Below is a rough draft of a piece of work done months ago. Warning to readers there are errors hence the word first draft, but I thought i would share this with you all.

From Civil War England to an Empire: The Glorious Revolution

The events of 1688 are coined as the Glorious Revolution, but how revolutionary was the period? To answer this question it is vital to outline what we mean by the term Revolution.  According to the Oxford English dictionary, Revolutionary is a forcible overthrow of a government or social order, in favor of a new system. In this respect we need to look at two key words in that statement. First is forcible, the events of 1688 were bloodless in England at least. In the rest of Britain you had the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland, which was to cement Williams power in the British Isles, plus the Jacobite Rising in Scotland. With that in mind we can hardly call the revolution bloodless,  if you take the Three Kingdoms as one crown. Second is the overthrow of a government and social order, in favor of a new system. Much of modern Britain’s modern Constitutional Monarchy stems from this event. Through the application of the Bill of Rights combined with rules on prerogative power, and the changes to the rules on succession. With this the immense changes in the preceding years in finance, the creation of the Bank of England on the Dutch model made it possible for the fruits of empire to become apparent, and for Parliament to become more powerful.

 

The reason itself for the Glorious revolution is quite an old fear in English society. This is the fear of a Catholic Plot against England and a Universal Monarchy under King Louis of France. This fear is highlighted in the Declaration of the Hague “It is also manifest and notorious that as His Majesty was, upon his coming to the crown, received and acknowledged by all the subjects of England, Scotland, and Ireland, as their King without the least opposition, though he made then open profession of the popish religion”[1]. This fear leads to a Coalition of Peers to write a letter to the Prince of Orange which was handed to Admiral Edward Russell. This man was the man in charge of communicating with William. To this request according to Stephen Baxter “The Prince answered, that, if he was invited by some men of the best interest, and the most valued in the nation, who should both in their own name, and in the name of others who trusted them, invite him to come and rescue the nation and the religion, he believed he could be ready by the end of September to come over”. [2] With this in mind it would lead us to assume this is what leads to the Declaration of The Hague. This stated Williams intent to reassure the people of England that he came in their good faith and was there to uphold the religious liberty of the land. This would in a sense try to put some legality toward Williams military intervention in England it is actually remarkable according to Tony Claydon. “It was something of a miracle that 1688 marked a turn towards stability, rather than a further decent into chaos” [3]. This in itself is true with what some historians believe the events of 1688 to be an invasion. Jacobite printing at the time stated that. “Invasion by a foreign force could only cause hopeless disorder and violence as the nation divided into two warring camps.”[4]  This tries to highlight the illegality of the Invasion. This is true to a certain respect, but this is outweighed by the fear of a popish plot and the threat of a Catholic line of succession, through James II son.

 

With James successfully removed from the opposition after fleeing to France, the convention Parliament was set up to provide a constitutional settlement. It can be stated that William could have simply just taken the throne; but this was not part of the Prince of Oranges leadership style. More ever he wanted to be offered the throne, and as Tony Claydon points out that “Williams Manifesto had made the already controversial point that the king could not act legally without the rest of the legislature”[5] . We can use this to understand the revolutionary form of government that would be transformed from the Convention Parliament. Williams leadership style in the United Provinces mainly relied on the local delegates and legislature, which provided the real constitutional power. We can see this represented in the Declaration of The Hague and the later constitutional settlement. More ever there is an alternative idea that “William’s main reason for interfering in English affairs was essentially pragmatic – he wished to bring England into his war against Louis XIV’s France and a free parliament was seen as more likely to support this.” [6]   This is put forward by Edward Vallance which gives the idea that the invasion and the eventual constitutional settlement that was accepted was merely a way for William to counter the threat of Catholic France; which was beginning the initial phases of preparation for the Nine Years War. This idea does hold some sway with certain historians who believe in the Invasion theory.  What comes out of the settlement can be seen as much of what was originally put forward in the treaties presented to Charles I. Blair Worden alludes to this idea. “William’s reign effected the peaceable alteration in the balance of crown and parliament that had eluded John Pym and his colleagues.”  [7] It does give the idea in a sense that the settlement that became apparent was not that different.

 

The Declaration of Rights, which was to become the Bill of Rights, would provide one of the corner stones of British constitutional history. It would in effect out lines the rights and powers of Monarchy. In this sense it can be seen as a real shift towards the Constitutional Monarchy, we have today. Initially in the original draft there were two sections but the latter was dropped due to William threatening to leave England. The fundamental changes that would be made were restrictions on the prerogative power of the Monarchy. For example Parliament had to be called ever three years, this time it was put into law so in a sense a mechanism was in place to stop any move towards Absolutism. Also the power of the army would eventually be transferred to Parliament under the Mutiny act of 1689. This made it possible only for Parliament to pay and raise the army if needed, coupled with the idea that a King could simply ignore and act of Parliament. These would be the main sticking points of the Bill of Rights, but what is striking to note is that you can begin to see a change to Parliament becoming the more dominant power in English governance. Gary Krey would state that. “The Declaration of Rights enhanced the rights of Parliament and of subjects; and it did so in language that would have been unacceptable to all previous English monarchs.”[8] It would be hard to see Monarchs like James or Charles accepting the Declaration of Rights they would have simply dismissed the bill. If you read the actual coronation oath which was changed for the occasion you can see the predominant shift towards Parliament ascendancy. “Will you solemnly Promise and Sweare to Governe the People of this Kingdome of England and the Dominions thereto belonging according to the Statutes in Parliament Agreed on and the Laws and Customs of the same?”[9] This simple change to the Oath reinforces the will of Parliament and the people, but Edward Vallance brings up an important point about this rise of Parliamentary power. “The revolution also failed to limit the power of parliaments and created no body of protected constitutional law. Therefore the Septennial Act of 1716 was able to effectively undermine the terms of the 1694 Triennial Act, ushering in the lengthy rule of a Whig oligarchy.” [10] This point is important and maybe slightly counterproductive to the argument, but the point makes an arbitrary claim to England’s unwritten constitution that this may have been to put down what power Parliament would effectively have as well as the king.

