The Constitution In 1603 the political-constitutional upheaval that would ensue during the subsequent
half-century would have seemed impossible to contemporaries. During the course of the reigns of James
I and Charles I tension developed between the crown and Parliament. This was an ongoing dispute
over the methods these monarchs used to raise revenue, the course and conduct of foreign policy, the
theological direction Church of England and so forth. That there would be a monarch who was supreme
was never questioned. Parliament at most wanted some sort of guarantee of its 'rights'. The Stuarts
refused to recognise these rights and asserted the principle of the divine right of kingship to justify the
ways in which they governed the kingdom. Th Civil Wars were not fought over constitutional issues.
That the King would be executed in 1649 and the country ruled without a monarch for an entire decade
should not temper judgement of the events that led to the Wars and the period up to 1649. The issue
for both sides was always the return to stability and legitimate monarchical government. Charles wanted
to defeat Parliament and forcefully assert his authority by whatever means necessary. Parliament split
during the mid-1640s over the objective of the War - whether they were fighting to defeat the King and
force a guaranteed settlement of Parliament's rights and a thoroughly Calvinist Church of England, or
simply to return to peace under whatever terms the King offered. Nevertheless, the Civil Wars were
caused by and fought out at the senior levels within the traditional ruling class. Under Charles I the
fragility of the constitution had been exposed - if the king decided to interpret and stretch his powers
to their very limits, neither the law nor parliaments could prevent him from doing so. The experience of
Charles I's arbitrary government had led the Long Parliament to embark on a legislative programme that
was intended to provide limitations or restrictions on the crown's powers. During the 1640s, Parliament
had demanded it have a voice in the appointment and dismissal of royal ministers and control of the
armed forces. These demands were fundamentally Parliament's concern for its own preservation as
a constitutional component. They highlighted one serious flaw in the Ancient Constitution - it raised
fundamental questions: if the monarchy became arbitrary or tyrannical, contravening the 'contract' between
the king and people, who would arbitrate? Furthermore, which of these interests took precedent - those
of the monarchy or the 'people'? The Restoration Settlement illustrates the concern of the vast majority
of the political nation to restore the 'proper' balance to the English constitution and stability to government.
Thus it was upheld in Restoration England that limited monarchy was the form of government because
it combined the most beneficial aspects of each 'type' and avoided the detrimental effects that eventually
bring collapse. In practice, this meant that the king should be competent enough to exercise the duties
of his office, yet not over mighty so that he has the potential to oppress his subjects. To contemporaries
monarchy seemed the best form of government - it was seen as the most rational and beneficial political
arrangement. Contemporary political thought was influenced by the classical and Renaissance idea of
cycles of government. Though at the Restoration Charles had been reluctant to rely on the support of
the 'old Cavaliers', in the early 1680s he worked with the Tories to crush the Whigs and the Dissenters.
Whigs were ousted from their posts as JPs and from the militia, and in the corporations the Tories attacked
them with grants of new charters, under which the disaffected could be removed at any time. This tactic
often involved coercion to secure the surrender of original charters; this did not concern the Tories as
the allure of municipal power outweighed all others. The judiciary became solidly Tory and the law was
turned on the Dissenters and the Whigs. During 1681-5 Charles II's reign was perhaps the most authoritarian
of the seventeenth century. Even without the prerogative courts, the Crown crushed its political enemies.
Under James II England suffered a serious threat of a Catholic monarch gradually promoting popery in
the kingdom and governing arbitrarily, using his prerogative powers for what were believed to be utterly
unacceptable ends. In 1688 Parliament could reflect on four reigns of arbitrary behaviour by the crown.
The experience of the Stuarts had taught Parliament in its quest for recognition of its rights, to have
serious reservations about trusting the monarch to govern the kingdom in the way it expected - i.e. not
maintaining a standing army without Parliament's approval and using it for political purposes, not leading
the Church in a direction that either alluded to or directly supported Roman Catholicism, regularly calling
Parliament and responding to its grievances, not taxing the nation without parliamentary approval, appointing
ministers who were competent and held their office by merit, that these ministers could in some way
be answerable to Parliament. It was in response to these objectives and concerns and with hindsight
of the experience of the seventeenth century that in 1688-89 Parliament took its opportunity to secure
its position as a pivotal element of the constitution and an active participant in the government of the
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