CHAPTER V. THE STRUGGLE FOR SELF-GOVERNMENT
The Revolution of 1688 was singularly negative so far as its results were expressed in the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement. These celebrated constitutional documents made little provision for national self-government. One king, it is true, had been evicted from the throne, and Roman Catholics were to be always excluded; and these measures disposed of divine hereditary right. But that had been a Stuart invention, and kings had been deposed before James II. Why should self-government follow on the events of 1688 any more than on those of 1399, 1461, or 1485? Future sovereigns were, indeed, to refrain from doing much that James had done. They were not to keep a standing army in time of peace, not to pardon ministers impeached by the House of Commons, not to dismiss judges except on an address from both Houses of Parliament, not to suspend laws at all nor to dispense with them in the way James had done, not to keep a parliament nor do without one longer than three years, and not to require excessive bail. Religious toleration, too, was secured in some measure, and freedom of the press to a limited extent. But all these enactments were safeguards against the abuse of royal power and infringement of civil liberty rather than provisions for self-government. No law was passed requiring the king to be guided by ministers enjoying the confidence of parliament; he was still the real and irresponsible executive, and parliament was limited to legislation. The favourite Whig toast of "civil and religious liberty" implied an Englishman's right to freedom from molestation, but not a right to a voice in the government of the country. Responsible self-government was not guaranteed by the laws, but it was ensured by the facts, of the Revolution.
The truth is, that the methods of English constitutional progress have been, down to this day, offensive strategy and defensive tactics. Positions have been taken up which necessitate the retirement of the forces of reaction, unless they are prepared to make attacks predestined to defeat; and so, nearly every Liberal advance has been made to appear the result of Tory aggression. The central position has always been control of the purse by parliament. At first it only embraced certain forms of direct taxation; gradually it was extended and developed by careful spade-work until it covered every source of revenue. Entrenched behind these formidable earthworks, parliament proceeded to dictate to the early Stuarts the terms of national policy. Charles I, provoked by its assumptions, made his attack on the central position, was foiled, and in his retreat left large portions of the crown's equipment in the hands of parliament. Rasher attacks by James II resulted in a still more precipitate retreat and in the abandonment of more of the royal prerogatives. The growth of the empire and of the expenses of government riveted more firmly than ever the hold of parliament over the crown; the greater the demands which it alone could meet, the higher the conditions it could impose upon their grant, until parliament determined absolutely the terms upon which the office of monarchy should be held. In a similar way the Commons used their control of the national purse to restrict the powers of the House of Lords; provocation has led to attacks on the central position, and the failure of these attacks has been followed by surrender. Prudent leaders have preferred to retire without courting the preliminary of defeat.
William III and his successors adopted this course when confronted with the impregnable position of parliament after the Revolution; and hence later constitutional gains, while no apparent part of the parliamentary position, were its inevitable consequences. William, absorbed in a life-and-death struggle with Louis XIV, required a constant stream of supplies from parliament; and to secure its regularity he had to rely on the good offices and advice of those who commanded most votes in the House of Commons. In the Lords, who then numbered less than two hundred, he could secure the balance of power through the appointment of bishops. In the Commons his situation was more difficult. The partial demise of personal monarchy in 1688 led to a scramble for its effects, and the scramble to the organization of the two principal competitors, the Whig and Tory parties. The Whigs formed a "junto," or caucus, and the Tories followed their example. William preferred the Whigs, because they sympathized with his wars; but the country sometimes preferred the Tories, because it hated William's Dutchmen and taxation. On William's death in 1702 the danger from Louis XIV was considered so acute that a ministry was formed from all parties in order to secure the united support of parliament; but gradually, in Anne's reign, the Tories who wanted to make peace left the ministry, until in 1708 it became purely Whig. In 1710 it fell, and the Tories took its place. They wanted a Stuart restoration, even at the price of undoing the Revolution, if only the Pretender would abandon his popery; while the Whigs were determined to maintain the Revolution even at the price of a Hanoverian dynasty. They returned to power in 1714 with the accession of George I, and monopolized office for more than half a century. As time went on, many Whigs became hardly distinguishable from Tories who had relinquished Jacobitism; and from Lord North's accession to office in 1770 down to 1830 the Tories enjoyed in their turn a half-century of nearly unbroken power.