The Restoration Settlement
The legislation of 1660-4 when taken together constitutes the Restoration Settlement. This array of legislation was passed after heated debates over deeply divisive issues by two successive bodies, the Convention Parliament (1660), and the Cavalier Parliament (1661-1679). Though the settlement was essentially a series of ad hoc measures, it carried the potential for a lasting arrangement. Ultimately it was a reflection of the overwhelming desire of the country for a return to stability after two decades of considerable upheaval in the most fundamental areas of government, society, and religion.
The Convention stands as perhaps the most unusual of seventeenth century Parliaments; it appears to have lacked any underlying unity other than bringing an end to the instability and illegality of the Interregnum. With Royalists and Parliamentary men, the Commons divided sharply along so many lines, namely over political and religious issues, yet for most the fundamental concerns were to restrict Charles II's power to safeguard against a return to the arbitrary government of the Personal Rule. The Convention managed to achieve resolution only where there was consensus or opinion indifferent, settling the some of the most immediate problems that had been carried over from the Protectorate such as indemnity, land issues and arrears of pay for the Army and navy. Contentious issues such as the constitution, royal prerogative, settlement of the Church and control of the militia, over which opinion became sharply polarised, were left to the Cavalier Parliament for resolution.
The King had not brought a large amount of revenue from the Dutch Republic, and at this point the 1641 legislation of the Long Parliament curtailed. The King needed issues to be settled, especially the question of Crown revenues. Since Charles had arrived in May, the dominant theme had been to bring settlement, stability and peace to England. In the Convention Parliament the balance of opinion or political-religious leaning had ensured that extreme measures such as those of 1641-2 or 1649 were not repeated.
However, later in 1660 divisions began to reappear. Radical plots and resistance such as Venner's Rising (1661) confirmed the dangers of the old radicalism, both republicanism and Puritanism, for the political élite. The Cavalier backlash was expressed in the parliamentary elections of 1661. The majority of MPs of the Cavalier Parliament had Royalist sympathies. Though now the King would not be able to manipulate Parliament by playing off the factions against one another, Charles II would have been hard-pressed to find a more loyal body than the Cavalier Parliament. The King was now better placed to secure an increase in his authority, with provisions to ensure this did not impinge on the liberties and property of Anglican gentry. The Parliament was fully prepared and even willing to renounce the executive control the Long Parliament had created for it during the 1640s when at war with the King. Besides the illegality of much of the Long Parliament's legislation, MPs were provincials and had no real desire for the power or the necessary time and expenses they would have to spend in London to exercise it. But the Commons of the Cavalier Parliament did not just want Charles II to govern England - they wanted him to govern the nation effectively and legally. MPs had memories not just of Charles I's arbitrary policies and Laud's innovations in the Church; more frightening to the conservative political nation were the memories of angry London mobs, iconoclasts, Levellers and Diggers, Fifth Monarchists, Baptists or a politicised Army swarming with sectaries. This fear of pretensions to power from below did not just offend the gentry and urban élites because they represented a challenge to their political power - contemporaries were seriously fearful of social disorder, destruction of the status quo and the detriment to state and Church that these movements seemed to offer. There was strong support for measures to allow the crown to suppress such subversive forces in society; they were equally determined that the monarchy would never again be able to realise such a quasi-absolutist regime. Fundamentally, the Cavalier Parliament wanted to give Charles II control of government as fully as it was felt was constitutionally necessary. They wished to provide the financial support he would need to do this effectively. Yet they were not willing to provide so much power that he could afford to rule without parliaments, both politically and financially. Concerned for order, on its first meeting in May 1661 Charles urged the Cavalier Parliament to confirm the Indemnity Act (the guarantee against prosecution for acts committed during the Civil Wars) and the other Acts passed by the Convention Parliament, yet to be firm with those who continued to actively resist the government.
In June a bill for the regulation of municipal corporations was presented to the Commons. During the Civil War and Interregnum Royalists were forced out or dismissed from local government offices and
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|