Absolute Monarchy of the Tudor Period. England became a modern nation-state under the Tudor monarchs, the nobility was disarmed, the church nationalized, overseas trade and colony-taking encouraged. It was a period of war, of enormous change and progress; new worlds of many different kinds were opened up. Make sure you have an overview of the period, for instance.
Absolute Monarchy of the Tudor Period:-
During Elizabeth’s reign, the absolute monarchy was modified partially, and socio-economic conditions also improved to some extent. However, the rapid increase in the circulation of bullion and the Tudor policy of debasing the coinage brought about a galloping inflation in the country, which enabled the landlords, farmers, and traders earn huge profits.
Elizabeth and merchant subjects showed great interest in building ships and establishing chartered companies for trade and piracy; the Queen had regular shares in the booty looted by the English pirates who secularly attacked Spanish ships on the high seas.
It was the age of commercialism. Spain was the chief rival of England. The English sailors’ victory over the Spanish armada during Elizabeth’s reign signified the beginning of a new era. It was the triumph of a bourgeois mercantile England over the reactionary pro feudal elements in Europe.
The Spanish monarchy was the patron of Roman Catholicism and feudal forces of the European society. After destroying the Maya and Aztek civilizations of Central and South America, a corrupt, oppressive, and luxury-loving Spanish aristocracy, in alliance with the church hierarchy, was ruling over Spain and her trans-Atlantic colonies the Spanish and colonial peasantry to a position of near serfdom. As compared to Spain, Elizabeth’s England was a progressive, national monarchy where commerce and industry flourished, and the peasantry had been liberated from its medieval bondage.
Queen Elizabeth was a popular ruler. She neither needed a standing army for her security nor a salaried bureaucracy to carry on, her administration unlike contemporary European monarchs and the future Stuart kings of England. She neither claimed divine sanction for her rule nor showed any disrespect to Parliament. She followed the Tudor tradition in supporting the state’s progressive elements and using state power, following laws, and seeking and obtaining Parliament’s approval for her policies and actions.
For this reason, the rising social classes, as represented in Parliament, also gave their consistent support to all Tudor monarchs. Like her foresighted predecessors, she knew that the crack of a whip could not control the unruly horse she was riding but only by loving persuasion. This alone unravels the mystery of Parliament’s obedience to the sovereign and success of absolute monarchy during the Tudor period.
Parliament’s Struggle Against Monarchy:-
With the start of the Stuart reign in England, the conflict between the king and Parliament began to divide state power between them. Such tendencies had manifested even during the last stage of Elizabethan reign. Obviously, the rising English middle class was not prepared to suffer indefinitely the monopoly of political powers in the hands of an autocratic monarch governing in the interest of nobility. The Queen often granted exclusive rights in trade or production of a particular commodity to her own favorites. When Parliament opposed this in 1661, the Government adopted a policy of accommodation.
James, I ascended the throne in 1603. He did not possess Elizabeth’s cleverness or tolerance. Earlier, he had ruled Scotland where Parliament did not exist. He claimed a divine basis for his autocratic rule. He displeased the merchants of London with his financial policies. Elizabeth’s annual budget amounted to £ 400,000 only. James thought this amount was too small for his needs. Parliament always Opposed the raising of new taxes and invariably reduced the demands made by the king. It was also dissatisfied with the king’s foreign policy and opposed the alliance proposed by him with Catholic Spain or equally Catholic France.
When Charles I became the king of England in 1625, Parliament’s conflict with monarchy grew more intense. When it decided to impeach the king’s favorite minister, the Duke of Birmingham, Charles dissolved the House of Commons. He imposed new taxes without the approval of Parliament. The merchants and landlords, who loved their property, did not want to pay these taxes raised by the king without their representatives’ consent.
Liberty for the bourgeoisie meant safeguards for their private property. In 1628 the Commons presented the Petition of Rights to the king, protecting against martial law’s tyranny, illegal detention of citizens, and forcible collection of new taxes and loans.
Forcibly keeping the Speaker in his chair, the House of Commons also adopted three resolutions. It was resolved that anyone trying to restore the property in England, or advising the king to impose taxes without Parliament’s consent, or paying these illegal taxes to the Government will be deemed an enemy of the State, nation, and England’s freedom. Charles dissolved Parliament and refused to summon it for eleven years.
