now briefly run over the various phases of this revolution, and analyze it into the great parties that succeeded one another in its course. I shall afterwards connect it with the general career of European civilization; I shall show its place and influence therein; and you will be satisfied, from the detail of facts as well as from its first aspect, that it was truly the first collision of free inquiry and pure monarchy, the first onset that took place in the struggle between these two great and opposite powers.
Three principal parties appeared upon the stage at this important crisis; three revolutions seem to have been contained within it, and to have successively appeared upon the scene. In each party, in each revolution, two parties moved together in alliance, a political party and a religious party; the former took the lead, the second followed, but one could not go without the other, so that a double character seems to be imprinted upon it in all its changes.
The first party which appeared in the field,* and under whose banners at the beginning marched all the others, was the high, pure-monarchy party, advocating legal reform. When the revolution began, when the Long Parliament assembled in 1640, it was generally said, and sincerely believed by many, that a legal, a constitutional reform would suffice; that the ancient laws and practices of the country were sufficient to correct every abuse, to establish a system of government which would fully meet the wishes of the public.
This party highly blamed and earnestly desired to put a stop to illegal imposts, to arbitrary imprisonments—to all acts, indeed, contrary to the known law and usages of the country. But under these ideas, there lay hid, as it were, a belief in the divine right of the king, and in his absolute power. A secret instinct seemed to warn it that there was something false and dangerous in this notion; and on this account it appeared always desirous to avoid the subject. Forced, however, at last to speak out, it acknowledged the divine right of kings, and admitted that they possessed a power superior to all human origin, to all human control; and as such they defended it in time of need. Still, however, they believed that this sovereignty, though absolute in principle, was bound to exercise its authority according to certain rules and forms; that it could not go beyond certain limits; and that these rules, these forms, and these limits were sufficiently established and guaranteed in Magna Charta, in the confirmatory statutes, in the ancient laws and usages of the country. Such was the political creed of this party. In religious matters, it believed that the episcopacy had greatly encroached; that the bishops possessed far too much political power; that their jurisdiction was far too extensive, that it required to be restrained, and its proceedings jealously watched. Still it held firmly to episcopacy, not merely as an ecclesiastical institution, not merely as a form of church government, but as a necessary support of the royal prerogative, and as a means of defending and maintaining the supremacy of the king in matters of religion. The absolute power of the king over the body politic, exercised according to the forms and within the limits legally acknowledged; the supremacy of the king as head of the Church, applied and sustained by the episcopacy, was the twofold system of the legal reform party. We may enumerate as its chiefs, Lord Clarendon,* Colepepper, Capel, and, though a more ardent friend of public liberty, Lord Falkland; and into their ranks were enlisted nearly all the nobility and gentry not servilely devoted to the court.
Behind this party advanced a second, which I shall call the political-revolutionary party; it differed from the foregoing, inasmuch as it did not believe the ancient guarantees, the ancient legal barriers sufficient to secure the rights and liberties of the people. It saw that a great change, a genuine revolution was wanting, not only in the forms, but in the spirit and essence of the government; that it was necessary to deprive the king and his council of the unlimited power which they possessed, and to place the preponderance in the House of Commons; so that the government should, in fact, be in the hands of this assembly and its leaders. This party made no such open and systematic profession of its principles and intentions as I have done; but this was the real character of its opinions, and of its political tendencies. Instead of acknowledging the absolute sovereignty of the king, it contended for the sovereignty of the House of Commons as the representatives of the people. Under this principle was hid that of the sovereignty of the people; a notion which the party was as far from considering in its full extent, as it was from desiring the consequences to which it might ultimately lead, but which they nevertheless admitted when it presented itself to them in the form of the sovereignty of the House of Commons.
The religious party most closely allied to this political-revolutionary one was that of the Presbyterians. This sect wished to bring about much the same revolution in the Church as their allies were endeavoring to effect in the state. They desired to erect a system of church government emanating from the people, and composed of a series of assemblies dovetailed, as it were, into each other; and thus to give to their national assembly the same authority in ecclesiastical matters that their allies wished to give in political to the House of Commons: only that the revolution contemplated by the Presbyterians was more complete and daring than the other, forasmuch as it aimed at changing the form as well as the principles of the government of the Church; while the views of the political party went no farther than to place the influence, the preponderance, in the body of the people, without meditating any great alteration in the form of their institutions.
