The Nature of the English Revolution

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The Nature of the English Revolution

Table of contents :
Cover......Page 0
Title......Page 3
Copyright......Page 4
Contents......Page 5
Preface......Page 7
Acknowledgements......Page 9
1. The Nature of the English Revolution......Page 11
Part One: England's Wars of Religion......Page 41
2. Introduction: England's Wars of Religion......Page 43
3. The Religious Context of the English Civil War......Page 55
4. The Attack on the Church of England in the Long Parliament......Page 79
5. The Scottish National Covenant of 1638 in its British Context......Page 101
6. The Making of Oliver Cromwell......Page 128
7. The Church in England 1642-1649......Page 158
Part Two: Problems of Allegiance......Page 187
8. Introduction: County Communities and the Problem of Allegiance in the English Civil War......Page 189
9. The Northern Gentry and the Great Rebellion......Page 201
10. Provincial Squires and 'Middling Sorts' in the Great Rebellion......Page 224
11. The Ecology of Allegiance in the English Civil Wars......Page 234
Part Three: The Nature and Consequences of the English Revolution......Page 253
12. Introduction: Britain's Revolutions......Page 255
13. The Causes of Britain's Civil Wars......Page 262
14. Christopher Hill's Revolution......Page 283
15. Charles I, Tyranny and the English Civil War......Page 295
16. The Army Revolt of 1647......Page 317
17. Mutiny and Discontent in English Provincial Armies, 1645-1647......Page 342
18. Order and Disorder in the English Revolution......Page 369
19. A Glorious Resolution?......Page 402
20. The Sensible Revolution, 1688......Page 429
Major Publications by John Morrill, 1967-1992......Page 464
Index......Page 467

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The Nature o f the English Revolution Essays by


O Routledge

Taylor &. Francis Group


First published 1993 by Longman Group Limited Second impression 1994 Published 2013 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon 0X14 4RN 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA Routledge is an im print o f the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

Copyright © 1993, Taylor & Francis. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Notices Knowledge and best practice in this field are constantly changing. As new research and experience broaden our understanding, changes in research methods, professional practices, or medical treatment may become necessary. Practitioners and researchers must always rely on their own experience and knowledge in evaluating and using any information, methods, compounds, or experiments described herein. In using such information or methods they should be mindful of their own safety and the safety of others, including parties for whom they have a professional responsibility. To the fullest extent of the law, neither the Publisher nor the authors, contributors, or editors, assume any liability for any injury and/or damage to persons or property as a matter of products liability, negligence or otherwise, or from any use or operation of any methods, products, instructions, or ideas contained in the material herein. ISBN 13: 978-0-582-08942-6 (pbk) British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Library o f Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0 -5 8 2 -0 8 9 4 1 -7 . - ISBN 0 -5 8 2 -0 8 9 4 2 -5 (pbk.) M orrill, J.S. (John Stephen), 1946T h e nature o f the English Revolution: essays / by J o h n M orrill p. cm. 1. G reat B ritain -H isto ry -P u ritan R evolution, 1642-1660. 2. Great B ritain-H istory, M ilitary-Stuarts, 1603-1714. 3. G reat B ritain-P olitics and g o v ern m en t-1 6 0 3 -1 7 1 4 . I. Title. DA405. M 67 1993 941.06-dc20

92-25941 CIP


Preface Acknowledgements

vii ix

1. The N ature o f the English Revolution


Part One: E nglan d ’s Wars o f R eligion


2. Introduction: England’s Wars o f Religion 3. The Religious C ontext o f the English Civil War 4. The Attack on the C hurch o f England in the Long Parliament 5. The Scottish National C ovenant o f 1638 in its British C ontext 6. The M aking o f Oliver C rom w ell 7. The C hurch in England 1642-1649 Part T w o: P rob lem s o f A llegian ce

33 45 69 91 118 148 177

8. Introduction: C ounty Com m unities and the Problem o f Allegiance in the English Civil War 9. The N orthern Gentry and the Great Rebellion 10. Provincial Squires and ‘M iddling Sorts’ in the Great Rebellion 11. The Ecology o f Allegiance in the English Civil Wars

214 224

Part Three: T he N ature and C onsequences o f the E nglish R evolu tion


12. Introduction: B ritain’s Revolutions 13. The Causes o f Britain’s Civil Wars

245 252

179 191


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14. 15. 16. 17.

C hristopher H ill’s Revolution Charles I, Tyranny and the English Civil War The A rm y Revolt o f 1647 M utiny and Discontent in English Provincial Armies, 1645-1647 18. O rder and Disorder in the English Revolution 19. A Glorious Resolution? 20. The Sensible Revolution, 1688

332 359 392 419

Major Publications by John Morrill, 1967-1992 Index

454 457


273 285 307


I was appointed to my first academic jo b at the age o f 23, and have a contract o f em ploym ent which could keep me employed until I am 67. M y 45th birthday (June 1991) - the m id-point - therefore seemed an appropriate m om ent to take stock. I have taught, studied, ate and slept the English Civil W ars/Great Rebellion/Revolution/W ars o f Religion (or whatever we are to call the blasted thing) for all those tw enty-tw o years and more. Tim e for a public academic appraisal, perhaps. This is a com bination o f essays which I have w ritten over the past tw enty years w ith some additional material. It consists o f tw enty items. Fourteen have appeared in accessible places hitherto; two (chs. 1, 15) have appeared in inaccessible places (ch. 1 only in Chinese!); and a third (ch. 19) has appeared only in a truncated form. Five items (chs. 9-11, 13-14) are review articles and represent considered responses to the major works on the period to have appeared over the period. For this collection I have provided three new essays, one introducing each o f the three sections. I have left all the essays as I first w rote them, bar the removal o f typographical errors which m arred their earlier incarnation and the updating o f references to works not published at the time o f original publication. I have by-and-large stuck by this rule not to ‘m odernize’ these essays even in the case o f those items which will not be familiar to readers (chs. 1, 15, 19). I toyed w ith the idea o f rem oving questionable statements or such factual inaccuracies as have been pointed out to me; but I concluded that this would put me on a slippery slope or at least on a sliding scale w ithout any natural breaking point on it; that such a procedure w ould produce curious hybrids; and that any tam pering at all w ould probably involve me in degrees o f v ii

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rewriting and adaptation which w ould change the whole nature o f the book. I did how ever decide to write introductions to each section, introductions that would indicate how I m yself w ould now sort out the wheat from the chaff o f m y earlier work. I hope I have achieved honesty w ithout an unedifying display o f either self-congratulation or self-chastisement. I am deeply grateful to all m y friends and colleagues for their encouragement w ith this project. I asked Colin Davis, Anthony Fletcher, Jonathan Scott and David Smith w hether they thought it mere vanity to undertake this ‘retrospective’. All gave me good and reassuring reasons for proceeding and guided me as to which o f the fifty or so pieces would make a reasonably coherent package. I am also deeply grateful to my daughter Rachel for her skilful help in the compiling o f the index. I believe that we understand ourselves better if we understand the past that shaped us. And I think we can recover - imperfectly but actually - the reality o f that past through those surviving fragments that are susceptible to analysis by trained observers. That training is continuous, and in my case continues in a wonderfully conducive environm ent. O ver the past decade I have had responsibility at any given m om ent for som ething like 12-18 graduate students, and close links with others w orking w ith colleagues on fields adjacent to my own. I owe m ore to each and every one o f them than they will ever realize. They have all stretched me intellectually over the years and it w ould be invidious to single out any particular students and otiose to fill many columns with all their names. But they are all inscribed in m y heart and I dedicate this book to them for sharing their striving w ith me, for listening to my speculations and for their proper scepticism mingled with a belief in the possibility o f making the past yield up its secrets. JO H N M ORRILL Feast o f the Annunciation 1992


We are grateful to the following copyright holders for permission to reproduce pieces by John Morrill: the Royal Historical Society for the article ‘The Religious Context o f the English Civil W ar’ in Transactions o f the Royal Historical Society , 5th series, 34 (1984); Cam bridge U niversity Press for the following chapters: ‘The Attack on the C hurch o f England in the Long Parliam ent’ in History, Society and the Churches eds. D. Beales and G. Best (1985), ‘O rder and Disorder in the English R evolution’ in Order and Disorder in Early Modern Britain eds. A. Fletcher and J. Stevenson (1985), ‘The Sensible R evolution’ in The Anglo-Dutch Moment ed. J. Israel (1991); Edinburgh University Press for the chapter ‘The Scottish National C ovenant o f 1638 in its British C ontext’ in The Scottish National Covenant in its British Context, 1638-51 J.M . M orrill (1990); The Macmillan Press Ltd for the chapter ‘The Church in England 1642-1649’ in Reactions to the English C ivil War ed. J.M . M orrill (1982); the editor o f Northern History for the article ‘The N orthern Gentry and the Great Rebellion’ in Northern History , XV (1979); the U niversity o f Chicago Press, and the editor o f Journal o f British Studies for the article ‘The Ecology o f Allegiance in the English Civil W ar’ in the Journal o f British Studies, 26 (1987), © 1987 by The N orth American Conference on British Studies; the Historical Association for the article ‘C hristopher H ill’s R evolution’ in History , 27, N o. 241 (1989); The Folger Shakespeare Library for the chapter ‘Charles I, Tyranny and the English Civil W ar’ in Religion, Resistance and the Civil War ed. W. Lam ont (1990); Stenfert Kroese/M artinus N ijhoff Publishers for the chapter ‘The A rm y Revolt o f 1647’ in Britain and the Netherlands , vol. 6, eds. A. Duke and C. Tamse (1977); the editors o f Past and Present for the article ‘M utiny and Discontent in English Provincial Armies, ix

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1645-1647’ in Past and Present: A Journal o f Historical Studies, 56 (1972), w orld copyright: The Past and Present Society, 175 Banbury Road, Oxford; the editor o f History Today for the article ‘Restoring the Balance’ which was the basis for chapter 19.


The Nature o f the English Revolution1

I This introduction seeks to do three things: first, to show w hy a particular kind o f civil war took place in England in the 1640s; second, to examine the aims o f those who challenged the authority o f King Charles I in the 1640s; and third, to examine why a limited civil war turned into a revolution with profound effects on the subsequent history o f the British Isles. II Early m odern England was a personal m onarchy in which the King or Queen exercised personal authority over the m ost sensitive issues o f politics and statecraft and in which he or she personally selected (and dismissed) councillors, judges and bishops. In such a polity the personal weaknesses o f the m onarch could in themselves cause the collapse o f order; certainly the particular weaknesses o f particular monarchs were always likely to determine the kind o f collapse o f order that m ight occur. It is w orth beginning with this assertion because England had a civil war in the 1640s just when the danger had appeared to recede. There are at least five ways in which England seemed to be m oving away

1. This paper was written for the Sino-B ritish Historical S ym posium in N anjing in M ay 1987 and subsequently published in the record o f that S ym posium - in Chinese! It was aimed at a highly intelligent but not especially w ell-inform ed audience. In revising it for publication here I have left m ost o f it untouched; but I have rem oved som e short sections o f explanation designed for a Chinese audience and slightly expanded a few sections. I could not have included reference to w ork I had not read at the tim e o f w riting w ithou t breaching the conventions o f this volu m e and starting effectively from scratch.


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from rather than towards internal collapse in the early seventeenth century.2 First o f all, there was far greater security o f title to the throne and an end to disputed successions. After chronic instability and civil war for much o f the fifteenth century (the consequence o f the complicated marital affairs o f Edw ard III and John o f Gaunt and the consequence o f the Lancastrian coup d’etat o f 1399), the country teetered on the brink o f civil war for much o f the sixteenth century as the doubtful legitimacy o f H enry VIII’s daughters and the childlessness o f all three o f his children made a War o f the English Succession an ever-present threat. In 1559 a heretic bastard Queen (three dam ning qualities) was trying to secure the throne and was faced by a formidable rival in M ary o f Scotland, married to King Francis II o f France. If Francis had fathered a child by M ary before he died unexpectedly o f an ear infection at the age o f nineteen, there w ould have been a single heir to the thrones o f France, Scotland and England, a circumstance that w ould have ensured that the great Habsburg/Valois struggle would have been fought out on British soil. If Elizabeth had died at any point before 1587, it seems clear that Mary, backed by legitimist and religious-conservative forces in England and abroad, w ould have plunged England into civil war. Less certainly, if James I’s elder son Henry, a blinkered and determ ined evangelical Protestant, had lived and acceded to the throne, it is quite possible that he would have plunged England into the m aelstrom o f European warfare, stretching the resources o f the C row n to breaking point and presiding over the collapse o f order which characterized so much o f Western Europe. By the mid-1630s, however, Charles I was the undisputed King w ith a quiverful o f children. The civil war o f 1642 was not the product o f dynastic rivalry. Indeed England would have had a far less messy civil war w ith a far less violent outcom e if it had been possible to depose Charles I and replace him by someone with a reversionary claim on the throne. Secondly, in England - as throughout Europe - the Reformation divided the nation. The hybrid, com prom ise C hurch established by Elizabeth (reformed in doctrine, traditionalist in governm ent and discipline, a m ixture o f ‘catholic’ and ‘protestant’ elements in

2. What follow s is based on a large number o f sources. A m on g the best and m ost accessible are C. Russell, The Crisis o f Parliaments (1971); D . Hirst, Authority and Conflict (1986); P. W illiams, The Tudor Regime (1979); J.P. K enyon, Stuart England (rev. ed. 1 986);J.C .D . Clark, Revolution and Rebellion (1986).


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its ceremonies and forms o f worship) was accepted by the mass o f the people, but it haemorrhaged on the one side a m inority loyal to the Pope, and on the other side a m inority determ ined to complete the re-form ation o f religion. Both these minorities had, by the 1580s, set up em bryonic organizations (one outside and the other w ithin the Church) comparable w ith the revolutionary parties in Western Europe,3 the Catholics in particular developing a radical political thought justifying resistance and regicide.4 By the 1620s, both the ‘Puritan’ militants and Catholic recusants had abandoned their organizational and intellectual challenges to the state and had opted for passive disobedience in the face o f an increasingly indulgent, if not officially tolerant, state - an uneasy freedom of worship occasionally stamped on, but at the expense o f civil rights (exclusion from office, heavier tax burdens, etc.). It was not far short o f the kind o f accom m odation that made eighteenth-century England so free from religious strife. Thirdly, the centre o f gravity o f Habsburg/Valois rivalry shifted during the sixteenth century from Italy to the Atlantic seaboard; and that, together w ith dynastic entanglements, made England a potential arena for the w orking out o f their rivalries. In the late sixteenth century there was a constant threat o f Spanish invasion o f England or o f Ireland, especially if Elizabeth died with the succession issue unresolved. By the 1620s, the centre o f gravity o f European power politics had m oved eastward again, to the Rhineland and to Bohemia: invasions o f the British Isles, even assistance to rebels, were not on the agenda o f over-com m itted continental m onarchs.5 Fourthly, the century from 1540 to 1640 saw major social and economic shifts. The root cause was a population steadily growing faster than the food supply. This produced severe underem ploym ent, falling wages, occasional (localized) dearth. It also led to the consolidation o f those w ho produced and marketed scarce goods (larger farmers, master craftsmen, merchants) and a relative decline o f the 3. The key w ord here is ‘em b ryon ic’. There are clearly Catholic militants; but the thrust o f Patrick C ollin son ’s w ork ever since The Elizabethan Puritan M ovement (1967) has been to showr h ow well-assim ilated m ost ‘Puritans’ are. I sim ply w ish to point out that had a major Catholic threat arisen - such as the assassination o f Elizabeth - then the clandestine classical structures w ere capable o f adaptation for revolutionary purposes. See H .G . K oenigsberger, ‘The O rigins o f R evolutionary Parties in France and the N etherlands during the Sixteenth C entury’, in idem ., Estates and Revolutions (1971). 4. P. H olm es, Resistance and Compromise: the Political Thought o f Elizabethan Catholics (1981). 5. Sec G. Parker, The Thirty Years War (1987), index, sub England.


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greater (rentier) landlords. Yet by 1640 the pressures were easing. For the one hundred years after 1640 there were to be stable prices, fuller em ploym ent, and (from the 1670s) grain surpluses. The Stuarts had weathered the storm largely because the political system had proved supple enough to adapt to the m ajor changes.6 Thus there was a dispersal o f political power. In part this was a reaction against the lawlessness o f the fifteenth century when a militarized peerage had run amok, and law and order had collapsed. The peerage had not been destroyed by the Tudors, but it had been systematically demilitarized and stripped o f its inherent power to run the provinces. Instead o f exercising full jurisdiction over particular regions by hereditary grant from the C row n, they found themselves appointed on a revocable basis to carry out specified duties under conciliar supervision. M ore im portantly, an ever-increasing range o f regulatory and judicial responsibilities were entrusted to the gentry who looked m ore and m ore to one another for support. Their advancement came m ore and m ore through the mediation o f the K ing’s councillors and courtiers and less and less through provincial magnates. It is o f the utm ost im portance that no noblesse de robe or hidalgo class developed in England. There were no intendants and no hereditary civil service posts. Less than one in ten o f the judges were the sons o f lawyers; less than one in five o f all civil servants were the sons o f civil servants. M ost salaried or fee’d officials o f the C row n were first-generation officials w ho either retired to, or set their sons up in, the provinces. The ‘C o u rt’ consisted largely o f men on loan from the ‘country’7. In addition, the problems o f lawlessness, the social ills occasioned by population grow th and inflation, the policing o f religious uniform ity, all brought about a massive increase in state power. But while the C row n acquired new supervisory powers, the adm inistration o f those powers was entrusted to local elites the peerage and (more generally) the gentry. This grow th o f royal

6. Cf. here L. Stone, The Causes o f the English Revolution (1972), the book w hich sparked o f f the revisionist revolt from the m id 1970s. Looking back over the past ten years, I think I was too hard on Stone’s attem pt to look for the structural w eaknesses o f the English state as w ell as at the largely unexceptional ‘precipitants’ and ‘triggers’ o f the particular crisis o f 1640-2. But it seem s ever clearer to m e that his attem pt to find a dysfunction betw een social-structural change and politicalstructural atrophy m isrepresents the dynam ism o f the latter. 7. See, for exam ple, the figures in G.E. A ylm er, The K in g ’s Servants (1961), pp. 264-5 and table 16, w hich indicate that in the sam ple o f all Caroline officeholders w h ose surnames begin w ith the letters A -C less than one in five w ere the sons o f officeholders. T h ose H ousehold Departm ents w aiting upon the k in g’s person such as the Royal Bedcham ber - are a partial but im portant exception.


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pow er was shaped and sanctioned by Parliament. The key to an understanding o f sixteenth-century governm ent is to see it as the enhancement o f royal authority by consent, a story o f the recognition o f the mutual benefits to be derived from a controlled grow th in the responsibilities and pow er o f the monarch. Tudor Parliaments did not seek to reduce royal power. They sought to shape its grow th. O ne powerful testim ony to the way political institutions had adapted to new social realities is the very low level o f violence in early Stuart England. The period from 1569 to 1642 was the longest period ever w ithout a major rebellion;8 the period 1605 to 1641 the longest w ithout the conviction o f a peer o f the realm for treason;9 the num ber o f trials for treasons declined decade by decade from the late sixteenth century through to the 1630s. Where else in the early seventeenth century were few or no royal officials killed in discharging their duties? Was not England alone in not having no-go areas for unaccompanied tax-collectors? Were there not m ore dead bodies on stage at the end o f a production o f Hamlet than following any collective act o f violence in the period up to 1642? W here else was the arbitration o f the royal courts so completely accepted? Riots declined in num ber, in the num ber o f those involved and in intensity after the turn o f the sixteenth century.10 Englishmen were notorious throughout Europe for being litigious. They were litigious because they were law-abiding. Fifthly, we need to bear in m ind Marc Bloch’s judgem ent on medieval England: ‘England was a truly unified state m uch earlier than any continental kingdom .’ To linguistic, commercial, legal and fiscal unity unique am ong the states o f late medieval and early m odern Europe, the Tudors added greater administrative unity. The ‘regionalism ’ which lay at the heart o f so much rebellion in western and central Europe between 1560 and 1660 was absent.11 Ill The stability o f early Stuart England made civil war unlikely; it was the instability o f early m odern Britain that first made the war o f 1642 possible. It was paradoxically the strength o f T udor England which 8. I am here assum ing that the attem pted putsch o f the earl o f Essex in 1601 does not count. 9. O n ly one peer o f the realm was tried in the w h ole reign o f Charles I to 1640 Lord Castlehaven for m ost k n ow n sexual offences in 1631; State Trials records only one case o f treason for the same period - H ugh P yne’s unkind com m ents on Charles’ kingcraft w hich the jud ges found not to be treasonable. 10. See b elow , pp. 373-9. 11. Q u oted and discussed in P. Corrigan and D . Sayer, The Great Arch (1985), pp. 2ff.


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allowed it to extend its claims to sovereign pow er in Ireland12 and it was the dynastic roulette that created the union o f the C row ns o f England and Scotland in 1603 that set up that problem. M ultiple kingship led to tension and jealousies within political elites, exposed less easily controlled peripheries to incom petent and overbearing kingship and created a billiard-ball effect between the events o f the three kingdom s. England, Ireland and Scotland all experienced authoritarian governm ent in the 1630s and the rebellions in Scotland and then in Ireland and then in England reflect variant responses to a shared problem - the incompetence and authoritarianism o f Charles I. Thus his attem pts to force a surrender o f title to all grants made by the C row n o f Scotland between 1541 and 1625 and his attem pt to ram major reforms o f the Scottish C hurch dow n the throats and past the consciences o f the Scottish people w ithout bothering to consult a Scottish Parliament, a Scottish General Assembly, the Scottish Council or even the Scottish bi-shops in conclave was breathtakingly inept. And Charles’s determ ination to bring the resources o f England, Ireland and Highland Scotland against the Scottish Lowlands elite initiated a struggle he was doom ed to lose.13 IV In the 1630s, England appeared to be a stable polity. There were, o f course, persistent weaknesses in the state system. Political elites expected the C row n to administer the realm and to uphold the Protestant cause abroad, but on a shoestring budget. The C row n had thus to accept the limitations on its resources and underachieve in foreign policy; or it had to use provocative means to increase revenues so as to fulfil expectations. It is also clear that while there was massive coincidence o f interest between the C row n and the political elites, the C row n could not attack what the latter believed to be its intrinsic interests w ithout finding itself obstructed and rendered powerless. It was Charles’s disastrously partisan challenge to many cherished values and beliefs which made civil war possible. At one level, given the scale o f Charles’s assault on political liberties and religious values, it is surprising that he secured as m uch support 12. B. Bradshaw, The Irish Constitutional Revolution o f the Sixteenth Century (1979), parts II and III; S. Ellis, Tudor Ireland, 1470-1603 (1987), chs. 5-8. 13. Important recent studies o f the ‘B ritish’ R evolution include M. Lee, The Road to Revolution (1985); D . Stevenson, The Scottish Revolution (1978); D . Stevenson, Scottish Covenanters and Irish Confederates (1981); A. Clarke, ‘T he Genesis o f the Irish R ebellion o f 1641’ in P. Roebuck, (ed.), From Plantation to Partition (1981). For w ork published since this article was written in 1987, see b elow , ch. 13.


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as he did in the 1640s. O n the other hand, it took some spectacular miscalculation on his part to create the circumstances in which resistance became feasible. England lacked a focal point around which resistance could gather: the flag o f a Pretender or a militarized nobility; or provincial institutions (such as the Estates o f the Dutch provinces or the French Parlements). Indeed it is striking that the administrative unity o f England made organized resistance unthinkable in the absence o f a Parliament; and the recall o f Parliament was in the king’s gift. He chose to recall it in the spring o f 1640 because he wanted to continue his fight with the Scots, but he dismissed it again (with ease) when he found it insufficiently cooperative. He could have chosen to make a painful deal with Parliament so as to secure the m oney to deal with the Scots; or to make a painful deal with the Scots in order to resume his personal rule in England. That choice remained his in the aftermath o f the Short Parliament. O nly when he made an absurd choice - to fight the Scots w ithout proper resources - did he lose control o f the situation.14 The Scots occupied the north-east o f England and made it clear that they w ould not return hom e until their demands had been negotiated with an English Parliament. Charles was forced to do som ething unforeseeable - sum m on a Parliament w ithout the freedom to dismiss it at will. That Long Parliament had a once-for-all opportunity to redress the grievances accumulated since the beginning o f the reign.15 But it was only when Charles proved unchastened and when he made it apparent to many that he intended to dishonour the concessions he had made in 1641, and when (and only when) he voluntarily w ithdrew from London and initiated a sequence o f military provocations, that resistance to him became unexpectedly necessary and feasible.16 When war came, m ost people sought to distance themselves from it - by ignoring the orders o f both sides, or by obeying the orders o f both sides, or by taking the line o f least resistance and doing what they were told, or by organizing themselves to raise citizen armies to 14. H e hoped for Spanish and papal m oney to finance his campaign. B ut the outbreak o f rebellion in Portugal, Catalonia and Spanish Italy made this unlikely hope im possible. See J.H . Elliott, T h e year o f the three am bassadors’, in H. L loydJones, V. Pearl and A .B . Worden (eds.), History and Imagination (1982). 15. It is w orth n otin g that there was no interest in redressing secular grievances that predated the accession o f Charles I. See, for exam p le, the Grand R em onstrance, a catalogue o f 180 grievances drawn up in 1641, w h ich b egin s in 1625 (S.R . Gardiner, Constitutional Documents o f the Puritan R evolution [3rd ed n ., 1906], pp. 202 -3 1 ). 16. See C. Russell, ‘W hy D id Charles I fight the C ivil War?’, History Today, M ay 1984 (unhappily not included in his collected essays, Unrevolutionary England [1991]).


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keep both sides out their region.17 But, manifestly, m ilitant minorities did believe that there were issues w orth fighting for; and they found others who - whether or not they had private views on those issues were prepared to receive pay to further those causes. M ost historians w ould now agree that the ‘activists’ (those who believed that there were issues w orth fighting for) were draw n on each side in similar num bers from each social group. (It is an im portant corollary to this that men o f all social groups had a good deal o f freedom o f choice, even though many exercised this freedom to take the line o f least resistance.) There was popular royalism as well as popular parliam entarianism 18. V Those who wished to criticize Charles or his governm ent had to use euphemisms or circumlocutions. T w o phrases newly coined during the 1620s and 1630s sum up the anxieties o f the period: the first was ‘new counsels’19 and the other was ‘the piety o f the tim es’.20 Both are mild terms concealing a sense o f menace to civil and religious liberties. James I often regretted that his predecessors had (voluntarily but irrevocably) bound themselves to act in certain ways but he did see him self as so bound.21 Charles I did not hold him self to be so bound. O ne o f his ministers, speaking for the young king in 1626, advised Parliament that M ove not His Majesty w ith trenching upon his prerogatives lest you bring him out o f love w ith his Parliaments. . . . In all Christian kingdom s . . . monarchs . . . seeing the turbulent spirit o f their parliaments, at length . . . began to stand upon their prerogatives, and at last overthrew the parliaments throughout C hristendom except here only w ith us.22 17. J.S. M orrill, The Revolt o f the Provinces (1976), ch. 1; A .M . Flctchcr, The Outbreak o f the English C ivil War (1979). 18. For a debate on these issues see D .E . U n d erd ow n , Revel, Riot and Rebellion (1985) and the debate betw een D avid U n d erd ow n and m y self in Jnl. Brit. Studs. 26 (1987), and b elow , ch. 11. 19. For a discussion o f this term, see R. Cust, ‘Charles I and the Forced Loan o f 1627’, Jn l. Brit. Studs. 24 (1985). 20. For a discussion o f this term, see S. P. Salt, ‘The O rigins o f Sir Edward D erin g’s Attack on the Ecclesiastical H ierarchy’, Historical Journal (HJ), 30 (1987). 21. As in his fam ous dictum to the Spanish ambassador concerning the English Parliament, ‘I am surprised that m y predecessors let such an institution com e into existence . . ., I am obliged to put up w ith what I cannot get rid o f (S.R. Gardiner, History o f England . . . 1603—1642 [10 v ols., 1864—86], II, 251n). This is m ore usually cited w ith the crucial second clause left out (as inJ.P . K enyon, The Stuart Constitution [1962], p. 62). 22. K enyon, Stuart Constitution, pp. 50-1.

The Nature o f the English Revolution

Charles could never accept that men could sincerely hold principled opinions different from his own. Those who did not obey his orders were, necessarily, unprincipled and factious. T hroughout his life he attributed obstruction to the wilful, unscrupulous and sectional interests o f a m inority. He saw his early Parliament as a flock o f sheep blindly following some wily wolves.23 If he was unable to gain that to which he was entitled by following ‘constitutional’ courses, he believed he had a residual right to fall back on a naked authoritarianism. This included the im prisonm ent o f opponents w ithout showing cause, im pressm ent o f those who would not lend voluntarily and many other abuses o f the rule o f law .24 Charles him self referred to such expedients as ‘new counsels’ and it was a term taken up by his critics. Charles and his ecclesiastical advisers, notably William Laud and M atthew W ren,25 played dow n England’s status as a m em ber o f the Protestant com m union and played up her status as a C hurch which combined an unbroken apostolic tradition parallel to that o f the C hurch o f Rome, with a purity o f teaching and practice that the latter had lost. They viewed Rome not as an antichristian church, a force o f evil in the world, but as an errant sister-church. Determ ined to bring a largely illiterate population into greater obedience to the will o f God, the Caroline C hurch shifted the weight o f worship from the pulpit to the altar, from preaching to the sacraments; and it sought to restore the wealth o f the clergy and to restore clerical jurisdiction and to impose sanctions on laymen who intruded themselves into the preserves o f the clergy.26 That is what was meant by ‘the piety o f the tim es’. 23. M uch o f the material in C. Daniels and J. M orrill, Charles I (1988), is devoted to this. See also Charles’s Declaration o f March 1629, printed in Gardiner, Constitutional Documents, pp. 93-108. 24. Sec e.g. J. G uy, ‘The O rigins o f the Petition o f R igh t’, HJ, 25 (1982); L.J. Reeve, ‘A rgum ents in K in g’s Bench in 1629 C oncerning the Im prisonm ent o f M em bers o f the H ouse o f C o m m o n s’, J«/. Brit. Studs. 25 (1986); R. Cust, The Forced Loan and English Politics 1626-1628 (1988). A lso below , ch. 15, pp. 289-91. 25. I am increasingly persuaded that M atthew Wren, dean o f the Chapel Royal as well as bishop o f N orw ich (1637-40) and Ely (1640+) was m ore im portant in shaping Charles’s policies in the later 1630s than was Laud. Laud shared Charles’s goals but seem s increasingly to have felt that Charles was goin g too far too fast. I was persuaded to consider this possibility by Dr Julian Davies. 26. There is a vast recent literature on this subject. I still find W .H . H utton, Archbishop Laud (1900), an excellent introduction, and that J.S. M cG ee, ‘W illiam Laud and the O utw ard Face o f R eligion ’ in R. de M olcn (ed.), Leaders o f the Reformation (1985) and A. Foster, ‘Church Policies in the 1630s’, in R. Cust and A. H ughes (eds.), Conflict in Early Stuart England (1987) are the best m odern introductions. See also b elow , chs. 2-7.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

W ithin fifteen years o f coming to the throne, Charles had alienated the great m ajority o f his subjects. There was no large or powerful class or interest group which had benefited from his rule and which he could call upon to support him when resistance began. Instead, the years 1640-2 saw a sudden and dramatic collapse o f royal power. Once Charles had blundered away his initiative, he became a petulant spectator as his critics fell out am ong themselves. M ost o f the secular grievances were remedied by agreement within the Parliament, but fatal splits appeared over the remedies to Charles’s religious changes. The Houses divided into tw o groups. O n the one side stood those who wished to restore the pattern o f church governm ent and worship that had evolved during the reigns o f Elizabeth and James I (the true reform ed Protestant religion by law established w ithout any connivance o f popery or innovation, as they put it). O n the other side stood those who believed that a church so easily subverted by English popery as the Laudian Church had been was an intrinsically unsound church. The latter persuaded themselves that the opportunity now existed to introduce a pattern o f church governm ent and discipline m ore closely modelled on the scriptures and on the example o f the best reform ed Churches - which to some o f them meant the strict Calvinist Churches o f Scotland and Geneva and to others the example o f the English Puritan diaspora in the Netherlands and N ew England.27 The paralysis o f governm ent at the centre led to a collapse o f social order in London and, m ore spasmodically, in the provinces.28 For some this indicated the urgency o f creating a reform ed church and state that would provide an efficient paternalism to dissolve social and economic ills; for others this indicated the imminence o f anarchy and the need rapidly to back away from confrontation and to rally to the natural focus o f obedience, the king. We m ust never forget that while there was a widespread and sophisticated notion o f tyranny, and a fear o f it, there was an equally widespread if less sophisticated notion o f anarchy, and a greater fear and hatred o f it.29 There was no easy recourse to violence in 1642. VI M y ow n sense is that there was no great militancy about the constitutional demands o f the parliamentary activists in 1642. The 27. Fletcher, Outbreak, chs. 3, 6, 8; W. H unt, The Puritan M oment (1982), chs. 10-11. 28. For accounts o f these disturbances, see B. M anning, The English People and the English Revolution (1976), pp. 163-227. 29. E .g. W. Lam ont, Richard Baxter and the M illenium (1979), ch. 2. B elow , ch. 3, pp. 49-52.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

reforms o f the first eighteen m onths o f the Long Parliament had certainly reduced the king’s capacity for arbitrary governm ent. But those reforms had been achieved by constitutional means and they had not, by and large, divided the king’s future friends from his future enemies. Obviously there was populist agitation in 1641 organized crowds used to intim idate the House o f Lords into passing the Attainder o f Strafford, for example; but the extraordinary thing about the constitutional deadlock o f 1642 was that it concerned issues not o f parliamentary sovereignty, still less o f popular liberties; it was concerned w ith the restoration o f the ancient peerage to its dom inant role around the C row n. At one level, the civil war began as an aristocratic coup. Parliam ent’s war aims are set forth in tw o documents: the Militia Ordinance and the Nineteen Propositions.30 The Militia Ordinance certainly appropriates to the tw o Houses the right to nom inate Lords Lieutenant, but it merely names the men w ho were to control local defence forces throughout England. In almost every case the Lords Lieutenant were to be peers o f the realm. Those newly created included twice as m any men whose family gained their titles before 1559 as there were in the group they replaced. Alm ost no men whose titles had been created since 1603 were appointed.31 It was these men, not the tw o Houses, who were to nom inate the deputy lieutenants, and together they were given greater freedom and responsibility for the training and deploym ent o f the militia than had existed before 1640. The Nineteen Propositions laid out the terms designed to ensure that Charles could not escape from the fram ework o f limitations he had accepted in 1641. The Propositions claimed for the tw o Houses the right to veto all royal appointm ents to the Privy Council and to senior offices o f state and in the Household; they made councillors accountable to Parliament for the advice they gave; they allowed the Houses the right to vet those appointed to educate the king’s children; they strengthened the laws against Rom an Catholics; and they sought to com m it the king to accept whatever reform o f the C hurch was proposed by an assembly o f Puritan ministers and laymen to be established by the Houses. N o attem pt was made 30. Readily (but, as w e w ill see, in som e w ays unhelpfully) to be found in Gardiner, Constitutional Documents, pp. 245-7, 249-54. 31. For the royal appointees, sec J.L. Sainty, Lords Lieutenant o f English Counties, 1559-1642 (List and Index Society, 1970). For the appointm ents made in the M ilitia Ordinance (but not included in m odern editions), see Lords Journal (LJ), IV, 587.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

to formalize Parliam ent’s role in the adm inistration o f the country, to make perm anent that range o f duties which the Houses had assumed on an ad hoc basis during and since the crisis o f 1641 supervising the levying and disbursing o f taxes, direct involvem ent in the negotiation o f treaties and alliances - or to institutionalize the standing com m ittee o f estates between sessions as practised in 1641 and urged upon them by the Scots.32 Even the claim to vet royal appointm ents to high office - usually seen as an attem pt to enhance a ‘parliamentary constitution’ - was really little m ore than the lever by which an aristocratic coup could be completed. These proposals were not designed disingenuously, in a void. Those who proposed them knew just who they wished to see placed in each o f the major offices. It is notew orthy that those offices named were dom inated by those traditionally held by the peerage. The reform ed Council w ith a new m axim um mem bership would be dom inated by those officeholders. And the list contains one major oddity - the restoration o f the ancient office o f Constable, an office effectively defunct since 1521, and one w ith a unique history. According to medieval claims, the Constable had the authority to arrest the king if he violated his coronation oath and to bring him before his Parliam ent.33 It evokes the Ordinances o f 1311 and the Modus Tenendi Parliamentum (c. 1322) which sought to make w ayw ard monarchs accountable to the Estates o f the Realm and especially to the great officers. M ore generally it evokes a general late medieval tradition o f ‘representative C ouncil’.34 For 250 years before 1536, the advantages for and against a ‘bureaucratic’ as against a ‘representative’ council had been freely aired in discussions o f the nature o f English governm ent. Some felt that efficient and active governm ent depended upon the king’s ability to select his advisers from am ong his peerage and Household; others held that that king was best advised who received his counsel from representatives o f the Estates o f the Realm. Thus he would readily discover the limits o f his enforceable will. N um erous schemes were propounded (as by such loyal C row n servants as Sir John Fortescue,

32. For som e o f these developm ents, see D .H . Pennington, ‘T he M aking o f W ar’, in D .H . Pennington and K .V . Thom as (eds.), Puritans and Revolutionaries (1979). 33. K .M . Sharpe, Sir Robert Cotton (1979); and ex info John Guy. 34. M y approach to the N ineteen Propositions was stim ulated by reading an early draft o f J. Guy, ‘Privy C ouncil, R evolution or E volution?’ in D . Starkey and C. C olem an (eds.), Revolution Reassessed (1986) and to m any stim ulating conversations w ith John Guy. Since this was w ritten, John A dam son has independently developed a similar thesis. See his ‘The Baronial C on text o f the English Civil War’, T R H S , 40 (1990).


