Revolution of 1688 (England)
REVOLUTION OF 1688 (ENGLAND)
The events of 1688–89, when William and Mary replaced James II on the English throne, produced a decisive shift in the relationship between monarch and parliament. Hitherto the latter had owed its existence to
the former; henceforth the obligation was reversed. William and Mary were granted the crown only after agreeing to conditions laid down in the declaration of rights, made statutory in the Bill of Rights and underlined by a remodeled coronation oath, pledging them to govern "according to the Statutes in Parliament agreed on." These limitations sought to curb conduct such as that by which James II had undermined parliament's legislative power and the position of the established Church. These encroachments were added to personal grievances that prompted their victims to a more ardent opposition than they might otherwise have undertaken. James brought his downfall upon himself largely through his headlong drive for religious equality, heedless of the warnings of the Pope, the papal nuncio, Louis XIV, Cardinal Howard, and leading Catholic laymen.
James compelled many of those most disposed to be loyal to him, Anglican tories whose watchword was "Church and King," to choose between their Church and their King; when they chose the former, his cause was lost. Many grievances, some unreasonable, some self–interested but some well founded, were awakened: distaste for a standing army and disquiet at its quota of Catholics, anger among the nobility over their loss of command of the militia, anxiety at inconvenient enquiries into the handling of recusancy revenues (which were ordered to be refunded), resentment at dismissal from administrative positions, and the subsequent appointment of Catholics and nonconformists. Many disapproved of James's attempt (by means of a questionnaire in the autumn of 1687) to make potential M.P.'s commit themselves on the question of penal law repeal; and indignation arose at the King's treatment of the universities (especially his imposition of a Catholic president and fellows upon Magdalen College, Oxford). In addition there was fury at the prosecution of seven Anglican bishops who refused to promulgate the second Declaration of Indulgence, granting religious toleration to Catholic and Protestant dissenters. James may have been aiming at general toleration and not at a Catholic despotism, but his methods lent themselves all too readily to the latter construction, particularly at a time when Irish massacres of Protestants, the "Popish Plot," and Louis XIV's revival of the persecution of Huguenots (culminating in the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685) were in all men's minds. Such additional factors as the opening of Catholic chapels and schools, the wearing of religious garb by Catholic clergy, the preaching of a sermon at a court of assize by a Jesuit (at Hertford), the use of Bath Abbey for Catholic ceremonies, and the occasional anti–Protestant sermon intensified the impatience and suspicion with which James's rule was regarded and made for a general acceptance of the Revolution. It was not, however, until after the birth of an heir to the throne on June 10, 1688 (characteristically, James announced that the Pope was to be his godfather), that positive action was taken against the King. Hitherto, mounting indignation had been tempered by the knowledge that both his immediate successor, his elder daughter, Mary, and her sister Anne were devout Anglicans; the rule of the Catholic King was accepted as a temporary and probably short–lived aberration (by 1688 James had already attained the age at which his predecessor had died.) The prince's birth, however, augured a succession of Catholic monarchs.
On June 30, the day that the seven bishops were acquitted amid tumultuous rejoicing (in which the army, significantly, participated), seven men—neither representative nor, at that time, politically important—invited William of Orange to invade England to uphold the"religion, liberties and properties" of the people. On November 5, William landed in Devon; James marched westward to meet him, but defections among those he most trusted (e.g., John Churchill and Princess Anne) so disheartened him that he returned to London, sent the Queen and baby prince to France, and followed them on December 23. In the last months of 1688 anti-Catholic feeling showed itself in nationwide attacks on Catholics and on their property, and three of the four vicars apostolic and numerous priests were imprisoned.
Legislation of 1689 subjected Catholics to fines and imprisonment for refusing the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, expelled them from London, confined them to their dwelling places, authorized the search of their homes for weapons, and ordered the sale of papists' horses worth over £5. After the immediate crisis had passed, however, these laws were enforced only spasmodically and the same applied to the levying of the double land tax, imposed on Catholics in 1692. William III's claim that he came not to persecute Catholics but to protect Protestants, although only a minor motive (his principal purpose was to gain English support against LouisXIV) was, on the whole, borne out by events. Catholics were, nevertheless, subject to numerous political disabilities, which produced apostasies among the Catholic nobility and gentry during the ensuing century.
Bibliography: g. davies, ed., Bibliography of British History, Stuart Period, 1603–1714 (Oxford 1928). c. l. grose, A Select Bibliography of British History, 1660–1760 (Chicago 1939). g. n. clark, The Later Stuarts (2d ed. Oxford 1955). d. ogg, England into the Reigns of James II and William III (Oxford 1955). j. p. kenyon, The Stuarts (London 1958), brilliant and perceptive; The Nobility in the Revolution of 1688 (Kingston upon Hull, Eng.1963); Robert Spencer, Earl of Sunderland (London 1958). f. c. turner, James II (New York 1948). m. p. ashley, "Is there a Case for James II?" History Today 13 (1963) 347–352. l. pinkham, William III and the Respectable Revolution (Cambridge, Mass. 1954). g. m. straka, Anglican Reaction to the Revolution of 1688 (Madison 1962). d. c. douglas, ed., English Historical Documents (London 1953–) v. 8 1660–1714, ed. a. browning. w. c. costin and j. s. watson, comps., The Law and Working of the Constitution: Documents, 2 v. (London 1952) v.1 1660–1783. g. m. straka, ed., The Revolution of 1688…. (Boston 1963). h. e. bell and r. l. ollard, "King James II and the Revolution of 1688: Some Reflections on the Historiography," Historical Essays, 1600–1750 (London 1964).
[j. a. williams]