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Negation of the Restoration Regime: “the Glorious Revolution”

1. The main parties of the time were "the court" and "the country". The court represented the royalists. The country was divided into two parties: 1) the Tories, 2) the Whigs.

"Tories" in Irish means "thieves". G.M. Trevelyan characterizes them thus: “The Tories, like the Cavaliers before them, were the section of the society that stood most whole-heartedly in the old ways of rural England”. Hence, these were propertied, land-owning, conservative classes. 

"The Whigs" were a nickname given by the Tories to those who obtained their wealth from sale of sheep. Trevelyan characterizes them thus:  “The Whigs, like their Roundhead fathers, were usually those members of the landowning class who were in close touch with commercial men and commercial interests.” Hence, these are commerce men, traders, landowners close to the traders.

Finally, there were the "dissenters" (of which "the Puritans" formed a sect).

A catalogue of English dissenters

The dissenters were mostly craftsmen, and in the period of revolution they belonged to "the levelers". Whigs patronized the dissenters, for example by inviting a dissenting priest or hiring a dissenting teacher for their children. The dissenters did not participate in political struggle of the period; it was "a social party" as opposed to the other three "political parties". In this way, it is similar to the "social party" which exists these days in the former USSR, as no political party represents the interests of masses of the people. Maybe, this explains “the second coming” of anarchism in the former USSR.

We should note that “a social party” exists in all other countries of the world, as political parties represent the capitalists and their allies. For example, in the USA there are the Republican and the Democratic parties, but people by themselves form “a social party”.

2. King’s conduct was constantly wavering. He approached the business of government as a past time rather than as something serious. Large sums of money went to his favorites. When one of his favorites, Clarendon, expressing the wishes of the City, dared to oppose these expenses, he was accused of corruption and dismissed.

3. England was ruled by a “Cabal” – an oligarchy - consisting of Clifford, Ashley, Buckingham, Arlington, and Lauderdale. The last one was a governor of Scotland. Hume writes about him: “from the great rapacity of that duke, and still more of his Duchess, all offices and favors were openly put to sale. No one was allowed to approach the throne who was not dependent on him”. Similar situation existed in regard to all other members of "Cabal", and duke of Buckingham in particular.

4. Everything has had a price in the court of Charles II. The following verse of the times illustrates this:

What makes all doctrines plain and clear?

About 200 pounds a year

And that which was proved true before

Prove false again? Two hundred more

5. From 1661 to 1678 there was "a Parliament of Cavaliers", so called as most of its members belonged to the royalist party. One of its measures was passing a "Clarendon code". This was aimed against publications of Puritans. As result of Restoration, many Puritan priests were removed from their offices, and hence were forced to start their own secret churches called "conventicles".

6. However, the main vector of struggle of Parliament of Cavaliers was against the advance of Catholic religion, which was a religious mask behind which restoration of feudal economic relations was hiding. Both Tories and Whigs were against Catholicism, as this meant, among other things, restoring to the Church the lands that were taken from it during the reign of Henry VIII (about 1/3 territory of all England). Hence, the Parliament passed a series of measures according to which no Catholic could occupy a government office. These were aimed against Catholic brother of king Charles II, named Jacob. He was the most likely successor to the throne. As a governor of Scotland, he has shown an extreme cruelty towards Protestants.

7. Charles II, who has had strong Catholic tendencies, replies to the decrees of Parliament by dissolving it. However, as he can not live without money, and the purse is in the hands of the bourgeoisie, the king is forced to call a new Parliament in 1679. This Parliament is more radical than the previous one, as it consists mostly of Whigs.

8. The new Parliament continues to struggle against "the Papism" of the royalist party. Hume writes: “The utmost rage had been discovered by the commons, on account of the popish plot; and their fury began already to point against the royal family, if not against the throne itself. The duke had been struck at in several motions: The treasurer had been impeached: All supply had been refused, except on the most disagreeable conditions: Fears, jealousies, and antipathies were every day multiplying in parliament …” The king is forced to dissolve this Parliament as well. But, before dismissing the Parliament, Charles II made a deal with the French king, Louis XIV, and obtained a subsidy from him, in return for giving him a part of English commerce.