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C hristopher St German, Thom as Starkey) for the selection o f such ‘representative councillors’. Henry VIII’s reorganization in 1536-40 settled the question for a century. But faced by an incom petent king w ho chose bad counsellors and went beyond even their advice, it is not surprising to find the alternative tradition being re-examined during the crisis o f 1641-2. I do not think the civil war was essentially a baronial revolt. There was no great debate on the issues contained in the Nineteen Propositions. The armies were not recruited in 1642 to the cry o f ‘support your local baron’. But for one crucial group o f men, the ancient peerage, this was a very live issue; and it is unlikely that Charles him self failed to see the significance o f what was being demanded. Certainly while first-generation peers were fairly solidly for Charles in 1642, the pre-Elizabethan peerage were, by a clear m ajority, for Parliament and the Nineteen Propositions. And not many o f them were hard-core Puritans. When civil war broke out, the senior positions within the parliamentarian arm y were given mainly to peers. At the battle o f Edgehill, the first battle o f the civil war, m ore than half the colonels o f both cavalry and infantry regiments were peers or sons o f peers (on the royalist side the figure was less than one third; and none o f those royalist peers were pre-Stuart creations). As Parliament created its regional armies during the winter o f 1642-3 m ost o f the commands w ent to peers.35 The English civil war was politically a war between a king who - im itating his fellow-monarchs throughout Europe - was striving to enhance royal authority, who was an innovative, dynamic king; and a parliamentarian m ovem ent that was reactive, putting its faith in traditions o f noble paternalism. A lthough the Houses received m uch popular support, where this was not religious in character (see below), it too was conservative. The Nineteen Propositions evoked neither criticism nor enthusiastic endorsem ent from supporters in the provinces. Petitions from the provinces in the six m onths before war broke out almost w ithout exception called for a negotiated settlem ent.36 Insofar as there was a ‘political’ program m e in the provinces, it aimed to settle for the reforms o f 1641 (which had themselves been designed to restabilize the constitution). Furtherm ore

35. P. Y oung, Edgehill, 1642 (1967), pp. 62-70; C .H . Firth and R.S. Rait, Acts and Ordinances o f the Interregnum (3 vols. 1911), I, passim. 36. Fletcher, Outbreak, chs. 5, 6, 8.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

(although this is a statem ent with which many historians would disagree), w hat evidence we have generally supports the view that popular political attitudes expressed confidence in the existing social and political order. Theirs was a protest against the way in which those around the king had abused their trust. M en fought to free themselves from bad governors, not from a bad system o f governm ent.37 There was no popular demand in 1642 for an extension o f the franchise; or for the popular election o f magistrates and juries, or for the redistribution o f property. All o f these demands were being made by 1649. VII Yet while the civil war was a defensive political operation, a defence o f existing liberties against an arbitrary king, it was an aggressive religious operation, a challenge to the whole o f the existing structure and practice.38 The men who were m ost strenuous in raising troops for the defence o f Parliament (I am thinking here o f those in the provinces rather than those at Westminster) were those obsessed by a fear o f ‘popery’ (the international Catholic conspiracy) and by the need to seize the opportunity to realize a m ore godly reform ation (that is to create church structures and patterns o f worship and discipline more wholeheartedly based on a Protestant understanding o f the commands o f the Bible). This meant the repeal o f the Elizabethan statutes setting up the C hurch o f England; the abolition o f Bishops and the system o f church courts which had survived from pre-Reform ation days; the abolition o f the Book o f C om m on Prayer, which was full o f ceremonies and prayers which were Catholic in origin; and a ban on the celebration o f Jesus’s birth (Christmas), and o f his death and resurrection (the Easter Triduum ) as o f all Saints’ Days and ‘superstitious’ observances (with a contrasting emphasis on a m ore solemn and austere observance o f the Sabbath day [Sunday]). This ‘puritan’ drive was not com m on to all parliamentarians, but it was characteristic o f m ost parliamentarian activists. It was also largely a preoccupation w ith rem oving one coercive, unitary national church and replacing it by another. Freedom o f individual conscience, the key issue ten years later, was not a major issue in 1642. The Puritans

37. K. Lindley, Fenland Riots in the English Revolution (1981), pp. 138-9; B. Sharp, In Contempt o f A ll Authority (1980), pp. 263—4 and n. 9; D . U n d crd ow n , Revel, Riot and Rebellion (1985), chs. 5-6; ‘Order and Disorder in the English R evolu tion ’, below , ch. 18; but cf. M anning, English People, esp. chs. 6-7. 38. See b elow , especially ch. 3 and 4.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

were so bound together by hatred o f the existing C hurch that they failed to recognize the difficulties they were likely to encounter once they tried to agree on what to put in its place.39 In order to understand the militancy o f puritanism in 1642, we have to understand men like the tow n clerk o f N ortham pton, Robert W oodford, or the Warwick schoolmaster, Thom as Dugard, whose diaries have been dissected by John Fielding40 and Ann H ughes.41 We sense the build-up o f tension, or internalized anger, am ong the godly in the years before 1642 - what I would call the coiled spring effect. Unless we grasp the bitterness o f those years, o f the sense that the Protestant cause and therefore God was being betrayed, then the release o f pent-up energy in the early 1640s cannot be understood. I am currently undertaking studies o f a series o f such men, ranging from the leading Cheshire magistrate Sir William Brereton to an obscure Suffolk yeom an-farmer, William D ow sing.42 Brereton was probably the m ost active o f all the Cheshire justices in the 1630s. He certainly disliked m uch that Charles I did in the period 1625-41, but he stayed in office, paid his taxes, and complained quietly and privately. In 1640-2, he went along with all the secular reforms w ithout ever taking a lead in them. Meanwhile, he had been rethinking his attitude to the Established Church. Trips to Holland and Scotland persuaded him that the gospel could be preached m ore purely and was being lived out m ore exactly in Churches less com prom ised in their governm ent and liturgy than was the C hurch o f England. When he was returned to the Long Parliament, he became a tireless critic o f the Laudian regime and o f episcopacy, and he gathered round him in his hom e county enough like-minded men to be able, at the outbreak o f war, to launch a small but effective army. The men who gathered that arm y were almost all men who had led the campaign against bishops and the Prayer Book in Cheshire in 1641.43 By contrast, William D ow sing was a hum ble East Anglian farmer w ho was to be appointed by the earl o f M anchester to visit all the 39. For a guide to m y subsequent thinking about the spiritual diaspora o f puritanism in the 1640s see m y ‘The Impact on Puritanism ’ in J .S . Morrill (ed.), The Impact o f the English C ivil War (1991), pp. 50-66. 40. John Fielding, ‘Puritan opposition to Charles I: the diary o f Robert W oodford, 1637_1641’, HJ, 31 (1988), 769-88. 41. Ann H ughes, ‘T hom as Dugard and his circle: a puritan-parliamentarian connection ’, HJ, 29 (1986), 771-94. 42. For a third case study, see b elow , ch. 6. 43. J.S. M orrill, Cheshire, 1630-1660 (1974), ch. 2; as revised by J.S. M orrill, ‘Sir W illiam Brereton and E ngland’s “Wars o f R eligion ’” , Jnl. Brit. Studs. 24 (1985).


The Nature o f the English Revolution

churches in Cam bridgeshire and Suffolk to rem ove all ‘m onum ents o f idolatry and superstition’ (medieval carvings in w ood and stone, stained glass windows, altar rails etc.). The register which he kept o f his activities reveals a man at once methodical and fanatical, with a burning hatred o f idolatry and a belief that God would punish the English until such time as all the churches in the land had been cleansed. He was also a man who m onth-by-m onth bought the printed versions o f the sermons preached to the tw o Houses at their m onthly Fast Days, and filled the margins w ith his ow n glosses as he watched w ith grow ing dismay the collapse o f Puritan unity. It is clear that he pushed him self forward, driven by an inner conviction that the godly were being offered a once-for-all opportunity to set up gospel ordinances in England. Like Brereton and like Thom as W oodford, he no doubt hated him self for paying the hateful Ship M oney. But he had paid it. It was the vision o f Zion that spurred him on.44 B oth Brereton and Dowsing were w orried that this great period o f transition could breed ‘a liberty running to license’ but both (in the early 1640s) felt that the risks were w orth taking. What comes through the rhetoric o f such men, and even m ore through the sermons o f the preachers who thundered from their pulpits about the ways God was leading the English (His new Chosen People) towards a Prom ised Land just as He guided the People o f Israel in the stories recounted in the O ld Testam ent, was a genuine conviction that the civil war was a religious crusade to drive out old corruptions, and to establish new patterns o f evangelism. In 1642, there was a selfconfidence and energizing faith in religious renewal for which there is no secular equivalent. VIII The parliamentarians fought the English civil war not to abolish m onarchy but to control it; not to weaken the pow er o f existing elites but to institutionalize it; not to redistribute land and wealth, but to protect the rights o f those in possession; not to destroy the right o f the state to define religious truth and to impose moral standards, but to change w hat the state prescribed and imposed. Yet by 1649 all this had changed: m onarchy and House o f Lords had been abolished; there was a campaign backed by powerful elements

44. Since w riting this I have written up m y researches on D ow sin g: see ‘W illiam D o w sin g , the Bureaucratic Puritan’ in J.S. M orrill, P.S. Slack and D . W oolf, (eds.), Public M en and Private Conscience in Seventeenth-Century England (1993). For a further case study, see b elow , ch. 6.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

am ong those who were running the state for a radical democratization o f legislature, executive and judiciary; attacks on prim ogeniture and other key aspects o f property right; and perhaps m ost remarkably o f all, a surrender by the state o f the right to determine and impose on all citizens a uniform ity o f religious belief, observance and practice. In 1642, men had fought about which monopolies to impose on one another. From 1647 onwards, both in theory and practice, the state abandoned the attem pt to make all men belong to the state church. The English Revolution was not, in any simple or obvious sense, the completion o f a process begun in 1642. It was m ore the product o f the traumas o f civil w ar.45 In order to win the war, the tw o Houses had had to abandon their com m itm ent to the very civil liberties which they had maintained that they were fighting to preserve: one in four adult males were mobilized in the war - one in ten at any given time during the campaigning seasons o f 1643, 1644, 1645. The taxation necessary to pay and supply such armies was beyond the resources o f the com m unity: direct taxation alone was at ten times the level o f parliamentary grants for the war years o f the 1590s or 1620s. Yet on top o f the ‘assessments’ (a quota tax modelled on the hated Ship M oney assessments), Parliament imposed unprecedented internal duties (‘excise’) on basic commodities such as meat, beer and salt; quartered soldiers on civilian families w ithout meeting the cost o f board o f lodging; and confiscated the estates o f political opponents. Despite all this, the pay o f its armies fell heavily into arrears. By 1647 the Houses faced a disillusioned civilian population and a discontented soldiery. In order to maximize its resources, Parliament also set up committees in every part o f the country, and conferred upon those committees powers o f arrest, im prisonm ent and distraint; they introduced conscription and martial law; and they used troops to assist com m itteem en which led to clashes between soldiers and civilians, especially w ith respect to the collection o f the excise.46

45. R. A shton, The English C ivil War, 1603-1649 (1978), chs. 7, 10; D . Hirst, Authority and Conflict 1603-1658 (1985), chs. 8-9; M orrill, Revolt, ch. 3; chapters by A shton, M orrill and P ennington in J.S. M orrill (ed.), Reactions to the English C ivil War (1982). 46. Fully described in M orrill, Revolt, ch. 2. The m ost vivid evocation o f wartim e taxation, o f its cost and yet its insufficiency, is to be found in C. H olm es, The Eastern Association in the English C ivil War (1974), pp. 127-161. M y thinking about excise has been transformed by the w ork o f M ike Braddick, w h ose article, ‘Popular Politics and Public Policy: the excise riot at Sm ithfield in February 1647 and its A fterm ath’, HJ, 34 (1991), is the harbinger o f a book on The Roots o f the T a x State, to be published in 1993.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

D uring the civil war, ecclesiastical discipline collapsed. The Houses suspended and paralysed the old system o f church governm ent and proscribed many o f its practices. In addition, one in four o f all ministers were dismissed from their livings, sometimes by official commissioners, sometimes as a result o f the intim idatory behaviour o f zealous minorities o f parishioners; and there was a similar com bination o f official and unofficial activity to destroy superstitious statues, stained glass window s and altars in parish churches. But the hoped-for ‘purer’ Protestant church was not introduced. When it came to agreeing on w hat should be introduced rather than what should be abolished, the W estminster Assembly o f laymen and ministers set up to advise Parliament made painfully slow and bitterly contested progress, and godly laymen in Parliament itself set out to rem ove from all the Assem bly’s schemes any enhanced authority for the clergy. By the time that a scheme was approved in 1647, it was too late.47 Religious anarchy prevailed. In m any parishes, even in areas that had appeared heavily ‘puritan’ before the war, there was a strong reaction in favour o f the old Church; in others the whole notion o f a state church to which all m ust belong was rejected in favour o f the notion o f a ‘gathered’ church, an exclusive gathering o f the ‘godly’ free from all external control by the state or centralized ecclesiastical authority. M any m ore men w ho w ould have preferred a state church found that they disliked the one on offer in 1647 so heartily that they came reluctantly to dem and freedom for themselves outside that church. By the end o f 1647, it was clear that a substantial m inority in both Houses, and in the country at large, had no will to make the proposed national church w o rk .48 As the landmarks o f the political and religious order collapsed, m ore and m ore men came to yearn for a return to old certainties, while a hardening m inority became m ore and m ore convinced that God was making all things malleable, that He was preparing England for yet greater changes. This led some to believe that they were about to witness the fulfilment o f those biblical prophecies about God bringing the w orld o f flesh and blood to an end, and inaugurating a 1,000year personal reign o f Christ which would culminate in the Day o f Judgem ent. Others came to believe that just as God was willing the overthrow o f the political and religious order, so He was guiding 47. The story is told in tw o works: Robert Paul, The Assembly o f the Lord (1985), and G. Yule, Puritans in Politics (1981). 48. See b elow , ch. 7; also the introduction to J. M acG regor and B. Reay (eds.), Radical Religion in the English Revolution (1982).


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them to challenge the inequities and oppressions o f the social order.49 Campaigns (mainly peaceful and impractical) were launched for the abolition o f the rights o f prim ogeniture, for granting security o f tenure to tenant farmers, for the return to com m on use o f the ancient com m on lands which had been enclosed over the previous century by landlords and larger farmers, and for strengthening the position o f independent small producers and craftsmen at the expense o f entrepreneurs and proto-capitalist merchants. U nderpinning such demands for social reform was a radical extension o f notions o f social contract. The leaders o f the Levellers argued that rulers were not appointed by God (as Charles I had argued) nor in agreement between king and people (as m any Parliamentarians had argued) but in an agreement am ong the people themselves. The Levellers asserted that abuses o f pow er by all existing institutions (the standing Parliament as well as the king) invalidated their right to govern. What was needed was a new social contract - what they called (in a very literal sense) the Agreem ent o f the People - by which all who wished to enjoy political rights opted into an agreement by which limited powers to maintain order w ould be accorded to elected governors. The mechanism o f selection (the extent o f democracy) was less im portant than the end the accountability o f all w ho exercised authority, the rigidly fixed and non-renewable terms o f office which would prevent the concentration o f pow er in particular hands, a hatred o f ‘professionals’ in governm ent (e.g. lawyers and judges who claimed to be able to mediate justice through their mastery o f arcane legal language and procedures).50 Yet we m ust not exaggerate the numerical strength o f the Levellers and their supporters, nor their ability to shape events. Indeed, it may well be that their significance lies m ore in the fears they generated within the ruling elites than in their direct contribution to the shaping o f events.51 And we should not forget that w hat they represent is one aspect o f the freeing up o f the hum an mind. As the m ost fixed and daunting structures o f the external w orld - m onarchy, Lords, C hurch - crumbled, so the internal pillars o f thought crumbled. M en were freed to think hitherto unthinkable thoughts. 49. The best introductions to the thought o f the Levellers are G .E. A ylm er, The Levellers in the English Revolution (1975); J. Frank, The Levellers (1944); and M anning, English People, ch. 10. For Gerrard W instanley see Christopher Hill, Gerrard Winstanley, ‘The L aw o f Freedom' and Other Writings (1968), w hich should be read in the light o fJ .C . D avis, Utopia and the Ideal Society (1981), pp. 169-204. 50. The classic on these them es remains M . James, Social Problems and Policy during the Puritan Revolution (1940). M y view s are n o w m ore fully explored in ‘The Impact on S ociety’ in J.S. M orrill, (ed.), The Consequences o f the English Revolution (1992). 51. See below , ch. 18, pp. 385-8.


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Before we bring all this to bear on the question o f the Regicide, tw o other factors need to be m entioned. The first is the intensification o f the British problem in the later 1640s. The Scots had been a strong military presence in Ireland, alongside English troops, some loyal to Charles I and others to Parliament, Anglo-Irish troops, some loyal to Charles I and others to Parliament, and the armies o f the Irish Confederacy, loyal to the Pope and the patria . Alm ost every group fought every other group at some stage. Meanwhile, after initially staying out o f the war in England, the Scots had agreed to send 20,000 men south in the autum n and winter o f 1643 in exchange for an English com m itm ent to create a federal political structure in Britain and a com m on system o f church governm ent and worship throughout the British Isles. The Parliamentarians were united on the need for Scottish support in 1643, but m any disliked the price exacted by the Scots and by 1647 m any were prepared to disown it. In the w inter o f 1646-7, as the Scots army returned home, the parliamentary executive planned a reconquest o f Ireland by an exclusively English army, they were busy sabotaging the Presbyterian system and dismantling the confessional state, and they were stalling on all moves towards a federal Britain. The consequence was a collapse o f C ovenanter pow er in Scotland and the return o f a coalition headed by o f disaffected pro-royalist peers. The second civil war combined a series o f regional revolts by those in England who were sickened by the costs o f w ar - a revolt o f the provinces indeed - w ith an invasion by non-C ovenanted Scots. Meanwhile the king’s representative in Ireland, the marquis o f O rm onde, was able to make com m on cause w ith the hitherto pro-Parliam entarian Lord President o f M unster, Lord Inchiquin. The likelihood o f an Irish invasion o f England grew throughout the year.52 The final part o f the jigsaw was Charles himself. Militarily crushed in 1646, he refuse to negotiate seriously. He appeared indifferent to everything except the prospect o f waiting for his opponents to fall out am ong themselves so that he could launch a counter-coup. In 1648, all the pieces came together.53 The king allied him self to

52. N ew History o f Ireland, vol. in, 1534-1691 (1981); D . Stevenson, Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Scotland, 1644-1651 (1977); D . Stevenson, Scottish C ovenanters and Irish Confederates (1981). T he papers calendared in H .M .C . Egm ont, I, pp. 287-485 are especially im portant, and deserve to be m ore fully used. 53. Robert A shton has a study o f the second civil war in preparation. M eanw hile see his English C ivil War, ch. 10; J.P. K enyon, The C ivil Wars in England (1988), ch. 9; and B. Lyndon, ‘The South and the C om in g o f the Second C ivil War’, History (1986).


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the powerful sections o f the Scottish nobility and he appealed to those Parliamentarians disillusioned with the administrative tyranny, the religious anarchy, and w ith the H ouses’ failure to rid themselves o f an expensive and radicalized N ew M odel A rm y.54 Those who stood by Parliament and A rm y were a com bination o f pragmatists w ho saw no hope o f avoiding the reim position o f all the tyrannies o f the past but by further bloodshed, and a m inority w ho saw the second civil war as even m ore o f a crusade than the first. M any officers and soldiers were convinced that God was responsible for their victory in the first civil war: that it was, in a sense, a trial by battle in which both sides put themselves under the judgem ent o f God. For such men, the king’s decision to begin a new war was no less than sacrilege - an attem pt to challenge G od’s decision. It left the way clear to his trial and execution. He had delegitimized him self and his office: he was a ‘M an o f B lood’,55 one w ho had so offended God that he had to be destroyed. O nly by expressing a total revulsion against him could the English people continue to enjoy divine favour. After all the major engagements o f the second civil war - after the sieges o f Colchester and Pembroke, for example, or after the battle o f Preston - the leading royalists were tried and executed. There was no parallel for this in the first war. The charge was treason, but the offence was sacrilege. If those w ho represented the king at those engagements needed to be called to account, how m uch m ore did the arch-royalist, the king himself, need to be called to account. His fate was sealed, in m y judgem ent, from the time o f the A rm y Prayer Meetings at W indsor in April 1648.56 O nly by accepting their role as the instrum ent o f divine justice could the army leaders cause the English people to remain under divine favour.

54. O n w hich see n ow , A. W oolrych, Soldiers and Statesmen: The General Council o f the A rm y in 1647 and its Debates (1987); I. G entles, The N ew Model A rm y in England, Ireland and Scotland, 1645-1653 (1991), chs. 7-8. 55. See especially P. C rawford, “‘Charles Stuart, That Man o f B lo o d ’” , J n l Brit Stud., 16 (1977). 56. This is a controversial view , especially since the army leaders sent fresh negotiators to him even after Pride’s Purge in early D ecem ber. B ut it seem s to m e that the point o f D en b igh ’s m ission was to dem onstrate that God had so hardened the king s heart that he w ou ld not see sense and negotiate seriously even in those extrem e circumstances. The aim was to dem onstrate to the m any w h o still had n ot got the point that he was a man incapable o f reason and being driven to destruction by his o w n folly.


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IX It is probable that no m ore than one in ten o f all MPs and perhaps less than one in ten o f all regional governors approved o f the Regicide; but it was supported by a m ajority o f arm y officers and it was they who effected the coup that led to the establishment o f the High C ourt o f Justice that put the king on trial and ordered his execution. Clearly a much larger proportion o f the Parliamentarian m ovem ent endorsed what had happened after the event: the king could not be brought to life again. O ne had to live in a world in which regicide had taken place. Various de factoist arguments, which proceeded less from a defence o f the legitimacy o f the regime than from the stark fact o f its existence and its ability to com m and obedience, led a proportion o f all social groups to accept office. Many did so in order to dilute the pow er o f religious radicals. They did not retrospectively approve the execution o f the king: they sought to limit its consequences.57 I suspect that m uch o f our confusion about the 1650s arises from our failure to distinguish support for the Regicide from support for republicanism. T o endorse the execution o f Charles I did not logically im ply support for the abolition o f m onarchy; neither did support for kingless rule im ply support for the Regicide. For example, Algernon Sidney, H enry Vane and the Leveller leaders appear to have deplored the public trial and execution o f the king but to have embraced the political possibilities which it created.58 O ne m ajor problem is that while support for regicide was very much an either/or choice, support for republicanism covered a spectrum o f possibilities. At the time, o f course, the term for supporters o f kingless rule was ‘C om m onw ealthsm en’ rather than ‘Republicans’. ‘Republicanism ’ generally refers to a location o f sovereignty in the people rather than in a God-given ruler; and m ore specifically evoked the constitutions o f ancient Rom e between the end o f the m onarchy and the coming o f the Em perors, or else the constitutions o f Renaissance Venice or o f the U nited Provinces o f the northern Netherlands. The looser and m ore

57. D .E . U n d crd ow n , Pride's Purge (1970); A .B . W orden, The Rum p Parliament (1974); J. Scott, Algernon Sidney and the English Republic (1988), ch. 5; A .B . W orden, ‘The Politics o f M arvell’s Horatian O d e’, H J , 27 (1984); Q . Skinner, ‘C onquest and Settlem ent’ in G .E. A ylm er (ed.), The Interregnum: The Quest fo r Settlement (1972). 58. A .B . W orden, ‘Classical Republicanism in the Puritan R evolu tion ’ in H. L loydJones, V. Pearl and A .B . W orden (eds.), History and Imagination (1981). I am grateful to Sarah Barber, Glenn Burgess and Jonathan Scott for discussions o f this subject.


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com m on term ‘C om m onw ealthsm en’ has resonances in that tradition too, but m ore specifically in notions o f governm ent bound up with the ‘com m on weal’, a governm ent com m itted to, even established by, the will o f the com m unity. Both are terms concerned w ith problems o f accountability and with the preservation o f natural rights, the location o f sovereignty in the people at large, entrusted - directly or indirectly - to representative bodies. Such thinking did not preclude the appointm ent o f a single person as chief magistrate; it m ight not rule out calling that single person ‘king’. But it was predicated upon that the magistracy being, in meaningful ways, circumscribed in what he, she or it could do, and accountable in some way to the com m unity at large. Such general ideas frequently went along with an acceptance o f the view that the particular arrangements in any state at any time were subject to evolution and change, but that a people who wished to avoid tyranny and to enjoy liberty w ould so establish patterns o f governm ent that usurpation o f their rights would be difficult. Thus some men were convinced that, in England, m onarchy had proved too dangerous and that the restraining bonds set up by successive generations too weak to hold a purposeful tyrant. Therefore the abolition o f Stuart m onarchy left all options open, including the creation o f a new constitution which entrusted supreme administrative pow er to a single person who m ight not make law or control the judiciary and who w ould be accountable to others. Indeed as early as 1651 we have clear evidence that there was talk o f making C rom w ell king.59 Politically, then, the English Revolution saw a violent act carried out by a fairly isolated band o f well-placed soldiers and civilians, mainly driven by religious fanaticism (the regicides) which gave rise to a political program m e supported by a wider and m ore pragmatic group (the republicans). B oth had the support o f a m inority o f all social groups, but the crucial backing o f the army. O ne is left with the feeling that for many, even o f those groups, the English Revolution was based on the politics o f regret: m ost o f its supporters, even, were making the best o f a bad job. 59. In addition to the lo n g -k n o w n but doubtful testim ony o f L udlow , W hitlocke and others (review ed by C .H . Firth, ‘C rom w ell and the C ro w n ’, Eng. Hist. R vw . (1902). But see the startling evidence recently unearthed by Leo M iller in the contem porary diaries o f a German en voy w h o recorded conversations in Septem ber w ith leading politicians in w hich C rom w ell was hailed as unus instar in omnium, et in effectu rex (‘a man set above the rest, and in effect our K in g’). See L. M iller, John M ilton and the Oldenburg Safeguard (1985), p. 49.


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Furtherm ore, at the heart o f the rhetoric o f those who made the Revolution lay a profound contradiction. M uch o f the intellectual background to republican theory lay in the language o f natural rights and o f consent. Kings had to be destroyed or restrained because they had challenged the liberties and property o f the people in their charge. Yet the one thing none o f the constitutional experiments o f the 1650s could claim was consent. Any form o f free election or plebiscite at any point during the Interregnum would have resulted in a vote for a Restoration o f the Stuarts. H ow ever much the social definition o f the right to political participation had been broadened or narrowed, the result w ould have been the same. Yet those willing to support ‘C om m onw ealth’ governm ent were too am orphous in their thinking to form the cadres o f a successful vanguard state. A system built around the right o f an enlightened m inority (in Calvinist terms, the elect) to govern in the interests o f the fleshy, unregenerate m ajority,60 that mass o f grossly sinful men and w om en who had not been redeemed by C hrist’s passion, could not be vigorously developed, because o f the disappearance o f all consensus among the godly as to who were the godly! Successive regimes, then, had a general theory but no ability to generate positive proposals for effective state-building. M any - and perhaps it was m ost - o f those who exercised pow er after 1649 saw the Revolution not as a beginning but as an end; not as the dawn o f liberty, but as a desperate expedient to prevent the loss o f traditional liberties, either to a vengeful king or top social visionaries such as the Levellers. The regimes o f the 1650s were radical only in the circumstances that brought them into existence. In m ost other respects, there was a rush to restoration: a return to familiar forms o f central and local governm ent (the central courts, the revival o f Exchequer control o f revenue collection and audit; the consolidation o f gentry pow er in the localities; the silencing o f radical demands for land reform or greater commercial freedom; a renewed social paternalism).61 The social system experienced an earth trem or in the late 1640s, but then settled back on its foundations.62 Furtherm ore, the political 60. The classic form ulation is C rom w ell’s: ‘govern m en t’, he told Parliament in 1655, ‘is for the p eop le’s good , not what pleases th em ’ (W .C . A bbott, Writings and Speeches o f Oliver Cromwell (4 vols. 1937-47), III, 583. 61. G. A ylm er, The State's Servants (1975), part I. 62. In England, but not in Ireland and Scotland w here the 1650s did see a m assive transfer o f the social distribution o f pow er, I w ou ld n o w want to say: see m y essay, ‘T he Impact on S ociety’, in J.S. M orrill, Revolution and Restoration (1992).


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institutions were as conservative as anything that can be envisaged in the wake o f regicide (the N om inated Assembly o f July-D ecem ber 1653 is an exception to this).63 X O nly in relation to religion can those in authority still be said to have some fire in their belly. Indeed, am ong the sects, the only coherent m ovements outside the army, it was those w ith specifically religious visions that thrived (Baptists and Quakers especially), while those whose religious ends led them to seek to control the state (e.g. the Levellers) dissolve before our eyes. Indeed it is striking that the 1650s sees no political sects or m ovem ents (or even milieux) except as aspects o f essentially religious groups. Certainly the self-confidence of the 1640s largely disappears at all levels o f the puritan m ovem ent. The preachers to Parliament in the 1650s had none o f the elemental confidence o f the preachers o f the years 1640-5 that the old m ust be torn up root-and-branch to be replaced by a church whose blueprint God w ould make know n in due time. Despite a fear o f backsliding, a fear that men m ight lack the courage to follow the route God had chosen, they had no doubt as to the route and the destination. England was to be delivered from popery and superstition and brought to a new condition o f peace, tranquillity and obedience to biblical precepts - in a very literal sense a repetition o f the deliverance o f the people o f Israel from slavery and bondage as described in the O ld Testament. By the early 1650s the tone o f the preachers was hesitant and their advice muted: their appeal was for unity am ong the godly and for ‘waiting upon the Lord’ (that is, G od’s im mediate purpose was no longer self-evident to them ).64 This failure o f nerve was the result both o f the experience o f internal disunity, the disintegration o f puritanism as a dogmatic, ecclesiological and ethical system; and a recognition o f failure on the ground. Ten years after the fall o f the old religion, attachment to its practices, beliefs and ‘superstitions’ was proving remarkably resilient. In the chaos that followed the failure to im plem ent an agreed ‘godly’ program m e in the mid 1640s, a small m inority walked out o f their parish churches and set up in religious assemblies o f their own; but far m ore (from all social groups) purposefully set out to recreate the practice o f the old religion - forcing out the ministers put in during 63. A. W oolrych, From Commonwealth to Protectorate (1987). 64. M. Seym our, ‘Pro-G overnm ent propaganda in Interregnum England’, U niversity o f Cam bridge PhD thesis (1987), pp. 26-52.


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the civil war and restoring the ministers ejected for their anti-puritan or anti-Parliamentarian views, using the proscribed Anglican Prayer Books (especially for the sacraments and for the rites o f passage), celebrating the banned festivals o f Christmas and Easter, and so on.65 If puritanism did not attract the mass o f converts that its adherents in the early 1640s had assumed that it would, it had also lost many o f its activists along the way. B oth o f our earlier representative figures - Sir William Brereton and William D ow sing - abandoned active service o f the C om m onw ealth: for them Christian liberty had turned to licence. They had fought to liberate the nation from ignorance and superstition, and to impose a godly discipline. Both welcomed greater freedom in forms o f worship, but both found their spiritual energy sapped. Like men cast overboard in a storm at sea, their bodies succumbed to cold and they gave up struggling some time before death came to them. Yet for many others, the disintegration o f puritanism was a source o f strength and opportunity, not o f disillusionment. For them, religious freedom became the essential gain o f the 1640s. At one extrem e stood groups w ho rejected not only the right o f the state to define religious truth, but also the authority o f a professional caste o f preaching ministers to interpret the scriptures and even the authority o f the scriptures themselves. In its stead they placed the direct action o f God entering and dwelling in the hearts o f those who opened themselves to Him . A num ber o f sects claiming a variety o f revealed truths became established in this way, the m ost im portant being the Q uakers.66 O ther groups looked to particular passages in scripture to predict the im m inent Second C om ing o f Christ, the end o f the w orld, the Day o f Judgem ent on the living and the dead.67 All such groups experienced interm ittent or persistent persecution: Christian liberty was never extended by the state to those who rejected the scriptures and the creeds.68 N one o f these groups had ambitions to set up particular constitutional forms, and they were all essentially politically anarchistic: even if some o f them did dabble from time

65. See b elow , ch. 7; M acG regor and Reay, Radical Religion pp. 8-11; C. Cross, ‘The Church in England 1646-1660’ in A ylm er (ed.), The Interregnum, pp. 99-120. 66. M acG regor and Reay, Radical Religion, ch. 6; B. Reay, The Quakers in the English Revolution (1984). See also C. Hill, B. Reay and W. Lam ont, The World o f the Muggletonians (1983) and J.C . D avis, Fear, M yth and History: The Ranters and the Historians (1986). 67. E .g. B. Capp, The Fifth Monarchy M en (1972), chs. 6 and 8. 68. A .B . Worden, ‘C rom w ell and T oleration’, in W. Sheils (ed.), Studies in Church History 21 (1984).


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to time in insurrectionary politics, they were under no illusion that a Stuart Restoration would be much worse for them. At the other extreme, sheltering under the wing o f the Protectorate, was a m ore ambivalent group o f intellectuals w hom one historian has characterized as ‘politiques’.69 These were men who had supported Parliament in the wars but who had deplored the Regicide. Accepting that it had happened, they w ould w ork to mitigate its effects. We have already looked at their political preferences. In religion they were equally pragmatic: they deplored the violence and bigotry o f Presbyterianism and o f the sects, but they displayed ‘a willingness to understand and to perm it beliefs on premisses very different from their ow n’. They were the heirs o f the Erasmian spirit o f religion - practical, rational, sceptical, tolerant. For them, the defeat o f Laudianism and o f Presbyterianism spelt an end to clericalism and the abandonm ent o f dogm atic precision for the sake o f m oral precepts. In that sense they were as much precursors o f the Enlightenm ent as heirs o f the H um anists.70 But the principal proponents o f religious liberty in the 1650s were neither the sects nor these early latitudinarians. They were men for w hom paradoxically religious liberty was a means to a deeper unity. The supreme representative o f this view, as he was the supreme examplar o f all the ambiguities o f the Revolution, was O liver Crom well. C rom w ell was a man who accepted that all existing political and religious institutions had been discredited by the civil w ars.71 All hum an institutions were ‘dross and dung in comparison with C hrist’, he said.72 He was not a man ‘wedded and glued to forms o f governm ent.’73 All hum an political, religious and legal institutions,

69. W orden, Cromwell and Toleration, p. 230. 70. A. Crom artie, ‘Sir M atthew H ale’, U n iversity o f Cam bridge PhD thesis (1991), part II, is a splendid case study. 71. For C rom w ell, the literature is inexhaustible. For m e, the classic biographies are those o f C .H . Firth, O liver Cromwell and the Rule o f the Puritans (1900); R.S. Paul, The Lord Protector (1955) and C. H ill, God's Englishman (1970), together w ith three essential articles by Blair Worden: ‘C rom w ell and T oleration’, loc. cit.; ‘O liver C rom w ell and the sin o f A chan’, in D . Beales and G. Best (eds.), History, Society and the Churches (1985); and ‘Providence and Politics in C rom w ellian England’, Past and Present, no. 109 (1985). There is a very im portant essay by C olin D avis, ‘C ro m w ell’s R eligion ’ in J.S. Morrill (ed.), O liver Cromwell and the English Revolution (1990). What follow s w ou ld have been sharper if I had read that essay w hen I w rote these paragraphs. 72. Ed. T. Carlyle (rev. S.C . Lomas), The Letters and Speeches o f O liver Cromwell (3 v o ls ., 1894) III, 373. 73. Carlyle/Lom as, Cromwell, III, 362.


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because they were hum an, were subject to hum an frailty. There was no simple way to im prove m ankind by im proving the institutions that disciplined its members. The civil war had destroyed a tyrannical king only to set up a tyrannical Parliament; it had destroyed one kind o f priestcraft only to see another seek to take its place. Yet all was not lost. God was visible in the affairs o f men. Everything was following His plan. He had ‘w innow ed’74 the English people. He had marked out the instrum ents o f His will. They belonged to no single church or sect. N o man had been vouchsafed the whole o f His plan. M any men had ‘the root o f the m atter in them ’, a deep piety and religious energy that C rom w ell believed he could identify in men as diverse as form er bishops, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists and even in George Fox the Quaker. G od’s truth, ‘in the several forms o f it’, lay divided am ong such m en.75 O nly by creating a context within which such men could debate together, and witness in their way, could sinful man be brought to recognize the com m on ground, to perceive som ething close to G od’s whole plan for His new chosen people. Thus Crom w ell was not wedded and glued to forms o f governm ent because he was wedded and glued to the ends o f governm ent, the gradual building up o f a state and o f a church through careful attention to what God was revealing in each and every one o f His saints. M uch o f this was conventional providentialist Calvinism. W hat makes it remarkable was that C rom w ell looked for the saints across all social and religious groups. Such pragm atism over forms, combined with a belief that anything was justified that he could convince him self was G od’s will as dem onstrated through His saints, made his period as Lord Protector a destabilizing one. At w hat he took to be G od’s behest, he levied taxation w ithout parliamentary consent, he im prisoned men w ithout trial or cause shown and he generally underm ined the confidence o f the elite that they and their property were secured by the rule o f law. C rom w ell believed that the O ld Testam ent told o f God offering choices to the people o f Israel - a choice o f obedience (which would see them enter into a land o f milk and honey) or o f disobedience (which w ould cause them to endure servitude in Egypt or Babylon). God offered similar choices to His new chosen people o f England. It was this visionary teleology which made Crom w ell a great revolutionary leader. There was a brutal and arbitrary side to his pursuit o f this vision, but there was a noble side to it, too. The ‘cruel necessity’ 74. Carlyle/Lom as, Cromwell, II, 275. 75. Carlyle/Lom as, Cromwell, II, 538.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

o f regicide was to be the prelude to a great transform ation o f the moral and spiritual order. C rom w ell failed. His revolution had too narrow a social base, his religious vision sought to unite too diffuse a m ovem ent, while the political program m e predicated by that religious vision was too disturbing to those conservative revolutionaries for w hom regicide was a desperate act intended to safeguard ancient liberties. Once C rom w ell was dead, the centripetal tendencies w ithin the revolution intensified. The alienated m ajority clamoured for the restoration o f the House o f Stuart, and the fragile hold o f the supporters o f the republic collapsed. The Restoration brought back all the old structures in church and state. The political legacy o f the Revolution was almost wholly negative - memories o f it sending a shiver dow n the spine o f elites for many generations to come. M alcontents am ong the elite w ould never again take the risks that the men o f 1640-2 had taken. The religious legacy was m ore complex. B oth the authoritarian puritanism o f the early 1640s and the visionary dreams o f religious liberty as a stage towards a new kind o f unity were largely abandoned. But that irenic, tolerant, sceptical spirit that we saw sheltering under the wing o f the Protectorate survived and thrived. Despite some serious gestures in that direction, the Restoration did not witness any effective attem pt to realize the authoritarian dreams o f earlier kings and bishops. By the end o f the century it was accepted - joyfully by some, sulkily by others - that, in an imperfect world, men and w om en should be left to make the m ost o f their opportunities, and it was the task o f the state to protect them in the free enjoym ent o f inherited and acquired goods and values. From the wreckage o f England’s religious wars, the liberal-democratic state was gradually to emerge.