Hence the leaders of this political party were not all favorable to the Presbyterian organization of the Church. Hampden and Holles, as well as some others, it appears, would have given the preference to a moderate episcopacy, confined strictly to ecclesiastical functions, with a greater extent of liberty of conscience. They were obliged, however, to give way, as they could do nothing without the assistance of their fanatical allies.
The third party, going much beyond these two, declared that a change was required not only in the form, but also in the foundation of the government; that its constitution was radically vicious and bad. This party paid no respect to the past life of England; it renounced her institutions, it swept away all national remembrances, it threw down the whole fabric of English government, that it might build up another founded on pure theory, or at least one that existed only in its own fancy. It aimed not merely at a revolution in the government, but at a complete revolution of the whole social system. The party of which I have just spoken, the political-revolutionary party, proposed to make a great change in the relations in which the parliament stood with the crown; it wished to extend the power of the two houses, particularly of the commons, by giving to it the nomination of the great officers of state, and the supreme direction of affairs in general; but its notions of reform scarcely went beyond this. It had no idea, for example, of changing the electoral system, the judicial system, the administrative and municipal systems of the country. The republican party contemplated all these changes, dwelt upon their necessity, wished, in a word, to reform not only the public administration, but the relations of society, and the distribution of private rights.
Like the two preceding, this party was composed of a religious sect, and a political sect. Its political portion were the genuine republicans, the theorists, Ludlow, Harrington, Milton, and others. To these may be added the republicans of circumstance, of interest, such as the principal officers of the army, Ireton, Cromwell, Lambert, and others, who were more or less sincere at the beginning of their career, but were soon controlled and guided by personal motives and the force of circumstances. Under the banners of this party marched the religious republicans, all those religious sects which would acknowledge no power as legitimate but that of Jesus Christ, and who, awaiting his second coming, desired only the government of his elect. Finally, in the train of this party followed a mixed assemblage of subordinate free-thinkers, fanatics, and levellers, some hoping for license, some for an equal distribution of property, and others for universal suffrage.*
In 1653, after twelve years of struggle, all these parties had successively appeared and failed; they appear at least to have thought so, and the public was sure of it. The legal reform party quickly disappeared; it saw the old constitution and laws insulted, trampled under foot, and innovations forcing their way on every side. The political-revolutionary party saw the destruction of parliamentary forms in the new use which it was proposed to make of them—it had seen the House of Commons reduced, by the successive expulsions of royalists and Presbyterians, to a few members, despised, detested by the public, and incapable of governing. The republican party appeared to have succeeded better; it seemed to be left master of the field and of power;* the House of Commons consisted of but fifty or sixty members, all republicans. They might fancy themselves, and call themselves, the rulers of the country; but the country rejected their government; they were nowhere obeyed; they had no power either over the army or the nation. No social bond, no social security was now left; justice was no longer administered, or if it was, it was controlled by passion, chance, or party. Not only was there no security in the relations of private life, but the highways were covered with robbers and companies of brigands. Anarchy in every part of the civil, as well as of the moral world, prevailed; and neither the House of Commons, nor the republican Council of State, had the power to restrain it.
Thus, the three great parties which had brought about the revolution, and which in their turn had been called upon to conduct it—had been called upon to govern the country according to their principles and their will—had all signally failed. They could do nothing—they could settle nothing. “Now it was,” says Bossuet, “that a man was found who left nothing to fortune, which he could gain by counsel and foresight;” a remark which has no foundation whatever in truth, and which every part of history contradicts. No man ever left more to fortune than Cromwell. No one ever risked more—no one ever pushed forward more rashly, without design, without an aim, yet determined to go as far as fate would carry him. Unbounded ambition, and admirable tact for drawing from every day, from every circumstance, some new progress—the art of profiting by fortune without seeming ever to possess the desire to constrain it, formed the character of Cromwell. In one particular his career was singular, and differs from that of every individual with whom we are apt to compare him: he adapted himself to all the various changes, numerous as they were, as well as to the state of things they led to, of the revolution. He appears a prominent character in every scene, from the rise of the curtain to the close of the play. He was now the instigator of the insurrection—now the abettor of anarchy—now the most fiery of the revolutionists—now the restorer of order and social reorganization; thus playing himself all the principal parts which, in the common run of revolutions, are usually distributed among the greatest actors. He was not a Mirabeau, for he failed in eloquence, and, though very active, he made no great figure in the first years of the Long Parliament. But he was successively Danton and Bonaparte.