9. The royalists ally themselves with Tories to attack the Whigs. Thus, there are changes in the structure of self-rule. A.L. Morton writes: “Whig Justices of the Peace were everywhere replaced by Tories, and the ‘Clarendon Code’, which had fallen into some disuse during the Whig supremacy, was once more vigorously enforced. Tories were elected to the key posts of sheriff in London, and, since the sheriffs chose the juries, this made it possible for the gov’t to be certain of securing convictions against any Whig leaders who might be brought to trial.” Then, Russell and Sidney, two leaders of Whigs, were arrested and executed, under charge of attempt at king's life. Other members of the Whig party were repressed in different ways. For example, “Sir Samuel Barnardiston was fined ten thousand pounds; because in some private letters which had been intercepted, he had reflected on the government”.

10. It seems the Whig party was destroyed. But they represent the economic tendencies whose tide was drawing high. For example, we hear of considerable trade developing between England and East Indies and Guinea. A.L. Morton writes: “The period between 1660 and 1688 had been one of rapid commercial expansion. The alliance with Portugal and the establishment of closer trade relations with Spain and her colonies had opened new markets for English goods. The plantations in the American colonies and the West Indies grew steadily and provided both markets and raw materials, while the East India Co. became not only an important trading concern but a force in English internal politics."

11. Charles II dies in 1685, and his successor is Catholic James II.

James II, king of England

A.L. Morton thinks that James II “played into the hands of the Whigs by trying to push the counter-revolution farther and faster than his Tory supporters were prepared to go. By his attempt to restore Catholicism in England he was thrown back upon the support of the most reactionary elements in the country, the Jesuits and the more reckless and short-sighted of the Catholic gentry.” For example, in 1687 and 1688 "a Declaration of Indulgence" was published, which negated previously adopted laws against Catholics occupying government offices. Anglican priests refuse to read this Declaration in churches, as result of which 7 of them were arrested. This makes people furious.

12. Similar struggle we find in the fleet: “The fleet had begun to mutiny; because Strickland, the admiral, a Roman catholic, introduced the mass aboard his ship, and dismissed the Protestant chaplain. It was with some difficulty the seamen could be appeased; and they still persisted in declaring that they would not fight against the Dutch, whom they called friends and brethren; but would willingly give battle to the French, whom they regarded as national enemies.” To fight the French means to fight the feudal army; to fight the Dutch means to fight the republicans. Jacob II fought a secret war against the Dutch by giving safe heaven to the pirates who robbed the Dutch trading ships. 

13. In June 1688 a son is born to Jacob. Whereas before the Tories and the Whigs hoped that the throne will be succeeded by Mary, a Protestant daughter of James, married to Protestant prince, William of Orange, now this prospect has faded.

A conspiracy forms to invite a Protestant, William of Orange, a prince in the Dutch republic, into England, together with his army.

William, Prince of Orange

The conspirators write to William: “We have great reason to believe, we shall be every day in a worse condition than we are, and less able to defend ourselves, and therefore we do earnestly wish we might be so happy as to find a remedy before it be too late for us to contribute to our own deliverance ... the people are so generally dissatisfied with the present conduct of the government, in relation to their religion, liberties and properties (all which have been greatly invaded), and they are in such expectation of their prospects being daily worse, that your Highness may be assured, there are nineteen parts of twenty of the people throughout the kingdom, who are desirous of a change; and who, we believe, would willingly contribute to it, if they had such a protection to countenance their rising, as would secure them from being destroyed.”

The conspirators estimate that 19/20 people in England would welcome a change. In this estimation, they were correct. Hence, it is not correct to judge the strength of a state by its manifest army, but rather we must know intimately the mood of its people and its reflection among the ranks of the army.