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England’s Wars o f Relig

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Introduction: England’s Wars o f Religion1

I Each o f the three main sections o f this book will begin w ith a short com m entary on the works chosen for inclusion. I have tried hard to be straightforw ard in acknowledging how time has m oved on, how I have continued to develop my ow n thinking and how I have continued to learn from others. As time passes, the best o f any historian’s ideas and the riper fruits o f his or her researches get absorbed into the general understanding, leaving behind a chaff o f eccentric and plain w rong ideas. Hence the hazard o f collections such as these. In addition, the shape o f many a piece o f historical writing is partly determ ined by the targets it is aimed at. Years later, it is unclear to new readers why particular pieces o f historical w riting take the form they do. They seem, quixotically enough, to be tilting at windmills. The point is that the windmills were real enough when the essays were written, but they have become dilapidated and have collapsed between the time o f original publication and the present. II The them e o f the first section o f the book is religion. A lthough one historian found it surprising and an ‘irony w orth savouring’ that I and other ‘revisionists’ had in the 1980s ‘rediscover[ed] the centrality o f religion’, I have in fact never had any doubt o f it.2 As I remind 1. This essay draws on material from the introductory paper I gave at a Conference I was asked to arrange at the Folger Institute for Early M odern Political T h ou gh t in March 1990. The them e o f the conference was ‘England’s Wars o f R eligion ’. And it benefits from pondering the com m entaries on that them e given at the conference by Peter Lake, Johann S om m erville and others. 2. G. Eley and W. H unt (eds), Reviving the English Revolution (1988), pp. 4, 9; and for m y response, b elow , pp. 274-6.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

readers below, even when I was analyzing the way a national struggle was being diffracted into a series o f unique patterns in each region, I had no doubt that the beam o f light entering the prism was essentially religious in character.3 In the 1970s I was prim arily concerned to explain the com plexity o f individual choices in, through, and after the civil wars; and I wanted to draw attention to the way anti-war sentiment and a politics o f regret were im portant constituents in the dynamics o f change through the whole period. ‘N eutralism ’ and the other m yriad forms o f panic, dismay, anger against the war were not inert, passive forces which played no part in the struggles for pow er between king and Parliamentarians or within the ‘victorious’ Parliamentarian m ovem ent. By 1981, it was clear to me that I had said all I wanted to say about ‘neutralism ’ and ‘localism’. And I began to analyse m ore closely what it was that overcame the natural reluctance o f the political elite to confront an overwhelm ingly unpopular king. I was w orking on a book, now laid aside, which I was having problems with. The book was to be a general survey o f the period 1637-62. By 1983 I envisaged it as a book in four sections o f four chapters each, the sections covering the periods 1637-42, 1642-9, 1649-58 and 1658-62. Each section would have a narrative chapter and parallel chapters on social, political and religious developments. The m ore I w orked on the first tw o sections o f that book, the m ore I became convinced o f tw o things. The first was that there was a difference between the role o f religious ideas and the role o f secularconstitutional ideas in the dynamics o f the crisis; and the second was the need to set the crisis in England much m ore into a British and into a European context. In 1983, I made a decision to call the book England’s Wars o f Religion , and I trailered that title in the peroration to a paper to the Royal Historical Society (below, ch. 3). It is a decision I have sometimes regretted because it was not as thought out as it m ight have been and it has helped to create some misunderstandings o f my position. I can now see that the deploym ent o f the term ‘England’s Wars o f Religion’ was a quintessentially revisionist statement. By locating the mid seventeenth-century crisis in an early m odern context away from w hat I took to be misleading and unhelpful comparisons w ith m odern revolutions from 1789 on, I was seeking to reject a fundamentally anachronistic approach to the seventeenth century, one designed to render the event explicable by assimilating it to a category

3. Sec b elow , pp. 187-9.


Introduction: England’s Wars o f Religion

familiar to m odern experience and social theory. It represented and represents what I still believe to be a salutary reaction against various forms o f m odernization theory. It was an essential part o f the revisionist claim for the particularity o f past experience, and for the gulf between our mental w orld and that o f the seventeenth century. Thus I was consciously seeking to assimilate the events in seventeenth-century England to a class o f events which belong distinctively to the period under study and not to the social and secular divisions alleged to underlie m ost m odern revolutions.4 And yet, paradoxically, one aim was to enhance the claims o f the 1640s and 1650s to be a great turning-point by suggesting that the overthrow o f m onarchy, House o f Lords and confessional state constituted a fundamental transform ation which - even w ithout the social transform ation sought by the model-builders and even given the reversals o f 1660 - changed political consciousness.5 As I put it recently, the present may not have been determ ined by these events, but it tastes o f them .6 I had another reason for calling the crisis England’s wars o f religion: I wanted to leave the way clear to see them as England’s wars with Scotland and Ireland as well as w ithin itself. Can anyone deny that the Anglo-Scottish wars o f 1639-51 and the Anglo-Irish wars o f 1641-64 were wars o f religion in a purer sense than the English civil war? Thus the Scottish National C ovenant was a religious docum ent in form and content, and neither it, nor the supporting documents, represent a Scottish Grand Remonstrance. The Scots were preoccupied from 1641 onwards with a redefinition o f the U nion o f the Kingdom s and the creation o f a federal union; and that preoccupation was overwhelm ingly the result o f a need to protect the Kirk from further anglicization. As Robert Baillie put it in 1644 following the Solemn League and Covenant, the English had wanted a civil league and the Scots a religious union.7 Can 4. I am grateful to Peter Lake for discussions w hich sorted out m y thinking on this. 5. This discussion raises the question o f w h y I have given this book this title. M y m otives are m ixed. I decided against calling it England’s Wars o f Religion because it w ou ld have confused those expecting m y system atic account o f the period 1637-62 lon g prom ised under that title, but n o w m othballed; I needed a title that w ou ld indicate the sort o f book it was; and I hope that the contents o f the book w ill sufficiently indicate what sort o f transformation took place in seventeenth-century England. Whether the nature o f those changes makes the term ‘revolu tion ’ appropriate can then be decided by each reader! 6. Article in The Times Saturday Review, 4 Apr. 1992, m arking the 350th anniversary o f the outbreak o f the English C ivil War. 7. D . Laing (ed.), The Letters and Journals o f Robert Baillie (3 v ols., Edinburgh, 1841-2), II, 90.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

anyone doubt that the Irish rebellion o f 1641 resulted from Irish Catholic fears for the freedom to practise their religion and o f civil persecution as a result o f their religious com m itm ents? The events o f the 1640s turned Ireland into a seventeenth-century Lebanon, but with a fundamentally Protestant/Catholic alignment which m ost sixteenthcentury Europeans would have had no difficulty in recognizing. H aving located the crisis in an early m odern context, I hoped the term E ngland’s Wars o f Religion w ould also distance it from the General Crisis co n tex t.8 M ost European states were convulsed in the 1640s by a collapse o f (or at least challenge to) central authority generated by the form idable efforts o f the state to appropriate revenues and resources to m aintain total w ar and the consequent bureaucratization and challenge to particularism s. I w anted to suggest that Charles I’s failures in the 1620s and 1630s were sim ply not part o f that experience. R ather, w hat E ngland suffered in the 1640s was its delayed, or deferred, wars o f religion. T hey had been delayed, or deferred, in England because o f Elizabeth’s success (against the odds) in establishing a hybrid church - sufficiently traditional in governm ent and discipline, sufficiently reform ed in belief, sufficiently confused in its liturgies - to bam boozle the overw helm ing m ajority into accepting it as offering som ething to them . A nd it had been delayed, or deferred, because o f the successful bribing o f a high prop o rtio n o f the elite w ith church lands, because o f the integration o f the elite into the structures o f pow er by the transform ations o f governm ent, and an institutional suppleness that accom m odated the social redistribution o f pow er that took place in the sixteenth century. Jam es I had proved ju st as successful as Elizabeth in holding the religious centre together; but after that all the other Stuart kings w ere to risk destabilizing their thrones by devious if not deviant religious policies. If the w orst that could be said o f Jam es I by his puritan critics was that he was m oving the C hurch o f England too slowly in the right direction, then Charles I was all too generally seen as frogm arching it R om ew ards. T ogether w ith his abandonm ent o f the political latitudinarianism essential to stable governm ent, his reckless authoritarianism and his corruption o f justice, England finally experienced its reform ation crisis. What this makes clear is that I never thought or claimed that the crisis o f the 1640s was ‘only’ about religion. N o scholar thinks 8. For this sec T. A ston (ed.), Crisis in Europe 1560-1660 (1965), and w orks therein cited.


Introduction: England’s Wars o f Religion

that the European wars o f religion were only about religion. The crises in Germany, France and the Netherlands concerned competing visions o f state form ation (especially the creation o f effective national institutions) and the social distribution o f pow er at a time o f economic and dem ographic change; but many historians have concluded that religious poles are the ones around which m ost other discontents formed; that religious arguments dom inated the debate on the choices people made; and that religious dynam ism determ ined the stages through which the wars run. I w ould still think there was virtue in these arguments, and in the term ‘England’s Wars o f Religion’. But there are drawbacks too. The m ost obvious is that (except in Ireland) the poles in Britain in the 1640s were not straightforw ardly Catholic/Protestant ones. In England and in Scotland the struggle was within Protestantism, although there is no reason to doubt that for the godly, there was a Popish Plot to subvert the Protestant identity o f the Church o f England as a prelude to the reclamation o f Britain for Catholicism. Charles I was the dupe, and Laud at best the dupe and at w orst the agent, o f a Catholic conspiracy at the heart o f government. The Laudian program m e was believed to be one that dethroned the scriptures, restored idolatry and superstition, and recreated a dualism o f church and state that had been rejected by the Tutors. But it is not quite the same thing. M ore im portantly, the term has proved unhelpful in several, untidily overlapping, respects. As far as I know , there are no historians nowadays who w ould deny that religion was an im portant cause o f the civil war and an im portant dynamic within it. But m any would suggest that the use o f the term ‘religion’ itself is unhelpful. O n the one hand religion is so interpenetrated into every aspect o f early m odern thought, that to say that it is the religious aspect o f their thought that m atters in making and shaping the conflict is a tautology. The opposite but not incom patible criticism is that there are few purely ‘religious’ disputes, and those that are essentially religious (such as disputes about Grace) are unim portant in causing civil war and causing people to take sides. For example, Johann Sommerville argued, w ith direct reference to the ecclesiastical disputes in the Long Parliament, that ‘debate about such topics as ceremonies, the Prayer Book, the canons o f 1640, and episcopacy, were by no means purely religious in nature’.9 John Adamson has suggested that much o f 9. J. Som m erville, unpublished paper at the Folger Institute Conference on England’s Wars o f R eligion, March 1990.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

the assault on episcopacy in the Long Parliament arose from a determ ination o f the Junto o f royal critics in the Lords to get the bishops out o f the Lords in order to allow them to achieve a numerical ascendancy in the U pper H ouse.10 Finally, there is the com m only asserted claim that divisions on constitutional questions were themselves sufficiently marked to create the collapse o f royal authority in the early 1640s. N ow I find all these unexceptionable statements. H ow ever often I have asserted the opposite, I am told that I created a monocausal explanation o f the civil war, and that it is contrary o f me to put religious causes on a pedestal. It is clear that I have consistently failed to make clear what it is I am claiming. W hat follows is, I w ould hope, borne out in the essays that follow. The crisis in 1640 was a general crisis o f confidence in the governm ent o f Charles I. Because the rebellion in Scotland had arisen from C harles’s attem pts to change how Scots worshipped God, religious issues were high on the agenda, but they are far from the only ones. Those - and they are m any - who tried to w ork out what had gone w rong drew on many traditions o f thought and discourses, and I have little argum ent w ith the way Johann Sommerville, for example, has characterized them in his Politics and Ideology in England , 1603-1640 (note the terminal date). His book, together w ith the w ork o f Richard C ust and Ann H ughes,11 has done m uch to elucidate how those trained up in the com m on law, or simply with a decent grounding in the classics, w ould and could articulate their disquiet - and in many cases their anger - at the attem pted suppression o f Parliament, abuses o f prerogative and the rule o f law, heavy-handed centralism o f Charles’s rule. In so far as some revisionists, m yself included, stressed too much the areas o f political consensus in the early seventeenth century and played dow n the depth o f feeling resulting from alternative accounts o f the ancient constitution, this m ore recent w ork is to be valued. But how does it explain the crisis o f 1642 as against the crisis o f 1640? That within a highly sophisticated political culture such as that o f early m odern England there should be alternative and sharply distinguished political languages, different and sharply distinguished accounts o f the origins and nature o f royal power, different and sharply distinguished views 10. J.S .A . Adam son, ‘Parliamentary M anagem ent, M en o fB u sin css and the H ouse o f Lords, 1640-1649’, in C. Jones (cd.), A Pillar o f the Constitution: the House o f Lords in British Politics, 1640-1784 (1989), pp. 24-9. 11. R. Cust and A. H ughes, Conflict in Early Stuart England: Studies in Religion and Politics, 1603-1642 (1989), esp. chs. 1, 2 and 5.


Introduction: England’s Wars o f Religion

o f the limits o f the subjects’ obedience is hardly surprising. But it is not sufficient to show that there were such differences within the political culture. Cataloguing firmly held and angrily expressed differences o f theory and the applications o f those theories to the particular events o f the period does not constitute an explanation o f why there is a civil war. What we need is an explanation o f under what circumstances those differences caused particular men to w ithhold their allegiance either to the king or to those who represent them in Parliament. When does the belief that injustice and m isgovernm ent can be and m ust be remedied by actions sanctioned w ithin a shared political culture (petitioning, lobbying through C ourt and Council, recourse to the courts, parliamentary action, passive disobedience) give way to a belief that violent resistance is possible and necessary? There is almost nothing in the w ork o f Sommerville or Cust and Hughes that explains that transition. Labelling attempts at statutory control o f royal powers, labelling the exercise o f long-established legal rights to make the king dem onstrate to the satisfaction o f his judges that he had the right to do what he wished to do, or labelling a refusal to pay loans or other prerogative charges as acts o f ‘opposition’ turns them into explanations o f the crisis o f 1640. It does not turn them into causes o f the civil war o f 1642. What proved the solvent to resistance to resistance theory? W hat turned constitutional opposition to an unconstitutional taking up o f arms? What made men throughout England in 1642 decide to impose terms upon the king by force, rather than using the leverage o f parliamentary supply to get the best settlement the king w ould grant? It is those questions which underlie m y concern w ith the psychology o f protest - the belief that while many distrusted the king in 1642 and wanted further guarantees o f his future conduct, it was principally those who also believed in the necessity o f a second Reformation w ho determ ined to fight. What the chapters that follow have in com m on, then, is a concern to chronicle the dynam ism o f religious language and argum ent in the years before the outbreak o f the war and to compare that dynam ism with the reticence and hesitancy o f much legal and constitutional argument. I am concerned w ith the viciousness o f the attack on the bishops and the Laudian clergy unm atched in the attacks on lay advisers o f the king; the sheer scale and relentlessness o f the complaints against the C hurch and the calls for a transform ation o f religious values that caused the middle ground in ecclesiastical matters to collapse while the search for the middle ground in secular politics continued - re-form ation o f the Church, restoration o f the balanced constitution; the deafening silences o f 1641-2 in precisely


The Nature o f the English Revolution

those concerns which w ould have unlocked secular arguments for taking up arms against a tyrannical ruler.


The essays in this section all substantiate the claims o f this introductory essay. Chapter 3 (‘The Religious C ontext o f the English Civil W ar’) establishes the case m ore fully. Readers m ight like to read it alongside chapter 15 (‘Charles I, Tyranny and the English Civil W ar’) .12 This latter develops the point about the reticence o f the king’s opponents in developing a secular-constitutionalist case for taking up arms against him in 1642. The closer the country came to civil war, the m ore reticent MPs became about sticking the label o f tyrant on him. M any o f those who remained at W estm inster in 1642 were at least as m uch concerned by the security o f their secular liberties and about the king’s long-term com m itm ent to honour the constitutional reforms o f 1642 as they were by the religious issues. M y point has always been that there was little constitutional militancy in 1642; that in sorting out those who went to war wringing their hands and looking for the earliest possible negotiated peace from those com m itted to settling the disputes by the necessary application o f force, we need to look at religious militancy. I hope readers will recognize that the article makes clear the range o f dissatisfactions w ith the governm ent and w hat I term ed the three modes o f opposition. Each had its ow n part to play in determ ining the sort o f civil war England had. Localist perceptions helped to shape the form o f the war; legal-constitutionalist perceptions determined the way many acted once a choice o f sides was forced upon them. M y point is simply that m ost men would not have had to make those choices if those for w hom the conflict centred around religion had not brought the issues - secular and religious - to the point o f conflict. Chapters 4 (‘The Attack on the C hurch o f England in the Long Parliam ent’) and 6 (‘The M aking o f Oliver C rom w ell’) seek to analyse the nature and extent o f religious militancy in the early 1640s. The latter is ju st one o f a series o f case studies I have been engaged in, three

12. The latter was first written im m ediately before I w rote the first draft o f ‘The R eligious C on text’ (which appears here m ore or less as written), whereas the latter w en t through m any revisions before reaching the form printed here in 1988.


Introduction: England’s Wars o f Religion

o f which are now in p rin t.13 I hope chapter 6 speaks for itself. Chapter 4 was w ritten for a festschrift and against a very tight deadline. The result was that some clumsy thinking and poor use o f evidence slipped through. The main problem is that I failed to note how little progress was made by the Houses on the great volum e o f religious business brought before them. Those im prisoned by Star C ham ber and High C om m ission for religious offences in the 1630s were released quickly enough by the Houses, but after that their claims for compensation and calls for the punishm ent o f their oppressors made m uch slower progress than I im plied.14 I greatly overstated the powers o f sum m ary jurisdiction assumed by the C om m ons;15 and similarly failed to note the dilatoriness o f the C om m ittee for Scandalous Ministers under the chairmanship o f John W hite.16 I could and should have noted the failure o f the Houses to make progress with respect to nullifying the canons o f 164017 and I could and should have clarified exactly

13. ‘Sir W illiam Brereton and “England’s Wars o f R eligion ’” , Jour. Brit. Stud., 24 (1985), pp. 311-32; ‘W illiam D ow sing: the Bureaucratic Puritan’ in J.S. M orrill, P. Slack and D . W o o lf (eds.), Public M en and Private Conscience in seventeenthcentury England (O xford, 1993). In som e w ays the Brereton study w ou ld have been the m ost appropriate, but it contains m ore overlap o f text and content w ith chapters 3 and 4 than the later study o f C rom w ell. H aving com pleted studies o f a greater gentlem an, a ‘m ere’ gentlem an and a w orking farmer, I hope to add studies o f a leading minister and a w orking lawyer. 14. For exam ple, Burton, Bastw ick, Prynne and Lilburnc w ere still, individually or collectively, petitioning against their fines in the years 1644—6 LJ, VII, 21, 713; VIII, 18, 62, 286). 15. I say at p. 71, n. 11, that o f the 800 petitions presented to the C om m on s, m ore than 100 had been reported back by September 1642 and later, p. 86, n. 80, state that this led to 70 losing their livings. This was based on a careless reading o f a m isleading heading to an appendix in W .A . Shaw, A History o f the English Church during the C ivil Wars and under the Commonwealth (2 vo ls., 1900) II, pp. 295-300, w here I was taken in by the term ‘dealt w ith by the Long Parliam ent’, by w hich Shaw can have meant no m ore than ‘petitions handled b y ’. I am deeply grateful to D r Sheila Lambert for pointing out to m e privately this and m any o f the other errors in this piece. 16. I should have noted that this pam phlet (W ing W. 1777) was not published until N ovem b er 1643 and that the accuracy o f its account is hard to assess and not self-evident. 17. The debate on the canons ran from 10 N o v . to 16 D ec. 1640 w ith m any postponem ents, then a com m ittee was set up to draw up votes for the H ouse o f Lords w hich dragged on until 2 March 1641, w hen the matter was dropped (CJ, II, 95). After several m ore false starts, it finally passed the C om m on s and was sent to the Lords on 7 June 1641 (CJ, II, 130, 147, 163). The Lords then sat on the proposals for over a year. The canons were never ‘annulled’ by the C om m on s.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

what happened to the impeached bishops.18 It is, then, a piece which needs to be read with great care. But I have decided to include it in this volum e because, flawed though it is, I do not think that the main thrust o f the argum ent is vitiated by the sloppiness at the edges. Against those w ho argue for the pressure for religious reform in 1641 and 1642 coming principally from Scotland, or from those whose main purpose was to get the bishops out o f the Lords in order to secure their political control, and who see the petitioning campaigns as rigged and controlled from the centre,19 I still present m y body o f evidence o f widespread, spontaneous and venom ous anger and I still present my case that m any MPs - and specifically those who made the war happen - felt impelled by a spiritual imperative for which there was no constitutional parallel. C hapter 5 (‘The Scottish National C ovenant o f 1638 in its British C ontext’) explores the relationship between the crisis in England and the crisis in Scotland in the reign o f Charles I, taking the story dow n to the coronation o f Charles II as King o f Britain at Scone in January 1651. It represents my recognition o f the im portance o f the British dimension o f the English civil w ars.20 It is also the harbinger o f a m ore general study I have in hand o f the relationship o f the English, Irish and Scottish Reformations from 1559 and 1689. C hapter 7 represents a different aspect o f the problem. In ‘The Religious C ontext o f the English Civil W ar’ I suggested a sym m etry between the forces driving individuals to choose between king and Parliament. There were as m any reasons for being royalists as there were royalists, and m any royalists may have put allegiance to the Established Church second. Brian W orm ald’s norm ative account o f 18. I was in error to say (p. 81) that the bishops w ere im peached over the canons in D ecem ber 1640; it was only in A ugust 1641 (LJ, IV, 340); and little was done to m ake it stick until the separate im peachm ent o f an overlapping group o f bishops for their action in D ecem ber 1641 in claim ing that votes taken by the Lords during their absence caused by m ob action w ere null and void. 19. For an outstanding account o f the petitioning on episcopacy in 1641 and 1642, including a m eticulous analysis o f the signatories from individual parishes in Cheshire, see J .D . M altby, ‘Approaches to the study o f R eligious C onform ity in Late Elizabethan and Early Stuart England: w ith special reference to Cheshire and the D iocese o f Lincoln’, U n iversity o f C am bridge PhD thesis (1991), chapters

4— 5 .

20. See also b elow , chapter 13 (‘The Causes o f Britain’s C ivil W ars’). Chapter 5 was w ritten before I had read Conrad R ussell’s major discussion o f the British problem . T ogether w ith chapter 13 it indicates the convergence and divergence o f our thinking. Conrad Russell is concerned w ith the British dim ension o f English history; I am m ovin g towards a study o f the English, Scottish and Irish dim ensions o f British history. See m y ‘A British Patriarchy? Ecclesiastical Im perialism under the early Stuarts’, forthcom ing 1993 or 1994, in a festschrift.


Introduction: England’s Wars o f Religion

Edw ard Hyde, for example, sees constitutionalist concerns as taking precedence over religious ones in determ ining his behaviour in 1642.21 But then H yde was one o f those who knew by the spring o f 1642 which side he w ould be on if it came to blows, and w ho strained every muscle to prevent a descent to arms. The best I could say is that those at W estm inster who were precocious in identifying a threat to episcopacy, and in deploring that threat, and those who can be identified as the organizers o f petitions for and on behalf o f bishops and the Prayer Book in 1641 and 1642, are am ongst the earliest and m ost active organizers o f armed royalism in 1642. Just as John Adamson has presented a cogent argum ent for seeing a baronial conspiracy and a baronial preoccupation with the seizure o f pow er around the C row n as being part o f what mobilized the Parliamentarian m ovem ent in 1642,22 so it has become clear to me that in the course o f the 1640s personal loyalty to the king and a deep anger at and fear o f Parliamentarian populism drove many to arms for the king in 1642. While I would still argue for a spiritual imperative impelling m ost o f those who made others make intolerable choices for Parliament in 1642, I w ould no longer claim that things were so straightforw ard on the royalist side. M eanwhile chapter 7 demonstrates the extent to which the forms o f the worship, the kalendar and the sacramental practice o f the Elizabethan and Jacobean C hurch had sunk roots in English culture such that the attack on it in the 1640s was fiercely and widely resisted. When the godly tried to reform the Reformation, they found not a sea o f indifference but a bed-rock o f affection for the established order which they confronted counter-productively. I think some o f my reliance on churchw ardens’ accounts was rather unsophisticated,23 but in the last decade I have come across a vast am ount o f additional evidence in court records which strongly supports the basic thesis o f a Prayer Book rebellion in the period between the end o f the civil war and the execution of the king. This section represents then, a view o f the 1640s which restates the centrality o f religion in destabilizing Britain, in which it was religious arguments which proved to be the solvents o f resistance to resistance theory. I have not suggested that m ost people determined their choice about which side to support on religious grounds. I have 21. B .H .G . W orm ald, Clarendon (1951), part I. 22. J.S .A . A dam son, ‘The Baronial C ontext o f the English C ivil War’, T R H S , 40 (1990), 95-120. 23. See n o w J. Craig, ‘The U se o f Churchwardens and Parish Accounts: a Suffolk S tudy’, forthcom ing.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

suggested that they were driven to make those choices by men driven by religious imperatives. The civil war was fought to restrain an untrustw orthy king and to release the forces o f reform ation. But what made men throughout England who wished to impose further constraints upon Charles I in addition to those which he had accepted in 1641 (to the rapture o f m ost future royalists as well as m ost future Parliamentarians) also wish to impose those constraints by force ? Was it not that such men had - in addition - a fire in their belly that made them see religion not simply as an academic squabble about dogm a, ritual and about how the prim itive C hurch was governed, but as about how people related to one another, about how the ideal Christian com m unity was to be constructed, and about how, under the Providence o f God, it could be and must be constructed?



The Religious Context o f the English C iv il War

Lengthy reports survive o f speeches by several members o f the Long Parliament for 9 N ovem ber 1640, at the end o f the first week o f the session. The future royalist militant, George Lord Digby, is reported to have begun his address by saying that: you have received now a solemn account from m ost o f the shires o f England o f the several Grievances and Oppressions they sustain, and nothing as yet from Dorsetshire: Sir I w ould not have you think that I serve for a Land o f Goshen, and that we live there in sunshine, whilst darkness and plagues overspread the rest o f the land . . . 1

The future royalist moderate Sir John Culpepper is reported to have begun: ‘I stand not up w ith a Petition in m y hand, I have it in m y m outh’, and he enumerated the grievances o f his shire beginning w ith ‘the great increase o f papists’ and the ‘obtruding and countenancing o f divers new ceremonies in m atters o f religion’.2 The future Parliamentarian moderate, H arbottle Grim ston, said that ‘these petitions which have been read, they are all remonstrances o f the general and universal grievances and distempers that are now in the state and G overnm ent o f the C hurch and C om m onw ealth’.3 The future Parliamentarian radical Sir John Wray said: All in this renow ned senate, I am confident, is fully fixed upon the true Reform ation o f all D isorders and Innovations in Church or Religion, and upon the well uniting and close rejoining o f the poor dislocated Great Britain. For, let me tell you M r Speaker, that God be thanked, it is but out o f jo in t and may be well set by the skilful chyrurgeons o f this H onourable H ouse.4 1. 2. 3. 4.

J. R ushw orth, Historical Collections (7 v ols., 1659-1701), IV, 30. Ibid., IV, 33. Ibid., IV, 34. Ibid., IV, 40.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

In N ovem ber 1640 there was apparent unity o f purpose am ongst the m embers o f the Long Parliament. Fortified by petitions signed by their county establishments at Michaelmas Q uarter Sessions or at the county court on election day, they arrived determ ined to take the once-for-all opportunity which had presented itself to set things right. For this Parliament met in unique circumstances. The m ilitary defeat o f the king by his Scottish subjects and the latter’s occupation o f north-east England guaranteed that this w ould be no addled parliament as in the spring, for the Scots had made it clear that they w ould not go hom e w ithout reparations voted by the English Parliament, a Parliament which could make that supply dependent upon the redress o f grievance. There was no expectation o f civil war, nor even o f constitutional aggression. As Sheila Lambert says: the opening o f the parliament following the traditional pattern: the carl o f Essex carrying the cap o f state in the opening procession. The proceedings o f Parliament during the first few weeks were entirely in accordance w ith the precedents o f the early Stuart Parliam ents.5

But while the form o f the Parliament was familiar enough, and while the expectation was that the remedy o f grievance w ould follow established practice, the m ood and context o f the Parliament were unprecedented. This is m ost obviously seen in the contrast between the rhetoric and the agenda o f the Long Parliament in its early weeks and those o f the Short Parliament. When the latter had assembled, the king had retained the initiative, the freedom to dissolve them at will and resume the Personal Rule. He could reach an understanding with them and continue his war with Scotland, or he could make painful concessions to the Scots and be rid o f Parliament, or he could be tem pted to seek an understanding with Philip IV and the Pope and to resume both the Personal Rule and the B ishops’ War. Conscious that the initiative lay with the king, both Houses set their sights low .6 In the autum n, the king had lost effective freedom, and the managers o f the Parliament set their sights high. It is true that one crucial dimension to the history o f the Long Parliament is the w orking out o f factional rivalries and the struggle for office. But while this forms a necessary dimension o f any rounded account o f the collapse o f royal authority, it does not offer a sufficient 5. S. Lambert, ‘The O pening o f the Long Parliam ent’, Hist. J n l., 27 (1984), 265-88. 6. Existing im pressions o f the Short Parliament have been transformed by the availability o f the very full parliamentary diary o f Sir T hom as A ston. I am grateful to Judith M altby for allow ing m e to see her full transcript o f this very im portant diary prior to publication. It is the property o f Mr H ow ard Talbot. It has n o w appeared as The Short Parliament (1640) Diary o f Sir Thomas Aston (Cam den Soc., 4th scr., vol. 35, 1988).


Religious Context o f the Civil War

explanation - any m ore than it does o f the parliamentary clashes o f the 1620s.7 M y argum ent will be that there was in 1640 an ideological crisis as well as a functional crisis. But I wish to argue that, however jum bled together they were in the hectic early days o f the Long Parliament, there were three quite distinct and separable perceptions o f m isgovernm ent or modes o f opposition - w hat will be called the localist, the legal-constitutionalist, and the religious. O ne man could hold tw o or three o f them; but m any did not do so. It was possible for an individual to see links between royal secular and religious m isgovernm ent, but not necessary or usual for him to do so. Too often in the past we have assumed that those who opposed most vigorously the Caroline religious experim ent would also be in the forefront o f the protest against forced loans or ship money. There are notable examples o f those w ho did oppose both (though the link is stronger in the case o f the forced loans) and who saw a connection between them. But there were many m ore who were prom inent in their protest against either fiscal feudalism or Laudianism and who risked their careers and their liberty in protesting against one o f them, but who fell in w ith the other. M any notable puritans paid ship money w ithout protest, and some were even effective ship m oney sheriffs; many notable protesters against secular m isgovernm ent proved to be loyal defenders o f the established church in 1641-2. The argum ent o f the paper will be that the localist and the legal-constitutionalist perceptions o f m isgovernm ent lacked the m om entum , the passion, to bring about the kind o f civil war which England experienced after 1642. It was the force o f religion that drove minorities to fight, and forced majorities to make reluctant choices. The localist perception o f m isgovernm ent need not detain us. Recent w ork drawing attention to localism has m uch to teach us about the nature o f the civil war, but little to tell us about why civil war broke o u t.8 It will probably be widely accepted that the decline o f other loci o f political and social action - the baronial

7. E .g . B .S . M anning, ‘T h e A ristocracy and the D o w n fa ll o f Charles I’, in Politics, Religion and the English C ivil War, ed. B .S . M anning (M anchester, 1973), pp. 37-82; C. R oberts, ‘T h e Earl o f B edford and the C o m in g o f the E n glish R e v o lu tio n ’, J n l. M od. H ist., 49 (1977); P. C hristianson, ‘T h e Peers, the P eop le and Parliam entary M an agem en t in the First Six M on th s o f the Long P arliam ent’, J n l. M od. H ist., 49 (1977); Lam bert, ‘O p en in g o f L on g P arliam ent’. 8. The recent critique by C live H olm es, ‘The C ou n ty C om m u n ity in Stuart H istoriography’, ^ / . Brit. Stud., 19 (1980), 54—73 lists the main corpus o f recent w ork. What follow s is based on that corpus, bearing H o lm es’ strictures in mind.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

household, the liberty and Franchise etc - and the expansion o f the duties and responsibilities o f royal commissions o f which the sphere o f operations was the shire, and the developm ent o f distinctive and valued patterns o f local governm ent (unique administrative arrangements, custom ary procedures etc.) made the county a focus o f loyalty and identity. The leading families in each county had a greater or lesser degree o f attachment to their ‘county com m unity’. N o t all gentry put the coats-of-arms o f the families o f their shire on or around the ceilings o f their great halls, but m any did so. It is not claimed that this made for a cosy w orld o f purring, contented squires, enjoying one another’s com pany and getting cross only when the C row n made demands on them. Q uite the contrary. The social and political institutions o f the county were arenas w ithin which rivalries were w orked out, disputes arbitrated, prestige and honour w on and lost. Frequently the institutions o f the county were respected or powerful enough to resolve such issues. But often they were not so, and appeals dow nw ard to the electorate or upw ard to the C ourt were necessary extensions o f the system. It was precisely the ability to arbitrate between rival groups or individuals within particular counties and boroughs or between rival counties and boroughs which gave privy councillors or courtiers their chance to ensure that the price o f their arbitration was obedience to the C ro w n ’s wishes. There was a dual allegiance, and therefore alarm, anger, frustration w hen those dual allegiances were in conflict. This occurred w ith the collapse o f the delicate patronage system in the 1620s, when powerful groups in m any counties found that they had no friends at C ourt, or none able to help them against the pow er o f Buckingham, and it also occurred w ith the intrusive drive for ‘unity through uniform ity’ in the 1630s.9 Local traditions and customs were challenged, local men set aside, m ore dem anded and less conceded than hitherto. Some o f C harles’s fiscal expedients - ship m oney for example - exacerbated or resurrected jurisdictional disputes, led to charges o f unfairness and arbitrariness o f distribution. Some articulated their protest in legal and constitutional terms; many m ore saw it as a source o f needless local disputes and conflict.10 By 1640 there was a widespread

9. For a recent survey o f w ork on Caroline ‘patronage’ and ‘faction’ see K. Sharpe, ‘Faction at the Early Stuart C ou rt’, History Today, 33 (1983), 39-46. The last phrase is from Ivan R oots, ‘The Central G overnm ent and the Local C o m m u n ity ’ in The English Revolution 1600-1660, ed. E.W . Ives (1968), p. 42. 10. J.S. M orrill The Revolt o f the Provinces (1976), pp. 24-30, 144—50; H olm es, ‘C ou n ty C o m m u n ity ’, pp. 65-8.


Religious Context o f the Civil War

dem and for a return to the older forms o f local self-determination. Such a m ood can be found in the addresses brought up by MPs, or reaching them from their constituents in the early m onths o f the Long Parliam ent.11 This perception - a strongly held but ultimately mild perception o f arbitrary governm ent, o f innovation and externally induced disruption - helps to explain the m ood o f the electorate in 1640 and o f the pressure for reform in 1641. But it does not explain the pressure for war in 1642. Localism in the 1630s or in 1640 leads naturally into neutralism in 1642. Indeed A nthony Fletcher has argued that what has been taken as neutralism in 1642 is in fact an advanced form o f localism, w ith leading magistrates and others seeking either to keep both sides out o f their shire, or seeking to minimize the level o f com m itm ent to one side or the other for the preservation o f the local peace.12 That mentality which continued to see war as an unm itigated disaster, which could not decide between a loyalty to both king and parliament, is vital to an understanding o f the nature o f the war and o f its outcom e, but not to the explanation o f its outbreak. Derek Hirst and others have reminded us that there was m ore to the debates o f the 1610s, 1620s and 1630s than a factional struggle for pow er and a dislike o f centralizing tendencies im posed on the C row n by the need to finance itself.13 There were major and deeply-held differences o f opinion and belief about the nature and extent o f the royal prerogative, about the accountability o f the king’s servants, and even (for some) about the origins and nature o f kingly power. Such disagreements are natural in all sophisticated political cultures, and to identify such differences is not to identify the source o f inevitable political collapse. M any o f the issues were keenly felt, but everyone m ost o f the time did accept that there were clear and unquestioned ways o f expressing dissent: in and through parliament, in petitions o f the king-in-council, in extremis by passive disobedience. What is remarkable about early Stuart England is the absence o f political violence: virtually no treason trials, no rebellions, a decreasing and localized incidence o f riot, no brigandage.14 The English civil war certainly did not grow out o f a gradual and inexorable collapse in the state’s ability to compel obedience. Those who preached passive obedience to the Catholics in the late sixteenth and first decade o f 11. E .g. M orrill, Revolt, pp. 147-52. 12. A. Fletcher, The Outbreak o f the English C ivil War (1981), pp. 369-406. 13. D . Hirst, ‘R evisionism Revised: Early Stuart Parliamentary H istory - The Place o f Principle’, Past & Present, 92 (1981), is the m ost cogent o f m any recent critiques o f the ‘revisionist’ approach. 14. See ‘Order and Disorder in the English R evolu tion ’, b elow , ch. 18.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

the seventeenth centuries could not, or at any rate did not, bring themselves to contem plate the right violently to resist wicked kings. This was in part because o f the intellectual bonds in which they had wrapped themselves, but it was also in part because the area o f constitutional dissent and alarm was still limited. What bound them together was far greater than what divided them. We m ust beware o f tw o tendencies: to overlook the undebated com m on ground which united the political nation; and the habit o f lum ping together every complaint on every issue raised by any critic o f royal policy and then to assume that anyone who articulated any o f them accepted all o f them. There is clear evidence that by 1640 very large num bers o f men, in the gentry and beyond, had a limited but clear and firm belief in a partial royal tyranny. The king, albeit as a consequence o f wicked counsel, was misusing his powers. But let us be clear what we mean. There was no criticism o f m onarchy itself; there was no criticism o f the long-term developm ent o f the early m odern state; there was no dem and for fundamental change in the nature o f royal power. The complaints were very specifically about the m isgovernm ent o f a single man, Charles I, and about the misuse o f agreed powers, not about the attem pt to usurp fresh powers. The king was not accused o f trying to make law outside parliament, nor o f claiming new prerogatives or emergency powers. W hat was widely asserted and believed was that the king was using approved powers in inappropriate circumstances, powers which he possessed pro bono publico , for the public welfare, pro bono suo , for his ow n benefit. He was m ost criticized for raising emergency taxation in nonemergency situations, for allowing private individuals to profit from the use o f powers reserved to the king himself, and for corruption o f justice. This limited perception o f royal tyranny produced a grim determ ination in the members o f the Long Parliament to secure remedy and guarantees against the abuse o f power. Yet the tale told by the Journals o f the Houses and the diaries o f MPs is not one o f headlong constitutional action, but o f sluggishness and hesitancy.15 In contrast to the debates on religion, the rhetoric o f the constitutional debates was conservative, restorative. W hatever the actual cum ulative effect o f the remedial legislation o f 1641, the declared purpose, and, as far

15. Lambert, ‘O pening o f the Long Parliam ent’, pp. 265-75. Her account o f the slow n ess o f the H ouses to take up legislative redress o f grievance is very telling. But I cannot agree w ith her that this is evidence o f a house deeply divided over the need for such redress from the outset.


Religious Context of the Civil War

as we can determine, the undeclared purpose, o f those who devised, spoke to, and approved those reforms was to maintain the rights and liberties o f the subject by am putating diseased limbs o f governm ent, pruning back those emergency powers which had been so readily subverted for corrupt purposes, in order to preserve the essence o f the ancient and established political order. There was no will to model the constitution anew, to reform it root and branch, let alone to create parliamentary sovereignty.16 It was the failings o f Charles I, not o f the political system, which had to be rectified. In all the political debates dow n to and beyond the Grand Remonstrance, nothing was presented as a grievance which predated the accession o f Charles I. The constitutional problem was a problem with a particular monarch. In contrast, an increasing num ber o f ecclesiastical reformers argued for a fundamental reform o f the Church. The Elizabethan settlement was to be dismantled and reconstituted. The m ost puzzling aspect o f the Long Parliam ent’s first session is the lack o f urgency about legislative remedies. A lthough early speakers laid out an agenda for reform, little attem pt was made to enshrine that program m e in statute until after the execution o f Strafford in May 1641. By that time, it is true, the Triennial Act and the Act which gave the Long Parliament control over its ow n dissolution had been enacted. But the substantive attack on the conciliar and prerogative courts, and the statutory pruning o f royal emergency powers, only passed through the Houses in the sum m er m onths. This may reveal supreme self-confidence in the inability o f the king to wriggle free, but to defer conclusive action until long after that parliamentary session had become the longest in history may also indicate that concern over the remedies were less obsessive than is often supposed. By contrast, the attack on evil counsellors was immediate and effective. W ithin a few weeks, m ost leading privy councillors and principal officers o f state were in the Tower, in exile or in disgrace. Less than half those who attended meetings o f the Council in the second half o f 1641 had been members o f it in N ovem ber 1640.17 But while the king’s principal advisers were hounded from office, there 16. This is based principally upon a reading o f the follow ing: R ushw orth, IV, passim', J. N alson , A n Impartial Collection o f the great affairs o f State from the beginning o f the Scotch Rebellion in the year 1639 (2 vols, 1682-3), passim; and the parliamentary journal o f Sir Sim onds d ’Ew es (BL, Harl. M S 163-5, for w hich the period up to March 1641 and for the period N ovem b er 1641 to March 1642 have been published in three separate volum es). 17. Fourteen o f the thirty (reconstructed from the facsim ile edition o f the Privy C ouncil Registers, PR O , PC 2 /52-54).