* Cromwell did more than any one to overthrow authority; he raised it up again, because there was no other than he that could take it and manage it. The country required a ruler; all others failed, and he succeeded. This was his title. Once master of the government, Cromwell, whose boundless ambition had exerted itself so vigorously, who had so constantly pushed fortune before him, and seemed determined never to stop in his career, displayed a good sense, a prudence, a knowledge of how much was possible, which overruled his most violent passions. There can be no doubt of his extreme fondness for absolute power, nor of his desire to place the crown upon his own head and keep it in his family.* He saw the peril of this latter design and renounced it; and though, in fact, he did exercise absolute authority, he saw very well that the spirit of the times would not bear it; that the revolution which he had helped to bring about, which he had followed through all its phases, had been directed against despotism, and that the uncontrollable will of England was to be governed by a parliament and parliamentary forms. He endeavored, therefore, despot as he was, by taste and by deeds, to govern by a parliament. For this purpose he had recourse to all the various parties; he tried to form a parliament from the religious enthusiasts, from the republicans, from the Presbyterians, and from the officers of the army. He tried every means to obtain a parliament able and willing to take part with him in the government; but he tried in vain; every party, the moment it was seated in St. Stephen’s, endeavored to wrest from him the authority which he exercised, and to rule in its turn. I do not mean to deny that his personal interest, the gratification of his darling ambition was his first care; but it is no less certain that if he had abdicated his authority one day, he would have been obliged to resume it the next. Puritans or royalists, republicans or officers, there was no one but Cromwell who was in a state at this time to govern with anything like order or justice. The experiment had been made. It seemed absurd to think of leaving to parliaments, that is to say, to the faction sitting in parliament, a government which it could not maintain. Such was the extraordinary situation of Cromwell: he governed by a system which he knew very well was foreign and hateful to the country, he exercised an authority which was acknowledged necessary by all, but which was acceptable to none. No party looked upon his domination as a definitive government. Royalists, Presbyterians, republicans, even the army itself, which appears to have been the party most devoted to Cromwell, all looked upon his rule as transitory. He had no hold upon the affections of the people; he was never more than a makeshift, a last resort, a temporary necessity. The Protector, the absolute master of England, was obliged all his life to have recourse to force to preserve his power; no party could govern so well as he, but no party liked to see the government in his hands; he was repeatedly attacked by them all at once.*
Upon Cromwell’s death, there was no party in a situation to seize upon the government except the republicans; they did seize upon it, but with no better success than before. This happened from no lack of confidence, at least, in the enthusiasts of the party. A spirited and talented tract, published at this juncture by Milton, is entitled A Ready and Easy Way to establish a free Commonwealth. You may judge of the blindness of these men, who soon fell into a state which showed that it was quite as impossible for them to carry on the government now as it had been before. Monk undertook the direction of that event which all England now seemed anxious for. The Restoration was accomplished.
The restoration of the Stuarts was an event generally pleasing to the nation. It brought back a government which still dwelt in its memory, which was founded upon its ancient traditions, while, at the same time, it had some of the advantages of a new government, in that it had not recently been tried, in that its faults and its power had not lately been felt. The ancient monarchy was the only system of government which had not been decried, within the last twenty years, for its abuses and want of capacity in the administration of the affairs of the kingdom. From these two causes the restoration was extremely popular; it was unopposed by any but the dregs of the most violent factions, while the public rallied round it with great sincerity. All parties in the country seemed now to believe that this offered the only chance left of a stable and legal government, and this was what, above all things, the nation now desired. This also was what the restoration seemed especially to promise; it took much pains to present itself under the aspect of legal government.*
The first royalist party, indeed, to whom, upon the return of Charles the Second, the management of affairs was intrusted, was the legal party, represented by its able leader, the Lord Chancellor Clarendon. From 1660 to 1667, Clarendon was prime minister,† and had the chief direction of affairs; he and his friends brought back with them their ancient principles of government, the absolute sovereignty of the king, kept within legal bounds, limited by the House of Commons as regards taxation, by the public tribunals, in matters of private right, or relating to individual liberty,—possessing, nevertheless, in point of government, properly so called, an almost complete independence, and the most decided preponderance, to the exclusion or even in opposition to the votes of the majorities of the two houses, but particularly to that of the House of Commons. In other matters there was not much to complain of: a tolerable degree of respect was paid to legal order; there was a tolerable degree of solicitude for the national interests; a sufficiently noble sentiment of national dignity was preserved, and a color of morality that was grave and honorable. Such was the character of Clarendon’s administration, during the seven years the government was committed to his charge.
