Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Aristocracy Returns

Few Englishmen had seemed  content with the revolutionary settlement. Recriminations began over whether or not the king should have been executed. Some thought the abolition of the monarchy and the House of Lords went to far. Others, like the so-called Levelers, believed that the revolution had not gone far enough. And during the next several years,  Parliament reorganized itself and the executive departments several times.  Only the authority of Oliver Cromwell and the New Model Army seemed to hold the country together. After Cromwell's death, the Commonwealth limped along for only three more years. Parliament and the army began negotiating for the restoration of the Monarchy.

In 1660, The oldest son of the executed king returned to the throne as Charles II. Parliament reorganized itself along the traditional lines into a House of Lords and House of Commons. The new elections returned the aristocracy to dominance. As part of the Restoration, the Parliament attempted to erase history, ruling that Charles II had really been the legitimate monarch since the execution of his father. The Parliament passed Bills of Attainder declaring the late Oliver Cromwell and others guilty of treason. Authorities exhumed his corpse displayed it in chains. Parliament also restored the Church of England as the state sanctioned church. Parliament passed several laws to suppress Puritanism:

Corporation Act (1661) required that all municipal officers must take Anglican communion. This effectively excluded Presbyterians and Congregationalists from civil offices on the local level.

Act of Uniformity (1662) made the Anglican Book of Common Prayer compulsory in all churches. Some 2000 Presbyterian and Congregationalist pastors were turned out of their pulpits.

Conventicle Act (1664) outlawed non-Anglican religious assemblies of more than five persons who were not from the same household.

Five Mile Act (1965) forbade clergy from living within five miles of a parish from which they had been expelled unless they took an oath of loyalty.

It was not long, however, before conflict resumed between the newly enthroned king and the Parliament. These issue eventually led to the exclusion crisis and the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the triumph of the aristocracy.

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