The Nature o f the English Revolution

was no wider harrying o f those responsible for civil m isgovernm ent. In addition to the councillors, six judges were impeached but allowed to preside over their courts while on bail,18 and there was a fitful pursuit o f m onopolists.19 But there it ended. Those lords lieutenant w ho had vigorously supported unpopular royal policies, those who had exceeded their powers during the Bishops’ Wars, those zealous ship m oney sheriffs, were exempt from investigation and penalty.20 There was no call for the removal or persecution o f those who enforced the forest laws or knighthood fines; no weeding out of JPs who had openly and brazenly extolled royal policies. We will see how stark is the contrast between this and the Long Parliam ent’s pursuit o f churchmen. The legal-constitutionalist perception o f m isgovernm ent was thus one o f a limited tyranny, and it led to an unhurried and largely uncontroversial program m e o f remedial legislation consciously intended to restore a lost balance, to conserve the ancient constitution. There was no recognition either that the old system was unworkable or intrinsically tyrannical, or that the remedial legislation was making it unworkable or intrinsically unstable. There was no intellectual ferm ent in the period N ovem ber 1640 to August 1641 creating new theories o f governm ent and new constitutional imperatives. If the king’s behaviour left m any unsatisfied with the achievements o f the first session, there was no new rhetoric o f popular or parliamentary sovereignty spurring members on to self-confident constitutional demands. All this is in stark contrast to the progress o f religious concerns. Unlike some recent com m entators, I believe that it is almost impossible to overestim ate the damage caused by the Laudians. I see no reason to doubt that m ost ‘hotter sort o f protestants’ were integrated into the Jacobean church and state. Puritan magistrates and churchwardens abound, and can be found arguing for and w orking for an evangelical drive to instruct the ignorant, and all alliance o f m inister and m agistrate to impose godly discipline. There was no incom patibility between serving God and the C row n. Such men found com fort in St Jo h n ’s letter to the true believers in Laodicea, 18. W.J. Jones, Politics and The Bench (1972), pp. 137-43, 199-214; Somers Tracts, ed. Sir Walter Scott (13 v o ls., 1809-15), IV, 130, 300-8; R ushw orth, V, 318-44. 19. The Journal o f Sir Simonds d’Ewes from the Beginning o f the Long Parliament to the Opening o f the Trial o f Earl o f Strafford, ed. W. N otestein (N e w Haven, 1923), pp. 19-20 and passim. 20. A com m ittee was set up to investigate com plaints against Lords Lieutenant and their deputies, but it appears never to have reported (Rushworth, IV, 98-9).


Religious Context o f the Civil War

a church pure in doctrine but not in worship, in which he urged them to w ork for reform from within. They yearned for a new Constantine, a godly prince who would put the pow er o f the state at the service o f the church. The godly magistrate and parish notable yearned for m ore to do rather than for less. They saw James I and even m ore Charles I as abdicating their responsibilities under God to prom ote true religion. But while they saw James I as m oving too slowly but in the right direction, they found in Charles I a negligent king w ho was oblivious to the threat o f popery at home, abroad, and within the church o f which he was supreme governor.21 It remains uncertain how and how far Laud’s doctrine o f grace departed sharply from the spectrum o f predestinarian views maintained by successive generations o f bishops and theologians since 1559.22 Certainly his ecclesiology does not appear to make sense except as the expression o f a belief that man, morally and intellectually depraved, could only be reconciled to God and brought to sustain a saving faith by and through the sacramental grace mediated to him by the church.23 Be that as it may, the program m e o f Charles and Laud was profoundly offensive to m ost lay and much clerical opinion. It rested upon a narrow and literal enforcement o f the observances and practices o f the Book o f C om m on Prayer and early injunctions o f the Elizabethan church.24 This prohibited the penum bra o f observances and practices which had grow n up around the Prayer Book, which for m any represented the kernel o f their witness, as the prayer book ceremonies represented the husk. This penum bra did not constitute a challenge to the church until Laud chose to make it one, by a narrow reading o f the Prayer Book which treated its forms and rubrics not 21. This paragraph and the succeeding ones are a synthesis o f m uch reading in primary and secondary sources. The m ost influential o f the latter include Professor P. C ollin son ’s The Religion o f Protestants (O xford, 1982), Godly People (1983), especially chapters 4, 6, 20, and his Birkbeck lectures in Cam bridge o f Lent 1981 (as yet unpublished). 22. N .R .N . Tyacke, ‘Arm inianism in England in R eligion and P olitics’, U n iversity o f O xford D .P hil. thesis (1968), and cf. P. W hite, ‘The Rise o f A rm inianism R econsidered’, Past & Present, 101 (1983), 34—54. The best w ork on Laud’s ow n thought remains W .H . H utton, William Laud (1895). 23. See also his statement, in reply to Lord Saye and Sele, that ‘alm ost all o f them [the Puritans] say that G od from all eternity reprobates by far the greater part o f mankind to eternal fire, w ithou t any eye to their sins. W hich opinion m y very soul abom inates.’ The Works o f the M ost Reverend Father in God William Laud, ed. J. Bliss (7 vols, 1853), VI, 133. 24. K. Sharpe, ‘Archbishop Laud’, History Today, 33 (1983) is correct to see Laud as consciously a ‘traditionalist’; but by all evaluations, except Laud’s ow n , he was stressing and im posing (often neglected) aspects o f the Elizabethan church at the expense o f other traditions and m uch established practice.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

only as necessary, but as sufficient.25 The heavy task Charles and Laud gave themselves, o f bringing conform ity to religion and o f bringing sinful man to a due regard for the things o f God mediated through His church, rested upon a profound clericism. The church had to be freed to evangelize, to convert, to impose order, and had to be freed from the cloying, stifling, corrupting intrusions upon its wealth and jurisdiction which had grow n up over the previous century: the invasion by ‘com m on law corm orants’; the secularization o f church lands and assets; lay appropriations and im propriations; and so on. In all o f his kingdom s, Charles and Laud set out to restore the autonom y o f the church.26 W hatever they thought they were doing, by 1640 their program m e had aroused disenchantment am ongst its com m itted and its critical members, a disenchantment which gave rise to a debate m ore passionate than the debate on the constitution. In N ovem ber 1640, W entw orth was the m ost feared man in England; but Laud was the m ost detested - ‘the sty o f all pestilential filth’, according to H arbottle Grim ston, ‘like a busie angry wasp, his sting is in the tayl o f everything’.27 The religious perception o f m isgovernm ent differed from the localist and the legal-constitutionalist perception first in its intensity. It spilled over into everything in the early weeks o f the Long Parliam ent.28 It saturates the language o f the petitions to Parliament; it crops up w ith greater regularity and persistence in the business o f both Houses than do secular grievances.29 The first positive achievement carried through was the annulm ent o f the canons30 o f convocation approved during the spring o f 1640 (canons which gave full force to the Laudian program m e).31 But the religious perception is m ore complex than the others. It too, at the outset, was in part a perception o f tyranny. Laud was accused o f prom oting false doctrine which 25. This v iew ow es m uch to the ideas o f Patrick C ollin son in his Birkbeck lectures. 26. For key letters and instructions o f Laud in relation to these issues, see Laud's Works, ed. Bliss, V , 321, 324, 337, 345, 351, 355, 361, and VI, 310, 330, 332, 338, 341. 27. R ushw orth, IV, 122-3. 28. It is not true, as has been often asserted, that the managers o f the Parliament sou gh t to keep contentious ecclesiastical issues out o f the H ouses until after the secular reforms w ere achieved. See, for exam ple, the w illingness to escalate religious issues in Journal o f the House o f Commons (henceforth CJ), II, 25, 26-7, 35, 41, 52, 54, 71 etc.; d ’Ewes, ed. N otestein , pp. 4, 5, 16, 17, 18, 22, 24-5, etc. 29. For a full discussion o f this, see, ‘T he Attack on the Church o f England in the Long Parliam ent’, b elow , ch. 4. 30. Synodalia: A Collection o f Articles o f Religion, Canons and proceedings in Convocation in the Province o f Canterbury, ed. E. C ardwell (2 v ols., O xford, 1842), I, 380-406. 31. CJ, II, 30-3, 41-52; dE w es, ed. N otestein , pp. 21, 70 -2 , 125, 149, 152-7.


Religious Context o f the C ivil War

lent support to the king’s arbitrary actions; and o f abusing his ow n jurisdiction and that o f other courts to impose unlawful observance and to silence ‘professors’ o f the true religion.32 But this was not simply a m atter o f the arbitrary use o f power. Indeed, the scale o f religious persecution under Laud was in fact quite limited: there were fewer deprivations and suspensions in the 1630s than in m ost other decades since the R eform ation.33 It was not his persecutions which caused m ost outrage. The religious perception was paradoxically also one o f royal weakness, abdication, failure to halt the advance o f popery. The attack on the bishops was built around their usurpation o f the royal suprem acy.34 There were long debates in early 1641 about w hether the bishops who had prom oted the canons and prosecuted Bastwick were guilty o f treason or praemunire , o f derogating from the king’s title and dignity.35 In the words o f Laud’s impeachment: ‘the said archbishop claims the king’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction as incident to his episcopal office . . . and doth deny the same to be derived from the C row n o f England’.36 Laud had a plausible defence to the charge, but his ow n words in High C om m ission in the case o f Sir Giles A llington37 and the alleged words o f John Cosin, that ‘the king had no m ore pow er over the church than the man who rubs m y horse’s heels’,38 leave us in little doubt w hy his defence was unheeded. O ne o f the m ost heated exchanges in the early m onths o f the Long Parliament was over a report o f a sermon by D r Chaffin at the metropolitical visitation o f Salisbury. Chaffin, referring to Laud as ‘our little A aron’, had compared him favourably with ‘the blessed archbishop A rundel’. He may have had in mind A rundel’s silencing o f preaching and harrying o f Lollards, but d ’Ewes was quick to rem ind the house that Arundel had been impeached for treason in 1397 for usurping the king’s regality, dignity and C ro w n .39 Laud’s usurpation had been intended to weaken the church: ‘these are the men that should have fed C hrist’s flock, but they are the wolves 32. R ushw orth, IV, 196 33. H utton, Laud, pp. 98-102. 34. W. Lam ont, Marginal Prynne (1963), pp. 11-27; W. Lam ont, Godly Rule (1969), pp. 44-52. 35. D ’Ewes, cd. N otestein , 70-2, 152-163, 427-8. 36. R ushw orth, IV, 197. 37. Q uoted in H utton, Laud, p. 103. 38. R ushw orth, IV, 210. 39. For the im peachm ent articles brought against Arundel in 1397, see Select Documents o f English Constitutional H istory, 1307-1485, eds. S.B. Chrim es and A .L. B row n (1961), pp. 170-1. Arundel was im peached for issuing com m ission s ‘en prejudice du roy et overtem ent encontre sa regalie, sa dignite, et sa coron e’. For the debate, see d E w es, ed. N otestein , pp. 276, 419-20.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

that have devoured them ’.40 As Lord Falkland put it, they sought ‘to introduce an English, though not a Roman, popery’.41 The remedies to the constitutional ills o f the 1630s were widely agreed, leisurely pursued, based upon a conservative rhetoric. From the outset, the reform o f the church was m ore contentious, more impulsive, and m ore divisive, because there quickly emerged a radical rhetoric which many could not accept. It is true that Laud and Laudianism were quickly swept away and w ithout dissent. But w ithin eight weeks o f the opening o f Parliament, the Houses were subjected to a pulpit oratory and to a petitioning campaign that called not for the restoration o f the pre-Laudian order, not for the conserving o f the ‘pure religion o f Elizabeth and Jam es’, but for the abolition o f the entire ecclesiastical order and its reconstitution along pure biblical lines. Edw ard Calamy called upon Parliament to ‘reform the reform ation’, and Stephen Marshall called upon them to ‘throw to the moals and the bats every rag that hath not G od’s stamp upon it’.42 In the late 1620s, m ost critics o f Arm inianism spoke as defenders o f the established church against novelty and innovation; even in late 1640 the num ber who appear to have anticipated the need to overturn the church o f Elizabeth was sm all.43 But whereas the events o f 1641 reinforced constitutional conservatism, they polarized the religious views o f members o f both Houses. In part, this resulted from their response to the sermons, the tracts, the lobbying. In part, it was a response to Scottish pressure.44 But in large part it was a response to the level o f ecclesiastical corruption revealed by the H ouses’ enquiries. The attack on churchm en was far wider than the attack on the laity. In addition to the thirteen bishops impeached in December 1640, and the overlapping group o f twelve impeached in December 1641,

40. R ushw orth, IV, 122. 41. Lucius Cary, V iscount Falkand, A Speech Made to the House o f Commons Concerning Episcopacy (1641), p. 4. For a discussion, see M .L. Schwartz, ‘Lay A nglicanism and the Crisis o f the English Church in the Early Seventeenth C entury’, Albion, 14 (1982), 1-5. 42. E. Calam y, England's Looking Glass (22 D ecem ber 1641), p. 48; S. Marshall, A Sermon Before the House o f Commons (17 N ovem b er 1640), p. 40. It should be said that the Fast Serm ons as a w h ole displayed an indifference am ounting to contem pt for secular injustices, and focussed w ith increasing clarity on the prospects for building a N e w Jerusalem. I am grateful to M r S. Baskerville for his com m ents on this question. 43. W .M . A bbott, ‘The Issue o f Episcopacy in the Long Parliam ent’, U n iv . o f O xford D .P hil. thesis (1981), ch. 2. 44. C .L. H am ilton, ‘The Basis o f Scottish Efforts to Create a Reform ed Church in England 1640-1’, Church H ist., 30 (1961), 171-8; P. Crawford, D enzil, First Lord Holies (1979), pp. 42-51.


Religious Context o f the Civil War

there was a steady stream o f complaints against individual ministers, especially from within London, East Anglia and the Midlands. The C om m ons sent m ore than tw enty such complaints to committees by the end o f N ovem ber 1640 and a steady flow thereafter.45 In those early weeks they also undertook long reviews o f the trials o f Burton, Bastwick, Prynne, Leighton and Lilburne, set aside their conviction and sentence, and awarded them damages against their persecutors. This was far m ore aggressive than anything done for the victims o f secular tyranny.46 In those early weeks when m ore than tw enty clerics were hounded, only tw o civil officers, a sheriff and an under-sheriff, were investigated.47 By the sum m er o f 1641 the C om m ons were happily depriving ministers o f their freehold, banning them from future preferment, im prisoning them in the Tow er or elsewhere, or otherwise punishing them for ceremonialism or preaching up Laudianism. Those ecclesiastics responsible for ordering the parish o f Waddesdon in Buckingham shire to repair its organ and pay for an organist found themselves covering all the consequent costs by order o f the Lower H ouse.48 As early as January 1641, the C om m ons declared that the judges in High C om m ission had acted ultra vires in ordering the parishioners o f St B artholom ew ’s London to pay the wages o f the parish clerk; they themselves acted ultra vires in setting aside the order and requiring the judges to pay the parishioners’ fines and costs.49 Such highhandedness soon produced a reaction am ongst the members themselves. A study o f the 700 and m ore cases taken on appeal by the House o f Lords in the early 1640s leads to the same conclusion. Far m ore and worse abuses o f ecclesiastical authority were revealed than o f secular authority. The Lords were far m ore resolute in the pursuit o f ecclesiastical officials than o f secular ones.50 At the very time that the Houses expressed alarm at the abuses within the church, the C om m ons were willing to wink at breaches o f ecclesiastical law. In June 1641, ‘mechanicall’ lay preachers were called before the House but merely gently reprimanded and protected from the rigours o f the law ’,51 rather later, theJPs o f M onm outhshire were ordered not to prosecute those who absented themselves from 45. C J, II, 24-40; dE w es, ed. N otestein , pp. 4-40, passim. 46. CJ, II, 24-52, 102, 124, 134; dE w es, ed. N otestein , pp. 4, 17, 130, 172-4, 232-3, 240-9, 386, 400-1, 424-9. 47. CJ, II, 23, 32. 48. dE w es, ed. N otestein , p. 306. 49. Ibid., pp. 281-2. 50. J. Hart, ‘The H ouse o f Lords and the Reform ation o f Justice 1640-3’, U n iv. o f Cam bridge PhD thesis (1985), chapter 3. 51. BL, Harl. MS 163 ff. 662, 669.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

their parish churches in order to hear sermons elsewhere,52 in a bitter ten-hour debate in early September 1641 the C om m ons issued instructions to local governors to take the law into their ow n hands to demolish ‘innovations’, and rejected an am endm ent which would have ‘provided a rem edy against such as did vilify and contem n the com m on prayer book’.53 The point is that by the end o f the first session o f the Long Parliament, not only had a militancy o f rhetoric and action led to a militancy o f conduct in religion different in kind from that generated by the constitutional debate; but that militancy had led to a decisive shift in perception am ongst many MPs who had begun the Parliament looking for a pruning and cleansing exercise in the church similar to that enacted for the state, but who now saw that the established church had to be abolished, reconstituted. For many, the existing order had been shown to be intrinsically unstable. For reasons o f prudence, and for reasons o f Providence (God’s judgem ent appearing upon the order as well as upon the individuals who composed it), episcopacy had to be destroyed. M any accepted the necessity, fewer embraced the necessity, seeing it as the breaking o f the m ould, the opportunity o f renewal and o f the millennium. Yet the same militancy which had forged this new religious radicalism produced a reaction which created, or at any rate crystallized, a theoretical and practical defence o f non-Laudian episcopacy and o f the Anglicanism o f the prayer book and o f the Thirty N ine articles. The debates on church governm ent in the spring and sum m er o f 1641, culminating in the resolutions o f the C om m ons in the final days o f the session, witnessed a gradual polarization o f the m em bers.54 By the time o f the recess there was no royalist party; but there was an anglican party. The constitutional reform o f 1641 was largely uncontroversial and created no m ajor division, generated no major public debate. The perceived tyranny o f the 1630s was remedied. N o issue left over from the past remained on the agenda in late 1641. The renewed constitutional concern arose from the king’s fresh misbehaviour. It is, o f course, true that in 1642 questions o f trust generated new constitutional demands which proved non-negotiable and which 52. The Private Journals o f the Long Parliament 3 January to 5 March 1642, eds. W .H . Coates, A .S. Y oung, V.F. Sn ow (N e w H aven, 1982), pp. 302-3. 53. BL, Harl. M S 164, ff. 887-90, 895, 914; and for the rum bling battle over the declaration in the autumn, The Journal o f Sir Simonds d ’Ewes from the First Recess o f the Long Parliament to the withdrawal o f King Charles from London, ed. W .H . Coates (N e w H aven, 1942), pp. 1-66. 54. W .A . Shaw, A History o f the English Church during the C ivil War and under the Commonwealth (2 vols. 1900), I, 1-121; A bbott, ‘E piscopacy’, passim.


Religious Context o f the Civil War

became the occasions o f civil war. A review o f the Militia Ordinance and the Nineteen Propositions, however, m ust keep in m ind a num ber o f easily forgotten points.55 The first is that Parliam ent’s defence o f its actions remains basically conservative. A reading o f the exchanges over the Militia Ordinance, over the king’s attem pt on Hull, over the Nineteen Propositions, leaves little doubt that the moves towards war were reluctantly taken. N o such self-doubt can be found am ongst those w ho pushed forw ard towards godly reform ation in 1642, as iconoclasts, as the protectors o f illegal gathered churches, as campaigners for presbyterianism. A reading o f the debates, at least up to the battle o f Edgehill, tells not o f a radical group leading a quailing m ajority gently onwards, but o f a leadership picking its way through a minefield, full o f self-doubt, seeing the hazards o f turning back as worse than the perils o f pursuing their passage.56 This impression is reinforced in tw o further ways. First the logic o f events forced the Houses to make claims and then to justify them 57 that is, the claims to exercise unprecedented control over the militia and the executive were not the inexorable working out o f a clarified constitutionalism, but were desperate rationalizations o f pragmatic responses to a king increasingly seen as deranged and incapable o f governing, no longer a tyrant but a man incapable o f discharging his trust. Secondly, the new claims made by the Houses were advanced piecemeal and tentatively. The so-called ‘legislative’ ordinances o f 1642 were in fact astonishingly hesitant and halfhearted. The most aggressive and assertive were those which dealt w ith religion, as that o f June 1641 which extended local governors’ powers to collect recusancy fines and amended the legal definition o f 55. The follow in g is based not sim ply on the docum ents them selves (for w hich see Constitutional Documents o f the Puritan Revolution, ed. S.R. Gardiner (3rd edn, O xford, 1906), pp. 245-7, 249-54), but also on the debates w hich arose from them (see Private Journals, eds. Coates et al., 291-5, 313-15, 334-50, 544-50; BL, Harl. M S 163, ff. 427-8; R ushw orth, IV, 516-50, 691-735. 56. I recognize that this is a highly contestable view . M ight not the prospective leaders o f the parliamentary cause have deliberately played d ow n their radicalism for tactical reasons, for fear o f alienating moderate opinion and losing the initiative? This is the very influential view o f J.H . H exter, The Reign o f King Pym (N e w H aven, 1940), pp. 1-30 and passim. I prefer the view expressed here because (1) they displayed no such reticence on religious matters despite the fact that it cost them moderate support; (2) their private thoughts appear to reflect their public statements; (3) their rhetorical reticence led to a reticence o f action w hich threatened the success o f the m ilitary operations. 57. E .g. L. Schwoerer, ‘“T he Fittest Subject for a K in g’s Q uarrel”: an essay on the M ilitia C on troversy’, Jn l. Brit. Studs., II (1971); R. Tuck, “‘The Ancient Law o f F reedom ”: John Selden and the C ivil War’, in Reactions to the English C ivil War, ed. J.S. M orrill (1982), pp. 137-64.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

recusancy.58 In early August 1642, by contrast, Parliament desperately needed m oney to raise an arm y to defend itself. The sixth and last o f the Long Parliam ent’s acts for the collection o f tonnage and poundage had lapsed and there was no prospect o f the royal assent to another one. Yet the Houses could not bring themselves to claim the right to vote themselves taxation. They appealed to all those liable to pay customs, asking them voluntarily to hand over their dues to Parliam ent’s treasurers, prom ising them a fifteen per cent discount and threatening refusers that when king and Parliament once more w orked in harm ony, retroactive legislation w ould contain a clause ‘for the forfeiture o f the value o f all such goods as shall not be duly entered’.59 Similarly the Militia Ordinance possessed no legal force. The Houses specifically laid dow n that no action at law could follow from non-compliance. As d ’Ewes said, the form o f the ordinance was moral and not legal, telling the people how they ought to look to their ow n defence, not requiring them to do so.60 M ost im portantly, the constitutional issues o f 1642 were means to an end, not ends in themselves. They were a controversial means to protect the uncontroversial settlement o f 1641 and to deal w ith a king no longer trusted to keep his word. I shall argue below that that lack o f trust grew out o f a religious perception. Finally, the Militia Ordinance and the Nineteen Propositions may have been the occasion o f armed conflict, may have provided the nonnegotiable issues which required men to take sides, but they were not the issues which determ ined which side m ost men would be on. This is a point which is particularly true o f the provinces, as I shall argue at the end o f the paper. Once more, in 1642, a comparison o f the constitutional and religious dynamics is suggestive. The presses remained remarkably silent on the theoretical issues underpinning constitutional issues. As Michael Mendle has written, there was ‘no public debate on the major constitutional questions until mid 1642. ’61 Yet there was a vast and 58. BL, Harl. M S 164, ff. 858, 876; Journal o f the House o f Lords (henceforth LJ), IV, 384—7; Fletcher, Outbreak, pp. 76-7. 59. Acts and Ordinances o f the Interregnum, eds. C .H . Firth and R.S. Rait (3 vols. pp. 1911), I, 16-20. 60. Gardiner, Constitutional Documents, 247; BL, Harl. M S 163, f. 247, viz. ‘That all m en ou gh t to ob ey the ordinance it is not thereby im plied that an ordinance o f parliament hath the sam e vertue and efficacie that an Act hath . . . by those w ords that they ought to obey, is intended that . . . every man ought voluntarily, w illin gly and cheerfully to o b e y .’ 61. M. M endle, ‘Politics and Political T h ou gh t, 1640-1642’, in Origins o f the English C ivil War, ed. C. Russell (1973), pp. 219-46; idem ‘M ixed G overnm ent, the Estates, and the B ish op s’, W ashington U n iv ., St Louis, PhD thesis (1977), pp. 396-432; G .K . Fortescue, Catalogue o f the Thomason Tracts (2 v ols., 1908), pp. 1-116.


Religious Context o f the Civil War

grow ing literature on the nature o f the church and o f episcopacy. The contribution o f Lord Brooke, o f John M ilton, o f the Smectymnuans and o f others against episcopacy, and o f Joseph Hall, James Ussher, Sir Thom as Aston and others in its defence is w ell-know n, but they constitute only a tithe o f the works which poured out on the subject62 Even the m ost im portant constitutional developments were swamped by literature on religious ones; in January 1642 four times as many pamphlets were devoted to the im peachment o f the bishops as to the A ttem pt on the Five M em bers.63 The great issues o f church governm ent were fully rehearsed in print for m onths before the substantive debates on the issue. Recent studies o f a num ber o f MPs, including Sir Robert Harley, Sir John Wray, Sir William B rereton and Sir Thom as Barrington, all show a dramatic process o f radicalization, a conversion to the necessity o f root-and-branch reform .64 That radicalization grew out o f a considered review o f the possibilities; it grew out o f a fundamental reappraisal and a belief in the need for a fresh start. As we have just seen, majorities in the C om m ons, if not in the Lords, consistently grasped the nettle o f acting to prom ote and to protect those w ho challenged not merely Laudian innovation, but the very basis o f the established church. Finally, the demand for a godly reform ation was an end in itself, a vision. As Jacqueline Levy has recently w ritten o f the Harleys: ‘[They] viewed the civil war prim arily as a war to establish true religion, in defiance o f a catholic-inspired plot against church and state’.65 She here points, as others have recently done, to the widespread belief in a Popish Plot about the king’s person, which was seen as the only credible explanation o f his behaviour.66 It was not claimed that Charles I was a papist; but it was believed that he had ceased to be responsible

62. The best discussion is probably in The Prose Works o f John M ilton (8 vols., 1953-82), vol. I, ed. D .M . W olfe, 48-151; Fletcher, Outbreak, pp. 91-124 and passim. 63. Fortescue, Thomason. I, 57-73; sim ilarly in March 1642 there was m ore discussion o f the prayer b ook than o f the militia (ibid., pp. 86-97). 64. J. Levy, ‘Perceptions and Beliefs: The H arleys o f Bram pton Bryan and the O rigins and Outbreak o f the C ivil War’, U n iv. o f L ondon PhD thesis (1983), passim; R .N . D ore, ‘The Early Life o f Sir W illiam B rereton’, Trans. Lancs and Cheshire A ntiq. Soc., 63 (1954), 1-26; J.S. M orrill, ‘Puritans and the Church in the D iocese o f C hester’, Northern H ist., 12 (1975), 151-5; W. H unt, The Puritan M oment (Cam bridge, M ass., 1983). 65. Levy, ‘H arleys’, p. 175. 66. C. Hibbard, Charles I and the Popish Plot (Chapel H ill, 1983), passim; G. A lbion, Charles I and the Court o f Rome (1935), passim; W. Lam ont, Richard Baxter and the M illennium (1979), pp. 76-123; M. Finlayson, Historians, Puritanism and the English Revolution (Toronto, 1983), pp. 79-119; Fletcher, Outbreak, passim.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

for his actions, had ceased to govern. It was, in m odern parlance, as though he had been got at by the Moonies, had been brainwashed, program m ed; or in a m etaphor m ore appropriate to the seventeenth century, that he had been insidiously and deliberately poisoned, so that he had gradually become disoriented, distracted. The Nineteen Propositions were designed for such a circumstance: not to deal w ith a tyrant or a despot, but w ith a deranged king, one w ho needed to be rescued from the contagion o f popery, to be shielded and deprogram m ed, to be decontaminated. The historical precedents to be pursued were those o f the senile Edw ard III or the catatonic H enry VI, not the wicked Edw ard II or Richard II.67 The principal elements o f the Popish Plot are well-known: the penetration o f the court and household by know n and suspected Catholics; the activities o f papal envoys; the ascendency o f the Queen over the King; the use and projected use in 1639 and 1640 o f Highland and Irish Catholic troops alongside an English army containing m any Catholic officers, all to be subsidized by Rom e and M adrid, the ostensible purpose o f which was to impose Charles’s religious preferences upon the Protestant Church o f Scotland. N o w onder the papist threat to the state was seen to parallel the infiltration and subversion o f the English church. While lay papists schemed to take over the state, the church was to be fatally weakened by the activities o f the episcopal w olfpack.68 Yet not everyone shared this belief in the popish plot; or m ore im portantly, not everyone continued to see it as the principal danger. This was partly the result o f the excesses o f those who m ost fully believed in it, and was partly the result o f the wildly inconsistent signals sent out by the king. O n the one hand, he was, or seemed to be, implicated in the A rm y Plots, the Incident, the A ttem pt on the

67. I o w e this point to conversations w ith Conrad Russell and to ideas contained in his unpublished paper ‘The Causes o f the English C ivil War’. The notion that the king had been ‘p oison ed ’ is a com m on one, but m ore specific was the declaration o f the H ouses that they proceeded as though the king was suffering from nonage, natural disability or captivity (BL, T h om ason Tract E 241 (I), pp. 207-8). D r Ian R oy tells m e that Sir Ralph V ern ey’s (hitherto undeciphered) notes on the debate o f 28 February 1642 sh ow M Ps considered the king in the position o f a suicidal maniac, from w h om the p ow er o f the sw ord m ust be rem oved. Verney Papers: Notes o f Proceedings in the Long Parliament by Sir Ralph Verney (Cam den 1st series, 31, 1845), pp. 184. I am very grateful to D r R oy for this reference. 68. See n. 66; also D . Stevenson, Alasdair MacColla and the Highland Problem o f the Seventeenth Century (Edinburgh, 1981), ch. 1; J.H . Elliott, ‘The year o f the Three A m bassadors’, in History and Imagination, eds. H. Lloyd-Joncs, V. Pearl and A .B . W orden (1981).


Religious Context o f the Civil War

Five Members, and, in the midst o f all these, and m ost damagingly, the Irish Rebellion.69 Those w ho knew o f Charles’s negotiations w ith the earl o f A ntrim in 1639 had little reason to doubt the authenticity o f the w arrant which Catholic rebel leaders produced to vindicate their rising.70 Yet Charles also projected another image o f himself. He accepted all the remedies for grievance put to him; he pointedly and heartlessly abandoned Laud and his policies and prom oted to the episcopate m oderate men, or at any rate men who were Laud’s enemies.71 And he publicly associated him self with the slogans and values o f non-Laudian Anglicanism .72 Just as Pym and his colleagues were increasingly obsessed73 by the stranglehold of popery at court and beyond, so the reinvigorated Anglicans became preoccupied w ith the indulgence given by the C om m ons to fanatic preachers, to unlawful religious assemblies, to mass picketing. The very measures which religious perceptions led a m ajority o f the C om m ons to adopt as a defensive means to the end o f safeguarding themselves and the nation from the threat o f popery led an increasing m inority to back away. Fresh constitutional priorities were evaluated from the perspective o f increasingly polarized religious assessments. Talk o f ‘popery’ is not a form o f ‘white noise’, a constant fuzzy background in the rhetoric and argum ent o f the time against which significant changes in secular thought were taking place. This has been a fundamental error in the intellectual historians o f the English Revolution. This falsifies the passionate belief, the passionate belief that is the ground o f action, that England was in the process o f being subjected to the forces o f Antichrist, that the prospects were o f anarchy, chaos, the dissolution o f governm ent and liberties; and

69. Hibbard, Popish Plot, passim. 70. D . Stevenson, Scottish Covenanters and Irish Confederates (Belfast, 1981), pp. 43-65; A. Clarke. ‘The Genesis o f the U lster R ising o f 1641’ in Plantation to Partition, ed. P. R oebuck (Belfast, 1981), pp. 40-61; Lamont, Baxter, pp. 77-87, 116-19, 230-2. 71. J.S. M orrill, ‘The Chruch in England 1642-9’ in Reactions, ed. M orrill, pp. 98-100; P. King, ‘The Episcopate during the English Civil W ar’, Eng. Hist. R ev., LX X X III (1968), 526-30. 72. B .H .G . W ormald, Clarendon (Cam bridge, 1951), p. 18; Bihliotheca Lindesiana: A Bibliography o f Royal Proclamations o f Tudor and Stuart Sovereigns, ed. R.R. Steele (2 v o ls., O xford 1910), I, 295. 73. There was a generalized anxiety about the grow th o f popery in and around the Court from the beginning o f Charles’s reign, but few saw it as the principal hazard until the events o f 1641. For John P y m ’s precociousness in this respect, see C. Russell, ‘The Parliamentary career o fjo h n P ym , 1621-1629’, in The English Commonwealth, eds. P. Clark, A .G .R . Sm ith and N .R .N . Tyacke (Leicester, 1979).


The Nature o f the English Revolution

the equally passionate belief that disobedience to the king, carried to the point o f violent resistance, could only lead to chaos and anarchy; and to the conviction o f m ost men that both dangers were equally real, a conviction which led to panic and a yearning for settlement. There is a steady but inexorable shift from the muffled fears in the early m onths o f the Long Parliament to the outpourings o f apprehension o f im m inent Arm ageddon to be found in the declarations o f 1642; from M r T hom as’s call, during a debate on cathedral chapters in 1641, for the abolition o f church music: For I do find in m y reading that anno 666, the year that was designed and com puted for the com ing o f Antichrist, Vitalian, bishop o f Rome, brought to the church singing o f service and the use o f organs,74

and from Sir John W ray’s introduction o f the Protestation as being first . . . to preserve our religion entire and pure w ithout the least com pound o f superstition or idolatry; next to defend the defender o f the faith, his royal C row n and D ignity . . . thus doing, M r Speaker, and making Jerusalem our chiefest Joy, we shall be a blessed nation;75

from these to the exchanges o f 1642, with Pym speaking o f evil counsellors, who like ‘diseases o f the brain are m ost dangerous’, and o f a plot to destroy all liberties, privileges and the rule o f law .76 Gone were the accusations o f a tendency to arbitrary government; in their place is the language o f anarchy and destruction, brought about by those whose ‘devilish purpose was the better destruction o f the true reform ed religion’.77 If we read the sequence o f parliamentary defences o f its actions in 164278 to find out to what end they acted, rather than by what right, we find the same primacy o f religious argument. William Lam ont’s brilliant reconstruction o f Richard B axter’s account o f his decision to resist the king’s authority lays emphasis on the K ing’s responsibility for the Irish Rebellion and his abdication o f the duty to protect his subjects from the forces o f Antichrist. It was not royal tyranny but royal abdication which forced the people to look to their ow n defence.79 At a stroke, decades o f intellectualizing about how subjects were bound to obey wicked kings as scourges sent by 74. 75. 76. 77. 78.

R ushw orth, IV, 287. Ibid., IV, 240-1. LJ, IV, 540-3. LJ, IV, 512. Rushw orth, IV, 398-421 (since the pagination is awry at this poini, 385-415 being used tw ice, this reference is to 398-415 and then 385-421), 516-50, 565-601, 691-739. A good starting point is ‘the Declaration o f Causes and R em edies’ (CJ, II, 443-6, reprinted in Private Journals, eds. Coates et a i , pp. 543-50). 79. Lam ont, Baxter, pp. 88-98.


Religious Context o f the Civil War

God were set aside; and at a stroke we can see how the constitutional issues o f 1642 differed from those o f 1640. The issue in 1642 was not the king’s past tyranny; it was his present moral and political incapacity. This was precisely the argum ent o f the Declaration o f Lords and C om m ons sent to the N orth (11 July 1642)80 and o f the Declaration for Taking U p Arms (2 August 1642)81 It is also the increasingly dom inant theme in the w ork o f H enry Parker, whose thought evolved under the impact o f providentialist argum ent and a grow ing recognition that the king’s will had been seduced by ‘those execrable instrum ents which steal the king’s heart from us, but they think the religion o f protestants too tame and the nation o f the English insensible to injuries’.82 In the Contra-Replicant, for example, Charles was portrayed not as a tyrant but as a man helpless to prevent lawyers, corrupt clergy or soldiers from ‘spoyling above the general law ’.83 In 1640 and 1641 there is and was no way to distinguish ‘m oderate’ and ‘radical’ constitutionalism. Future royalists like Hyde, Falkland, Dering and even George Digby, were no less ‘hardline’ than future Parliamentarians like Pym , Selden and d ’Ewes. W hat distinguished them was the gradual unfolding o f the religious debate and the religiously-conditioned response to a new constitutional situation which was only indirectly related to the debates o f 1640. N one o f those who defended the pre-Laudian church order in the debates o f mid 1641 subsequently became a parliamentarian; few o f those who demanded a fresh start supported the king. Defence o f the established order, shorn o f recent innovations, was partly a social perception: the defence o f hierarchy in society and government. But it also owed m uch to affection for the practice and rhythm s o f a church o f which they were third-or fourth-generation members; and to the claims for the superiority o f the ‘catholic and reform ed’ church as set forth by its apologists following Jewel and H ooker.84 80. 81. 82. 83.

LJ, V, 201-2. LJ, V, 257-60. H. Parker, Observations on His Majesties late Answers and Addresses (1642), p. 15. H. Parker, The Contra-Replicant His Complaint to his Majestie (1642). See also his com m ents on the ‘absolute and unlim itable pow er o f the k in g’s sw ord and sceptre’ controlled by the Q ueen w h o is in turn controlled by ‘the Rom ish v ice-g o d ’ (bid., pp. 10-15). Parker’s thought was dramatically affected by the Irish Rebellion. M y reading o f Parker has been enorm ously helped by discussions w ith H ow ard M oss, and by supervising his admirable B A dissertation. 84. Fletcher, Outbreak, passim; M orrill, R evolt, pp. 46-50; M orrill, ‘C hurch in E n glan d ’, pp. 89-114; Sec also the forth com in g C am b ridge P hD thesis by Judith M altby. For the g ro w in g articulation o f the case for ep iscopacy w ith in the C o m m o n s, sec the debates on the Grand R em onstrance (the m ost heated exch an ges before the final v o te all concerned the church) in d ’Ewes, ed. C oates, pp. 117, 149-52, 165-6.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

The party which w ithdrew from W estm inster during the w inter o f 1641-2 and during the spring o f 1642 was the Anglican party. Those w ho remained were m ore or less unanim ous in approving the Militia Ordinance, and the final form o f the Nineteen Propositions, but they were far from unanim ous on the need to wage war to im plem ent them. While sources for religious com m itm ent at that juncture are hard to come by, it seems likely that what distinguished those willing to raise armies to impose the new guarantees on the king, from those who voted against the escalation o f the conflict, was the level o f com m itm ent to the godly cause. Robert Harley, William Brereton, Alexander Rigby are examples o f men who had m odest records o f standing up to secular m isgovernm ent; but all were men who were fired by the vision not simply o f ecclesiastical reconstruction, but o f building a godly com m onwealth. By contrast, m any o f those with an impeccable record o f standing up to legal and constitutional m isgovernm ent but whose com m itm ent to ecclesiastical reform was m ore cool, prudential, erastian, got cold feet in 1642. They felt that they had no choice but to stay at W estminster and to w ork for fresh guarantees o f the constitutional settlement, but they could not bring themselves to support the means which alone could in fact achieve these guarantees. N o one w ho reads the works o f d ’Ewes, Selden, Rudyard or Whitelocke can have much doubt that constitutionalism, however deeply felt, was inadequate as a ground for m ilitant action. They would be parliamentarians in the war; but they did not will that w ar.85 Pressure o f space has led me to an uncharacteristic concentration on the centre rather than on the provinces. What follows is the merest sketch o f how the points made above can help to make as m uch sense o f the provinces as o f W estm inster politics. MPs were too much in the limelight, too much on the spot, too much in the know, to be able to avoid making decisions which typecast them and limited their options. In the provinces, decisions were m ore easily hedged, fudged, deferred. It is quite clear that a m ajority o f the gentry and o f all social groups, w hether they had a preference or not between king and parliament, had an absolute preference for peace, and the attem pts o f individuals and o f county establishments to prevent or

85. Innum erable w ork s cou ld be cited here. See, for exam p le, Fletcher, Outbreak, pp. 228-82; Gardiner, H istory, X , 152-219; H exter, K ing P ym , pp. 1-30; R u sh w orth , IV, 754-5; B. W h itelocke, Memorials o f the English A ffairs (4 vols. O xford , 1853), I, 148-90; R. Spalding, T he Improbable Puritan (1979), pp. 7 8 -9 7 .