But the fundamental principles upon which this administration was based—the absolute sovereignty of the king, and a government beyond the preponderating control of parliament—were now become old and powerless. Notwithstanding the temporary reaction which took place at the first burst of the restoration, twenty years of parliamentary rule against royalty had destroyed them for ever. A new party soon showed itself among the royalists; libertines, profligates, wretches, who, imbued with the free opinions of the times, and seeing that power was with the commons,—caring themselves but little about legal order, or the absolute power of the king,—were only anxious for success, and to discover the means of influence and power in whatever quarter they were likely to be found. These formed a party, and allying themselves with the national, discontented party, and Clarendon was discarded.*
A new system of government now took place under that portion of the royalists I have just described; profligates and libertines formed the administration of the Cabal, and several others which followed it. What was their character? Without inquietude respecting principles, laws, or rights, or care for justice or truth; they sought the means of success upon every occasion, whatever these means might be; if success depended on the influence of the commons, the commons were everything; if it was necessary to cajole the commons, the commons were cajoled without scruple, even though they had to apologize to them the next day. At one moment they attempted corruption, at another they flattered the national wishes; no regard was shown for the general interests of the country, for its dignity or its honor; in a word, it was a government profoundly selfish and immoral, totally unacquainted with all theory, principle, or public object; but, withal, in the practical management of affairs, showing considerable intelligence and liberality. Such was the character of the Cabal ministry,* of Earl Danby’s, and of the English government from 1667 to 1679. Yet notwithstanding its immorality, notwithstanding its disdain of all principle, and of the true interests of the country, this government was not so unpopular, not so odious to the nation as that of Clarendon; and this simply because it adapted itself better to the times, better understood the sentiments of the people, even while it derided them. It was neither foreign nor antiquated, like that of Clarendon; and though infinitely more dangerous to the country, the people accommodated themselves better to it.
But this corruption, this servility, this contempt of public rights and public honor, were at last carried to such a pitch as to be no longer supportable. A general outcry was raised against this government of profligates. A patriotic party, supported by the nation, became gradually formed in the House of Commons, and the king was obliged to take the leaders of it into his council. Lord Essex, the son of him who had commanded the first parliamentary armies in the civil war, Lord Russell, and Lord Shaftesbury, who, without any of the virtues of the other two, was much their superior in political abilities, were now called to the management of affairs. The national party, to whom the direction of the government was now committed, proved itself unequal to the task: it could not gain possession of the moral force of the country: it could neither manage the interests, the habits, nor the prejudices of the king, of the court, nor of any with whom it had to do. It inspired no party, either king or people, with any confidence in its energy or ability; and after holding power for a short time, this national ministry completely failed. The virtues of its leaders, their generous courage, the beauty of their death, have raised them to a distinguished niche in the temple of fame, and entitled them to honorable mention in the page of history; but their political capacities in no way corresponded to their virtues: they could not wield power, though they could withstand its corrupting influence, nor could they achieve a triumph for that glorious cause, for which they could so nobly die!
The failure of this attempt left the English restoration in rather an awkward plight; it had, like the English revolution, in a manner tried all parties without success. The legal ministry, the corrupt ministry, the national ministry, having all failed, the country and the court were nearly in the same situation as that which England had been in before, at the close of the revolutionary troubles in 1653. Recourse was had to the same expedient: what Cromwell had turned to the profit of the revolution, Charles II now turned to the profit of the crown; he entered upon a career of absolute power.
James II succeeded his brother; and another question now became mixed up with that of despotism: the question of religion. James II wished to achieve, at the same time, a triumph for popery and for absolute power: now again, as at the commencement of the revolution, there was a religious struggle and a political struggle, and both were directed against the government. It has often been asked, what course affairs would have taken if William III had not existed, and come over to put an end to the quarrel between James and the people. My firm belief is that the same event would have taken place. All England, except a very small party, was at this time arrayed against James; and it seems very certain, that, under some form or other, the revolution of 1688 must have been accomplished. But at this crisis, causes even superior to the internal state of England conduced to this event. It was European as well as English. It is at this point that the English revolution links itself, by facts, and independently of the influence of its example, to the general course of European civilization.