 

The Religious and Economic changes that would follow were profound and long-lasting and as important. The Act of toleration which provided religious freedoms to nearly all sects of the protestant religious sects coupled with the idea of removing Catholics from the line of succession, made sure there was a safe guard against any future fear of a catholic plot. It would also in a way also signify Whig dominance in the political sphere due to some Tories with Catholic connections under the old regime. Economically England and what would become the United Kingdom in 1707 the change of policy towards manufacturing and emphases on new markets in the West Indies linked with easy credit from the newly created Bank of England which would provide credit to the Government, would bring in the need to have a Parliament permanently in sitting to deal with state finances. Edward Vallance would state that “1688-89 completely reoriented England’s political economy. James had pursued an imperial policy emphasizing the importance of land and the East Indies. The new regime pointed England toward manufacturing and the West Indies.”[11] This change could be seen as a mirror image towards France which moved towards a land based economy may have led to many of the troubles that would lead to its Revolution. It would allow England to effectively expand the seeds of Empire and allow the access to free markets and an expansion of the Royal Navy.

 

In conclusion the events of 1688 could be seen as a re attempt to set down the old rights of the people over the Monarch which were stated during the Civil War period. What it does do is put into law the basic rights of the English people and the power of the Monarch. This coupled with Religious freedom in the act of Toleration and changes to the line of succession distanced England from France and allowed England to flourish economically into a growing Empire through the use of Dutch Markets and the East India Company. R Jones would describe the significance of the Glorious Revolution as “Its Significance lies primarily in the fact that it delivered the first decisive blow to what may rather generally be described as the principles and institutions of the ancien regime” [12]  It was a move away from the possible drive to an absolute Monarchy and set the ground work for a constitutional form of governance that has lasted till this day.

 

Bibliography

 

 

Baxter B. Stepehn, William III (London: Longmans, 1966)

 

Claydon Tony, William III Profiles in Power (London: Longman, 2002)

 

Claydon Tony, ‘Cambridge University Press: Williams III’s Declaration of Reasons and the Glorious Revolution’, The Historical Journal, Vol. 39, No.1 ( Mar., 1996)

 

De Krey S. Gary, Restoration and Revolution in Britain (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

 

Jones R. J. The Revolution of 1688 in England  (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1972)

 

Miller John. The Glorious Revolution ( New York: Longman,1983)

 

Pincus C, A. Steven. England’s Glorious Revolution 1688-1989 A Brief History with Documents (New York:  Bedford/St Martins, 2006)

 

Worden Blair. The English Civil Wars 1640-1660 (London: Phoenix, 2009)

 

Vallance Edward. The Glorious Revolution 1688: Britain’s Fight for Liberty ( London Abacus, 2006)

 

Vallance Edward. British History in Depth: The Glorious Revolution  http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/civil_war_revolution/glorious_revolution_01.shtml

 

Coronation Oath Act 1688

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/aep/WillandMar/1/6/section/III


[1] Pincus C, A. Steven. England’s Glorious Revolution 1688-1989 A Brief History with Documents (New York:  Bedford/St Martins, 2006).,pg40

[2]Baxter B. Stepehn, William III (London: Longmans, 1966) .,pg225

[3] Claydon Tony, William III Profiles in Power (London: Longman, 2002).,pg60

[4] Claydon Tony, ‘Cambridge University Press: Williams III’s Declaration of Reasons and the Glorious Revolution’, The Historical Journal, Vol. 39, No.1 ( Mar., 1996).,pg94

[5] Claydon Tony, William III Profiles in Power (London: Longman, 2002).,pg64

[6] Vallance Edward. British History in Depth: The Glorious Revolution  http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/civil_war_revolution/glorious_revolution_01.shtml

[7] Worden Blair. The English Civil Wars 1640-1660 (London: Phoenix, 2009).,pg155

[8] De Krey S. Gary, Restoration and Revolution in Britain (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).,pg264

[9] Coronation Oath Act 1688http://www.legislation.gov.uk/aep/WillandMar/1/6/section/III

[10] Vallance Edward. British History in Depth: The Glorious Revolution  http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/civil_war_revolution/glorious_revolution_01.shtml

[11] Pincus C, A. Steven. England’s Glorious Revolution 1688-1989 A Brief History with Documents (New York:  Bedford/St Martins, 2006).,pg25

[12] Jones R. J. The Revolution of 1688 in England  (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1972).,pg330