Religious Context o f the Civil War

to limit the coming o f the war to their communities are well enough know n. Localism in 1640 led naturally to neutralism in 1642.86 A nthony Fletcher’s study o f the petitioning campaigns o f 1640-2 is very telling. In the autum n o f 1640, all three ‘perceptions o f m isgovernm ent’ can be found in the petitions, jostling side by side and sometimes inconsistently. By late 1641 and the first half or 1642, petitions on constitutional issues were beginning to show a lack o f com prehension o f developments at the centre. Fletcher discusses the petitions sent up by thirty-eight counties and characterizes them as containing paeans o f praise for the achievements o f the parliament in putting an end to arbitrary governm ent; but he also argues that while ‘at W estminster there was a sense o f outright confrontation w ith the C row n . . . this is entirely absent in the provinces’. While some petitions showed an interest in the Militia Ordinance and a desire for regular musters, this was purely defensive and grew out o f a concern with papist risings and local order. They remain suffused w ith a loyalty to Charles as well as to Parliam ent.87 M ore dramatic still was the wave o f petitions in the sum m er o f 1642 which called for peace and accom m odation and which refused to acknowledge the non-negotiability o f the differences between Charles and the Houses. There was no great wave o f petitions for and against the Nineteen Propositions, no great debate on its constitutional claims. Contem poraries took rather less interest than have historians in the exchanges o f Culpepper and Parker. Yet at the same time the religious issues were being stirred, the source o f division and polarization. The wave o f anti-episcopal petitions in the spring o f 1641 was followed by widespread iconoclasm, by ‘swarms o f conventicles’ and by anti-Catholic mobs, all winked at and countenanced by some in authority. T hroughout the provinces this led, just as it did in parliament, to a reaction in favour o f the established order, to m ovem ents to defend episcopacy and the Prayer Book. M ore than half the counties sent up petitions in the period pleading for the established church.88 The bitterness o f the language o f the religious petitions o f 1642 contrasts w ith the yearning for settlement and the increasingly forlorn pleading for peace which comes out o f the constitutional petitions. Yet again, 86. Flctchcr, Outbreak, pp. 369-406. 87. Ibid., pp. 191-227, 369-407. See h o w w ell this account fits the sequence o f petitions in Kent, as discussed in A .S. P. W oods, Prelude to C ivil War (Salisbury, 1981), pp. 30-62, 95-119, 141-4, 153-7. 88. Sir Thom as A ston, A Collection o f Sundry Petitions (1642); Fletcher, Outbreak, pp. 283-96.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

we find that the dynam ism o f religious argum ent contrasts with a shrinking away from constitutional choices. The civil war broke out because small minorities thrust themselves forward, volunteered, took to arms. N either the militia nor the array were the instrum ents o f war. It was individual captains and colonels, recruiting their ow n companies and regiments, who created the armies that went to w ar.89 M any o f the rank and file volunteered, doubtless because they expected a short campaign in the slack season after the harvest or to escape the trade slump in London. But many, especially am ongst the officers, were m otivated by a cause. And here for the last time, we find the familiar contrast. In Cheshire the royalist activists in 1642, w ho created the war effort and dragged the reluctant county establishment into the war, were led by Sir Thom as Aston, campaigner against ship m oney and for episcopacy; and the parliamentarian war effort was led by Sir William Brereton, constitutional quietist and sponsor o f the anti-espiscopal petition.90 In Herefordshire Jacqueline Levy finds that ‘religious issues lay at the heart o f divided opinion . . . contemporaries were w riting o f “parties” in connection w ith espiscopacy as early as January 1641’. She finds in 1642 reluctance to divide over the militia, but an increasing polarization over the religious issues.91 A similar conclusion was reached by Liam H unt in his recent study o f Essex.92 If we go back to other county studies and distinguish between the issues which required men to make choices, and the grounds upon which they made their choices, I believe we will find that only where there was strong and distinctive and developed religious com m itm ents will we find militancy. There were no constitutional militants. O n 10 September 1642 the Houses told the Scottish General Assembly that ‘their chiefest aim ’ was ‘the T ruth and Purity o f the Reformed Religion, not only against Popery but against all other superstitious sects and innovations w hatsoever’.93 Have we been so confused in seeking parallels between the British Crisis o f the 1640s and the wave o f rebellions on the C ontinent (brought on by war and the centralizing imperatives o f war), or between the English R evolution and the events o f 1789 and 1917, that we have missed an obvious point? The English civil war was not the first European revolution: it was the last o f the Wars o f Religion. 89. 90. 91. 92. 93.


R. H utton, The Royalist War Effort (1981), pp. 22-32. J.S. M orrill, Cheshire 1630-1660 (O xford, 1974), pp. 31-74. J. Levy, ‘H arleys’, ch. 4-6. H unt, Puritan Moment, pp. 235-313, especially pp. 311-12. LJ, V, 348-50.


The Attack on the Church o f England in the Long Parliament

The problems o f England in the 1630s stem m ed from having a strong m onarchy and a weak king. With a secure title, an effective and ubiquitous legal system, declining levels o f public violence, a balanced (peacetime) budget and strong and pervasive ideologies o f order and obedience, Charles had many advantages over his predecessors. But he was a wholly incom petent king, mishandling patronage in such a way as unnecessarily to alienate powerful figures am ongst the peerage and gentry, interfering in due process o f law, breaking his solemn w ord when it suited him, blundering away his political initiatives in a self-imposed war with the Scots. But his greatest folly was to put him self at the head o f a faction in the C hurch whose aims jarred significantly with the preferences and beliefs o f the greater part o f his subjects. By 1640, Charles’s governm ent was profoundly unpopular, and above all for its religious policies. Innovation in religion was even m ore compulsively listed in the petitions and addresses to the Long Parliament than was ship money. Yet England was psychologically far from civil war in 1640. The absence o f a pretender made the simple remedy to his m isgovernm ent (a coup on the precedents o f 1399, 1461, 1485 or as a foreshadowing o f 1688) impossible. It made civil war less likely; but it meant that if it did come, it would be a far m ore radical experience. It would involve a questioning o f far deeper values, beliefs, certainties. It is my contention that what made civil war possible in 1642 was a crisis o f religion. Elsewhere I have argued that there were three linked but separable ‘perceptions o f m isgovernm ent’ in the 1630s and 1640s,1 each playing a different role in the shaping o f the civil war: the 1. J.S. M orrill, ‘The Religious C on text o f the English C ivil War’; above, ch. 3.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

iocalist’, the ‘legal-constitutionalist’ and the ‘religious’; and that while the first tw o created political stalemate, the third proved to have the ideological dynam ism to drive minorities to arms. The m om entum o f ‘constitutionalist’ argum ent in 1642 was not sufficient. In this essay, I want to look m ore closely at how religious issues presented themselves to the Long Parliament. In its first session (N ovem ber 1640 to September 1641) the constitutional debates were conducted within a rhetorical and intellectual fram ew ork little different from that o f the 1620s. N o one w ho had attended the debates on the Petition o f Right could be shocked by the arguments used against ship money, the prerogative courts, the evil counsellors.2 Yet there was already a significant shift in the whole fram ew ork o f reference within which the religious issues were discussed and this was causing an irrevocable division w ithin the House o f Com m ons. Jacobean Parliaments had been little troubled by religious disputes.3 The regular bills against pluralism, and for stricter observance o f the sabbath, were in no sense ‘puritan’ bills, and the bishops w ould have said Am en to their pious intentions.4 There was some anxiety about the legislative status (rather than the content) o f the canons o f 1604 and about the powers o f High Com m ission, but this stem m ed as m uch from the com m on law m ind as from puritanism , and we no longer make easy connections between those tw o influences.5 But in the very last parliamentary session o f the reign, and in the sessions from 1625 to 1629, religion returned as a m ajor and increasingly bitter issue.6 The cause was not a reawakening o f puritan militancy but C ourt sponsorship o f a group o f divines whose writings appeared to depart sharply from the evolving spectrum o f liberal Protestant beliefs which had formed the agenda o f the Jacobean debates. Some o f these writings were sharply critical o f predestinarian beliefs; others challenged the status o f the ecclesia 2. See, for exam ple, the case m ade for the ‘n orm ality’ o f the Long Parliament by Sheila Lambert, ‘The O pening o f the Long Parliam ent’, HJ, 27 (1984), 265-88. Lambert concentrates on constitutional and financial questions. 3. E .g . C. R ussell, Parliaments and English Politics 1621-1629 (O xford , 1979), pp. 2 6 -3 2 and passim. 4. K. Parker, ‘English Sabbatarianism, 1558-1642’ (U n iv. o f Cam bridge PhD thesis, 1984), chs. 5 and 6. 5. J.P. K enyon, The Stuart Constitution (Cam bridge, 1962), pp. 126-9, 176-8. James in 1611 adjusted the m em bership and pow ers o f the Court to take account o f parliamentary criticism s. 6. Russell, Parliaments and Politics, pp. 29-32, 167-8, 230-3, 404—14, and passim; N .R .N . Tyacke, ‘A rm inianism in England in R eligion and Politics, 1603-1640’ (U n iv. o f O xford D .P hil. thesis, 1968), passim.


The Attack on the Church o f England anglicana as on the Protestant side o f the unbridgeable gulf between

the Christian reform ed and antichristian Rom an churches; or they sought to exalt the pow er o f the king and to decry the power o f parliaments, so that ‘the subjects’ goods m ust be arbitrarily disposed’.7 Yet those who denounced these ‘Arm inians’ did so for impeccably conservative reasons; to protect the C hurch o f England from innovation and subversion.8 N one o f the debates led to calls for change in a m ore Protestant direction: for restrictions on episcopal power, for the reform o f the Prayer Book or the abolition o f ‘superstitious’ furnishings and fixtures in the church, all matters pursued by the Long Parliament in its first eighteen m onths. It cannot be doubted that the religious tem per was raised by aggressive C ourt sponsorship o f new opinions.9 The reactions in the C om m ons and, to a lesser extent, in the Lords were not the reactions o f MPs speaking to briefs or mandates from their constituents so m uch as reactions to what they found while present at the political centre. O nly tw enty petitions relating to religious issues were presented to the House in all the Parliamentary sessions o f the 1620s.10 From the outset, the Long Parliament was inundated by petitions from individual parishes, from counties, from groups o f ministers. Probably 800 parishes petitioned in the first tw o years o f the Parliament denouncing their ministries as scandalous in life, doctrine or liturgical fashion.11 All counties sent in addresses for and/or against episcopacy, the book o f C om m on Prayer, and many took other religious issues.12 The pressure on MPs was thus now largely from w ithout. While the pressure grew out o f the perceived threat to the established church, that threat was no longer seen as emanating from a handful o f clerics puffed up by 7. Complete Collection o f State Trials, eds. W. C obbett and T .B . H ow ells, 33 vols. (London, 1809-26), IV, 26. 8. M. Finlayson, Historians, Puritanism and the English Revolution (Toronto, 1983), pp. 79-104. For reasons w hich w ill becom e clear I do not share F inlayson’s account o f the religious dynam ics o f 1640-1. 9. As in the prom otion o f M ontagu and M ainwaring shortly after they had been attacked in Parliament: and in the im position o f Buckingham as Chancellor o f Cam bridge, a m ove closely linked to the theological disputes there and to B uckingham ’s espousal o f the Arm inian position at the York H ouse Conference; V. M organ, ‘Court, Country and Cam bridge U niversity: The M aking o f a Political Culture 1558-1642’ (U n iv. o f East Anglia PhD thesis, 1984), ch. I. 10. An approxim ate figure reached by b row sing the Commons Journal but confirm ed in a private com m unication from D r W. Abbott. 11. W .A . Shaw, A History o f the Church During the C ivil Wars and Under the Commonwealth, 2 vols. (London, 1900), II, 177. For the 100 + reported back to the H ouse by September 1642, ibid., II, 295-304. 12. A. Fletcher, The Outbreak o f the English C ivil War (London, 1981), pp. 91-124, 191-227, etc.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

the patronage o f Buckingham. It stem m ed from an ‘arm y o f priests which doth m any ways advance the design and plot o f popery’, an army com m anded by the archbishop o f C anterbury him self.13 As Harbottle Grim ston put it: Laud is the only man, the only man that hath raised and advanced all those that, together w ith himself, have been the authors and causes o f all our ruins, miseries, and calamities we now groan under that hath sat at the helm, to steer and manage all the projects that have been set on foot in this kingdom this ten years last p ast.14

It soon became clear to an increasing num ber o f MPs that the threat to the Protestant foundations o f the C hurch o f England was so great, and the penetration so deep, that remedial action was insufficient. O nly the total dem olition o f the existing edifice, only the sterilization o f the site and the erection o f a new Tem ple could protect the nation from A ntichrist.15 This is the all-im portant point: the fact that there was much hazy talk o f ‘prim itive’ episcopacy,16 m uch imprecision about the future form o f the church, that there is little evidence o f com m itted Presbyterianism has led historians to speak o f the ‘m oderation’ o f 1641-2. Tw o things in particular are often stressed: that no bill against episcopacy was approved until the sum m er o f 1642 and that the managers o f the Long Parliament played down potentially divisive religious issues in the first session in order to allow less divisive constitutional reforms to be effected. It is hoped to dem onstrate that this latter point is simply incorrect, and that there were very straightforw ard reasons why no bill could be approved. But principally the essay seeks to argue that ecclesiological indecision is not the same thing as religious m oderation. In 1641 religious issues polarized the House o f C om m ons into those who stood by the preLaudian church and those who were acting de facto to replace it; in 1642 religious issues divided those who remained at W estm inster into

13. From Francis R ou s’ spcech carrying up the im peachm ent articles against John C osin to the H ouse o f Lords, State Trials, IV, 26. 14. Ibid., IV, 318. It is not being asserted here that the allegations w ere true. N o r that there is a coherent ‘A rm inianism ’ to w hich all ‘Laudians’ subscribed. O ur concern is w ith what was said and believed at the time. For w ise w ords on h o w the actions o f the Laudians did constitute an affront to mainstream Protestant opinion, see W. Lam ont, Godly Rule (London, 1969), pp. 56-68. 15. See b elow , pp. 83-5. 16. Historians com m on ly conflate tw o distinct form s o f ‘prim itive’ episcopacy the ‘reduction’ o f the pow ers o f bishops w ithin the existing structure; and the establishm ent o f preaching superintendants w ithin an entirely new ecclesiastical order established in the wake o f the abolition o f the old order.


The Attack on the Church o f England

those com m itted to seek fresh guarantees o f the settlement o f 1641 and those com m itted to fight for those guarantees.17 Between N ovem ber 1640 and the spring o f 1642 little legislative progress was made despite the best intentions o f the managers o f the Com m ons, but this did not prevent them from crippling the old religious order and adum brating a new one by virtue o f an assumption o f unw onted judicial and administrative pow ers.18 Laud and his henchmen were incarcerated, suspended, silenced; the church courts stilled; the parish clergy made accountable to committees o f the House; religious literature licensed by another committee; liturgical laissez-faire encouraged; iconoclasm permitted. The House o f C om m ons was depriving ministers o f their freehold; restoring those silenced by Star C ham ber or High Com mission; endorsing arrangements for lectureships; claiming the jurisdiction o f the ordinary over church furnishings, etc. N ote the emphasis on the House o f Com m ons. A principal reason for the failure to proceed by legislation, for acting on what has been term ed ‘the dictatorial assertion o f a semipolitical, semi-judicial court exercising an authority which can only be described and justified as revolutionary’, 19 was that there was no m ajority for radical reform within the Lords. A m ajority in the U pper House remained stubbornly com m itted to the program m e o f 1628 the defence o f the Elizabethan settlement from ‘A rm inian’ innovation. A good example o f the contrast between the sentiment o f the two Houses can be found in their attitude to iconoclasm. O n 23 January 1641 the C om m ons determined to act sum m arily to select commissioners in each county to deface, demolish or otherwise get rid o f all ‘images, altars or tables turned altarwise, crucifixes, superstitious pictures, ornaments and relics o f idolatry’ from all churches.20 This was to go far beyond the reversal o f recent innovations; it was to ‘throw to the moals and the bats every rag that hath not G od’s stamp and name upon it’,21 to complete that left incomplete 17. M orrill, ‘R eligious C on text’, pp. 164—78. 18. The standard accounts are Shaw, English Church, I, 1-122, II, 175-85, and the splendid recent study by Fletcher, Outbreak, pp. 91-124, and passim. A recent thesis by W. A bbott, ‘The Issue o f Episcopacy in the Long Parliam ent’ (U n iv. o f O xford D .P hil. thesis, 1982), is valuable on one aspect o f the question. I am grateful to D r A bbott for sh ow in g m e a draft o f his thesis som e tim e before it was subm itted. I have not seen the final version. The theological issues arc explored in G. Yule, The Puritans in Power (Sutton C ourtney, 1981), ch. 5. 19. Shaw, English Church, II, 175-6. 20. Commons Journal, II, 72. (hereafter CJ). 21. The call o f Stephen Marshall in his serm on to the H ouse o f C om m on s at their Fast on 17 N ovem b er 1640, Brit. Lib., T hom ason Tracts (hereafter T T ), E 204(9), p. 40.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

in the first Reformation. Yet only days earlier, the Lords ordered that ‘the parsons, vicars, and curates in the several parishes shall forbear to introduce any rites or ceremonies that may give offence otherwise than those which are established by the law o f the land.22 Their concern, as throughout the next twelve m onths, was that ‘divine service should be perform ed as appointed by the Acts o f Parliament o f the Realm, and all disturbers o f the same severely punished’.23 In individual cases where innovations by ministers were uncovered, as w ith east-end railed-in altars, the Lords ordered a restoration so that the tables stood in ‘the ancient place where they ought to do by the law, and as it hath done for the greater part o f these three score years last past’24 There was no point in trying to press a bill for a wider iconoclasm through such a House (as the events o f early September 1641, discussed below, also demonstrate). Equally the limited progress o f anti-episcopal legislation may owe as m uch to the certainty that it w ould fail in the Lords as to lack o f zeal in the Com m ons. The simple bill against the tem poral authority o f the bishops (and especially against their seats in the Lords) was com fortably defeated in the U pper House in the first session,25 and ignored by it in the second session after a similar bill had passed all stages in the C om m ons w ithin a week o f the end o f the recess.26 O nly the suicidal petition o f the twelve bishops on 30 Decem ber against decisions taken after they were intim idated from taking their seats by the mass picket around W estm inster Hall revived the peers’ interest in the bill.27 The House o f Lords, then, constituted a legislative stymie upon the House o f C om m ons, at least until the expulsion o f the bishops and the haem orrhage o f royalist peers to Y ork in the spring o f 1642 gave the radicals their chance to bring the tw o Houses into line. Almost immediately the series o f bills which had been m arking time in the C om m ons - bills for abolishing superstition and idolatry, for uprooting scandalous ministers for stricter sabbath observance and 22. 23. 24. 25. 26.

Lords Journal, IV, 134 (hereafter LJ). LJ, IV, 100-1, 107, 113, 133, 225. LJ, IV, 174. CJ, II, 114, 127; LJ, IV, 256. CJ, II, 291-3 (21/23 October); 1st reading in the H ou se o f Lords, 23 October, but no second reading until 4 February 1642, after w hich it quickly passed all rem aining stages (LJ, IV, 402, 562, 564, 580); Shaw, English Church, I, 117-19. 27. J. R ushw orth, Historical Collections, 1 vols. (London, 1659-1701), IV, 466-8; S.R. Gardiner, The History o f England from the Accession o f James I to the Outbreak o f the C ivil War, 10 vols. (London, 1884), x, 120-6; B .S . M anning, The English People and the English Revolution 1640-1649 (London, 1976), pp. 74-94.


The Attack on the Church o f England

against pluralism and non-residence - were sent up and passed in the U pper H ouse,28 to be included in the Nineteen Propositions sent to the king in early June.29 This legislative block had not, however, prevented the managers o f the C om m ons from ensuring that such bills were in the pipeline. It was not fear o f dividing the C om m ons but certainty o f defeat in the Lords which had slowed dow n legislative progress. Those actually or potentially divisive ecclesiastical bills had been read before or at the same time as the less controversial remedial constitutional legislation.30 The C om m ons were thus forced into ‘arbitrary’ action to achieve reform; intense external pressures constantly reinforced the need for that reform. That pressure came in part from the waves o f petitions, in part from the full discovery o f the transgressions o f the clergy in recent times, in part from the urgings o f the preachers and pamphleteers. We have already noted the contrast between the paucity o f religious petitions to the Parliaments o f the 1620s and the wealth o f such petitions to the Long Parliament. Several hundred petitions poured in from parishioners alleging ceremonialism, unsound preaching (or no preaching at all) and moral laxity in their m inisters.31 Francis Rous, carrying up the im peachment articles against Cosin to the Lords, said that ‘when a great man is coming, his sumpters, his furniture, his provisions, go before him: the pope’s furniture, altars, copes, pictures and images are come before him; and if we believe M r Cosin the very substance o f the Mass; a certain sign that the pope is not far o f f .32 The House o f C om m ons cannot but have been rattled by the evidence o f enthusiastic espousal o f popish ceremonialism by hundreds o f the clergy. These were not the lone fanatics pursuing some private religious vision who had troubled Parliaments in the past. Here were men taking their cue from the bishops and not merely railing off the altar on a raised dais at the east end, or bow ing to it 28. Bill for A bolishing Superstition, CJ, II, 79, 84, 162, 183, 199, 212, 246, 278; replaced by a different bill in February 1642, CJ, II, 436, 437, 465, 476, 493, LJ, IV, 669, 679, V, 210, 212, 248; Bill against Scandalous M inisters, C J II, 109, 162, 183-4, 208-11, 491, 516; LJ, V, 19, 35, 156; Bill for Stricter Sabbath O bservance, C J II, 348, 356. 29. LJ, V, pp. 97-9; K enyon, Stuart Constitution, pp. 244-7. 30. Indeed one can say that legislatively there was m ore activity in terms o f ecclesiastical legislation in the first few m onths than in terms o f constitutional legislation, and the tw o sorts o f bill jostle one another in June and July 1641. 31. For som e exam ples, see CJ, II, 35, 139, 149; The Journal o f Sir Simonds D ’Ewes from the Beginning o f the Long Parliament to the Opening o f the Trial o f the Earl o f Strafford, ed. W. N otestein (N ew Haven, 1927), pp. 65, 77, 270, 276, 281, 419. 32. State Trials, IV, 27.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

and refusing com m union to those who w ould not kneel before it, but w ho preached, as the rector o f All Hallows, Barking, did: ‘that they are black toads, spotted toads and venom ous toads, like Jack Straw and W att Tyler, that speak against the ceremonies o f the Church; and that they were in the state o f dam nation’.33 By no means a majority o f the petitions were ever read in the House or reported from the committees to the House. But many members were well aware o f the m agnitude o f the outcry: Sir Edw ard Dering had m ore than seventy such petitions against Kentish ministers in his papers.34 W .A. Shaw suggests that the total num ber o f parish petitions may have been around 800.35 Something o f the pressure they m ust have exerted can be seen from the business at just one meeting o f the com m ittee o f religion, held on 16 N ovem ber 1640.36 The com m ittee received a petition from Lincolnshire clergymen against the increase in popery, ‘idle and frivelous ceremonies’, the canons and for fresh laws against fornication, adultery and sabbath-breaking; several petitions against the im position o f altars and organs; against ministers w ho would not com m unicate those who refused to kneel; against the pulling dow n o f an ancient parish church in the shadow o f St Paul’s to provide building materials for the cathedral; and a report o f the excom m unication o f a man who had proceeded against his minister for ‘false doctrine’. Day in and day out MPs were inundated with stories o f a spreading cancer in the church, prom oted and nourished by its leaders. There is some evidence that the petitioning was orchestrated. One o f Sir Edw ard H yde’s correspondents told how John Lilburne had come dow n w ith warrants to get signatures for a petition against him as a persecuting or innovating minister. Archdeacon Marler, in another letter to Hyde, reported how your H ouse hath sent forth encouradgem ents and derections for busy men to traduce at such as be not o f the faction . . . wherein such as ar zealous in the cause both o f the clergy and layty . . . have m ett together and consulted how to inform e against such as we orthodox and obedient clergymen and to furnish your house w ith argum ents for the overthrow o f the hierarchy o f the church.37

33. CJ, IL 35. 34. ‘Proceedings Principally in the County o f Kent in Connection with the Parliaments Called in 1640’, ed. L.B. Larking, Camden Society (1862), pp. 101-240. 35. Shaw, English Church, II, 38. 36. D E w e s , ed. N otestein , p. 38. 37. Bodl. Lib., M S Clarendon 19, fo. 281; M S Clarendon 20, fo. 13.


The Attack on the Church o f England

In January 1641, indeed, the C om m ons called for a survey o f scandalous clergy from each county: the draft reply o f five Herefordshire clergy survives, giving the great m ajority o f the 193 ministers surveyed as scandalous, and pinning responsibility on the bishops, ‘the main atlases which upholds the babel o f confusion in church and com m onw ealth’.38 Mrs Pearl finds evidence that the timing and content o f London petitions was organized within the H ouse.39 O ne consequence o f all this, according to a friend o f Sir Edward D ering’s, was ‘the M onstrous Easye receipt o f Petitions att the Standing C om m ittees makes A uthoritye declyne’.40 The flood o f petitions was, then, both sustained by radical MPs wishing to reinforce the threat, as they saw it, o f ‘the army o f priests’ to the integrity o f English Protestantism, and was intended to soften up the concerned middle ground by constantly reinforcing the scale o f that threat. This in turn was further strengthened by wider petitions on the urgent need for radical reform. The m ost im portant o f these were the London petition for rootand-branch reform (presented with 15,000 signatures on 11 December 1640),41 a digest o f county petitions subscribed by 750 clergy in all and presented to the House o f C om m ons in late January 1641 ;42 and the wave o f county root-and-branch petitions (nineteen in all) which were launched with those from Kent and Essex in mid-January:43 Cum ulatively, these were an even m ore stunning indictm ent o f the state to which the Laudians had reduced the Church. Despite the reluctance o f some historians to accept it, the aim o f the petitions was unam biguously to be rid not only o f the Laudians but o f a church order so easily subverted by them. Certainly, as M r Fletcher has suggested, there was only a limited comprehension o f what the radical rhetoric w ould lead to. Sir Edw ard Dering, in a telling rew riting o f the M inisters’ Remonstrance, recorded that ‘this hierarchical pow er may be totally abrogated, if the wisdom o f this honourable House shall find it cannot be maintained by G od’s W ord and to his glory’.44 It m ust remain an open question just how soon a m ajority in the C om m ons wished to uproot episcopacy: it is clear that from early 38. B odl. Lib., M S 206 Corpus Christi. I am grateful to Paul G ladwish for lending me his m icrofilm copy o f this manuscript and for his com m ents on it. 39. V. Pearl, London and the Outbreak o f the Puritan Revolution (O xford, 1964), pp. 212-16. 40. Q u oted in P. Zagorin, The Court and the Country (London, 1969), pp. 229-30. 41. R ushw orth, Historical Collections, IV, 93-7. 42. N o copy o f this petition survives. See Shaw, English Church, I, 23-7. 43. Fletcher, Outbreak, pp. 92-6. 44. Ibid., Lam ont, Godly Rule, pp. 83-8.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

on in the Parliament a grow ing num ber accepted the need to uproot the Elizabethan settlement. Prim itive episcopacy could either be a ‘reduction’ o f the existing system, or part o f a new system. Since the overwhelm ing concern o f MPs was religious renewal, not ecclesiastical renewal, their flexibility and lack o f precision on this point is not the problem which has w orried historians. Lack o f zeal for an articulated presbyterianism is not evidence o f religious ‘m oderation’. Some have argued that the adoption o f a m ore radical language was intended to placate the Scots, and disguised continuing religious conservatism; it is m ore likely that it revealed a grow ing com m itm ent to a fresh start but not a particular fresh start.45 Thus, when the C om m ons voted in early February to refer the substance o f the M inisters’ Remonstrance to a comm ittee, it reserved to itself debate on the future o f episcopacy. This has usually been taken as evidence o f caution, a refusal to com m it so sensitive an issue to a com m ittee o f the kind so readily packed. But the fact that the question was already accepted as an open one, and to be aired where it could create greatest heat, is just as significant. O n 25 January 1641, John Pyne, the Somerset radical, w rote to Thom as Smyth o f Ashton C ourt that ‘the heat in the low er House increases . . . [the Remonstrance] will require great consideration and time, especially episcopacy which hath so m any advocates and so strong a party in our H ouse’. In such circumstances, the managers were grasping nettles, not avoiding them .46 Petitions formed the first source o f pressure on MPs, reinforcing the need for radical reform. The revelations o f committees o f enquiry into ecclesiastical m isgovernm ent constituted a second, allied source. The m ost obvious o f those was the C om m ittee for Scandalous Ministers, which looked into the petitions alleging ‘vitiousness o f life, errors in doctrine, contrary to the Articles o f our Religion, and for the Practising and Pressing superstitious innovations contrary to Law ’.47 The reports o f the com m ittee merely reinforced the message o f the petitions themselves, but they also made a pattern out o f them. When John White, chairman o f the committee, celebrated the expulsion o f the one hundredth delinquent m inister in a tract, he called it The First Century o f Scandalous Ministers, Malignant Priests, Made and Admitted unto Benefices By the Prelates, in whose hands the Ordination o f Ministers

45. E .g. P. Crawford, D en zil Holies, First Lord Holies (London, 1979), pp. 43-52; C .L. H am ilton, ‘The Basis o f Scottish Efforts to Create a Reform ed Church in England, 1640-1’, Church History, X X X (1961), 171-88; Yule, Puritans in Power, pp. 118-20. 46. Fletcher, Outbreak, p. 97; Bristol Rcc. O ff., M S 36074, fo. 139. 47. Shaw, English Church, II, 177-85.


The Attack on the Church o f England and government o f the Church hath been.4H It was not episcopal neglect

but episcopal design which had created the pollution in the church. Very few com m ittee papers survive from the C om m ons.49 But one im portant report from the com m ittee set up to establish ‘abuses o f the universities in matters o f religion’ does survive to reveal an alarming picture, at least at Cam bridge. The principal concern o f the report was to investigate six preachers whose sermons reveal a startling range o f theological speculation and also suggest deep divisions within the Caput , or com m ittee o f college Heads. N one o f the errant preachers had been punished and some had been aided by the intervention o f the archbishop’s chaplain. Some o f the sermons were palpably in breach o f the articles o f religion, notably the eleventh on Justification. As late as August 1640, the C om m ons com m ittee were told, William N orw ich, Fellow o f Peterhouse, preached in the University C hurch defending the need for works o f satisfaction, recom m ending private confession, declaring that works had to accompany faith in the process o f justification and urging the use o f ceremonies. The ViceChancellor (John Cosin), with the support o f a bare m ajority o f the Heads, dismissed charges against him. While the University C hurch resounded to such preaching, the com m ittee found that godly preachers had been silenced and that the Heads had encouraged not only popish teaching but also popish ceremonies: there were decorated altars, bow ing and turning to the east in twelve o f the sixteen colleges.50 D r M organ has recently pointed out that after 1600 the C row n had taken an increasing interest in the elections to Cam bridge Fellowships, and specifically to Headships, viewing the colleges m ore as cathedral chapters than as independent corporations. The subversion o f Cam bridge followed the extended use o f royal conges d’

A m ongst the very earliest acts o f the Long Parliam ent was the release from prison o f the principal victim s o f the Laudian regime: B urton, Bastw icke and Prynne; Leighton; Lilburne; Smart; and Thom as W ilson.52 C om m ittees were set up to investigate the 48. Brit Lib., T T , E 76(21). 49. Except in brief sum m aries in som e o f the parliamentary diaries (e.g. D ’Ewes, ed. N otestein , pp. 3 8-9, 150) and extracts from the C om m ittee o f R eligion, o f w hich D ering was chairman, ‘Proceedings in K ent’, ed. Larking, pp. 80-100. 50. BL, Harl. M S 7019, pp. 52-93, especially pp. 53, 61, 71, 73, 76-85. I o w e m y k n ow led ge o f this m anuscript to D avid H oyle w h o also kindly sh ow ed m e a copy o f his unpublished paper based upon it. See also J.D . T w ig g , ‘The U n iversity o f Cam bridge and the English R evolu tion ’ (U n iv. o f Cam bridge PhD thesis, 1983), ch. 2. 51. M organ ‘Court, C ountry and Cam bridge U n iv ersity ’, passim. 52. CJ, II, 22, 24, 25, 40.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

circum stances o f their trial and punishm ent, the reports o f their com m ittees com ing in at intervals. These reports consistently em phasized not only that they had suffered for upholding o rth o doxy, but that proceedings against them had been arbitrary or in breach o f the rule o f law .53 This was a m uch m ore prom inent them e in the investigations o f the L ords’ com m ittees w hich in the 1640s reviewed several hundred cases from the low er courts. D r Hart, w ho has investigated this process, is in no doubt that m any o f the w orst instances o f the abuse o f due process lay in the church courts. Several m inisters had been ejected on flimsy or trum ped-up sim ony charges to m ake way for Laudians like D r W illiam Beale; m inisters w ere ejected or suspended on the evidence o f a single witness; the C ourt o f Arches refused to hear appeals from a num ber o f churchw ardens or others in cases relating to altar rails, apparently because Laud ‘had given order that no inhibitions should go into N ortham ptonshire, B edfordshire or B uckingham shire w ithout his special know ledge’.54 There can be little doubt that it was the intention o f the parliamentary managers to exploit this flow o f inform ation that linked together the ills o f the church into a grand conspiracy. Far from playing dow n religious issues, they amplified and focussed them. While it is possible to exaggerate the im portance o f ‘king’ Pym in the early m onths o f the Long Parliam ent,55 his role was an im portant one. N ow here is this m ore evident than in his prom otion o f religious issues in the early weeks. O n 7 N ovem ber it was Pym who presented the petitions o f the wives o f B urton and Bastwicke to the Lower House; on the 9th he sought a com m ittee ‘to see that papists depart from to w n ’; on the 10th, when Peter Smart revived his petition from the Short Parliament

53. E .g. CJ, II, 90, 102, 123, 124, 134; D ’Ewes, ed. N otestein , pp. 83, 240-1; R ushw orth, Historical Collections, IV, 253. 54. J. Hart, ‘T he H ou se o f Lords and the Reform ation o fju s tic e ’ (U n iv. o f Cam bridge PhD thesis, 1985), ch. 4; see Farren vs. Clarke, H .L .R .O ., M ain Papers for 6 February 1641; Garfield vs. Clarke, H .L .R .O ., M ain Papers for 22 D ecem ber 1640; B loxam vs. Sandiland, H .L .R .O ., M ain Papers for 5 January 1641 and 10 M arch 1641; LJ, N , 155, 181; also H .L .R .O ., M ain Papers, 8 February 1641, LJ, IV, 181. 55. Lambert, ‘O pening o f the Long Parliam ent’, argues that P y m ’s role has been greatly exaggerated. M any o f her points are o f substance, but it seem s to m e that it reduces P ym from the m ost im portant manager o f the C om m on s into being one o f the m ost im portant, especially w ith regard to religion. T he article also rightly stresses the im portant role o f the peerage in the events o f 1640-2. It is vital, h ow ever, to distinguish the role o f individual peers from the role o f the H ou se o f Lords.


The Attack on the Church o f England

about C osin’s innovations at D urham Cathedral, ‘M r Pym desired to consider who prom oted D r Cusons to be dean’, a clear escalation. In the following days and weeks, he brought in three petitions against unjust proceedings in the C ourt o f High Com mission; he was one o f those who spoke against the canons; and he was the first MP to suggest that Laud should be impeached for treason. He was appointed to m ost committees on religion, and was active in the Grand C om m ittee and in the m ore specific enquiries into the cases o f Leighton and Lilburne.56 This is not compatible with the com m on view o f him as putting religious issues on a back burner until the less controversial measures to remedy the secular ills o f the com m onw ealth had been approved.57 It is, perhaps, w orth stressing the virulence o f the attack on the leading churchmen, m ore violent in tone than the attacks on counsellors and judges. Laud was impeached in December 1640, Wren bailed pending the drawing up o f articles, committees set to w ork to draw up charges against Piers o f Bath and Wells and that m ajority o f the bishops w ho had supported the canons o f 1640. Cosin, M aster o f Peterhouse, and a num ber o f officials o f the church courts were also investigated. This was a wider trawl than am ongst the lay authors o f m isgovernm ent. Once again, however, the C om m ons ran into a stone wall in the Lords who simply failed to take action on any o f the im peachm ents.58 It is true that there is no reference to ‘Arm inianism ’ in any o f the impeachment articles (in comparison w ith the debates o f the late 1620s).59 But the articles against Laud speak o f his espousal o f ‘divers doctrines and opinions contrary to the articles o f religion’60 Furtherm ore, the innovating ceremonialism o f which all were accused was intended to exalt the altar and subdue the pulpit, to emphasize the sacramental grace o f the com m union prom iscuously offered to all who would kneel to receive it. O ne obsessive theme, however, runs through all the C om m ons investigations: the usurpation o f the royal supremacy: Laud ‘traiterously assumed to him self a papal and 56. CJ, II, 24; D E w e s , ed. N otestein , pp. 4, 17, 21, 136, 149, 162, 163, 169. 57. See also the dom inant position accorded to religious issues in his major address to the C om m on s on 7 N ovem b er, Speeches and Passages o f this most H appy Parliament (1641), pp. 458-60 (m ostly in J.P. K enyon, Stuart Constitution (Cam bridge, 1966) pp. 203-6. 58. State Trials, IV, 22-41, 63-82, 315ff. For the C o m m o n s’ appeals to the Lords to take up the cases, sec, e.g ., CJ, II, 292, 333-4. 59. Russell, Parliaments and Politics, pp. 404—14, and passim; H. Schwartz, ‘Arminianism and the English Parliament 1624—1629’, Jnl.Brit.Studs., XII (1973). 60. State Trials, IV, 327.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

tyrannical power, both in ecclesiastical and tem poral matters . . . to the disinheron o f the C row n, dishonour o f his Majesty and derogation o f his supreme authority in matters ecclesiastical’61 (as Pym glossed it, ‘he hath made the king’s throne a footstool for his ow n and their pride’);62 W ren ‘assumed to him self an arbitrary pow er;63 Cosin was alleged to have said that ‘the king hath no m ore pow er over the church than the boy who rubs m y horse’s heels’;64 M ontagu is supposed to have w ritten to Laud that ‘the bishoprick o f N orw ich, since the total desolation and dissolution o f the form er bishoprick by King H enry the eighth, who stole the sheep and gave not so much as the trotters for G od’s sake, is a meane thing’;65 and Sergeant Wilde, m oving the im peachment o f the thirteen bishops for their role in the making o f the canons, described the latter as containing ‘in them divers matters contrary to the king’s prerogative’.66 The attack on the clergy was intended to dem onstrate the existence o f a popish conspiracy against the com m onwealth. The king had been seduced by the papists at C ourt and the spawn o f the papists in the C hurch into surrendering his pow er into their hands. M uch o f the rhetoric o f 1640-2 was apocalyptic: Sir John W ray’s speech on 25 N ovem ber 1640 is often quoted but infrequently glossed: W hat m ust we do then to preserve our Religion safe and sound to us and our posterity, that our golden candlestick be not removed? Why, the only way is to fall to our w ork in earnest and lay the Axe to the Root, to unloose the long and deep Fangs o f Superstition and Popery, which being done the Bark will soon fall d ow n.67

The C hurch o f England is here identified w ith one o f the seven golden candle sticks described in the Book o f Revelation. The struggle against popery was matched by the struggle for a N ew Jerusalem. The deeper the perception o f a Popish Plot - as it unravelled itself in 1641 through the machinations o f arm y plots, the Irish Rebellion, the A ttem pt on the Five M embers - the greater the need to push forw ard to complete the Reformation, to fall in w ith G od’s Will that His w ork 61. 62. 63. 64. 65.

Ibid., p. 326 Ibid., p. 322. Ibid., p. 35. Ibid., p. 25. W. Prynne, A Breviate o f the Late William, Archbishop o f Canterbury (London, 1645), p. 555. 66. CJ, II, 233. 67. J. N alson , A n Impartial Collection o f the Great Affairs o f State From the Beginning o f the Scotch Rebellion in the Year 1639 to the Murder o f King Charles I, 2 vols. (London, 1682-3), I, 513. For a fuller discussion o f the them e o f ‘protestant apocalyptic im perialism ’, see P. Christianson, Reformers and Babylon (Toronto, 1978), and Lam ont, Godly Rule, both passim.