While the struggle which I have just been narrating took place in England, the struggle of absolute power against religious and civil liberty—a struggle of the same kind, however different the actors, the forms, and the theatre, took place upon the continent—a struggle which was at bottom the same, and carried on in the same cause. The pure monarchy of Louis XIV attempted to become universal monarchy, at least it gave the world every reason to fear it; and, in fact, Europe did fear it. A league was formed in Europe between various political parties to resist this attempt, and the chief of this league was the chief of the party that struggled for the civil and religious liberty of Europe—William, Prince of Orange. The Protestant republic of Holland, with William at its head, had made a stand against pure monarchy, represented and conducted by Louis XIV. The fight here was not for civil and religious liberty in the interior of states, but for the exterior independence of the states themselves. Louis XIV and his adversaries never thought of debating the questions which were debated so fiercely in England. This struggle was not one of parties, but of states; it was carried on, not by political outbreaks and revolutions, but by war and negotiation; still, at bottom, the same principle was the subject of contention.*
It happened, then, that the strife between absolute power and liberty, which James II renewed in England, broke out at the very moment that this general struggle was going on in Europe between Louis XIV and the Prince of Orange, the representatives of these two great systems, as well in the affairs which took place on the Thames as on the Scheldt. The league against Louis was so powerful that many sovereigns entered into it, either publicly, or in an underhand, though very effective manner, who were rather opposed than not to the interests of civil and religious liberty. The Emperor of Germany and Innocent XI both supported William against France. And William crossed the channel to England less to serve the internal interests of the country, than to draw it entirely into the struggle against Louis. He laid hold of this kingdom as a new force which he wanted, but of which his adversary had had the disposal, up to this time, against him. So long as Charles II and James II reigned, England belonged to Louis XIV; he had the disposal of it, and had kept it employed against Holland.* England then was snatched from the side of absolute and universal monarchy, to become the most powerful support and instrument of civil and religious liberty. This is the view which must be taken, as regards European civilization, of the revolution of 1688; it is this which gives it a place in the assemblage of European events, independently of the influence of its example, and of the vast effect which it had upon the minds and opinions of men in the following century.
Thus, I think, I have rendered it clear, that the true sense, the essential character of this revolution is, as I said at the outset of this lecture, an attempt to abolish absolute power in the temporal order, as had already been done in the spiritual. This fact appears in all the phases of the revolution, from its first outbreak to the restoration, and again in the crisis of 1688: and this not only as regards its interior progress, but in its relations with Europe in general.*
It now only remains for us to study the same great event, the struggle of free inquiry and pure monarchy, upon the continent, or at least the causes and preparation of this event. This will be the object of the next and final lecture.
[* ] A distinction may be made between the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth and those of James and Charles; the former rested on the fact of power, the latter on the pretense of prerogative. The reigns of Edward I and III, on the other hand, were based on a constitutional right. They recognized the king as a part of the nation; the Stuarts sought to be the state.
[* ] The wholesale dissolution of monasteries and gilds restored about one fourth of the lands of England to individual ownership, while the breaking up of the three-field system and the inclosure of the commons produced a revolution in methods of agriculture. See Cunningham’s Growth of English Industry and Commerce.
[* ] The formation of the House of Commons dates from the first appearance of the third estate as a permanent factor in legislation. This was in the Model Parliament of 1295.
[† ] The Acts of Parliament leading up to the separation of the Church of England from the Church of Rome are: (1) Act of 1533, prohibiting appeals to Rome; (2) Act of 1534, ordering all payments to Rome stopped; (3) Act of Supremacy, 1534, declaring Henry the supreme head on earth, under God, of the Church of England. By the Act of the Six Articles, 1539, Parliament sanctions the first creed of the new Church.
[* ] The division of parties as given in the lecture is somewhat arbitrary.
[* ] His name at this time was Edward Hyde; he was created first Earl of Clarendon by Charles II.
[* ] The Grand Remonstrance (1641) shows, perhaps better than anything else, the formation of party lines in England. This document, drawn by Pym and Hampden, had, as its object, an appeal to the nation to support the parliament against the king. Its two hundred and six clauses may be divided into, (1) the political clauses which asserted the power and prerogative of parliament, and (2) the religious clauses which advocated, in indefinite terms, the “peace and good government of the Church.” The former were subscribed to even by Falkland and Hyde, while the contest over the latter was so fierce that it threw the Episcopalians into the ranks of the Royalists, and thus left the Presbyterians as the champions of the parliamentary principles. Later, however (1647), the Presbyterians were divided by the excesses of the radical element (Independents), and the right wing was driven to join with the Royalists.
[* ] The cause of this success was rather the possession of military power than the promulgation of popular principles.
