2.1c Main Reasons for the Conflict
Some of the essential factors that were responsible for the frequent clashes between the King and their Parliament are:
i. The Financial Reasons
Money matters have always been the most important factor in any revolution or conflict. Finance was another matter of dispute between the Stuart Kings and their Parliaments. The Stuart monarchs could not establish their despotism without making themselves financially sound. There is no doubt that Elizabeth was a very popular monarch; still she could not get substantial grants from the Parliament. The reason was that Parliament was growing conscious of its rights. It was not willing to place heavy finances at the disposal of the ruler lest these be misused. In order to govern the nation absolutely the Stuarts needed an army. They were also on the look out for allies. As a result of this economic difficulties went on multiplying. To meet the situation, the early Stuarts took recourse to arbitrary taxation. The Parliament resented this. Ultimately, this resulted in a quarrel between the two.
ii. Political Consciousness
The people of England were politically aware regarding their rights and they took up the cause of freedom. These Englishmen clashed with the Kings, when they were denied their rights. Their recent learning had influenced the middle class. They were conscious of their rights. This could well be one of the results of Renaissance humanism.
iii. Personal nature of the early Stuart Kings
The personalities of James I and Charles I to a
very great extent was reason enough for the conflict between Parliament
and King. Assuming themselves to be the representatives of God they
did not like the Parliamentís interference in the affairs of the
State. The first two kings showed future kings the way to raise
money to meet personal expenditure. They employed several illegal
methods to raise money. Their successors followed these methods.
Due to over-expenditure however, they had to look to the Parliament
for economic grants quite often. But when the Parliament questioned
their expenditure they dissolved it.
iv. The issue of Control over Ministers
Another point of discord between the kings and the Parliament was the question of the control over the Ministers. The Parliament, basing its arguments on the practices of the Augevin and Lancastrian kings claimed that it had the right to exercise control over the Kingís ministers. The Parliament impeached several ministers of the Stuarts. In such duels it was invariably the King who lost against the Parliament. The kings were obstinate and did not give up their practice. The result was that the Stuarts earned disrepute and fell low in popular estimation.
v. Unreasonable use of the Prerogative of making laws
The Stuart monarchs issued prerogatives from time to time. The power of making laws rested with the Parliament. The King used his special powers to counteract Parliamentary laws. This broadened the gulf between the two. The conflict was regarding who should be considered sovereign in the land, answerable only to god.
vi. Tax Collection
The Kingís means of tax collection were very unfair. The Stuarts made every attempt to collect money from the people by using all sorts of means, fair or foul. These included selling out monopolies, raising forced loans and selling Knighthood. The Parliament resented this.
vii. Issue of Religion
Religion was another factor contributing to this rift. When the first Stuart came to the throne, there were several religious parties striving to gain some concessions from the ruler of the new dynasty. The most powerful party was that of the Puritans. They had gained a majority in the House of Commons. They had organized themselves to see the Ecclesiastical settlement of Elizabeth revised. There were Catholics too, who with the change in dynasty, had begun to think of restoring Englandís connection with the Roman Pope. But James had made up his mind. He had decided to uphold the same Church system, which Queen Elizabeth had instated. Immediately after his accession, Charles I married Henrietta Maria of France.
Since France was Catholic, Charles was bound to have Catholic leanings. Ultimately, he became a Catholic. The people of England turned against him. The Puritans had a majority in the Parliament and as such they could not tolerate undue favors made to Catholics. The religious policies of Charles I led to the famous Civil War.
viii. The Foreign Affairs issue of James I and Charles II
The foreign policy of James I and Charles I also contributed to this struggle. Under them Englandís foreign policy came to be colored by religious sentiments. Jamesí engagement with Spain and the alliance of Charles with France appeared to the Parliament to imperil Protestantism.
ix. Kingís Role in Elections
Fair and free elections are considered the foundation of democracy. The Stuart monarchs did not believe in this principle. They had developed the habit of interfering in the elections of members of Parliament. Their main object was to have such members in the Parliament who would carry out their wishes. This way they could do whatever they liked under the guise of Parliament.
x. Defensive England
Time was not in favor of the Stuarts. Before the Stuarts, England was subject to constant foreign threats. In 1603, the situation completely changed. There was peace and order in the country. The people could now pay attention to the attainments of their rights and under these circumstances, suppression of the Parliament was not an easy task. Ironically, the absence of external dangers became another reason why the Parliament and Monarch came to quarrel.
xi. Judiciary was influenced
The Stuart monarchs considered themselves to be above the law of the land and wanted the various discussions to be proclaimed according to their wishes. In order to punish their political opponents and critics they had established courts like the Court of Ecclesiastical Commission etc. These Courts were engines of tyranny and excesses. The Parliament and the King picked up a quarrel on this account also. The Parliament was successful in getting the Habeas Corpus Act passed in 1679. After the Act, the courts were extricated from the clutches of the King.