The Attack on the Church o f England

be done.68 Here the conviction, the rhetoric, the authority o f the preachers was all-im portant. We know that those who delivered Fast Sermons to the Long Parliament were carefully chosen and that they preached to encourage the godly. Their sermons were emphatic on the need for Reformation, but less clear on the means. They reinforced the split between the political conservatism o f emergent parliamentarianism and the religious com m itm ent - ‘Consider what some say o f Solom on’, said Edm und Calamy, ‘that it was his great fault, that he bestowed m ore time in building o f his owne house, than he did in building the house o f G od.’69 In his study o f the Fast Sermons, John Wilson distinguishes the ‘prophetic’ from the ‘apocalyptic’ tradition o f preaching. In the form er - espoused by the preachers o f 1640-2 - the m inister ‘delivered’ the ‘w ord’ from the Lord, a ‘w ord’ em bodying judgem ent and mercy contingent upon the people turning or returning to Him. It emphasized ‘hum an ability to exercise agency’. (The ‘apocalyptic’ tradition emphasized not an offer from God requiring hum an acquiescence, but G od’s irresistible action quite independently o f hum an agency. This style o f preaching was taken up by other preachers later in the 1640s.)70 This is a crucial distinction. Preachers like Cornelius Burges, Stephen Marshall, Edm und Calamy and Thom as G oodwin all took O ld Testam ent stories o f G od’s offers to Israel and the consequences o f hum an acceptance or rejection o f those offers.71 The history o f Israel was precisely and literally matched to the history o f Britain. The terrible choices were ham m ered home: If a N ation doth evil in G od’s sight, God will repent o f the good he intended . . . w hen God begins to draw back his mercies from a Nation, that N ation is in a wofull plight. . . . But on the contrary, if we turn

68. For the widespread b elief that there was a Popish Plot and for evidence that, in a sense, there was, see the excellent recent book o f C. Hibbard, Charles I and the Popish Plot (Chapel H ill, 1983), chs. 8 and 9, taken up and developed throughout Fletcher, Outbreak. 69. BL, T T , E 133(18), p. 50 (E. Calam y, G od’s Free Mercy to England). 70. J.F. W ilson, Pulpit in Parliament (Princeton, 1969), pp. 198-200, and passim. M ore generally, see H .R . Trevor-R oper, ‘The Fast Serm ons o f the Long Parliam ent’, in Religion, the Reformation and Social Change, ed. H .R . Trevor-R oper (London, 1967), pp. 294-314. T hese serm ons w ere on ly the m ost im m ediate and pressing o f the advices offered to Parliament. B oth Christianson, Reformers and Babylon, and the introduction to M ilton Prose Works, ed. D .M . W olfe, 8 vols. (N ew Haven, 1956-83), I (1956), discuss the wider literature. 71. E .g. BL, T T , E 204(8), C. Burges, The First Sermon Preached to the Honourable House o f Commons; T T , E 133(9), S. Marshall, M eroz Cursed; T T , E 131(29), E. Calam y, England’s Looking Glass; T T , E 147(13), T. G ood w in , ZerubbabeVs Encouragement to Finish the Temple.


The Nature o f the English Revolution from our evil ways, God will perfect his building, and finish his plantation, he will make us a glorious Paradise, an habitation fit for H im self to dwell in.72

Thom as G oodw in reminded the C om m ons how the Israelites were freed to ‘build the Tem ple and restore G od’s w orship’ after ‘the Babilonian M onarchy [Rom e’s type] had trod downe the holy city, and laid waste the Tem ple and worship o f G od’. But after laying the foundations and establishing the principal ceremonies o f the faith, they found themselves ham pered by ‘a company o f Samaritans that were adversaries o f the Jewes . . . a generation o f men who were not heathens in their profession for that they professed the same religion w ith the Jewes . . . and yet were not true Jewes either, nor perfectly o f the same religion, but a mungrell and m ixt kind . . . interm ingling heathenish idolatries with Jewish w orship’. These Samaritans were initially ‘but underhand adversaries, for they friendly offer to build with them but so as with an intent to have defiled and spoiled the w o rk ’, but later they openly opposed it: ‘they troubled them (all they could) in building. And they ceased not here, but further, they incensed and made the C ourt against them . . . both by hiring counsellors . . . and also by insinuating to those m ighty Persian kings . . .’. O nly w ith the appearance o f the prophet Zachariah many years after the release from Babylon was Zerubbabel encouraged to drive out the Samaritans and bring the people back to their task. The application to English history since the Reform ation is self-evident.73 The spiritual imperatives were clear. As the managers o f the C om m ons ducked and weaved in the constitutional debate, responding to royal escalations o f the conflict, making the m inim um claims to a share in pow er compatible w ith self-preservation and the protection o f the reforms achieved by due legislative process, they thrust forw ard w ith ecclesiastical revolution. We have seen how, until the spring o f 1642, legislative remedy was denied to them. We have seen how the revelations in petitions, in the investigations o f the Houses and their committees, opened the eyes o f members to the apparent m agnitude and central coordination o f a plot against the protestant foundation o f the church. The preachers warned them, w ith terrible historical examples, o f the consequences o f deferring or withholding action. For those with a dualistic view o f the world, as the battleground o f im m anent forces o f Good and Evil, the years

72. BL, T T , E 131(29), Calam y, Looking Glass, p. 58. 73. BL, T T , E 147(13), G ood w in , ZerubbabeVs Encouragement, pp. 3-6 .


The Attack on the Church o f England

1640-2 saw the mists clear, the future certain.74 It became less and less a question o f tinkering w ith the Elizabethan settlem ent in order to render it safe from another William Laud: there was a necessity to build such a church as would make all men obedient to G od’s w ord and turn them into His loving servants. Then indeed w ould the fruits o f peace and prosperity flourish. The political struggles over the church in these years were not in essence sterile debates over ecclesiology: they were an attem pt to realize a transform ation in Man. For the next tw enty years, those driven on to lead the Revolution were caught up with that elusive task, to hold onto their glimpse o f Z ion’s glory. Yet such language and such rhetoric repelled as m any as it attracted.75 While it was possible, all too possible, to see Charles I in 1641 as mendacious, or as the tool o f a papist conspiracy, it was also possible to see him as a chastened and wiser king: as a man who had accepted constitutional reform, remodelled his Council, abandoned the Laudians, appointed moderate bishops. It was also possible to lay alongside the threat o f popish risings the reality o f popular disturbances in London and elsewhere, a perceived collapse o f social order which the parliamentary leadership at the least condoned. A great m any o f those who denounced m ost bitterly the innovations o f the Laudians did so out o f concern for and love o f the evolving practice and piety o f the Elizabethan and Jacobean church. They were not unm oved by the revelations o f 1641, but they put them into a different context. Less obsessive in their anxieties about Catholicism, they looked harder and less indulgently at the fissures within radical Protestantism, at the spread o f separatism and at doctrines o f social levelling preached by some o f the separatists. These were the circumstances in which the attack on the C hurch o f England took place: from an apparent unity in 1640 against the Laudian experim ent w ith a general rhetorical appeal for reform to the confrontation o f 1642 between ‘the true reform ed protestant religion by law established w ithout any connivance o f popery or innovation’ and ‘the godly reform ation’. It was this which made civil war necessary. Between the sum m oning o f the Long Parliament and the outbreak o f the civil war, then, notw ithstanding the failure o f its attem pts at legislation, the tw o Houses had toppled the C hurch o f England 74. The pow erful hold o f apocalyptic anti-catholicism is explored by Hibbard, Charles I and the Popish Plot, passim. 75. M orrill, ‘R eligious C o n tex t’, pp. 63-5.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

and had equipped themselves to turn it into a departm ent o f state under gentry control. Few bishops by the sum m er o f 1642 retained any authority in their dioceses; m ost church courts had ceased to function; there was no mechanism to enforce, and parliamentary encouragement to modify, the liturgy and formal worship o f the church; the outw ard and visible sign o f Laudian innovation - the altar rail - had vanished in m ost parishes far m ore speedily than it had gone up. A vacuum had been created which the Houses were proceeding to fill. From early in 1641 ministers were deprived o f their livings and freehold by order o f one or other o f the Houses: the assumption o f this quasi-judicial, quasi-executive pow er was wholly w ithout precedent and w ent undefended. N o comparable assertion in the civil sphere is to be found before 1643.76 Early examples included Edw ard Finch o f Christchurch, London, too drunk to take com m union to the sick, a w horem onger and an innovator (and, perhaps m ost to the point, brother o f the disgraced Lord Keeper);77 Immanuel U ty, for popery in teaching and ceremony, for haunting alehouses and saying that the bishops not the king headed the church;78 and George Preston of Rotherthorpe, N ortham ptonshire, w ho thought that ‘Parliaments in England never did any good nor never would, but that his hogs were fit to make Parliament men of, and their sty a place fit for them to sit in’, and that those w ho gadded to sermons were ‘like jackdaws that hopped from tw ig to twig; and that they did go to several churches to com m it w horedom ’.79 By 1642 the num ber was escalating: over seventy were dispossessed between February and July 1642.80 At the same time the House o f C om m ons was setting aside judgem ents in Star Cham ber and High C om m ission against puritan m artyrs o f the 1630s. A special com m ittee was set up to consider abuses o f ecclesiastical jurisdiction in Lincolnshire;81 in the case o f Peter Smart, the prebend o f D urham who had tangled w ith John Cosin, the proceedings in High C om m ission were adjudged ‘illegal and unjust and ought not to bind’. His degradation from the m inistry 76. D .H . Pennington, ‘The M aking o f the War, 1640—2 ’, in Puritans and R evolutionaries, eds. D . Pennington and K. T hom as (O xford, 1978), pp. 161-85, exam ines the grow th o f parliamentary executive control o f finance w hich is m uch m ore hesitant and circum spect in questions o f legality; sec also M orrill, ‘R eligious C on text’, above pp. 57-62. 77. CJ, II, 139; BL, Harl. M S 163 ( D ’E w es’ Journal), fo. 537. 78. CJ, II, 65, 148; BL, H a rl MS 163, fo. 190; D ’Ewes, ed. N otestein , pp. 232-3. 79. D ’Ewes, ed. N otestein , p. 270. 80. Shaw, English Church, II, 295-300. 81. CJ, II, 56*.


The Attack on the Church o f England

was reversed and his livings (in plurality) restored, and Cosin and his judges ordered to pay damages and costs. While the C om m ons proceeded in m any such cases by com m ittee fiat, the Lords proceeded in another fashion, building on but greatly expanding their formal procedures o f judicial review .82 O n 14 June 1641, the C om m ons ordered that there be sermons every Sunday afternoon in every cathedral church;83 on 8 September, they went further: ‘It shall be lawful for the parishioners o f any parish . . . to set up a lecture and to maintain an orthodox minister at their ow n charge, to preach every Lord’s day where there is no preaching, and to preach one day in every week when there is no weekly lecture.’84 From the end o f the sum m er onwards, the Com m ons spent m uch time ratifying appointm ents in particular parishes, creating lectureships by com bination and im posing sanctions on vicars and rectors resisting ‘men thrusting their sickles into another m an’s harvest’.85 By the sum m er o f 1641 the C om m ons had assumed pow er to license sermons and other books, and the fact that this activity grew out o f powers granted to a sub-com m ittee o f the Grand C om m ittee o f Religion displays the im portance o f the licensing o f religious works. The committee, initially chaired by Sir Edward Dering, also investigated the publication o f ‘unsound’ w orks.86 These developments helped to polarize the House o f C om m ons; the assumption o f such powers and the pursuit o f ends so hostile to the sustaining o f the established religion were bitterly resented. The greatest disputes, however, on the eve o f the sum m er recess, in Houses thinned by departures for the country after a ten-m onth session, concerned the orders against innovations. By a resolution on 1 September, altar rails were to be removed, chancels levelled, com m union tables settled in the nave, crucifixes, candles and images taken away, bow ing banned and sabbatarianism strictly enforced. C hurch wardens had full authority to put this into practice, justices o f the peace and mayors the duty to report those who disobeyed to 82. Ibid., p. 71, and cf. ibid., p. 90 (Bastwickc), p. 102 (Burton), p. 123 (Prynne), p. 124 (Leighton), p. 134 (Lilburnc). 83. Ibid., p. 174. 84. Ibid., pp. 281-3, and cf. p. 206. 85. Ibid., pp. 381, 484, 485, 488, 491, 492, etc. (over fifty betw een March and June 1642 alone). See also Private Journals o f the Long Parliament, eds. W .H . Coates, A. S. Y ou n g and V.F. Sn ow (N ew H aven, 1982), p. 355. 86. S. Lambert, ‘The B eginning o f Printing for the H ouse o f C om m on s, 1640-1642’, The Library’, 6th ser., Ill (1981), 43-61; ‘Proceedings in K ent’, ed. Larking, pp. 80-100.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

Parliament after the recess. The device was a controversial addition to the grow ing stock o f assumed executive powers; but it met a double (and related) challenge. In the C om m ons, Culpepper successfully m oved that ‘we w ould likewise provide a remedy against such as did villifie and contem ne the com m on prayer book established by act o f parliam ent’ and it was referred to a com m ittee how this m ight be phrased. The resultant draft was then rejected after a long and acrimonious debate on 6 September. The issue was then taken up by the Lords w ho also sought to protect the prayer book and to reiterate their com m itm ent to the ‘religion as by law established’. In issuing its declaration on its own, the C om m ons made the astonishing claim about the Lords’ statement: w hich being presented to the House o f C om m ons, it was thought unseasonable at this time, to urge the severe execution o f the said Laws: w hereupon it was voted that they do not consent to those orders . . . [and] that it may be understood that the last order o f the Lords was made w ith the consent o f 11 Lords. . . . We expect that the C om m ons . . . quietly attend the Reform ation intended w ithout any tum ultuous disturbance o f the w orship o f G od.87

N ot surprisingly, the House found itself w ith many problems arising from the declaration and much recrim ination after the recess.88 This decisive debate revealed fully the basic split within the Long Parliament: there was an anglican party before there was a royalist party and a com m itm ent to ‘the reform ation intended’ before any recognition that non-negotiable constitutional issues would arise. The radicals who w on the day ‘expected’ that ‘the reform ation intended’ (i.e. licensed iconoclasm) w ould not occasion tum ult. But they had already exonerated lay preachers and were soon to stay proceedings at com m on law against those who absented themselves from their ow n parish church.89 These assum ptions o f pow er over religion were, o f course, pragm atic and piecemeal. B ut in debates that were often long and acrimonious, they were to lay the groundw ork for a future church perm anently and explicitly under gentry control. In June 87. CJ, II, 279-87; BL, Harl. M S 164, fos. 888-90, 895-914. R ushw orth, Historical Collections, IV, 385. 88. The Journal o f Sir Simonds D ’Ewes From the First Recess o f the Long Parliament to the Withdrawal o f King Charles from London, cd. W .H . C oates (N e w H aven, 1942), pp. 5-6 , 11, 12, 19-20, 35, 41; Private Journals, eds. Coates et a i , pp. 136-7. See the pointed reiteration o f the Lords’ declaration and o f C ulpepper’s am endm ent in the royal declaration on religion on 10 D ecem ber 1641, R ushw orth, Historical Collections, IV, 392, 456-7. 89. Private Journals, eds. Coates et a i , pp. 302-3; BL, Harl. MS 163, fo. 669.

The Attack on the Church o f England

1641, the C om m ons approved a scheme to set up a synod w hich w ould propose a perm anent settlem ent o f religion: m eanw hile the Houses w ere to em pow er nine lay com m issioners in every county, chosen by its parliam entary representatives, to discharge all ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and both to run the church and to supervise a m assive redistribution o f episcopal and capitular w ealth. C lergy w ho resisted the authority o f these com m issioners w ould incur the penalties o f praemunire. N om inated clergy w ould ordain and assist in determ ining cases o f heresy and schism. But pow ers o f excom m unication w ould lie exclusively w ith Parliam ent itself. At other times in 1641, the C om m ons proposed bodies o f lay com m issioners in each county to proceed against scandalous m inisters (through ju ry trial), and to establish lay feoffees to handle alienated church land and im propriations.90 N o t all parliamentarians were erastians;91 but it is hard to believe that those who pushed through the bill ‘for the abolition o f archbishops, bishops’, etc., on second reading on 27 M ay 1641 by 139 to 108 envisaged surrendering this gentrified church. In the spring o f 1642, they did set up an assembly o f divines to advise on a permanent solution.92 This hand-picked assembly was as dependent on the Houses for the fate o f its proposals as it was for its sum m ons. The lack o f com m itm ent to a presbyterian scheme and the determ ination on secular control o f the means to effect the building o f Jerusalem does not make the religious imperatives any less vital. Between 1640 and 1642 the C hurch o f England collapsed, its leaders reviled and discredited, its structures paralysed, its practice if not yet proscribed, at least inhibited. In the years to follow, yet worse was to befall it. And yet in every year o f its persecution after 1646, new shoots sprang up out o f the fallen timber: bereft o f episcopal leadership, lacking any pow er o f coercion, its observances illegal, anglicanism thrived.93 As memories o f the 1630s faded and were overlaid by the tyrannies o f the 1640s, by the attem pts o f Zerubbabel and Zachariah to frogm arch the nation to the site o f the Temple, the deeper rhythm s o f the Kalendar and the ingrained perfections o f C ranm er’s liturgies bound a grow ing m ajority together. In April 90. A. Fletchcr, ‘Concern for Renewal in the R oot and Branch Debates o f 1641’, Studies in Church History, X IV (1977). 91. Yule, Puritans in Power, pp. 149-208. 92. CJ, II, 159, 579; LJ, IV, 595, 672-3; Private Journals, eds. Coates et a i , pp. 133-9; BL, Harl. M S 163, fos. 475, 514. 93. J.S. M orrill, ‘The Church o f England 1642-9’, b elow , ch. 7.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

1660, three weeks before the Declaration o f Breda and the proclamation o f Charles II, Easter, a forbidden Festival, was celebrated in m ost parish churches up and dow n the country. It was the collapse o f the old church which presaged the downfall o f the monarchy: and it was to be the church’s survival which was to herald the Restoration.



The Scottish National Covenant o f 1638 in its British C on text1

I The signing o f the National Covenant in February 1638 has always and rightly been recognized as an event o f great im portance in the history o f Scotland. Like so m any o f the great ‘constitutional docum ents’ that shape the cultural identity o f particular peoples, its ultim ate im portance lies as m uch in subsequent misrepresentations as in the retrievable historical reality o f the purposes and aspirations o f those w ho made it.2 That said, no one seriously doubts that the National Covenant, o f itself and in the bitter wars that were fought in the tw enty years after its form ulation to uphold and to export it, crystallized out a set o f beliefs and practices that have determ ined the ecclesiastical and religious if not necessarily the political history o f Scotland over the past three hundred and fifty years. But the Scottish National C ovenant has been less well studied as a critical docum ent in British history. English historians have noticed it in so far as it caused Charles I to lose control o f his m etropolitan kingdom but have seen it principally as an exogenous factor, a contingent and unpredictable happenstance that gave his critics a chance to halt his Personal Rule. Scottish historians have certainly noted its im portance as an expression o f national alarm at the effective subordination o f Scotland

1. I am grateful to Peter D onald, John Scally and D avid Sm ith for their com m ents on and criticism s o f drafts o f this article. 2. See D . Stevenson, The Covenanters: the National Covenant in Scotland (Saltire Society, 1988), pp. 70-84, for a cool evaluation o f its legacy; J.C . Johnson, Treasury o f the Scottish Covenant (1887), for a cross-section o f the m yths.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

to England through the U nion o f the Crow ns. But the extent to which it w ent beyond being a little-Scotlander reflex to anglicization (and anglktfmzation) into representing a considered answer to the problems o f m ultiple kingdom s in the early m odern period remains m uch less fully considered. I would suggest that Scottish historians have considered the English context o f the Covenant, but not the British context. This volum e takes up that issue. It looks at the impact o f the early covenanting m ovem ent on the whole o f what John Pocock has called the Atlantic archipelago in the years during which the C ovenant itself became established deep in the Scottish psyche. In this introductory chapter, I will seek to suggest that both the nature and the consequences o f the Scottish National Covenant need a British context. The central point I want to make can be neatly encapsulated in a study o f the dramatically different Scottish coronations o f Charles I and Charles II. The coronation o f Charles I in the abbey church adjacent to Holyroodhouse in 1633 shows w hy the Scots needed a National Covenant; the coronation o f his son at Scone in 1651 shows w hy the National Covenant failed. This essay will be framed by consideration o f those tw o events. II Fifteenth- and sixteenth-century England was afflicted by an uncertain succession law which enabled the enthronem ent o f a series o f m onarchs whose titles were open to challenge. In these circumstances, the im portance o f coronation and anointing took on particular significance. Fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Scotland saw few challenges to the house o f Stewart. Each m onarch left an heir o f his or her body (and, almost as im portantly, did not leave too m any heirs); but one after another, the Stewarts died leaving the throne to a child. The result was that Scottish coronations, especially in the sixteenth century, were invariably rushed and im provised affairs through which a given faction sought to legitimize its kidnapping o f an infant monarch. Charles I was crowned in the coronation robes o f James IV3 because he was the first Scottish m onarch for one hundred and fifty years to ascend the throne as an adult. The lack o f any collective m em ory o f how Scottish coronations were conducted may have made the way Charles chose to be crowned 3. J. H aig (ed.), The Historical Works o f Sir James Balfour (4 vo ls., Edinburgh, 1825), IV, 396: C. Rogers (ed.), The Earl o f Stirling’s register o f Royal Letters . . . 1615-1635 (2 v o ls., Edinburgh, 1885), I, 660.


Scottish National Covenant in its British Context

a shade less offensive to the Scottish nation. But only a shade. It represented the epitom e o f his indifference to Scottish sensibilities. It took place not at one o f the tw o places where Scottish coronations norm ally had taken place (Scone or, m ore recently, Stirling) but in the abbey kirk o f H olyrood.4 Worse, the abbey kirk had been reordered for the occasion w ith the erection o f a stage tw enty-four foot square and ‘railled aboute’, at the east end o f which, reached by a further flight o f stairs, was a com m union table.5 O ne observer tells us: it is to be marked that there was a four-nooked taffil in manner o f an altar, standing w ithin the kirk, having standing thereupon tw o books . . . w ith tw o chandlers and tw o w ax candles, whilk were on light. . . . [A]t the back o f the altar . . . there was a rich tapestry wherein the crucifix was curiously w rought, and as thir bishops w ho were in service past the crucifix, they were seen to bow their knee and beck.6

In iconophobic Scotland this was provocation indeed, and it is not surprising to find John Spalding com m enting that it ‘bred great fear o f inbringing o f popery.’7 The Scottish bishops were all present at the coronation (if only to swear fealty) but they were in tw o distinct groups. John Spottiswoode, the archbishop o f St Andrews, David Lindsay o f Brechin, Adam Bellenden o f Dunblane, Alexander Lindsay o f Dunkeld, John Guthrie o f M oray and John M axwell o f Ross all appeared on the dais ‘with white rockets [rochets] and white sleeves and loops [?coops = copes] o f gold, having blue silk to their foot’.8 The other bishops, including Archbishop Lindsay o f Glasgow, sat in the body o f the kirk in their black gowns. (Did some or all o f them refuse to wear the popish rags? Was the Scottish episcopate visibly split? It seems a question w orth further investigation.)9 If the 4. Charles seem s to have been w ilfully ignorant on this point. H e could w rite in 1626 to the Scottish C ouncil, ordering the repair o f the abbey kirk, and describing it as ‘the buriall place o f som e o f our royall antecessours and the usuall place for the solem nitie o f coronatiouns’ (Stirling’s register, I, 96-7). Four years later he asked the C ouncil to choose betw een St Giles and the abbey kirk (ibid., II, 416-17). I am grateful to John Scally for these references. 5. Works o f Balfour, IV, 384. 6. Spalding, History o f the Troubles and Memorable Transactions in Scotland from the years 1624 to 1645 (2 vo ls., Aberdeen, 1792), I, 23. The reasons w h y this was such an affront can be found by com paring this extract w ith the discussion in G .B . Burnett, The H oly Communion in the Reformed Church o f Scotland (Edinburgh, 1960), esp. pp. 25-43, 64-87. See also W. Forbes-Leith. Memoirs o f the Scottish Catholics (2 v o ls., 1909), I. 162-4. 7. Spalding, History o f Troubles, I, 23. 8. Ibid. 9. A later anecdote, quoted by John Rushworth, points in the same direction, though its authenticity must be suspect. Rushworth has Laud sneer at Archbishop Lindsay o f Glasgow as he attended the king, ‘are you a churchman and wants the coat o f your order?’ (cited in J.K. H ew ison, The Covenanters [2 vols., Edinburgh, 1908], I, 219).


The Nature o f the English Revolution

physical spectacle which the Scottish elite encountered as it entered the kirk were not bad enough, the service could only confirm their w orst fears. The coronation took place within the context o f the Holy C om m union service according to the rite o f the English Prayer Book and appears to have been modelled closely on the English coronation o f 1625,10 while the coronation oath taken by Charles, although based on that prescribed by the Act o f Parliament o f 1567, added significantly to it. Charles swore to uphold ‘the trew religions o f Christe, nou preached and professed within this realm e’; to rule ‘according to the lawes and constitutions receaued within this realm e’: and ‘to preserve and keipe inviolated the preuilidges, rights and rents o f the croune o f Scotland, and not to transfer and alienat the same in aney sorte’. All these promises derive from the Act o f 1567 and echo its precise wording. But Charles then added a fourth promise: ‘to grant and preserue w nto ws o f the clergie, and to the churches com m itted to our charge, all canonical prewilidges: . . . and that you vill . . . defend [the] Bischopes, and the churches vnder ther governim ent. ’ It is noticeable that this final and additional oath met a fuller and m ore emphatic response from the k in g .11 In calling upon him to accept the abolition o f episcopacy in 1639, the Covenanters sought not only to set aside a body o f statute; they sought to make the king violate his coronation o ath .12 At least he was crowned king o f Scotland. Despite the presence o f the eight English heralds and tw o English earls (Suffolk and Holland, in their capacities as Captains o f the Gentlemen Pensioners and o f the Yeomen o f the Guard) in the coronation procession, and despite Laud’s presence on the coronation dais (as Dean o f the English Chapel Royal), this was an essentially Scottish event. Charles had not sought to be crowned as king o f Britain back in 1625/6; his crowning in 1633 was exclusively as king o f Scotland, and the gold and silver coins showered upon the com m ons as they stood around the entrance to the kirk at the king’s exit bore the legend ‘Carolus Dei Gratia, Scotia, Angl:, Fran: et Hyb: Rex’. 13 (This is significant, for since

10. For the English coronation o f 1625, see Sir W illiam Sanderson, The Compleat History o f the Life and Raigne o f King Charles . . . (1658), pp. 25-7. 11. The w ording o f this additional clause closely echoes that o f C harles’s addition to his English coronation oath: Sanderson, Compleat History, p. 27. 12. The text o f the coronation oath is printed in Works o f Balfour IV, 392-3. The 1567 Act is in The Acts o f the Parliament o f Scotland (12 v o ls., 1814), III, 23-4. This oath was created by Act follow ing Jam es’s coronation at Stirling. For an interesting account o f that coronation, see H ew in son , Covenanters, I, 66-7. 13. Historical Works o f Balfour, IV, 405.


Scottish National Covenant in its British Context

1604 all coins in both kingdom s bore the legend ‘Jacobus [Carolus] DG Mag. Brit. Fra. et Hib. R ex’.) But it was small consolation. The Scottish elite were confronted by a king who cared nothing for their traditions, customs, values, even laws. In part this was an anglicized coronation; but, as we shall see, it is never possible to describe Charles’s governm ent straightforw ardly as anglicization, as colonial, as Unionist. There was a naked authoritarianism and a disregard for tradition which transcended or only partially involved an assertion o f Englishness. Ill In order to establish the British context o f the National Covenant we m ust look back to the U nion o f the C row ns and to the trajectories o f change that had become established in the generation before 1638. It was typical o f James that he recognized the challenge and the opportunity to make m ore o f the whole o f Dual M onarchy than a sum o f its parts. But it was also the story o f his governm ent o f England that he let things drift and achieved little. It is, however, difficult to establish the precise nature o f that com m itm ent to the U nion o f the kingdoms. Bruce Galloway and Brian Levack have recently and separately argued that James was more gradualistic than used to be thought, that he wished to proceed through a ‘union o f hearts and m inds’ and through a melding o f peoples and cultures towards an eventual integration o f the institutions.14 But there is no reason to doubt that he was telling Robert Cecil the truth in a private letter o f N ovem ber 1604 in relation to the commission o f the tw o Parliaments established to prom ote greater union. In it he expressed the hope that once a small start was made to ‘this great w o rk ’ by the commission, the tw o peoples, ‘m ore ruled with shadows than substances’ w ould come to see ‘that the U nion is already m ade’, and that the commissioners had made such a pretty reference for the full accom plishment o f all other points which fault o f leisure could not now perm it you to end as it may appear that w orking in this errand shall never be left o ff till it be fully accomplished. I mean specially by the uniting o f both laws and parliaments o f both the nations.15

This seems emphatic enough; and James had no reason to dissimulate to Cecil at that stage. If he was as clear about his target as this, he 14. B. G alloway, The Union o f England and Scotland, 1603-1608 (Edinburgh, 1986), esp. pp. 15-16, 165-6: B .P . Lcvack. The Formation o f the British State (O xford, 1987), csp. pp. 7-8. 15. H M C Salisbury X V I, 362-4.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

was all too quickly and totally dispirited by the hostility o f the English Parliament in 1606/7 to the limited proposals relating to trade, nationality and the Borders. I suspect he had not adjusted to the very different conditions in his kingdom s. James, whose technique in Scotland was to put legislation on to the statute book and then frequently to delay enforcement until an opportune time, was too quickly discouraged at falling at what in Scotland would have been the lowest hurdle. He never recognized that in England monarchs had to w ork hard to get Acts passed, but then found that these Acts often enforced themselves. Dispirited by the setback in 1607, James perm itted tw enty years o f drift. Certainly Jam es’s ambitions shrank after 1607; but equally clearly the bitter m em ory o f the small-mindedness o f English MPs and the hankerings after a great uniting o f his peoples remained with him to the end. The Star Cham ber speech o f 161616 and the Rubens ceiling for the Banqueting H ouse17 represent the negative and positive aspects o f that lingering passion. There was, then, no move towards ‘perfect U nion’ (a full integration o f the institutions and laws respectful o f the traditions and interests o f both kingdoms); no move towards federal U nion (the greater coordination o f sovereign Parliaments. Councils etc.); perhaps a creeping incorporative U nion as the Scottish Council lost its deliberative function, becoming an ill-consulted executive body, and as m ore and m ore decisions affecting Scotland were made at the English court by a m ixture o f anglicized Scots and non-scottified Englishm en.18 Indeed the m ost British thing to emerge by the 1630s was an Anglo-Scottish, British nobility, w ith English wives, Englisheducated sons and estates and offices on both sides o f the Border. Edw ard C ow an has drawn attention to the fact that this group - in attesting the Cross Petition - actually described themselves as ‘we British subjects’, and sought a strengthening o f the civil U n io n .19 There is no need to credit Charles with any U nionist vision. His father’s fine words about the sum o f his kingdom s being greater than the parts, about the ways each could learn from the other,

16. C .H . M cllw ain (ed.), The Political Works o f James I (C am bridge, M ass., 1918), pp. 329-32. 17. G. Parry, The Golden Age Restored (Manchester, 1981), pp. 32-7. 18. But, contrary to a com m on m isapprehension, there was no formal Scottish C om m ittee o f the English Privy C ouncil until 1638. 19. Edward J. C ow an , ‘The U n io n o f the C row n s and the Crisis o f the C onstitution in 17th century Scotland’, in S. D yrvik. K. M yklund a n d j. O ldervoll, (eds.), The Satellite State in the 17th and 18th centuries (O slo, 1980), p. 131.


Scottish National Covenant in its British Context

about the merits o f ‘a perfect U nion’20 meant as little to him as did his father’s recognition that politics was the art o f the possible. Charles I may have had some policies that were com m on to all his kingdom s (the m ost obvious being the re-endow m ent o f the churches w ith sufficient o f the lands plundered from them at the Reformation to allow them to plan their evangelisms free from lay control, and - concurrently - a determ ination to ensure that the laity lost all ability to interfere in ecclesiastical governm ent),21 but they were not a British policy. What is striking about Charles’s policies towards Scotland is not anglicization but a naked authoritarianism. Charles was an unim aginative man, who governed Scotland with a greater indifference to its laws, customs and traditions because he failed to study and to understand w hat those m ight be. The years, even decades, o f drift did not, as far as I can determine, produce m uch systematic thinking and planning behind the scenes. O ne thing which is clear about C harles’s governm ent in the 1630s is that it was not based (as, arguably, English policy in Ireland regularly was) upon a clear sense o f the relationship between the kingdom s, or upon any developed plan to alter that relationship.22 Equally, the National Covenant, however m uch made necessary by absentee kingship, did not provide any remedy that took cognizance o f the need to develop a Unionist (presumably federal Unionist) strategy for the future. The Covenanters seem to have considered that a king o f Scotland, faced by the bonding o f by far the greater part o f their nobility and lairds,

20. As in the opening speech to his first Parliament, M cllw ain, Political Works, pp. 269-80. 21. For the Laudian program m e in England, Ireland and Scotland on these issues, see W. Scott and J. Bliss (eds.), The Works o f William Laud (7 v o ls., 1847-60), III, 253; IV, 176-7, 299-304; and num erous letters in VI and VII. See the encom ium o f English secretary o f state C ok e on Laud at the latter’s installation as Chancellor o f O xford U niversity: ‘this w orth y prelate maketh it his ch ief w ork to recover to the church for the furtherance o f G od ’s service what m ay be restored . . . under his m ajesty’s great and pow erful order, not [in] England alone, but Scotland and Ireland’, V, 128. See also [W. Balcanquhal]. A Large Declaration (1639), esp. pp. 8,424. For England, see C. H ill, The Economic Problems o f the Church (O xford, 1956), esp. pp. 307-36: for Ireland, see H .F. Kearney, Strafford in Ireland (Manchester, 1959), pp. 122-9. For Scotland, M . Lee, The Road to Revolution: Scotland Under Charles I, 1625-1637 (Urbana, 1985), pp. 44—62 is the clearest account w c have until Allan M achines’s major study o f the effects o f the Revocation fracas is published. 22. For W en tw orth ’s determ ined plans to anglicize Scotland, cold-shouldered by Charles, see T. K now ler, The Earl o f Strafford’s Letters and Despatches (2 v ols., D ublin, 1740), II, 190-2.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

would have no capacity w ithin Scotland to impose his w ill.23 They seem not to have considered that Charles m ight use English and Irish resources to impose his will on the Scots. O nly in 1639-41 did the covenanting leaders w ork out a British solution to their problem: extensive and feasible proposals for federal U nion. Once w orked out, these remained the essence o f Scottish constitutionalism for the remainder o f the century (and beyond). But the English never showed the slightest interest in federal Union. The Scots should have learnt their lesson in 1641 as the Long Parliament put the proposals for conservatores pads on a back burner and turned off the heat.24 At no point, even in 1639-40 while he still had reason to believe that he com m anded events, does Charles I appear to have seen the solution to his Scottish problems to lie in an incorporative Union. He wanted a separate Scotland w ith weak institutions which he could control. It was left to the R um p o f the Long Parliament and to Crom w ell to articulate and to effect a ruthless subjugation and incorporation o f Scotland. If the National C ovenant is, then, to some extent a response to problem s created by the U nion o f the Crow ns, it did not, o f itself, suggest a remedy to those problems. IV The N ational C ovenant unquestionably arose from a whole series o f challenges Charles had delivered to Scots religion, law and property.25 But its occasion was the series o f innovations Charles attem pted in the governm ent, discipline and practice o f the Kirk. We need to look particularly at the ecclesiastical dimensions o f Dual M onarchy. It is odd that Jam es’s letter to Cecil in N ovem ber 1604 should contain no reference to the U nion o f the C hurches.26 This is significant because after the failure o f the limited U nion legislation in 1607, the area in which James m ight be thought m ost effectively

23. For the history and significance o f B onding in Stewart H istory, s e e j. W ormald, Lands and M en in Scotland: Bonds o f Manrent, 1442-1603 (Edinburgh, 1985); K .M . B row n, Bloodfeud in Scotland, 1583-1625 (Edinburgh, 1986). For the theological background, see M . Steele, ‘The “Politick Christian’” in J.S. M orrill (ed.), The Scottish National Covenant in its British C ontext 1638-51 (Edinburgh 1990), pp. 31-67. 24. P. D onald, ‘The K ing and the Scottish Troubles, 1637-1641’, U n iversity o f Cam bridge PhD thesis (1988), ch. 6; C.L. H am ilton, ‘The A n glo-S cottish N e g o tiations, 1640-1’, Sc .H .R ., XLI (1962), 84-96. 25. For som e introductions to this vast topic, see Lee, Road to Revolution, pp. 43-249; D . Stevenson. The Scottish Revolution 1637-1644: the Triumph o f the Covenanters (N ew to n A bbott, 1973), pp. 29-55. 26. H M C Salisbury, X V I, 363-4.


Scottish National Covenant in its British Context

to have continued to w ork towards U nion was in relation to the Churches (for example, in the English consecration o f Scottish bishops in 1611 and in the Five Articles o f Perth).27 James was quite capable o f clumsily ignoring the right procedures and o f perm itting an apparent subordination o f Scotland to England, as in issuing the mandate for the consecration o f three Scottish bishops by four English diocesans under the Great Seal o f England,28 or as in instructing Archbishop A bbott to release H untly from the excom m unication declared by his kirk session when the earl had settled in London.29 But these represented slipshodness, not calculation. In the case o f Huntly, for example, the aim was not to override the authority o f the Kirk, still less to allow the earl a stubborn recusant - to take Holy C om m union in the C hurch o f England, but to protect him from the secular penalties o f excom m unication in English law so long as he resided south o f the B order.30 At heart, James remained a Scot and proud o f it, telling the Scottish Council in 1617 o f the ‘salmonlyke instinct’ that had drawn him back to where he had been spaw ned.31 If he admired the reverence and richness o f developed Anglican liturgy, he admired (as m uch as Elizabeth disparaged) preaching and sought to make good sermonizing as ubiquitous in England as it was in (at any rate Lowland) Scotland, Jam es’s preoccupation was with developing mutual respect am ongst his peoples, and in relation to religion this 27. J. S p ottisw ood e, History o f the Church o f Scotland (1655), pp. 528-40, gives the core texts: M . Lee, Government B y Pen: Scotland Under King James V I and I (Urbana, 1980), pp. 170-89 offers a clear account; and D .G . Mullan, Episcopacy in Scotland: The History o f an Idea, 1560-1637 (Edinburgh, 1986), pp. 152-62, is an interesting gloss; I. A. D unlop, ‘The P olity o f the Scottish Church 1600-1637’, R ec.Sc.C h.H ist.Soc., XII (1958), 162-82; I.B. C ow an , ‘The Five Articles o f Perth’, in D . Shaw (ed.), Reformation and Revolution (Edinburgh, 1967), pp. 160-77; P .H .R . M ackay, ‘The Reception G iven to the Five Articles o f Perth’, R ec.Sc.C h.H ist.Soc., X IX (1973), 185-201. 28. A.I. D un lop , ‘John S p ottisw ood e, 1565-1639’ in R.S. W right (ed.) Fathers o f the K irk (O xford, 1960), p. 53. It is ironic that James should casually proceed by English letters patent after he had taken such pains to ensure that no claim to jurisdiction was implied: neither archbishop and no bishop o f the N orthern Province - w hich had historically laid claim to jurisdiction over Scotland - was perm itted to attend, let alone take part in, the consecration. For Jam es’s reasons for these consecrations, see b elow , pp. 100-1. 29. Sp ottisw ood e, History, pp. 525-8. The em ollient letter o f explanation from A bbott to S p ottisw ood e contained in this account makes clear that no jurisdiction w ithin Scotland was implied: the order m erely released H untly from the penalties of excom m unication in England so long as he resided there. But it was a tactless act by James, nonetheless. 30. S p ottisw ood e, History, pp. 525-8. 31. Register o f the Privy Council o f Scotland, 2nd ser., X , 685.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

m eant principally establishing the full catholicity o f the tw o Churches. He sought to provide for each o f his national Churches all those marks which their respective leaders believed to be necessary marks o f all branches o f the True and Visible Church. The English C hurch had been defective in its preaching; the Scottish C hurch was defective in its preaching; the Scottish C hurch was defective in that it lacked an apostolic succession. It was this desire to raise the status o f the Scottish Church, not any attem pt to subordinate it to the English Church, that surely explains the consecrations o f 1611 (and the m anner in which they were carried out).32 This, too, may form part o f the explanation o f Jam es’s determ ined actions to restore the Scottish episcopate in the years 1596-1612. But that restoration cannot be seen principally as a prelude to U nion o f the Churches, either in the sense o f their integration or o f their federation. Scottish bishops remained very different from English ones. There is no evidence o f any intention to move beyond episcopacy-in-presbytery. The bishops were to monitor and to supervise (but not to supplant) the authority o f kirk session and presbytery as constant moderators, not as autocratic prelates with intrinsic pow er.33 The restoration o f bishops probably had three primary purposes for James: first, to strengthen his control of Parliament,34 secondly, to deliver a grievous blow to Melvillian political theory (when James said at the Ham pton Court Conference ‘no bishop, no king’ he clearly did not mean no bishop, no monarchy, but no bishop, no effective secular ruler - the king being a royal eunuch waiting upon the orders o f churchmen?),35 thirdly, to give the Crown, through personally-appointed bishops, that very inspectorate w ithout which his ignorance and im potence with regard to w hat was happening in the Scottish regions w ould be even greater. These were reasons enough w hy Scottish kings w ould always prefer a centralizing episcopate to any kind o f presbyterian ecclesiastical structure. Anglicization need not be invoked as the prim ary reason for Jam es’s policies.36 In trying to find a term to describe Jam es’s policy towards the tw o Churches, I have struggled to capture some o f these ambiguities. It 32. For a discussion o f notions o f catholicity and visibility in the early Stuart Church, see A. M ilton, ‘The Laudians and the Church o f R o m e’, U n iversity o f Cam bridge P hD thesis (1989), esp. chs 2 and 6. 33. For an em phasis on continuity rather than discontinuity in the early seventeenth century, see W .R. Foster, The Church before the Covenant (Edinburgh, 1975) and ‘T he O peration o f the Presbyteries in Scotland, 1600-1638’ in R ec.Sc.C h.H ist.Soc. (1964), 21-33. 34. James restored their parliamentary titles in 1596 before attem pting anything else. 35. For Jam es’s remark, see D .H . W illson, King James V I and /(L o n d o n , 1956), p. 207, for a full transcript o f Jam es’s speech w hich gives the context for Jam es’s remark. 36. This extends the discussion in M ullan, Episcopacy in Scotland, pp. 98-103, 122-3.


