Whigs and Tories

"Whig" was originally the name the Tories branded the Country opposition led by Shaftesbury against Charles II and Danby. Like the name 'Tory', the original meaning of the term 'Whig' was derogatory, a term of abuse recalling Scottish Presbyterian rebels of the Bishops' Wars and English Civil War. The name was gradually adopted to identify the disparate groups that converged to oppose the King and his supporters during the Exclusion Crisis. The purpose of this co-operation was to exclude the Catholic heir the Duke of York from ascending to power after Charles. At its core were former Parliamentarians, ex-Cavaliers who had become disillusioned with Charles II's government, Presbyterians who were dissatisfied with the Restoration settlement of the Church, career politicians who were desperate for ministerial office, and back-bench gentry MPs who were generally opposed to the Court on the grounds of its immorality, extravagance and corruption.

The name "Tories" was the cognomens the Whigs gave the 'Court party' formed by Danby under Charles II during the last months of the Cavalier Parliament and the Exclusion Crisis. In origin the name referred to Irish Catholic bandits and was applied by the Whigs as a term of abuse to their opponents; however the name soon became increasingly.

Tories believed in the divine right of the monarchy, hereditary succession, and non-resistance to the Crown's prerogatives. With this they staunchly defended the Church of England against the threats of Catholicism and religious Dissent.

Under the James II with his attempt to erect a stable Catholic episcopal and civil establishment, the Tories were put through a difficult test of allegiances in having to choose between their two uttermost loyalties: the legitimate king or the Anglican Church. Tories who chose Anglicanism over their loyalty to the Crown helped the Whigs bring about the Revolution of 1688.

The Revolution Settlement also found Tories divided. In practice having to accept the joint reign of William III and Mary, the Tories interpreted a Dutch prince taking the English throne as a regency for the absentee James II, whose claim to the throne they still believed legitimate. This caused numerous theoretical complications as though many Tories were prepared to regard Mary as legitimate William III complicated matters by insisting on full regal powers for himself. Ultimately the Tories were unwilling to accept the theory that Parliament could choose a monarch to take a vacant throne. Thus the Revolution and its aftermath split the Tories into two distinct 'strands' or groups - the Country Tories and the Court Tories. The Country Tories were opposed to William III's use of English men and resources for his wars on the Continent, toleration for Dissenters, and feared that Anglicanism (and with it the fabric of the social order and morals) was under threat from the recent explosion of science and reason. Further, the Tories were contemptuous of the growth of the 'monied interest' in the City and the financial revolution from which they profited. Through the dexterity of non-partisan 'manager' Robert Harley, the Country Tories were allied with the Country Whigs. Harley formed the new 'Country Party' under William III with the union of these Whigs and Tories. This grouping became the Tories of Queen Anne's reign.

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