CHAPTER V. THE STRUGGLE FOR SELF-GOVERNMENT
The Restoration was not so much a restoration of monarchy, which had really been achieved in 1653, as a restoration of the church, of parliament, and of the landed gentry; and each took its toll of profit from the situation. The church secured the most sectarian of its various settlements, and the narrowness of its re-establishment kept nearly half the nation outside its pale. The landed gentry obtained the predominant voice in parliament for a century and three-quarters, and, as a consequence, the abolition of its feudal services to the crown, the financial deficit being made up by an excise on beer instead of by a land-tax. Parliament emancipated itself from the dictation of the army, taking care never to run that risk again, and from the restrictions of a written, rigid constitution. It also recovered its rotten boroughs and antiquated franchise, but lost its union with the parliaments of Ireland and Scotland. At first it seemed more royalist than the king; but it soon appeared that its enthusiasm for the monarchy was more evanescent than its attachment to the church and landed interest. Even in the first flush it refrained from restoring the Star Chamber and the other prerogative courts and councils which had enabled the crown to dispense with parliamentary and common law control; and Charles II was never able to repeat his father's experiment of ruling for eleven years without a parliament.
The ablest, least scrupulous, and most popular of the Stuarts, he began his reign with two objects: the emancipation of the crown from control as far as possible, and the emancipation of the Roman Catholics from their position of political inferiority; but the pursuit of both objects was strictly conditioned by a determination not to embark on his travels again. The two objects were really incompatible. Charles could only make himself autocratic with the support of the Anglican church, and the church was determined to tolerate no relaxation of the penal code against other Catholics. At first Charles had to submit to Clarendon and the church; but in 1667 he gladly replaced Clarendon by the Cabal administration, among the members of which the only bond of unity was that it did not contain a sound Anglican churchman. With its assistance he published his Declarations of Indulgence for Roman Catholics and Dissenters (1672), and sought to secure himself against parliamentary recalcitrance by a secret treaty with Louis XIV (1670). This policy failed against the stubborn opposition of the church. The Cabal fell; Danby, a replica of Clarendon, came into office; and the Test Act of 1673 made the position of the Roman Catholics worse than it was before the Declaration.
This failure convinced Charles that one of his two designs must go by the board. He threw over the less popular cause of his co-religionists; and henceforth devoted himself to the task of emancipating the crown from parliamentary interference. But popular suspicion had been aroused by Charles's secret dealings and James's open professions; and Titus Oates, who knew something about real plans for the reconversion of England, inflated his knowledge into a monstrous tale of a popish plot. The Whigs, as the opposition party came to be called, used it for more than it was worth to damage the Tories under Danby. The panic produced one useful measure, the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679, many judicial murders, and a foolish attempt to exclude James from the succession, As it subsided, Charles deftly turned the reaction to the ruin of the Whigs (1681). Of their leaders, Shaftesbury fled to Holland, and Sidney and Russell were brought to the block; their parliamentary strongholds in the cities and towns were packed with Tories; and for the last four years of his reign Charles ruled without a parliament, but with the goodwill of the Tories and the church.
This half of the nation would probably have acquiesced in the growth of despotism under James II, had not the new king ostentatiously ignored the wisdom of Charles II. He began (1685) with everything in his favour: a Tory parliament, a discredited opposition, which further weakened its case by Argyll's and Monmouth's rebellions, and a great reputation for honesty. Within a couple of years he had thrown away all these advantages by his revival of Charles II's abandoned Roman Catholic policy, and had alienated the Anglican church, by whose support alone he could hope to rule as an English despot. He suspended and dispensed with laws, introduced Roman Catholics into the army, the universities, the privy council, raised a standing force of thirty thousand men, and finally prosecuted seven bishops for seditious libel. William III, the husband of James's daughter Mary, was invited by representatives of all parties to come over as England's deliverer, and James fled on his approach. He could not fight, like his father, because no English party supported his cause.