Scottish National Covenant in its British Context

is necessary to abandon notions o f U nion and uniform ity; but also to recognize that Jam es’s knowledge o f both Churches did inform his policy towards each o f them. The best term I can come up w ith is congruity. James was concerned to make the tw o Churches m ore congruous, to remove, as it were, all ‘hostile law s’ from their relations, but not to plan either a m erger o f them or a takeover o f the N orthern Church by the Southern. It is possible that Charles’s policies m ight also be incorporated within this concept o f congruity. Charles was a man concerned above all with order. In England and in Ireland. Laud’s aim was less to impose new ceremonies and innovations than to compel all men to conform ity with (an adm ittedly narrow) reading o f the established liturgy, and where there were defects in ecclesiastical discipline to supply remedies through new canons. What m attered m ost to Charles in relation to Scotland was not to anglicanize its discipline and liturgy but to provide clear rules and to insist on uniform ity o f practice.37 If Charles’s m ethod o f introducing the Prayer Book represented foolhardy authoritarianism , it was based upon an inability to think in terms o f Scottish law and custom, not upon a determ ination to subordinate Scotland to English ways. It showed a sheer lack o f imagination and empathy. If he had tried to impose a new prayer book on England w ithout consulting Parliament, Convocation, the Privy Council or (to quote John Row) ‘even a conventicle o f bishops and doctors’, William Laud w ould have been am ongst the first to shriek out at the violation o f the rights o f the C hurch.38 T he Scottish canons39 show a lack o f concern w ith a narrow uniform ity but a preoccupation w ith order: they m ay well have m aintained an om inous silence about presbyteries and enjoined placing com m union tables ‘at the upper end o f the chancel’,40 but 37. G. D onaldson, The M aking o f the Scotland Prayer Book o f 1637 (Edinburgh, 1954) remains the best account, superceding and incorporating all others. Lee, Road to Revolution, pp. 184—222, is a useful sum m ary. 38. Lee. Road to Revolution, pp. 201-4 is the m ost forthright writer on the inanity o f Charles’s m ethods. For John R o w ’s com m ent, see his History o f the Kirk o f Scotland from 1558 to 1637, ed. D . Laing (W odrow Society, 1842), p. 394. Charles did o f course consult what he (disingenuously) referred to as the ‘representative body o f the church’, i.e. some o f the bishops: but he did so individually and not (R o w ’s point) in conclave; and not all o f them. 39. The canons arc in Works o f William Laud, V, 583-607. 40. C uriously this w ent further than in England w here the placing o f the com m u n ion table in each church was left to the discretion o f the ordinary (w hich led in m any cases, even in Laud’s diocese, to an order placing it elsew here than at the east end): see Julian D avies, The Caroline Captivity o f the Church (O xford, forthcom ing), ch. 4. But note that the Scottish canon did not insist on (or m ention) the railing-in o f the H oly Table, som ething Laud was m ore insistent on in England.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

they also laid dow n rules for ordination m uch m ore respectful o f Scottish traditions than o f English ones, and were clearly not based in any significant w ay on English m odels.41 In their defence, W alter Balcanquhal (not w itho ut a certain disingenuousness) w rote that: because there was no booke extant containing any rules o f such government, so that neither the clergie nor laity had any certaine rule cither o f the one’s pow er, or o f the other’s practice and obedience, and considering that the Acts o f their General Assemblies were but w ritten, and not printed, and so large and volum inous . . . we had them reduced to . . . such a paucitie o f canons and those published.42

Well, yes and no. At least this suggests that there were good reasons for a king obsessed with order to impose canons. But his aim was to improve royal control and not English control o f the Scottish Church. In Charles’s view, sinful man could best be brought to an inner obedience to the will o f God by learning an outer conform ity. As William Laud put it: It is true, the inw ard worship o f the heart is the great service o f God, and no service acceptable w ithout it; but the external w orship o f God in His C hurch is the great witness to the w orld, that our heart stands right in that service o f God. . . . N ow , no external action in the w orld can be uniform w ithout some ceremonies: and those in religion, the ancienter they be the better.43

These are sentiments shared in large part by several o f the Scottish bishops, including Spottiswoode, w ho stated that In things indifferent we m ust always esteeme to be best and m ost seemly which seemeth so in the eyes o f publike authority; neither is it for private men to control public ju d g m en ts.44

And later that for matters of rite and government, my judgm ent is and hath been, that the most simple, decent, and humble rites should be chused, such as is the bowing o f the knee in resaving the holy sacrament, and others o f that kinde, prophanenesse being as dangerouse to religion as superstition.45 41. The canons (and the Prayer B ook) are discussed at m uch greater length in m y paper ‘Ecclesiastical Im perialism under the early Stuart’, forthcom ing. 42. A Large Declaration, pp. 44-5. 43. The Works o f William Laud, II, xvi (from the Epistle D edicatory to A Relation o f the Conference . . . with M r Fisher the Jesuit, and cited in W .H . H utton, Archbishop Laud [1900], pp. 69-70). 44. Q uoted in G. Gillespie, A Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies Obtruded on the Church o f Scotland (1637), p. 2. 45. Q u oted in M . Ash, ‘Dairsie and Archbishop S p ottisw ood e’, R ec.Sc.C h.F list.Soc., X IX (1976), 131. This article also describes the crucifixes, cast-end altar with kneelers, and chancel screen w hich S p ottisw ood e installed in the church he built in his h om e parish.


Scottish National Covenant in its British Context

The Scottish C hurch certainly lacked the ordered liturgy that Charles craved. The Book o f C om m on O rder lacked statutory force; rather than prescribing a set form, it gave instruction on how to construct a liturgy and was admired by contem porary Scottish ministers precisely because, as Calderw ood put it, ‘none are tyed to the prayers o f that book; but the prayers are set dow n as sam plers.’46 Charles’s explanation o f his Scottish Prayer Book was both unam biguous and convincing. The Preface recalls the words o f the Lords o f the Congregation in 1559: Religion was not then placed in rites and gestures, nor men taken w ith the fancy o f extem porary prayers. Sure, the Public W orship o f God, being the m ost solemn action o f us his poor creatures here below, ought to be perform ed by a Liturgy advisedly set and framed, and not according to the sudden and various fancies o f m en.47

Order, not uniformity with England, was intended. Walter Balcanquhal recalled James’s growing concern at ‘that diversitie, nay deformitie which was used in Scotland, where no set or publike forme of prayer was used’ which had led him to start the process that led to the 1637 Liturgy. But Charles had taken special care to ensure such differences from the English Prayer Book as we had reason to thinke w ould best comply w ith the mindes and dispositions o f our subjects o f that Kingdome: for we supposing that they m ight have taken some offence, if we should have tendered them the English service book totidem verbis , and that some factious spirits w ould have endevoured to have misconstrued it as a badge o f dependancc o f that church upon this o f England.48

The Liturgy was based on the English one, ‘so that the Roman party m ight not upbraid us with any weightie or materiall differences in our Liturgies.’49 I see no reason to doubt this description o f Charles’s intentions. For him, a want o f order in worship and a lack o f clear authority em anating from the C row n and exercised through the bishops cast doubts upon the catholicity o f the Scottish Church in the same way that the lack o f an apostolic priesthood in the Scottish C hurch or the want o f a full preaching m inistry in England had troubled his 46. See the excellent discussion in H ew ison, Covenanters, I, 43-5. 47. G. D onaldson, The M aking o f the Scottish Prayer Book o f 1637 (Edinburgh, 1954), p. 102. 48. A Large Declaration, p. 18. 49. Ibid.; D onaldson, M aking, p. 102.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

father. Once again, a concern with congruity m ight better account for Charles’s policy than a concern w ith uniform ity or anglicanization.50 V The National C ovenant was at once a very precise and an infuriatingly imprecise docum ent.51 A lthough tedious, it is easy to understand: but it is horrifically difficult to interpret. It begins by recalling the 1581 Confession o f Faith (‘Negative Confession’) subscribed by the king, his council and household, and ‘by persons o f all ranks’, and resubscribed in 1590 ‘w ith a general band for the maintenance o f the true religion and the K ing’s person.’ H alf o f the docum ent is then taken up w ith the Negative Confession and w ith a list o f all those Acts o f Parliament which established true religion in Scotland and drove out popery, and the bulk o f the rest w ith describing a ‘general band to be made and subscribed by his M ajesty’s subjects, o f all ranks, for tw o causes: one was, for defending the true religion [as defined above]. . . . The other cause was for m aintaining the K ing’s Majesty, His Person and Estate.’ Signatories would ‘labour by all meanes lawfull to recover the purity and Liberty, as it was stablished and professed before . . . the Innovations and evils contained in our Supplications, Com plaints and Protestations.’ In the meantime, they w ould forbear all ‘novations, already introduced in the matters o f the worship o f God, or approbation o f the corruptions o f the publicke Governm ent o f the Kirk, or civil places and pow er o f Kirkm en, till they be tryed & allowed in free assemblies, and in Parliam ents.’52 In relation to the king’s power, ‘we shall, to the utterm ost o f our power . . . stand to the defence o f our dread Soveraigne, the Kings majesty, his Person, and A uthority, in the defence and preservation o f the foresaid true Religion, Liberties and Lawes o f the K ingdom e.’

50. If space perm itted, I w ou ld argue that the history o f the H igh C om m ission and o f the Scottish Ordinal make the sam e point. See M orrill, ‘Ecclesiastical Im perialism ’, forthcom ing. See also G .I.R . M cM ahon, ‘The Scottish Court o f H igh C om m ission , 1610-38’, R ec.Sc.C h.H ist.Soc., X V (1966), 195-209. 51. I have relied upon the text in G. D onaldson and W .C . D ickenson, A Source Book o f Scottish History (3 vols.), Ill, 95-104, w hich derives its text from The Acts o f the Parliament o f Scotland, V , 272-6. For an especially helpful discussion o f the bibliography o f the C ovenant see Stevenson, The Covenanters, passim. There are especially stim ulating com m entaries in W. M akey, The Church o f the Covenant (Edinburgh, 1979), pp. 26-31; D . Stevenson, ‘The Early C ovenanters and the Federal U n io n o f Britain’ in R. M ason (ed.), Scotland and England (Edinburgh, 1987), pp. 165-81; and A. W illiam son, Scottish National Consciousness in the Reign o f James V I (Edinburgh, 1979), ch. 7. For a fuller analysis o f the C ovenant, especially in its theological context, see Steele, ‘Politick C hristian’. 52. Em phasis added, see ibid., pp. 48-53.


Scottish National Covenant in its British Context

This Covenant represents a very specific and clear com m itm ent to a particular form o f evangelical Protestantism: if it only cross-refers to those royal ecclesiastical policies which constituted innovation, no one at the English court or anywhere in Scotland in 1637 can have been left in any doubt as to w hat was meant; and it is unam biguous on how those who subscribed it intended to render the king’s will ineffective - by a campaign o f corporate passive disobedience. The C ovenant is infuriatingly unspecific about the fate o f the bishops: was the office itself antithetical to the Negative Confession?53 There is a menacing am biguity by the reference to ‘free’ General Assemblies, implying that there had been unfree ones whose acts m ight be declared void. Indeed, predicating itself on the assumption that everything which could be construed as a violation o f the Negative Confession o f 1581 was null and void, it brought into question m any Acts o f both the General Assembly and o f Parliament throughout the reigns o f James VI and Charles I. This willingness to deny the force o f the positive law o f Scotland can be traced back to even earlier than 1581: at the General Assembly held in 1567, early in the civil war, the noble subscribers o f the so-called ‘Edinburgh C ovenant’ bound themselves to obstruct parliamentary legislation until ‘the faithfull Kirk o f Jesus C hryst profest within this realm salbe put in full libertie o f the patrim onie o f the Kirk . . . the matters o f the Kirk forsaid be first considerit, approvit and establishit.’54 This is echoed in the National Covenant and, while there is no reason to doubt that it was a yearning for presbyterian forms that lay behind these claims, it demonstrates a willingness to use arguments shocking in their implications for secular rulers. While it may dem onstrate the im m aturity o f parliamentary institutions in Scotland, it also represents a willingness to challenge positive law which was not to be found in England until the Levellers. There is also silence in the Covenant over the civil grievances that m ost o f those who subscribed the Covenant undoubtedly harboured. Perhaps above all there was silence about where their allegiance would lie if they had to choose between their ‘dread Soveraigne’ and ‘the true Religion, Liberties and Lawes o f the K ingdom e’. Were they simply trying to avoid alienating their m ore timid supporters, avoiding giving the king an easy opportunity to call them traitors, or were 53. This needs far fuller treatment than it can receive here. M any o f the conundrum s arc solved in Peter Donald, ‘King and the T roubles’; ch. 2 admirably sum s up thus: ‘The protest m ovem ent, o f w hich the convinced presbyterians w ere only a part, came instead fairly quickly to attack the bishops, because they w ere seen to represent an ill-liked manner o f governm ent in church and state, and furthermore because the true religion was threatened through them ’ (p. 79). 54. J.K. H ew ison, The Covenanters (2 vols. G lasgow , 1908), I, 68.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

they unable to recognize that they m ight have to choose? Similar problems o f interpretation have flum m oxed historians o f the first eighteen m onths o f the English Long Parliam ent.55 M y suggestion is that in the period between the attem pted introduction o f the Prayer Book and the signing o f the Covenant, the leaders did not contemplate that choice. They had come up w ith a traditional Scottish remedy against a king pursuing an unpopular policy.56 What the proponents o f the National C ovenant m ost obviously ignored was the possibility that Charles w ould use traditional English methods for dealing w ith a recalcitrant Scotland: if Henry VIII believed in Rough W ooing, then Charles I believed in Wife-Beating. VI When the Long Parliament met in 1640, it was the abuses o f pow er by a particular m onarch, not the whole system o f governm ent, that came under attack. The Grand Rem onstrance was a critique o f C harles’s reign alone.57 The National Covenant, by contrast, is a critique o f a system o f governm ent. The drift towards popery and tyranny is specifically dated back to the reign o f James VI, and even to Parliaments and General Assemblies which predated Jam es’s m ove to England. The C ovenant is no G rand R em onstrance in a second sense: its obsessive concern is w ith religious issues. This has not stopped m any com m entators from arguing strongly and effectively that the covenanting movement was not prim arily religious in character or purpose. This case rests, for me, less in a study o f the docum ent itself and in the apologias for it (as far as I can determ ine, alm ost all the apologias produced by the C ovenanters58 dw elt on the religious crusade; constitutional issues, if dealt w ith at all, w ere seen as a means to the end o f securing true religion) than in the canards o f opponents. (Canards are not always based on falsehood.) Typically, w hen the C ovenanters presented their articles o f com plaint against Laud to the Long Parliam ent, they categorically stated that ‘novations in religion . . . are universally acknow ledged to be the 55. M orrill, ‘Charles I, T yranny and the O rigins o f the English C ivil W ar’, below , pp. 285-306. 56. For com m ents on the traditions behind the C ovenant and a conservative reading o f what was intended, see Stevenson, Covenanters, pp. 28-42. 57. I have argued this case in ‘T he R eligious C on text o f the English C ivil War’, and in ‘Charles I, T yranny’, above pp. 49-52, b elow pp. 294-5. 58. In preparing this paper I read fifty -tw o pamphlets and tracts listed either (a) in the bibliography o f Peter Donald, ‘The K ing and the Scottish T roubles’, U niversity o f Cam bridge P hD thesis (1987) or (b) under ‘Scotland, C oven an t’ in The Short Title Catalogue . . . 1485-1641', I supplem ented this w ith a check o f the author index in the S .T .C . for all authors identified in (a) or (b).


Scottish National Covenant in its British Context

m ain cause o f com m otions in kingdom s and states, and are know n to be the true cause o f our present troubles’. Laud, in response, equally firm ly ascribed ‘the present troubles . . . [to] tem poral discontents, and several am bitions o f the great men, w hich have been long a-w orking’.59 Someone closer to home, John Spalding, from his eyrie in Aberdeen, could observe that ‘here you m ay see they began at religion as the ground o f their quarrel, whereas their intention was only bent against the K ing’s m ajesty and his royal prerogative’.60 It may be. And yet the passivity o f the Scots prior to 1637; the rapidity with which revolt grew once the Prayer Book appeared; the clarity w ith which the threats to the Reformed Religion were articulated within the C ovenant and the lack o f clarity over threats to property and civil liberties; the absence throughout the succeeding period o f any Scottish equivalent to the Grand Remonstrance; the lack o f any large-scale campaign to prevent anything like the Act o f Revocation or the Com m ission on Teinds for the future; all these things suggest that religion did m atter m ost and was the ameliorating bond bringing together different groups, different interests. Behind the Covenant, o f course, lay the Supplication and Com plaint o f O ctober 1637, attested by 400 nobles and lairds, the representatives o f 21 burghs and 120 ministers, the core o f the future covenanting m ovem ent. Its content was exclusively concerned w ith the Prayer Book and the canons, which ‘sowen the seeds o f divers superstitions, idolatrie and false doctrine’ and which ‘ar im posed contrair to order or law appointed in this realme for establishing o f maters ecclesiastick’. It ends with a m ore explicit challenge to the authority o f those ‘prelats, who have so farr abused ther credite with so gude a King as thus to insnare his subjects, rent our Kirk, underm ynde religion.’61 If, as seems probable, those who organized the Supplication and then the C ovenant had assumed that the king would have to give way to a people bonded and banded against him, then the self-sufficiency o f the religious concessions demanded in the Supplication is striking. As I have already suggested, there is nothing in the Covenant which would lead to a redefinition o f the U nion, so that even if the Covenanting lords had gained control o f the Scottish Council it would avail them little so long as Scottish policy was made 59. Works o f Laud, III, 298. 60. J. Spalding, The History o f the Troubles (2 v ols., Aberdeen, 1792), I, 58. 61. D .H . F lem ing (ed .), Scotland’s Supplication and C om plaint (1927), pp. 60-6: D .H . O g ilv ie, ‘T he N ation al P etition to the S cottish P rivy C o u n c il’, Scottish Historical R eview , X X II (1925), 2 4 1 -8 .


The Nature o f the English Revolution

elsewhere.62 The Scots, unlike the English, could not expect to be able to prom ote remedial legislation in any parliament which m ight be called. There seems little reason to me to doubt that what they asked for was what they wanted. V II

The sum total o f w hat I have argued above is that the Scots had not yet seen their problem fully in British terms. A National Covenant, a bonding together o f the Scottish nation, was an effective way o f dealing w ith a Scottish king but not with a king o f Britain. The extent to which it was a ‘National C ovenant’ in that sense can, o f course, be doubted: Keith B row n points out the amazing loyalty to Charles o f the Scots who dwelt at the royal court; the Aberdeen region had to be coerced into acceptance.63 John Spalding’s account (albeit from the standpoint o f one living in Aberdeen) was o f the widespread use o f intim idation needed to impose the Covenant in a much wider region.64 Even if one does not believe that the Covenant was a self-consciously fudged com prom ise between those determ ined to be rid o f bishops and those who wanted an end to innovation but who could see the benefits o f a Jacobean ecclesiastical polity, one has to accept that by 1640 the unity o f those w ho had subscribed in 1638 was severely eroded. N o fewer than nineteen peers resident in Scotland signed the C um bernauld Bond in August 1640, for exam ple.65 While the problem o f collating attested copies o f the Covenant is enorm ous,66 it is surprising that no attem pt has been made to calculate precisely what proportion o f the Scottish peerage and how many other men in certain defined groups failed to subscribe. (Given how m uch they owed to the m onarchy in the past, and the extent to which recent policies had been directed at them, the Lords o f Erection w ould be one obvious group; how m any know n to have served for the shires and burghs in past parliaments, how many ministers, failed to take the Covenant?67 There exist lists in the 62. For the pow erlessness o f the Scottish C ouncil, see e.g. Stevenson, Scottish Revolution, pp. 29-33. 63. K. B row n, ‘Courtiers and Cavaliers’, in J.S. Morrill (ed.), The Scottish National Covenant pp. 155-92. See also D . Stevenson, Scottish Revolution, pp. 101-2, 138-48. 64. History o f Troubles, pp. 100-21. 65. H ew ison , Covenanters, I, 357. 66. A task m ade sim pler by the appearance o f D . Stevenson, ‘The N ational Covenant, a list o f k n ow n cop ies’, R ec.Sc.C h.H ist.Soc. (1989). 67. For a range o f com m ent on the social implications o f the Covenant, see the arguments o f Allan Macinnes, ‘The Scottish Constitution, 1637-1651’ in Morrill (ed.), Scottish National Covenant, pp. 106-33. W. Makey, The Church o f the Covenant, 1637-1651 (Edinburgh, 1983), pp. 1-25; and Stevenson, Covenanters, pp. 36-42.


Scottish National Covenant in its British Context

Ham ilton Papers68 and elsewhere o f nobles ‘pro Rege & contra Regem’ which divide them almost equally in half. O ne especially interesting list, transcribed into the Nalson M anuscripts, has 1 duke, 2 marquise, 23 earls, 5 viscounts, 11 barons (a total o f 42 peers) pro rege, 22 earls, 1 viscount and 16 barons (a total o f 39) contra regem. Even though a third o f the loyalists were the court group discussed by Keith Brow n, these are striking figures.69 The pressure on all to subscribe (at least in the Lowlands) m ust have been enorm ous.70 The appeals o f the Aberdeen doctors to the acts o f James VI against banding w ithout royal licence, the self-contradictions they discovered in the formularies o f the Covenant, the allegation that the C ovenant made a ‘perpetuall law concerning the externall rites o f the C hurch’ struck against the self-interest o f m ost Scotsmen: but this does not mean that m any o f them did not stop and think.71 Nonetheless, we m ust conclude that the Covenant was, in aspiration and in effect, a docum ent o f the Scottish nation.72 M ost men took it and few resisted it. But was it a docum ent only for and o f the people o f Scotland? Peter Donald argues in this volum e and elsewhere that the English critics o f Charles I’s governm ent took a keen interest in the Covenant and in the covenanting m ovem ent from early on. By the sum m er o f 1639 we can uncover traces o f quite close, furtive links between members o f groups seeking to change the direction o f English fiscal, ecclesiastical and foreign policies and the Covenanters, 68. D iscussed by Peter Donald, ‘K ing and the T roub les’, p. 118 and n. 138. 69. B row n, ‘Courtiers and Cavaliers’, pp. 155-92. B odl. Lib., MS D ep .c. 172, fo. 11. (I am grateful to Ian Atherton for preparing a transcript for m e.) This list, w ith som e variant spellings, was printed in Zachary Grey, A n Impartial Examination o f the Third Volume o f Daniel N ea l’s History o f the Puritans (London, 1737), pp. 110-12. B oth Conrad Russell and Peter D onald, w h o have studied this docum ent, believe it is an authentic copy o f a list drawn up in m id-1638; but its purpose and reliability are uncertain. W hile it is probably less accurate than the list in the H am ilton Papers, the latter only contains a list o f those seen as supporters o f the C row n. (It consists o f 1 duke, 3 marquises, 28 earls and 12 lords.) It m ay, how ever, have been the wishful thinking o f som eon e in H am ilton ’s entourage rather than an accurate statem ent o f opinion. I am grateful to Peter D onald for detailed com m ent on this point. 70. Stevenson, Scottish Revolution, pp. 83-7; Donald, ‘King and the Troubles’, pp. 58-80. As for the Highlands, I cannot im prove upon Ian C ow an ’s cautionary note against assuming that the Covenant failed there (I.B. Cowan, ‘The Covenanters: a Revision Article’, S .H .R ., XLVII [1968], 39 and n. 7). 71. The Generali Demands Concerning the Late Covenant Propounded by the Ministers and Professors o f D ivinity in Aberdeene . . . (1638), givin g the grounds o f their dissent, deserves further study. M eanw hile see G .D . H enderson, ‘The Aberdeen D octors’ in his collection o f essays, The Burning Bush (Edinburgh, 1957), pp. 75-93. 72. For a good account o f the circulation and subscription o f the C ovenant, see Stevenson, Scottish Revolution, pp. 83-7.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

links which also had an Irish dim ension.73 By 1640, the Scots had clearly com m itted themselves to exporting the Covenant: to cleansing the Augean stables by diverting the waters o f presbytery through the accumulated filth o f English prelacy. They now preached - as they had not done in 1637 and the first half o f 163874 - that there could be no security for the Kirk so long as prelacy prospered in England or Ireland; and no security for the constitutional guarantees exacted in 1639 unless the king was bound by similar restraints in those other kingdom s. All this is well established.75 Did this dawn on the Covenanters only w ith time? Everything we have seen so far would suggest as much. But there are some tantalizing glimpses that suggest that secret contacts between the Scots and disaffected Englishmen m ight have predated the Covenant. William Laud, writing from the T ow er once things had fallen apart, com m enting on reactions to the Scottish Prayer Book, wrote: Then they grew up into a formal mutiny; and the Scottish subjects began to petition w ith arms, in their m ouths first, and soon in their hands. His M ajesty was often told, that these northern commotions had their root in England . . . w hich was m ost true o f a pow erful faction in b o th .76

I cannot think o f any strong reason w hy Laud w ould have needed to invent such an allegation. Although he offers no evidence, what he alleged is independently confirmed by John Spalding who w rote, o f pre-covenanting days^ (after a discussion o f the Balmerino affair, threats to the Lordships o f Erection and to lay interest in teinds): w hereuppon followed a clandestine band draw n up, and subscribed secretly betw ixt the malcontents, or rather malignants, o f Scotland and England: that each one should concur and assist others while they got their wills both in church and policy, and so bring both kingdom s under one reform ed religion, and to that effect to root out the bishops o f both kingdom s, whereby His M ajesty should loose one o f his three estates, and likewise that they should draw the king to dispense w ith divers points o f his royal prerogative, in such degree as he should not have arbitrary governm ent, as all his predecessors ever had [and] conform to the established laws o f both kingdom s.77 73. Donald, ‘K ing and the T roub les’, pp. 179-82; P. D onald, ‘N e w Light on the A n glo-S cottish Contacts o f 1640’, Historical Research LXII (1989), 221-9. I am also grateful to John A dam son for discussions on this point. See also P. D onald, ‘The Scottish N ational C ovenant and British P olitics’, in M orrill (ed.), Scottish Covenant pp. 95-101. 74. B elow , pp. 112-14. 75. Stevenson, Scottish Revolution, ch. 7: D onald, ‘K ing and the T roub les’, chs. 4-6; C. Russell, ‘The British Problem and the English C ivil War’, History (1987), pp. 395-415. 76. Works o f William Laud, III 279. 77. History o f Troubles, pp. 55-6.


Scottish National Covenant in its British Context

Although none o f the English members o f this ‘clandestine band’ are named, nine Scots are listed. The presence o f Traquair and Lom e along with Rothes, Cassilis, Glencairn, Loudoun, Lindsay, Balmerino, and C ow per does not inspire confidence. N o r does the statem ent that the group was ‘not w ithout advice from the Marquis o f H am ilton’. The list precedes a discussion o f the offensive policies and is not necessarily a list o f the ‘clandestine band’. In a subsequent passage,78 also about a period prior to the introduction o f the Prayer Book, Spalding again speaks specifically o f a ‘privy m eeting’ convened by Lorne and draw n from the same group ‘and others, o f w hom the marquis o f H am ilton was one, together with a menzie o f miscontented persons’ including (as ringleaders among the clergy) Alexander Henderson, David Dickson and A ndrew Cant). This is a com bination o f highly plausible and highly implausible names and is w orrying. It has led some historians to dismiss the whole story out o f hand.79 But can so firm and detailed an account constitute smoke w ithout fire? I am troubled rather than convinced by these accounts. O n the one hand, there clearly were clandestine contacts am ong m embers o f the group Spalding names from 1634 on (as R utherford’s correspondence shows); the speed w ith which the Covenant was draw n up, disseminated and prom oted is striking, as is the evidence o f close collusion am ong m ost o f those Spalding nam ed in the course o f 1638; above all, there is the evidence that Eleazor B orthw ick was acting as an agent in England for leading Scottish malcontents even before the Covenant was signed.80 Yet three things point another way. The first, which we have already examined, is the failure o f the Covenant itself to propose solutions to the crisis in British terms: the second is that covenanting propaganda took so long to address an English audience on the need for reform in England: the third is that it was palpably Charles I him self who first treated his Scottish crisis as a British problem - indeed, the Covenanters can be seen scrambling in response to his broadening o f the issues. Thus, within weeks o f hearing about the Covenant, Charles was laying dow n contingency plans for a m ilitary invasion o f Scotland by English and Irish troops;81 the Scots did not begin to consider m ilitary preparations until they became aware o f Charles’s

78. History o f Troubles, p. 56. 79. Stevenson, Scottish Revolution, p. 56. 80. H. Guthry, Memoirs (2nd edn, G lasgow , 1747), p. 15. (See also Stevenson, Scottish Revolution, p. 57.) 81. D onald ‘Scottish C oven an t’, pp. 97-100.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

plans.82 Similarly, it was Charles who saw the challenge to episcopacy in Scotland as underm ining the authority o f the bishops (as an Estate in Parliament and as a separate order within the C hurch).83 Early Scots propaganda both played dow n English responsibility for their plight and also denied that the C ovenant had implications for England. The 1637 Petition o f the Noblemen, Barons, Ministers, Burgesses and Commons against the canons and Prayer Book not only found in the latter the seeds o f divers superstitions, Idolatrie, and false doctrine . . . but also the Service Booke o f England is abused, especially in the m atter o f com m union, by additions, subtractions, interchanging o f words . . . to the disadvantage o f Reform ation as the Rom ish Masse is, in the m ore substantial points, made up therein . . . for reversing the gracious intention o f the blessed reform ers o f Religion in England.84

Thus there was no need to intervene in English affairs. The C ovenanters’ Answer to the Profession and Declaration Made by James, Marquis o f Hamilton, issued as late as Decem ber 1638, contained the following assurance: We doe not meddle w ith the Kirks o f England or Ireland . . . all our argum ent and proceedings being for the Kirk o f Scotland, where, from the time o f her m ore pure Reform ation than o f her sister kirks, Episcopacie heth been ever abolished, till the latter tim e o f corruption.


N ot only was the C ovenant non-exportable, but the problem was perceived in Scottish terms. It was the fault o f the prelatical cuckoos in the presbyterian nest; it was their reintrusion via packed and im properly-constituted General Assemblies that had created the problem . As A ndrew Cant and his colleagues toured Scotland in 1638 explaining and justifying the Covenant, the account they gave o f the coming o f the Troubles was an internal history o f Scotland since 1596. N o t once, in his sermons at St Andrews, Inverness, Glasgow or Edinburgh, did Cant blame the English.86 The nearest he came was at Glasgow, where he appealed to his congregation to think on the sufferings o f the poor Scots in Ireland, under the lash o f ‘the 82. E .M . F urgol, ‘S cotland Turned S w ed en ’ in M orrill (ed .), Scottish C ovenant, pp. 138-48. 83. M . M endle, Dangerous Positions (Alabama, 1985), pp. 115-27. For a similar conclusion, that the Scots were not initially anti-English, see W. Ferguson, Scotland’s Relations w ith England to 1707 (E dinburgh, 1977), p. 116. 84. A Large Declaration, p. 42. 85. Printed in A Large Declaration at p. 348. 86. His serm ons are printed in Covenants and Covenanters, pp. 54—128.


Scottish National Covenant in its British Context

proud prelates’ there.87 M ore typical is his narration at Inverness o f how God had singled out Scotland, ‘a dark, obscure island, inferior to m any’ and ‘planted a vineyard there’ so that other nations ‘had m ore o f antichrist than she, she m ore o f Christ than they’. Recently, however, ‘Satan envied our happiness, brake our ranks, poisoned our fountains, m uddied and defiled our streams: and while the watchm en slept, the wicked one sowed his tares.’88 Even the angriest and fiercest o f the apologists for the Covenant in 1637. George Gillespie, while he scorned H ooker and other ‘English form alists’ for their errors, did not see the problem o f Scotland in 1637 in British terms. The nearest he comes is in this passage: It is not this day feared, but felt, that the rotten dreggs o f poperie, which were never purged away from England and Ireland, and having once been spewed out w ith detestation, are licked up again in Scotland, prove to be the unhappy occasions o f a woeful recidivation. . . . W hat doleful and disastrous m utation . . . hath happened to the Church and spouse o f C hrist in these dominions? H er comely countenance is miscoloured w ith the fading lustre o f the m other o f harlotts: her shamefaced forehead hath received the m ark o f the Beast: her lovely-locks are frizled w ith the crisping pins o f antichristian fashions: her chaste ears are made to listen to the friends o f the great Whore, w ho bring the bew itching doctrine o f enchanting traditions; her dove eyes looke pleasantly upon the w ell-attired harlot; her sweet voice is m um m ing and m uttering some missall and magical liturgies: her fair necke beareth the halter-like tokens o f her form er captivity, even a burdensom e chain o f superfluous and superstitious ceremonies. . . . O h transform ed virgin.89

The blame for the m any innovations - those ‘best wares which the big hulk o f conform ity, favoured by the prosperous gale o f m ighty authority, hath im ported upon us - is very indirect. ’90 As late as February 1639, the Scots could deny anglicization as the root o f their problem . Rather than claiming that an anglicized worship was being ram m ed dow n their throats, they claimed that Scotland was being used as a laboratory for experimental liturgies: The churchm en o f greatest pow er in England . . . sent dow n to their associats the pretended Arch-bishops and Bishops o f this Kingdom e, to bee printed and pressed upon the w hole C hurch here, w ithout order or consent as the only forme o f divine w orship and governm ent o f the Church, to make us a leading case to E ngland.91 87. 88. 89. 90. 91.

Covenants and Covenanters, p. 97. Covenants and Covenanters, pp. 78-9. G. Gillespie, A Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies [sig. A 3]. Ibid. A n Information to A ll Good Christians within the Kingdome o f England, from the Noblemen, Barrons, Borrows, Ministers and Commons o f the Kingdome o f Scotland, fo r vindicating their intentions and actions . . . (Edinburgh, 1639), pp. 6-7.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

But this docum ent does represent a first shift: it was Englishmen (specifically and exclusively Churchm en) w ho were to blame for the Scottish Troubles. A strengthening sense o f the antichristian nature o f the episcopal office (one can see this strengthening and clarifying in the minds o f writers like Baillie), which clearly had implications for Scottish attitudes to those national churches which retained bishops, combined w ith an ever greater recognition that the Scottish bishops were but the tools and instrum ents o f the English hierarchy. These are features o f the propaganda in late 1639 and 1640. There is no language before April 1640 to match the fury o f Robert Baillie’s The Canterburian’s Self-Conviction , in which he alleged that Laud and his ‘dependencies’ intended to substitute the Mass for the Bible, the laws o f Castile for M agna Carta, and to send nobility and gentry to the chain-gangs o f Peru or the galleys o f the M editerranean.92 And, in com parison w ith the examples cited above from 1638, the blame is squarely removed to England, ‘to the Prelacy in England, the fountaine whence all the Babylonish streams issued unto us’. The Scots had come to realize that they needed to trace the streams o f corruption back to their source south o f the B order.93 From then on, as Peter Donald, C onrad Russell, David Stevenson and others have amply shown, the Scots determ ined both to seize the m ilitary initiative from Charles and to ensure that antichristian bishops were rem oved and godly order and discipline established throughout the king’s dom inions.94 VIII In the event, o f course, the struggle for the C ovenant led inexorably on to the War o f Three Kingdom s, in which the affairs o f each became inextricably bound up w ith the affairs o f the others. English and Irish troops were called upon to impose the king’s will in Scotland;95 the defeat o f those armies brought a Scots invasion o f England and direct intervention by the Scots in the settlem ent o f England in 1641 ;96 the 92. [R. Baillie], The Canterburian’s Selj-Conviction (Edinburgh, 1640), preface [sig. A


93. The Lawfullness o f O ur expedition into England Manifested (1640), p. 4. 94. See above, n. 64. 95. Donald, ‘K ing and the T roubles’, esp. pp. 194-215; D . Stevenson, Scottish Covenanters and Irish Confederates (Belfast, 1981), pp. 1-42. And see the com m ents o f M . P erceval-M axw ell, ‘Ireland and the M o n a rch y ’, Historical Journal X X X . IV (1991), 279-98; M . Fissel, ‘Bellum Episcopale: The B ish op s’ Wars and the end o f the “Personal R ule” in England, 1638-1640’, U n iversity o f Berkeley PhD thesis (1983). 96. Stevenson, Scottish Revolution, pp. 214—42; Donald, ‘K ing and the T roub les’, ch. 6; H am ilton, ‘N eg o tia tio n ’, pp. 84—96; C .L. H am ilton, ‘The basis o f Scottish efforts to create a Reform ed Church o f England, 1640-1’, Church History, X X X (1961), 171-7.