[* ] Views are apt to differ widely in making comparisons. Following is that of Goldwin Smith: “The chief (Cromwell) was not a Cæsar; much less was he a Bonaparte, an unprincipled soldier of fortune, vaulting on the back of a Revolution to make himself an emperor. The relation of Cromwell to the English Revolution was not that of a Napoleon, but, if it is not blasphemy to mention the two names together, that of a Robespierre. The chief of the Rousseauists was the leader of the most religious and the deepest part of the French movement.”
[* ] Cromwell’s fondness for power may well be admitted, but not to the extent that it was his “darling ambition.” That he desired “to place the crown on his own head and keep it in his family” is without historic proof. Although he was privately and officially pressed to take the title of king, his answer was final: “I cannot undertake this government with the title of king. And that is mine answer to this great and weighty business.” The sincerity of his refusal can be judged only by his other acts.
[* ] Cromwell’s vigilance, as well as the success he attained, disarmed opposition and prevented the formation during his lifetime of any organized effort for his overthrow.
[* ] The Restoration was a restoration of Parliament as well as of monarchy. The years which followed brought about a combination of the two, which culminated in the Bill of Rights (1687).
[† ] The title Prime Minister was first applied to Robert Walpole, but was not used in any official document until the Congress of Berlin (1870).
[* ] Two causes working together account for the fall of Clarendon: (1) The inherent weakness of his political theory; (2) his outspoken disapproval of the king’s conduct and life. The latter cause initiated his dismissal, the former made it popular.
[* ] The Cabal ministry consisted simply of a few members of the Privy Council, whom the king chose as his advisers. They did not constitute a ministry in the modern sense, since they were responsible to the king and not to parliament. Their sole bond of agreement was religious toleration. The statements in this passage of the lecture are too sweeping to be exact.
[* ] By the treaty of Nimwegen (1678), the integrity of Holland was practically guaranteed, and the dream of France of a boundary on the Rhine partially realized.
But to Louis the treaty was only a truce. He continued his armies on a war footing and strengthened his fortresses. By the words of the treaty, the ceded towns were to be surrendered “with their dependencies.” Courts, called Chambers of Reunion, were organized by Louis (1679) to adjudge what territories in Alsace, Franche-Comté, and the three bishoprics were included in the term “dependencies.” These courts were well instructed. They awarded all of Alsace, Zweibrücken, and Saarbrück to France. With Alsace went Strasburg, through the influence of French arms and money. This alienated the emperor, as the occupation of Zweibrücken alienated Sweden. A quarrel with the pope turned many Catholics against Louis, as did the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) the Protestants. Poland, Spain, and the Turks were alienated. The result was the secret formation of the League of Augsburg under the leadership of William of Orange for the maintenance of the Treaty of Nimwegen. Two years later William landed in England, unhindered by France. French troops were then moved to the Rhine and the Palatinate occupied. War was now begun along the whole frontier. The expulsion of James gave William the power and support he sought to fight Louis. At first the victories were all with the French. In 1696 the tide began to turn. England regained control of the sea. France was exhausted. “Half the kingdom,” Vauban wrote, “lived on the charity of the other half.” Peace was made at Ryswick, 1697. William III was acknowledged as King of England; all conquests made by France since 1678, with but few exceptions, were restored to the empire; and the Dutch were allowed to garrison the barrier fortresses between France and Holland. Thus did Louis XIV renounce his claim to be the dictator of Europe, and the Protestant succession in England was made secure.
[* ] Louis’s policy towards England accounts in large measure for the success of Charles II and for the failure of James. Towards Charles, Louis played a double game, furnishing money in vast sums to secure a dissolution of parliament when it seemed inclined to peace with Holland (as in 1674 and 1682), and assisting the opposition party to attack the king if he became too independent.
Towards James his tactics were altered somewhat. James’s open avowal of Catholicism made it certain in Louis’s mind that James would not ally himself with Holland, but would find sufficient employment with parliament at home. Consequently French gold flowed less and less frequently northward, and Louis made up the lack in “moral support.” Parliament, however, which had been greatly strengthened by the conduct of Charles, saw in Catholic Louis the dictator of the royal policy and religion for England, and looked to William of Orange as their deliverer at once from Catholicism and from foreign corruption.
[* ] The following summary of the events in this period may be helpful:
Authorities on this period are numerous and easily accessible. Ranke, Hallam, Gardiner, are standard works. The Epochs of Modern History are handy and helpful, while Montague, Elements of English Constitutional History, supplies information on many of the constitutional points. Bright, History of England, Green, Short History of the English People, and Ransome, History of England, are among the best of the shorter histories.