In 1688, William makes elaborate, but  quick preparations for invasion of England. David Hume writes about preparations which William made for the invasion: “Under other pretenses he had beforehand made considerable augmentations to the Dutch navy … though the roots of this conspiracy reached from one end of Europe to the other, so secret were the prince’s counsels, and so fortunate was the situation of affairs, that he could still cover his preparations under other pretenses …”

The total cost of preparations is estimated at 7 million guilders (building new warships, hiring new soldiers, etc.) Two million of this money was lent by a Jewish banker Francisco Lopes Suasso (1657 – 1710). The house of Suasso provided banking services for the Stadtholders of Holland.

Francisco Lopes Suasso

14. Jacob II finds out about the preparations from Louis XIV. He attempts to win favor of the Whig party, for example by returning to London its former liberties, and by dissolving a feudal court. But this does not help.

The invasion was planned for October (of 1688). The plan was that an invasion so late in the year would make the French Catholic king unable to lend help to the English one, as preparations for such an expedition take a few months. However, the winds in October were already unfavorable for the army of William to cross from Holland to England. There was even a storm that threatened to destroy the entire fleet, before it left the harbor. However, finally the winds change and the weather becomes favorable for crossing. On 5 November 1688, William of Orange lands in England with 14000 men. William sets up a printing press to explain the purpose of his invasion to the population. The purpose, according to William, was to protect the Protestant religion and to support the free parliament, i.e. the rule of moneybags.

William landing in England, 1688

The first to declare publicly their support for William of Orange were the gentry. There were popular anti-Catholic riots in several cities of England.

The army of James consisted of 30000 men, but the English officers desert the monarch. Even the court deserts him. Hence, on 12 December 1688 James is forced to run away to France, where he finds shelter under Louis XIV.

15. As result of "the Glorious Revolution", the Whigs dominate the English politics for a long time. The power of the king is limited by the Bill of Rights. A.L. Morton writes: “The king was no longer allowed to control either the army or the judges. He was specifically forbidden either to dispense with the laws or to suspend them. The control of the finance passed once and for all to parliament which must be called at least once every 3 years”.

English radical historian H.B. Gibbins, in his "The Industrial History of England" writes that up to the time Jacob II was overthrown, the landowning class was dominant. But after this event, its influence was balanced by mercantile classes.


When history is studied with no eye to the present, it is one of the most boring collection of facts and words. We study the negation of Restoration regime in England with an eye to the ongoing Restoration of capitalism in the former “socialist” countries of Eastern Europe, China, etc. Hence, we ask: was the “Glorious Revolution” “a coup d’état”, or “a political revolution”? In other words, how is the negation of the Restoration to be achieved?

If we look at “the Glorious revolution” we can argue that it is both: a conspiracy of a faction of the ruling classes, and a political revolution which had a wide popular support among the masses, and this was reflected in the will of the army and navy to fight, or rather not to fight the invader. William with his army clearly were the invaders.

Thus, the answer to the question of “how is the negation of Restoration achieved” is this: it can take a variety of political forms, such as: 1) a conspiracy of a progressive faction of the ruling classes, 2) an invasion by a more progressive foreign regime, 3) a popular rebellion against the encroachments of the oppressive regime. The English case demonstrates all of these forms.

* * *

There is another, more theoretical question: how do we evaluate the nature of the Restoration regime, and hence of its negation? Clearly, we have seen that Restoration was not a complete counter-revolution, but rather only an attempt at such. Once it alienates a sufficient number of people, its overthrow is only a matter of time and technique.

We have the following sequence:

1) a feudal regime is constantly wrangling with a rising power of bourgeoisie over who is power in the country;

2) a period of civil wars, as result of which a new army and state are established;

3) a period of centrist dictatorship, country being torn apart between the left and reactionary forces;

4) a Restoration regime attempts to impose the old social order;

5) a negation of the Restoration regime defends the social order established in the period of revolution.

Thus, we see the following sequence:

1) feudalism -> 2) dual power -> 3) civil war -> 4) centrist dictatorship -> 5) an attempt to re-establish feudal social order -> 6) a negation of this attempt.

This leads to the following simplified sequence:

1) a social revolution – a complete negation of the previous regime;

2) a Restoration - a semi-negation of the social revolution;

3) a negation of Restoration - a political revolution (a semi-negation of the semi-negation).

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