In the absence of Parliament, Charles solid monopoly rights in trade and production increased imports and exports and imposed a new tax on ships. However, these policies were opposed by a few courageous individuals, yet no political crisis or popular discontent developed for another decade. However, the policies of Charles and Laud as leader of the Anglican Church displeased the Presbyterians of Scotland, who characterized one Anglican Church under Laud as a disguised form of the Catholic Church.
The Presbyterians felt that the king, bishops, and ritual ceremonies had no place in true religion. Their religion was based on austerity, pious life, private prayer, and thrift. They called themselves Puritans and condemned music, drinking, and luxuries. Such ideas were gradually affecting the English middle class, as well. When Charles wanted to bring Scotland under the Anglican Church, the people of Scotland revolted against him.
Charles asked the London merchants for a loan to conduct war against the rebels. This was refused. Seeing no other way out, he summoned a meeting of the Commons in 1640. The Commons, led by Pym, sent a petition opposing the war against Scotland. Charles had no further hope of his demands being approved by the Commons; Parliament has dissolved again, giving rise to a confrontation between the king and the Commons,
When it was summoned again, an organized opposition party had come into existence in Parliament. Pym and Hampered toured the country to organize a powerful Presbyterian party. London emerged as their stronghold. The Commons impeached the king’s favorite minister Stafford for treason. The Lords disagreed—the next step on the past of the king with obvious glee.
Republican Interlude and Monarchical Restoration:-
This led to a new political development in England, culminating in the monarchy’s downfall and the establishment of a Republic. But this Republic was short-lived and lasted just for twelve years. Republican way, broke the chain of constitutional growth in England some years.
When Charles asked for monetary grants for crushing the Irish revolt, a group of members defected to the monarch’s camp. Differences arose in Parliament on the issue of reforming the Anglican Church. The civil war alone could now resolve the disputes between the Royalists and the Republicans. The king was supported by a reactionary coalition of big landowners, Anglican bishops, and Catholic nobles.
The bankers and merchants of Lon opposed him. Don, the urban middle class, small landowners, and free peasants of East Anglia. The English sailors were on the side of Parliament. The workers and poor peasants were not involved on either side. For them, it was a war between the two ruling classes. Overall, the cause of Parliament was progressive, in a relative, and its victory proved beneficial to the English people on a long-term view.
Gradually, Cromwell seized the leadership of the revolution. As a leader of the I dependents, he represented the peasants’ interests and the lower middle class. The Levelers constituted a branch of the Independents who advocated a radical version of Republicanism. The Diggers formed the Independent Party’s extreme left-wing, demanding equal distribution of land among the peasants. Cromwell disapproved of the program of the Levelers and the Diggers as impractical. Charles was defeated in the civil war and sentenced to death; England proclaimed a Republic in 1649. This happened one hundred forty years before the French revolutions of 1789 when France was declared a Republic for the first time.
The House of Lords, the citadel of British feudalism, was abolished by a new revolution constitutive. The House of Commons was be re-elected based on a revised and broader-based franchise. Cromwell and the revolutionary leaders failed to secure the Commons’ necessary support for their progressive policies as the House was still entrenched with feudalism elements. Cromwell, therefore, was obliged to transform his government into a military dictatorship. He squandered public funds in the repression of the Irish people and war with Holland.
As a result, even the forces which had supported him earlier turned against his dictatorial rule. Cromwell’s death jeopardized the Republic’s survival; however, this experiment in the Republican government proved short-lived; the flames of revolution succeeded in destroying the evil of monarchical absolutism in England forever.
Frederick Ogg says,
“Like revolutionists everywhere, seventeenth-century Englishmen found it easier to destroy than to build.”
Suppose this revolution had failed in 1649 leading. To the victory of counter-revolutionary monarchist forces in the civil war, England would have been saddled with an absolute monarchy, on the pattern of continental states like Spain or France, based on military power and governed by a centralized bureaucracy drawn from an aristocratic class. It would have changed the direction of constitutional growth in England. The Bloodless Revolution of 1688 would have been impossible without the violent overthrow of ob absolute monarchy in a Republican Revolution in 1649.
In 1661 the heir of the Stuart line was restored to the English throne. The loyalists won the election to the next Parliament. The Squires and merchants, who had supported the Republic earlier, switched their allegiance towards the new monarchy and formed the Tory Party’s backbone in the future.
