2.10 The Glorious Revolution
The greatest landmark in the history of England is the Glorious Revolution of 1688. This revolution is called ’Glorious’ because it achieved its objective without any bloodshed. James II came to the throne of England in 1685, after Charles II his brother died. He desired to rule despotically and to re-establish the Roman Catholic religion in England. The common people did not like this. They rose in revolt. This struggle between the King and the Parliament ended in victory for the people (i.e. the representative of the people - the parliament). A constitutional monarchy was now established in England. All the power rested in the hands of people and they availed long cherished freedom. Modern rules were framed according to which the King ruled only as per the wishes and will of the people.
2.10a The Main Reasons of Revolution of 1668
Socio-political factors combined with religious issues to produce a chain of events that led to this revolution.
i. Religious Issues
The efforts of James II to restore Catholicism in England bothered the English people. Re-instating -Catholicism in England was his dream and he was prepared to sacrifice even his throne for the sake of his religion. James II was a Roman Catholic and openly so. No one would have minded that. But the trouble with him was that he was not contented with himself being a Catholic. James II issued a statement on his accession to the throne in which he had promised to uphold the Church of England and to regard his own religion as a personal affair. The people at large felt gratified over it. But after the suppression of Argyll and Monmouth’s rebellions he felt himself so strong that he foolishly thought of Catholicizing the whole nation. The Tory and the church party had espoused his cause in the beginning because they had trusted him and taken his early statement as true. But crafty as James II was, he did not prove true to his promise. He could not hope to count on the help of the Tories and the Church, if his religious designs were to be prejudiced and aggressive. He was thus playing into the hands of the Whigs.
The Test Act was passed during the reign of Charles
II. It required that every person who wanted to get civil or military
posts must accept the Anglican Church and its principles. The Catholics
were thus deprived of these privileges. The new King, James wanted
to attach more importance to the Catholics and therefore he made
fervent efforts to reject his act. He dissolved it. He dismissed
his High Court Tory ministers, and surrounded himself with sycophants,
chief among whom was the very clever but utterly corrupt Earl of
Sutherland. He did not hesitate to announce his conversion to Catholicism
in order to please the King. In place of the Earl of Clarendon,
James gave the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland to the Catholic Earl
of Tyrconnell. Tyrconnell’s instructions were to attack the Protestant
ii. First Declaration of Indulgence
James II was a Roman Catholic and he treated his fellow religious believers’ most sympathetically by appointing them to high positions in the state and the army. Not only that James II invited the Pope of Rome to England and restored his old position officially on him. James II issued his first "Declaration of Indulgence" in 1687 which he suspended wholesale the penal laws against the Roman Catholics. The result was that the Roman Catholics and other Dissenters began to worship openly. The Tories, who stood for the Church of England, were exasperated. The Whigs were unreconciliatory. They were scared that James II was supporting Catholicism under the religious toleration.
iii. Second Declaration of Indulgence
In 1688, James II issued the Second Declaration of Indulgence. It was ordered that this declaration should be spread in every Church on two consecutive Sundays. Almost all priests opposed the reading of the Declaration. He condemned the seven bishops to be imprisoned in the London Tower who refused to obey King’s orders and opposed James but they were set free by court amidst public rejoicing. This act made James II unpopular.
James wanted to spread Catholicism in the universities also. For pushing the Catholics to high positions, James used many unfair means. For instance, the post of Head of Megdallan College of Oxford University was vacated and one James Parker, a Catholic was appointed. He even dismissed the vice-chancellor of Cambridge University because he had refused to accommodate a Catholic in the University. The Parliament could not tolerate this high-handedness of the monarch. Moreover the university people also disliked it.