After some time, the Whig Party was organized to function as an opposition faction in the Commons. The Tory Party consisted mainly of the rural landowners and the Anglican priests who were now bot devout royalists. Catholic nobles were not allowed to participate in politics, but their sympathies lay with the monarch in a crisis. The Whig Party was led by the aristocrats and supported by the city merchants and intellectuals belonging to the dissenting sects. Charles II ruled with the support of a loyal Tory Parliament. However, James II had to confront the opposition from a powerful Whig Party.
James put an end to the disabilities imposed upon them earlier and gave them equal political rights. This displeased the Tory: supporters of the king. James tried to become independent of Parliament by obtaining financial aid from France. He raised an army led by Catholic officers. The majority of the Tory statesmen then realized that the king was determined to revive his autocratic rule.
Establishment of Constitutional Monarchy:-
The Tory and Whig statesmen of England jointly invited King William of Holland to invade England to end the autocratic rule of James and establish a constitutional monarchy in its place. The supporters of James deserted him, and so he fled from England to save his life. Parliament offered the British Crown jointly to Mary and William and proclaimed a Bill of Rights depriving the monarch of his/her control over the armed forces and the courts.
After the Revolution of 1688, the monarch could neither veto any particular law passed, parliament nor delay its enforcement. He could not raise any tax without the approval of Parliament. It was made obligatory to summon at least one session of Parliament in three years. The term of the Commons was three years. On these conditions, the Whigs also turned royalists like the Tories. The Revolution brought the Central Government and the Local Administration cf London and other cities under the Whigs’ control for about a century.
However, the Tory squires and landlords continued to rule over the rural counties and districts. Karl Marx observes: The Glorious Revolution brought into power, along with Willem of Orange, the landlord and capitalist appropriators of surplus-value. They inaugurated the new era by practicing on a colossal scale the state lands that had hitherto been managed estates. They were given away, sold at a ridiculous figure or even more modestly; these were annexed to private estates by direct seizure. All this happened without the slightest observation of legal etiquette.
The Crown Lands thus fraudulently appropriated together with the Church estates, so far as these had not been lost again during the republican revolution, form the basis of today’s princely domains of the English oligarchy. The bourgeois capitalists favored the Operation with the view-among others, promoting free trade in land, extending the domain of modem agriculture on the large farm system, and increasing their supply of agricultural proletarians ready to hand. The new landed aristocracy was the natural ally of the bankruptcy, the new-hatched Saute finance, and the large manufacture, depending on protective duties.
The Glorious Revolution of 1688 demonstrated the supremacy of Parliament over the king, but the government’s actual responsibility remained with the monarch. A big assembly like Parliament was not suitable to function as a governing agency. During the succeeding centuries, governance responsibilities were gradually transferred from the king to the cabinet, which was in its origin and status 8 Committee of Parliament.
Another significant change took place in the position of the House of Lords. Its powers gradually declined about those of the House of Commons. The change took place based on conventions, which were later ratified by an act of Parliament. Another change, which ought to be mentioned, related to the franchise, which was gradually broadened to represent new social classes of British society. Lastly, an important change occurred in British political parties’ character and role in the working of the parliamentary system of the moment in England.
During the reign of Mary and William, the Whig Ministers formed the government. However, Queen Anne appointed Tory or coalition ministries, which were not responsible to parliament.
William also could appoint his ministers at his discretion and was not bound by their advice. Still, he treated them with some consideration as they supported the majority faction in Parliament. Queen Anne regarded the ministers as her servants and claimed the right to hire and fire them at her sweet will. She was not prepared to change her ministers merely because a certain party lost or won a particular Parliamentary election. The minister was a mere subordinate administrator of the particular development under the Queen’s leadership and control. She presided over the meetings of her Council of Minister and took the lead in decision-making.
In 1714 George I of the Hanover dynasty was crowned as the king of England. He was the ruler of a small German principality and was ignorant of political conditions prevailing in England. Therefore, he took no interest in the affairs of the state; the ministers were consequently deprived of monarchical leadership in government. They developed the convention of appointing the most senior minister as their chairman to preside over the Council of Ministers’ meetings. This Chairman was later known as the Prime Minister of England.
During the eighteenth century, the Whigs Council of Ministers and took par eve a were able to maintain their majority in Parliament. Robert Walpole, an efficient administrator and a senior leader of the Whig Party for a long time, maybe regarded as the first working Prime Minister of England without any formal recognition of his status. Actually, his contemporaries did not visualize him in this sole. Walpole’s colleagues did not function as a collective body and did not regard themselves as responsible to Parliament. This implied that the cabinet system had not developed as yet in the true sense.
Oligarchical Nature of Government:-
The form of government in the eighteenth Century England was oligarchical, Not when 10% of the adult population could vote. The constituencies were irrational and contained an unequal number of voters grossly. The ruling party employed corrupt methods to secure its majority in Parliament.
The Whigs retained power by practicing corruption from 1714 to 176). This was the age of great advances in commerce and Agriculture. Military technology was undergoing rapid change, and to satisfy the growing demands of the armed forces became a profitable business.
A new social group of contractors flourished, London emerged as the center of International trade-and finance. The Tory squires had no share in running the central government, but they continued to administer counties and districts and lived affluently on the incomes derived from their farms.
The foreign policy of England was also meeting with success. England won the Seven Years. War (1756-1763) against France and Canada (Quebec) as war booty acquired Frat the French in this war Pct way for India’s British conquest. Scotland was now part of Britain, and the colonial hold over Ireland was being. Consolidated.
The necessary conditions for the coming Industrial Revolution were maturing in England. The British emigrants were colonizing North America. The Whig leaders of the British government and the Directors of the East India Company were mutual friends. Accumulation of capital from trade and colonialism tribute was laying the foundation of England’s rapid industrialization.
All social classes, which were politically conscious and possessed economic power, were quite happy with the Whig Party’s policies. It was inevitable under these circumstances that the dictatorship of the Whig oligarchy continued without interruption for half a century.
When George III to ow the Whig rule. He was an ambitious monarch. The cabinet system had not yet fully developed. Factionalism brought dissensions in the Whig ranks. The character of the Tory Party was also changing. A section of the city merchants entered the Tory Party.
With the help of the Tories and his personal influence, the monarch succeeded in winning the support of a majority in the Commons. Thus, he formed a new cabinet entirely consisting of his friends and supporters, who allowed him ‘to intervene directly in government affairs.
However, the positions are taken by George II, and the former Stuart monarchs were -not identical. While the Stuart kings believed in autocratic government, George II played the same political game to which the Whig aristocrats had grown accustomed during the last fifty years; the method was to give jobs, licenses, and contracts to the voters and ensure the election in the favorite candidates to Parliament through these acts of patronage. The Parliament members could also be suitably bribed and benefited so that they voted in support of ministerial policies out of a sense of persona! Gratitude. George III learned this art from the Whig leaders and succeeded in appointing his cabinets drawn from his loyal servants.
To begin with, he appointed Lord Bute, his former teacher, as & minister. He obeyed the king as his loyal servant and formed 8 pro-monarchical factions in Parliament. This enabled George II to install cabinets of his choice for a decade. On an adverse vote of the House of Lords, he dismissed all ministers opposing him. He appointed the younger Pitt, a young man of twenty-five, as the new Prime Minister.
The House of Commons expressed a lack of confidence in the new Council of Ministers on several occasions. In a mood of indignation, the king dissolved the House of Commons and ordered a general election. He used his patronage and influence openly. The new House of Commons endorsed the king’s choice of the younger Pitt as the Prime Minister.
The king’s patronage strengthened the Tory Party. The merchants, manufacturers, and landowners, who had supported the Whigs in the past, turned their allegiance towards the Tory Party. The independence’ of the American colonies and the success of the French Revolution. Made England a more conservative and reactionary state. By establishing colonial rule in Ireland, Canada, and India, Great Britain became an Imperial Power, par excellence; the industrial revolution created a new network of industrial workshops and factories in England. In them arose a new social class of factory workers destined to play a new role in world history.
In capitalist Britain at this time, the members of this growing labor force were not granted any political rights. How could the Whig and Tory elites agree to grant them suffrage? They viewed the working class as a slave army that should toil in the coal-mines, steel mills, textile factories, or agricultural farms so that their affluent Whig and Tory masters could maintain their monopoly rights over the nation’s wealth, politics, and culture. In fact, Tories and Whigs did not constitute two different political pasties in terms of their basic ideology and fundamental policies: They were just two different designations adopted by an identical, dominant class clique ruling the United Kingdom of Great Britain the eighteenth century.