Scottish National Covenant in its British Context

Irish Rebellion in N ovem ber o f that year speedily brought Scottish as well as English armies into Ulster and Leinster,97 the Scots invaded England again in 1643, provoked in large part by the king’s machinations in Ireland,98 and a crucial dimension o f the campaigns o f M ontrose in 1644—5 was the renewed interest o f Ulster Macdonnells in their ancestral lands in the west o f Scotland.99 Scottish disaffection w ith their English allies, culminating in the Engagem ent, was inflamed by the latter’s betrayal o f the interests o f the Scots in Ulster. By 1648, m ost o f those involved in public affairs in Scotland recognized that there could be no security for Scotland unless a federal constitution and a uniform ity o f religion had been achieved in all three kingdom s.100 In 1641, in the Solemn League and C ovenant o f 1643, in the peace negotiations at U xbridge and Newcastle, Scot proposals for ecclesiastical unity and mechanisms for coordinating the governments at least o f England and Scotland were at the fore. But as, north o f the Border, the conditions for constitutional cohabitation became clearer and clearer, so in England, indifference to a formal arrangement turned to hostility. The Long Parliament deferred discussion o f the Eighth article o f the Treaty o f London,101 dragged its feet over the appointm ent o f conservatores pads in 1643-5, unilaterally shut dow n the C om m ittee o f B oth Kingdom s, tam pered with the ecclesiastical proposals produced by the (Anglo-Scottish) W estminster Assembly w ithout consulting their partners,102 and, under pressure from the army, paved the way for religious toleration in 1647.103 This was indifference m ore than malice. When the Scots Engagers invaded England in 1648, C rom w ell chased them out and m oved north to E dinburgh in the afterm ath o f the battle o f Preston. But neither Parliament nor the generals had any stomach for an occupation or conquest o f Scotland. Crom w ell was delighted when a putsch by Argyll restored pow er to the anti-Engagers, and was happy to leave

97. Stevenson, Covenanters and Confederates, pp. 103—61. 98. Stevenson, Covenanters and Confederates, pp. 137-50. 99. D . Stevenson, Alisdair MacColla and the Highland Problem in the Seventeenth Century (Edinburgh, 1980), passim: Stevenson, Covenanters and Confederates, pp. 137-50. 100. D . Stevenson, Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Scotland, 1644-1651 (1977), pp. 82-122; Stevenson, Covenanters and Confederates, pp. 253-84. 101. D onald, ‘K ing and the T roub les’, ch. 6. 102. M ost fully discussed in L. Kaplan, Politics and Religion during the English Revolution: The Scots and the Long Parliament, 1643-1645 (N e w York, 1976). The best discussion o f the W estm inster A ssem bly and o f the S cots’ part in it is n ow R. Paul, The Assembly o f the Lord (1985). 103. Stevenson, Counter-Revolution, pp. 82-94.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

them in charge.104 The English had still to w ork out a British policy. B ut while the Scots m ight agree on the necessity o f federal Union, they were split about how best to achieve it. By the spring o f 1648, the covenanting m ovem ent, which, despite the M ontrose schism, was still substantially intact, was sundered. O ver the next three years it disintegrated into fragments as disaster followed disaster and as unpalatable solutions to intractable difficulties presented themselves: Engagers, W higgamores, Resolutioners, Rem onstrants, Protesters so many possible responses to events in E ngland.105 IX The coronation o f Charles II at Scone on 1 January 1651 brings hom e the transform ations o f the years since 1637.106 After the grim harangue from the M oderator o f the General Assembly, during which Charles was both reminded o f the public shortcom ings and private vices o f his predecessors, and given a lecture in political thought that Buchanan w ould have been proud of, Charles took the Covenants, was acclaimed, took the coronation oath, and was crow ned.107 Tw o aspects o f the ceremony sum up m y argument. The first is that Charles was being crowned as head o f a faction, not a nation: in no way could anyone delude themselves that the nation was united behind the im position o f the Covenants on this manifestly unw orthy and unbelieving king. The second is that those who imposed the National Covenant and the Solemn League and C ovenant upon him no longer believed that this was or could be simply a Scottish m onarch. The words w ith which Charles took the Covenants are revealing indeed: I Charles, King o f Great Britain, France and Ireland, do assure and declare, by m y solemn O ath, in the presence o f Alm ighty God, the searcher o f hearts, m y allowance and approbation o f the N ationall C ovenant and o f the Solemn League and Covenant above w ritten, and faithfully obliege myself, to prosecute the ends th e re o f. . . and that I 104. D . S teven son , ‘C ro m w ell, Scotland and Ireland’, in J.S . M orrill (ed.), O liver Cromwell and the English Revolution (H arlow , 1990), pp. 153-5. 105. Stevenson, Counter-Revolution, pp. 115—29. 106. The Forme and Coronation o f Charles the Second, King o f Scotland, England, France and Ireland (Aberdeen, 1651), I have used an original copy. There is an accessible and generally reliable transcript in Kerr (ed .), Covenants and Covenanters, pp. 3 4 9 -9 9 , based on a 1741 edition o f this account. 107. The order is o f course h ighly significant:‘the acclam ation (election by and contract w ith his people) follow ed his taking o f the Covenants (and his election was thus m ade conditional upon the C ovenants), whereas the taking o f the coronation oath followed the acclam ation and was not a condition o f election. (For the sequence, see Kerr (ed .), Covenants and Covenanters, pp. 3 8 6 -9 ).


Scottish National Covenant in its British Context shall give m y royal assent to acts and ordinances o f parliament passed, or to be passed, enjoining the same in my other d om inions.108

This was no less than sticking by the com m itm ent to British m onarchy dem onstrated in the solemn proclam ation o f Charles II as king o f Great Britain, France and Ireland by Chancellor Loudoun on behalf o f the Scottish governm ent on 5 February 1649, the day news o f Charles I’s execution reached E dinburgh.109 While the English had not consulted the Scots over the trial and execution o f Charles I, the R um p’s Ordinance abolishing m onarchy had referred to England and Ireland, but had pointedly avoided any reference to Scotland.110 The decision in Edinburgh to declare Charles king not only o f Scotland but o f Britain was provocation indeed.111 Thus, if the coronation o f Charles I taught the Scots the need to covenant together against an authoritarian, unfeeling, foreign king, the coronation o f Charles II showed that the price to be paid for the struggle against that king was a double denial o f the National Covenant: no longer a covenant o f all the nation, neither was it a docum ent exclusively for that nation.

108. Ibid., p. 386. It is curious, in view o f this form o f w ords, that the title o f the pam phlet should describe him as King o f Scotland, England, France and Ireland (the form used at the coronation o f James in W estm inster A bbey in 1603 - for w h ich see Ferguson, Scotland’s Relations w ith England, p. 97). T h e difference did, o f course, matter. 109. Acts o f the Parliament o f Scotland, VI:ii, 156—7; Stevenson, Counter-Revolution, pp. 131-3. 110. S.R. Gardiner, Constitutional Documents o f the Puritan Revolution (3rd edn, 1906), pp. 384-7. 111. Stevenson, Counter-Revolution, pp. 129-34.



The M aking o f O liver C rom well

I For the first forty o f his fifty-eight years, Oliver Crom w ell lived in obscurity.1 He and his immediate family can be found in parish records as they were baptized, m arried and buried. We can trace him from his first family hom e in H untingdon, via an unsettled period in neighbouring St Ives to the cathedral city o f Ely. We can trace his tax returns. We can glimpse him in local disputes which brought him under the scrutiny o f the Privy Council. We have three accounts o f what appears to have been his only speech to the parliament o f 1628-29. We have a few rich but tantalizingly decontextualized letters. But there is m uch darkness and the beams o f light are pencil thin and o f low wattage. Nevertheless, I w ant to suggest that his invisibility is itself a clue to his early identity. This chapter will re-examine the shreds o f evidence and will suggest that he was a man in hum bler circumstances, a meaner man, than has usually been allowed; that he spent the 1620s and 1630s in largely silent pain at his personal lot and at the drift o f public affairs; and that any understanding o f his later life needs to begin from a rather different sense o f that early life. The firm pieces o f evidence about him, along with the m ore or less malicious stories gathered together by biographers in the decade or

1. This essay in volves building a m odel w ith needles from m any haystacks. For m uch help in finding the needles, and som e in assem bling them , I am grateful to T im Wales, a m arvellous researcher, and to John Adam son, M ichael Berlin, A n thon y M ilton, Conrad Russell, D avid Smith, Christopher T h om p son and m any habitues o f the Cam bridge U n iversity Library tearoom .


The M aking o f Oliver Cromwell

so after his death2 have given rise to a fairly universal m odern image o f the young Crom well: the ‘m ere’ country gentleman o f solid but not substantial wealth (‘by birth a gentleman, living neither in any considerable height, nor yet in obscurity’, as he him self put it),3 a man o f magisterial experience, accustomed to governing local communities if not the nation; a man firmly rooted in an extensive cousinage o f families prom inent in their criticism o f royal policies; a m an who sowed wild oats in his youth but who, returning belatedly but wholeheartedly to the firm puritan teaching he had received at the hands o f D r Thom as Beard in the local gram m ar school in H untingdon and o f D r Samuel W ard and the tutors o f Sidney Sussex College Cam bridge, underw ent an archetypal puritan conversion experience at some time in the later 1620s; a man whose intuitive egalitarianism made him stand up for the freemen o f H untingdon dispossessed o f their rights in the to w n ’s new and oligarchic charter in 1630 and also stand up for the rights o f com m oners against aristocratic fendrainers in the later 1630s. Very little o f this picture survives close scrutiny. This chapter will consider in turn C rom w ell’s family background and his economic and social status; his intellectual formation; and the handful o f key incidents know n to us. It will conclude w ith a review o f the circumstances o f his return as M P for the city o f Cam bridge in 1640 and his participation in the debates o f the first tw o years o f the Long Parliament. II Oliver C rom w ell was the eldest (surviving) son o f the younger son o f a knight. In consequence his social status was very ill-defined and his economic situation precarious. The wealth o f the Crom wells rested upon form er church lands, and the revival o f O liver’s economic fortunes was to rest upon the acquisition o f preferential leases on cathedral properties. It may indeed be that some o f the obsessive anti-popery o f the English landed groups in the 1620s and 1630s derived from a residual fear that their titles to land m ight become

2. I have m ade little use o f tw o very jaundiced Restoration authorities - James H eath, Flagellum (1663, 1674) and Sir W illiam D ugdale, A Short View o f the Late Troubles (1681). T o rely on them , as m any biographers have, w henever they are uncorroborated is irresponsible, since they are so unreliable w henever they can be checked. See J.S. M orrill, ‘T extualizing and contextualizing C ro m w ell’, HJ, X X X III (1990), 629-40. 3. W .C . A bbott, Writings and Speeches o f O liver Cromwell (4 v o ls., Cam bridge, M ass., 1937-47), III, 453.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

insecure if a popish or popishly-inclined king sought to unm ake the Reformation. Charles I’s challenges to the holders o f form er church property in Scotland and Ireland, and the adum bration o f such a challenge in England w ould have reinforced the suspicions o f men in C rom w ell’s position.4 O liver’s grandfather (Sir Henry) and then his uncle (Sir Oliver) lived in the grand Elizabethan style in his substantial m odern house at Hinchingbrook, built on the site o f a pre-reform ation nunnery, just outside H untingdon, with a second hom e deep in the fen at Ramsey, a converted monastery. James VI stayed on several occasions at H inchingbrook since he enjoyed the local hunting. The Crom wells sat in several Elizabethan and Jacobean parliaments, and served on the H untingdonshire commission o f the peace. Sir O liver’s income seems to have been around £2000, placing him in the top ten county families and top one hundred in East Anglia. M aintaining that position proved too m uch for him, however, and in 1628 he sold off his H untingdonshire property and m oved to Ram sey.5 Sir H enry had ten children to provide for; and he could not be overgenerous to younger sons. O liver’s father, Robert, was lucky to be set up as a gentleman in a tow n house in H untingdon and a job lot o f urban and rural property, to which he added by marriage the im propriation o f a neighbouring rectory (which entitled him to collect the tithe and sell the right to present to the living). In all, his income was probably around £300 a year, ju st enough to secure him a place as a JP o f the county;6 and his father’s influence was able to secure him a single term as M P for the borough o f H untingdon in 1597. But Robert him self had seven daughters as well as Oliver to provide for, and it is clear that the latter’s inheritance from his father was a meagre one. In 1631 he was to sell up all but 17 acres o f his inheritance (and all his m other’s jointure) for a total o f £1800, which represents an annual income o f no m ore than £100.7 The subsidy rolls confirm his hum ble circumstances. They divide taxpayers into those who paid in terris, on the annual value o f their freehold land, and those w ho paid in bonis, on the capital value o f their ‘moveable goods’. All the wealthiest men paid in terris. O liver’s tax assessment 4. See, for exam ple, C. H ill, The Economic Problems o f the Church (O xford, 1956), chs. 12-14. 5. For his fam ily background, M . N ob le, Memoirs o f the Protectoral House o f Cromwell (1787) and J.L. Sanford, Studies and Illustrations o f the Great Rebellion (1858), ch. 4, are fullest. A bbott, I, ch. 1 sum m arizes but does not im prove on these. 6. C .H . Firth, O liver Cromwell and the Rule o f the Puritans (O xford, 1900), p. 3. 7. Sanford, Studies, p. 216; Firth, Cromwell, p. 28.


The Making o f Oliver Cromwell

in the 1620s was £4 in bonis. The figure o f £4 was notional, but it appears to confirm an income o f no m ore than £100 per annum. This assessment was similar to that o f another forty families at the top o f a small and unprosperous market to w n .8 In 1631 C rom w ell m oved to St Ives. He may have been forced to sell up by financial pressures; but, as we shall see, it is m ore likely that he was forced out by miscalculation in local politics. At any rate, his standing in St Ives was essentially that o f a yeoman, a working farm er.9 He had m oved dow n from the gentry to the ‘middling sort’. In 1636 his economic fortunes revived w ith the death o f his m other’s childless brother. His inheritance consisted not o f freehold land but o f the reversion o f leases held by his uncle from the dean and chapter o f Ely. He became lessee o f the m anor o f Stuntney, to the south o f the city o f Ely, and lay rector (i.e. administrator) o f the church lands and tithes o f the parishes o f Ely itself and o f their outlying chapelries;10 and he quickly extended these business interests by becoming lessee o f lands owned by Cam bridge colleges - Clare and Trinity Hall - near E ly .11 By 1641 his income had probably risen to £300 per annum, and he appears on the subsidy roll as assessed at £6 in terris. He was eighteenth on the list. It is possible that he was invited by the bishop to take over from his uncle as JP for the Isle o f Ely and that he refused.12 In any event, his status was im proving. Despite his connections with ancient riches, C rom w ell’s economic status was much closer to that o f the ‘middling sort’ and urban merchants than to that o f the county gentry and governors. He always lived in towns, not in a country m anor house; and he w orked for his living. He held no im portant local offices and had no tenants or others dependent upon him beyond a few household servants. W hen he pleaded in 1643 for the selection o f ‘russet-coated captains w ho know what they were fighting for’, and when he described his troopers as ‘honest men, such as fear G od’, 13 this was not the condescension o f a radical m em ber o f the elite, but the pleas o f a man on the margins o f the gentry on behalf o f those w ith w hom he had had social discourse and daily com m union for tw enty years. All this makes his rise to be Head o f State the m ore remarkable. But it may help us to understand his self-perception as Lord Protector. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.

PR O , E 179/122/213, 215, 216. Sanford, Studies, pp. 240-1. R. H olm es, C rom w ell’s E ly (Ely, 1982), pp. 10-14. Ibid., p. 13. ‘The n otebook o f D r H enry P lu m e’, Essex Review, X V (1906), 15. Plum e, an E ssex antiquary, recorded that M atthew Wren proposed to appoint C rom w ell, ‘but he w ou ld not act.’


The Nature o f the English Revolution

In that role he never likened him self to the justice o f the peace, the Christian m agistrate that shaped policy and interpreted the law; but to ‘a good constable [appointed to] keep the peace o f the parish’14 a role that lacked initiative and executive authority, and was marked by a formal obedience to the decisions and judgem ents o f others. C rom w ell’s first tw enty years o f adulthood were m arked by a lack o f formal involvem ent in governm ent. Just wealthy and independent enough to escape the drudgery o f parish or tow n governm ent, he was not wealthy enough to govern in the fuller sense. His economic background may have had one other im portant consequence. Both in H untingdon and Ely his income came largely from administering tithes. The attack by Laud on lay im propriators, and specifically on the im proverishm ent o f urban clergy, w ould have been a particular threat to him in the 1630s.15 Self-interest, reinforcing and reinforced by his evangelical zeal, w ould have draw n him to call for ecclesiastical reform. Any attack on the deans and chapters could be expected to bring him the right to preferential acquisition o f the freehold o f the lands he rented at Ely. O n the other hand, his notorious later squeamishness about the abolition o f tithes, and concern that lay im propriators should be compensated can surely be related to this aspect o f his early life.16 Yet this does not get his social standing quite right: he was the grandson and the nephew o f knights; he married the daughter o f a substantial London fur trader and leather dresser w ho was establishing him self am ong the Essex gentry; he was in close contact with members o f his family (such as the cousin married to Oliver St John, chief counsel both to Viscount Saye and Sele and to John H am pden in their ship m oney cases); he seems to have lived in London in the late 1610s w ith Lady (Joan) Barrington, another relative o f his m other’s; and these connections linked him into the circle o f the Rich family, earls o f W arwick and Holland. He also had his sons educated at Felsted School (founded and still controlled by the Riches).17 His own education, at the local gram m ar school at H untingdon and at Sidney Sussex College, Cam bridge, was that o f a gentleman. Following his father’s death he w ent to London to study law. N o record o f his

13. 14. 15. 16. 17.


A bbott, I, 256, 258. A bbott, IV, 470. H ill, Economic Problems, chs. 5, 6, 11. H ill, G od’s Englishman, pp. 36, 178-9. M . Craze, A History o f Felsted School (1947), pp. 27-33, 47-50.

The Making o f Oliver Cromwell

presence at any o f the Inns o f C ourt has been found.18 If he stayed in London until his marriage there in 1621, he stayed far longer than those attending purely to equip themselves w ith a gentlem an’s sense o f the law (i.e. not long enough to qualify to plead a cause, but long enough to know w hether they had a cause w orth pleading). Perhaps a career as a barrister was intended and abandoned. It w ould have made sense to a family in such precarious circumstances. Yet C rom w ell never sounds or reads like a com m on lawyer. It is thus intriguing to consider the unheeded suggestion o f his earliest and m ost reliable biographer, Samuel C arrington, writing in 1659, that ‘his parents designed him to the study o f the civil law ’.19 What makes this just credible is the fact that his inheritance was centred around the income from an im propriate rectory and that he already had the expectation o f his uncle’s extensive ecclesiastical business in and around Ely, both o f which would bring him into extended dealings w ith the Church courts. It is also w orth speculating that his later impatience with the procedural obfuscations o f the com m on law and his preoccupations w ith equity m ight be connected with a training in civil law. C rom w ell was not, then, as he is often portrayed, the typical country squire: the secure, obscure gentleman w ho rose from solid respectability to govern England w ith all the experience and all the limitations o f a godly magistrate. His economic and social standing was far m ore brittle than that implies: his reference to him self as being ‘by birth a gentleman, living in neither any considerable height, nor yet in obscurity’ takes on a tenser, m ore anxious patina. His cousinage flattered to deceive. Econom ic circumstances for much o f his early m anhood beckoned him to the yoke o f husbandry; and political miscalculation seems nearly to have completed the task. Ill H untingdon does not seem to have been a tow n much troubled by controversy or division in the decades before 1625.20 But in the early years o f Charles I a series o f m inor convulsions shook the town. Fragm entary evidence suggests that C rom w ell was a victim o f these 18. It is generally argued that he attended Lincoln’s Inn; but the records (and especially the accounts) o f Lincoln’s Inn are very full, and he is not likely to have been a non-fee-payer or to have slipped through the accounts. T he case for his being at G ray’s Inn is based on the loss o f its records and the presence o f som e cousins there. 19. S. Carrington, T he History o f the Life and Death o f H is M ost serene Highness, O liver Late Lord Protector (1659), p. 4. 20. W. Carruthers, A History o f Huntingdon (1824), passim; P .M .G . D ickinson, O liver Cromwell and Huntingdon (H untingdon, 1981).


The Nature o f the English Revolution

convulsions. The ingredients o f the drama include: the departure o f the senior branch o f the Crom wells from H inchingbrook House and the arrival o f the M ontagus; the disagreements am ong the leading inhabitants o f the borough about the best way to spend a £2000 bequest; and (as a consequence o f these changes) the grant o f a new royal charter. We know next to nothing about O liver’s role in the governm ent o f H untingdon in the 1620s because so few borough records survive. As we have seen, he was essentially an urban landlord with a strong interest in the tithes o f the parish o f H artford. He may or may not have been one o f the tw enty-four burgesses elected by all freemen annually to form the com m on council; he may even have served as one o f the tw o bailiffs. As one o f the leading subsidy-m en it is to be expected that this was so; and if H inchingbrook influence could secure his return as M P in 1628, it could surely have secured his election as a councillor. That return as M P represents the dying embers o f family interest. He was returned with and behind a m em ber o f the M ontagu family w ho were in the process o f m oving into H inchingbrook.21 Oliver made little impact on the parliament o f 1628-29. The extensive diaries for both the tem pestuous sessions report only one speech by him, and the Journals record him as on few committees and never active as a teller. He made no impact at all on the first session which culminated in the passage o f the Petition o f Right. His one speech was delivered on 11 February 1629 in the C om m ittee for Religion that was investigating the spread o f Arminian teaching and its protection in high places. M uch o f the burden o f the com plaint was against Bishop Neile, w ho had sollicited pardons on behalf both o f those who had preached Arm inianism (M ontagu and Cosin) and those who had been im prisoned in the first session o f parliament for preaching the subject’s unqualified duty o f obedience in the m atter o f the forced loan (M ainwaring and Sibthorpe). The version o f the speech m ost readily available, and the source o f m uch m isinterpretation, has it as follows: Mainwaring - who by censure of the last Parliament for his sermons, was disabled from holding any ecclesiastical dignity in the church, and confessed the justice of that censure - was, nevertheless, by this same bishop’s means, preferred to a rich living. I f these be the steps to church preferment, what may we not expect? D r Beard told me that one D r Alabaster, in a sermon at Paul’s Cross, had preached flat popery. D r Beard was to rehearse

21. E. Griffith, Collection o f Ancient Records relating to the Borough o f Huntingdon (1827), p. 106.


The M aking o f Oliver Cromwell [refute?] Alabaster’s serm on at the Spittle, but D r Neile, bishop o f Winchester, sent for him and charged him as his diocesan to preach nothing contrary to D r Alabaster’s sermon. He w ent to D r Felton, bishop o f Ely, w ho charged him as a minister to oppose it, which D r Beard did; but he was then sent for by D r Neile, and was exceedingly rated for w hat he had done.22

This account has been variously misinterpreted. The first part (in italics above) referring to M ainwaring is specious and was not part o f w hat C rom w ell said;23 and the second part, which A bbott called ‘a composite o f three slightly different versions o f the speech’,24 suppresses the vital inform ation that the Alabaster sermon and Beard’s row w ith Neile had taken place ten or twelve years earlier. Alabaster, an unstable man who had converted to Rom e c. 1596 and reverted to Anglicanism c. 1610, was a m inister in H ertfordshire.25 Neile was involved, as tw o versions o f C rom w ell’s speech makes plain,26 because he was, at the time, bishop o f Lincoln and therefore responsible for both preachers. Crom w ell was therefore presenting the com m ittee w ith very stale beer. By the time Crom w ell returned from the Parliament following its dramatic dissolution, H untingdon was deeply divided over a new issue: the Fishbourne bequest. Richard Fishbourne had been born in the tow n in the 1580s and had been apprenticed into the Mercers C om pany o f London. He made a considerable fortune and on his death left m oney for a variety o f charitable uses, including a £2000 gift for his hom e to w n .27 It took three years for the borough’s representatives to decide whether the m oney should be spent entirely for the benefit o f the poor (to start a scheme to find em ploym ent for the able-bodied unemployed) or w hether it should be divided between such a scheme and the endow m ent o f a preaching lectureship. 22. A bbott, I, 61-2. 23. It was printed in Sanford, Studies, pp. 229-30. Sanford prints the italicized part after the second half, and he gives a source w hich A bbott m isrepresents. The publication o f W. N otestein and F. R elf (eds.), The Commons Debates fo r 1629 (N e w Haven, 1921) should have sh ow n him that Sanford had a corrupt text. Indeed, as far back as 1882, S.R. Gardiner had sh ow n that ‘the remainder o f the speech . . . relating to M ainwaring . . . is taken from another speech by another speaker, on a different occasion’ (H istory, VII, 56n). 24. A bbott, I, 62n. 25. D . N . B.; R .V . Caro, ‘W illiam Alabaster: Rhetor, M ediator, D evotion al P oet’, Recusant History, X IX (1988), 62-79, 155-70. 26. Commons Debates fo r 1629, pp. 139, 143, both o f w h ich make explicit that the serm on was delivered w h en N eile was bishop o f Lincoln (1614—17) and diocesan o f both Alabaster and Beard. O ne puzzle is that Felton on ly arrived at Ely tw elve m onths after N eile left for Durham . 27. PR O , P R O B 11/45 fos 461-5.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

At the heart o f the dispute was the position o f D r Thom as Beard. He is usually portrayed as a simple, devout puritan schoolmaster, devoting his life to the education o f the children o f a small country to w n .28 In fact he was a greedy pluralist, living in grand style, ungrateful for his comfortable lot, and interfering in the secular affairs o f the borough in ways no self-respecting puritan w ould have done. Beard had arrived in H untingdon as a graduate o f C am bridge University, just after O liver’s birth. W ithin a few years he held three positions in the town, as vicar o f All Saints, the central parish where m ost o f the wealthiest inhabitants lived and worshipped, as schoolmaster and as M aster o f the Hospital, an im posing set o f former monastic buildings at the heart o f the tow n, close to All Saints, dom inating the m arket square and providing him w ith a good income and some o f the finest quarters in the town. He also held the living o f K im bolton, a wealthy parish o f 600 communicants and already associated w ith the M ontagu family. He supplied K im bolton with a non-graduate and non-preaching curate. He held this living in plurality and in absence for fifteen years, only surrendering it, in 1610, when he had secured a second parish in H untingdon itself, St Jo h n ’s, parish o f the C rom w ells.29 Beard’s ambitions were clearly not satisfied by these pleasant surroundings. In 1614 he w rote to Sir Robert C otton, complaining about ‘the painful occupation o f teaching’ and asking for preferm ent to a H ertfordshire living in C o tto n ’s gift.30 There is not a shred o f evidence that he was ever a nonconform ist and his acquisition o f a prebend’s stall in Lincoln cathedral in 1612 and o f a royal chaplaincy at some point in Jam es’s reign strongly suggest otherw ise.31 When in 1614 Bishop Barlow suppressed a com bination lectureship at H untingdon, the corporation put up the m oney to establish a fixed lecture every Wednesday and Sunday m orning in All Saints, and

28. D . N . B.; Hill, God's Englishman, pp. 37-45; R .S. Paul, The Lord Protector (1955), pp. 24-9. 29. W .M . N o b le (ed.), ‘Incum bents o f the county o f H u n tin gd on ’, T . Cambs and H unts Arch. Soc., II (1914), 126, 130, 134, 137; C .W . Foster, ‘T he State o f the Church in the reigns o f Elizabeth and James I’, Lincs. Rec. Soc., XX III (1926), 280-2; Lincs. Arch. O ffice, Libri Cleri, 3 (1604) and 4 (1614); Cal. St. Pap. Dorn. 1603-10, p. 195. 30. BL, C otton M SS, Julius c. Ill, fo. 109. 31. As prebend: D . N . B.; as royal chaplain, M ercers Hall, Acts o f Court [AC] . 1625-31, fo. 276v, copy o f a letter from Charles I to the com pany.


The Making o f Oliver Cromwell

appointed Beard to the post.32 A lthough he fell foul o f Neile over the Alabaster affair in or around 1617, he never seems to have fallen foul o f Laud, although the latter was archdeacon o f H untingdon from 1615 to 1621.33 At no point was his lectureship attacked, and he died in harness, as full o f years as he was o f livings, in 1632. Just how ‘puritan’ was C rom w ell’s ‘puritan’ schoolmaster? He was fiercely anti-catholic, and w rote tracts against popery, w ith titles like Antichrist the Pope o f Rome; or the Pope o f Rome is Antichrist , and he is notorious for his providentialism .34 But neither was a puritan preserve. His The Theatre o f God’s Judgment 35 is as m uch in the tradition o f medieval cautionary tales as it is a self-conscious exaltation o f the rewards God gives in this life to those He has saved in the next and o f the foretastes o f hellfire in this life to those who are to be damned. It draws far m ore on (pagan) classical writers and the Fathers such as C hrysostom and C yprian than it does on post-reform ation sources; it preaches against active resistance in all circumstances and for passive disobedience in terms Elizabeth and James would have approved; idolaters and upholders o f ceremonies were to be found only in the O ld Testam ent and the medieval Catholic Church. His other writings, dedicated to C rom w ell’s highly conform ist grandfather and to Bishop John Williams, are firmly anti-catholic but show no concern at the incompleteness o f the English R eform ation.36 He looks like a complacent Jacobean Calvinist conformist: not the man to ignite the fire in C rom w ell’s belly. When to all this we add that Beard was quite happy to serve as a com m on councillor or as a JP ,37 thus mingling what to strict Calvinists had to be strictly separated, magistracy and ministry; and w hen we find that he was, certainly in his later years, the creature o f the conform ist M ontagu family, his credentials as the shaper o f C rom w ell’s puritanism appear decidely unimpressive. The apparent anim osity between them in 1630 becomes easier to explain. 32. Report on ‘public lectures’ in Lincoln diocese, part o f N e ile ’s primary visitation in 1614, Lines. Arch. O ff., Dean and Chapter M S. A 4 /3 /4 3 , printed in Associated Architectural Society Reports and Papers, X V I (1881), p. 44. 33. For Laud’s appointm ent, see W. Bliss (ed.), The Works o f William Laud (7 vols. 1847), III, 135; for a donation for the H untingdon poor, see his w ill in ibid., IV, 445. 34. See note 27. 35. There w ere three editions in his lifetim e, each longer than the one before (1597, 1612, 1631) and a further revised version after his death (1647). 36. A Retractive from the Romish Religion (1616) and Antichrist the Pope o f Rome (1625). 37. For Beard as a com m on councillor, see C am bridgeshire Record O ffice, H untingdon (= C R O (H unt.), D D M /8 0 /1 9 8 3 /1 ); as a JP, Carruthers, Huntingdon, appendix, unpag.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

We can now return to the foundation o f the Fishbourne lecture. It took m ore than three years for the tow n to find a suitable piece o f land for purchase by the com pany.38 There then ensued a tw elve-m onth tussle w ithin the borough and between the borough corporation and the com pany over the uses to which the endow m ent should be put. O ne party in the town, represented by Thom as Edwards, the only man rated in terris in the 1628 subsidy roll,39 attended the C ourt o f the Mercers Com pany in January 1630 and argued that since Beard already lectured on Wednesdays and Sundays and since there was a further lecture established in Godm anchester within half a mile o f H untingdon (this is im portant for Crom w ell as we shall see), there was no need for any further lecture. The £100 per annum from the endow m ent should all be used to set the poor on w o rk .40 This was strongly opposed by a m ajority on the com m on council. They sent Recorder Barnard and D r Beard to ask that £60 a year be spent on the poor, and £40 on a lectureship.41 A com m ittee o f Mercers was sent to H untingdon, and reported back in favour o f the latter. The com m on council then revealed their main interest (and perhaps what underlay E dw ards’ opposition). The tow n wanted the lectureship to be awarded to Beard, thus releasing them from the burden o f paying him them selves.42 This did not impress the Mercers. This was new m oney and should go to a new purpose.43 They declined and drew up a shortlist for a lecture to be held on m arket days (Saturday) and on Sunday afternoons in St M ary’s parish at the populous and unfashionable end o f tow n in which Fishbourne had been baptized.44 Before they could proceed, however, they received a perem ptory com m and to appoint Beard from King Charles I himself: . . . taking special notice o f the good conversation and ability in learning o f D r Beard . . . late chaplain o f our dear father and one w hom the corporation there m uch desireth to supply that place . . . 38. C R O (H unt.), H untingdon B orough Records [H .B .R .], box 12, bundle 5, fos 9 -10. This is a copy o f a responsary by the Mercers, annotated by the Recorder, to a bill entered by the Corporation in 1695 alleging that the right o f presentation to the Fishbourne lectureship had always lain w ith the tow n and not w ith the com pany. I have been unable to locate the original bill in the C ourt o f Chancery. 39. PR O , E 179/122/213. 40. Mercers Hall, Acts o f Court 1625-31, fo. 248r. 41. Ibid., fo. 260v. 42. Ibid., fo. 268v-269r. 43. Fishbourne left m oney for other lectureships w ith the express provision that the preachers should not ‘have any other benefice or church living w ith the cure o f souls besides’, P R O , P R O B 11/145 fo. 461 v. 44. Mercers Hall, Acts o f Court 1625-31, fos 274v-277r; C R O (H unt.), H .B .R ., B ox 12, bundle 5, fos 18-20.


The Making o f Oliver Cromwell to rccom m cnd him to their election . . . in our said tow n o f H u n tingdon, it being the ancient inheritance o f our C ro w n .45

Perhaps the king was seeking to prevent the choice o f an unbeneficed lecturer; perhaps he was acting on the advice o f the earl o f M anchester46 or, less likely, out o f a genuine regard for Beard. In any event, the latter was clearly no nonconform ist or precisian. The com pany sent a delegation (two o f whose members, M r Spurtow e and M r Basse, we shall meet again as friends o f Crom well) to N onsuch to urge the king to let them make a free choice, and, upon an undertaking to add Beard to the shortlist, they appear to have succeeded.47 They considered seven candidates and selected one Robert Procter. But they then came up against another obstacle, the bishop o f Lincoln, John Williams w rote com m ending Beard; he stalled over granting Procter a licence, and he proposed a succession o f compromises. Meanwhile, the corporation prevented Procter over a period o f nine m onths from occupying his pulpit. Williams attem pted to persuade the Mercers to add another £20 a year to the pot and to pay Beard and Procter £30 each. When this was rejected, he said he would license Procter, if ‘the company would bestow some gratuity’ upon D r Beard. This was agreed, and after yet m ore haggling, a lum p sum o f £40 was paid.48 In mid 1631, six years after Fishbourne’s death, and six m onths before B eard’s death, the first Fishbourne lecture was given in St M ary’s. Beard made his feelings clear by publishing a third edition o f The Theatre o f G od’s Judgement with a dedication to the m ayor and aldermen o f H untingdon, who had stood by him, ‘in the late business o f the lectureship, and notw ithstanding the opposition o f malignant spirits’.49 Was Oliver C rom w ell one o f the malignant spirits? We do not know. But it is tem pting to think so. He and Thom as Edwards were the wealthiest men not to be named as aldermen in the 1630 charter50 (and the ‘M r Edw ardes’ w hom Crom w ell described as a friend o f tw enty to thirty years’ standing when he sought a position for him as clerk (in the Prerogative Court) in 1647 is probably the

45. 46. 47. 48.

Mcrccrs Hall, Acts o f Court 1625-31, fo. 276. As Lord Privy Seal he frequently advised the king on ecclesiastical patronage. Mercers Hall, Acts o f Court 1625-31, fos 275v, 277r. Ibid., fos 282r-v, 286v-287r, 291v-292r, 296v, 309v, 317r-318v; Fishbourne Bequest, A ccounts 1627-56, fo. 17r. 49. Beard, Theatre (1631 edn), preface. 50. For the list o f aldermen, see Carruthers, Huntingdon, appendix 2 [unpag]; for the list o f subsidym cn, PR O , E 179/122/213, 215, 216.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

same m an).51 Crom w ell had, or was soon to have, strong independent links with Mercers; he opposed the appointm ent o f Beard and was subsequently a strong ally o f theirs when the St M ary’s lectureship came under attack and also in relation to the Godm anchester lecture (as we shall see). It seems m ore probable than not that the affair o f the Fishbourne lecture explains C rom w ell’s bitter attack on the new charter in 1630 and the kick in the groin which Beard delivered him at the height o f the charter dispute. IV In the spring o f 1630, hot upon the heels o f the arrival o f the M ontagus at H inchingbrook and upon the snubbing o f the tow n by the Mercers, the leading men o f H untingdon petitioned the C row n for a new charter.52 There is good reason to believe that Crom w ell supported this move. The existing charter dated back to the reign o f Richard III, and it vested pow er in tw o bailiffs and tw enty-four com m on councillors, all elected on an annual basis by the burgesses. N ow , in the words o f the new charter: We at the hum ble petition o f the bailiffs and burgesses o f the borough aforesaid, being willing, for the better governance o f the said Borough, to prevent and rem ove all occasions o f popular tum ult or to reduce the elections and other things and public business o f the said borough into certainty and constant order,

reincorporated the borough with a perm anent body o f aldermen, to serve for life, coopting to vacancies, and a m ayor to serve for a year by seniority am ong the alderm en.53 The disagreements culminating in the hum iliation o f the borough by the Mercers m ust surely have had som ething to do with the ‘popular tum ults’ which were to be avoided in future and the ‘certainty and constant order’ which were being sought. The new charter passed the great seal ju st as the Fishbourne lectureship was finalized. It established a new body o f aldermen, m ost o f w hom were inhabitants o f All Saints parish.54 The m ost

51. A bbott, I, 431-2. C rom w ell speaks o f his friend as having been an under-clerk ‘about sixteen or seventeen years’ (i.e. since 1631), suggesting that he too had left (been driven from?) H untingdon im m ediately after the charter dispute. 52. Carruthers, Huntingdon, pp. 84—7. 53. Ibid., appendix [unpag.]. 54. Based on a study o f the names in the charter and o f the parish registers o f All Saints, St Joh n ’s and St M ary’s in C R O (H unt.).


The Making o f Oliver Cromwell

notable absentees, if we compare the list w ith the rankings in the 1628 subsidy roll, were Thom as Edwards, Oliver Crom w ell and William K ilborne.55 It is true that C rom w ell was one o f five JPs named; but the duties o f a JP in a small borough did not compare w ith those o f a county JP, especially where so much jurisdiction was exercised in the m ayor’s court. Had C rom w ell taken up the position (which he did not) he w ould have had little m ore to do than a parish constable in the countryside. What followed is well known. Crom w ell and William Kilborne became involved in furious verbal arguments w ith some o f the beneficiaries o f the new charter, and uttered w hat their opponents dubbed ‘disgraceful and unseemly speeches’ against the m ayor and the recorder, as a result o f which they were reported to the Privy C ouncil.56 O n 26 N ovem ber 1630, Crom w ell and Kilborne appeared before it, but were remanded in custody for six days. O n 1 December 1630, the whole m atter was handed over to the Lord Privy Seal, none other than the earl o f M anchester.57 O n 6 Decem ber he produced a report that exonerated Barnard and the mayor, praised the new charter as ‘being authorized by the com m on consent o f the to w n ’ and required Crom w ell to make an apology for words ‘spoken in heat and passion’. His report makes plain that C rom w ell was not complaining about the oligarchic nature o f the new charter but about the intentions o f the particular clique who had gained pow er under it. His concern, in M anchester’s words, was first that the m ayor and aldermen m ight now alter the rate o f their cattle in the com mons; secondly that the m ayor and aldermen alone, w ithout the burgesses, m ight dispose o f the inheritances o f their tow n lands; thirdly that it was in the pow er o f the m ayor and aldermen to fine men that m ight be poor £20 for refusing to be aldermen.

Manchester made it clear that ‘these things . . . cannot be warranted by the new charter’, but he got the aldermen to agree to uphold existing rights on the com m ons, to undertake not to alienate tow nlands w ithout the consent o f the burgesses and to limit the fines on the reluctant to 20 m arks.58 This fits in w ith the idea that Crom w ell 55. Kilborne was the other burgess hauled before the Privy C ouncil for attacking the n ew charter (see below ). 56. PR O , SP 16/186/34. 57. A bbott, I, 67-9. 58. PR O , SP 16/186/34 (full transcript in Cal. St. Pap. Dom. 1629-31, pp. x -x i). The extracts in A bbott, I, 69, are distorting and om it im portant matter. Sanford Studies, pp. 233-7, is also m isleading. H is statem ent (p. 233) that the charter dispute follow ed an electoral defeat by C rom w ell is unsupported but has misled others (e.g. H ill, G od’s Englishman, p. 41).


The Nature of the English Revolution

was demoralized by the seizure o f pow er by a clique which he saw as less paternalistic and m ore greedy than he and his friends were. He suspected them - following their failure to shuffle off their responsibility for Beard on to the Mercers - o f trying to turn the assets o f the tow n to their ow n profit. It was a personal attack, not a precocious defence o f democratic principles: and he lost. Barnard showed his gratitude by having his next son baptized (in All Saints church) ‘Manchester B arnard’59 while Crom w ell found his long-term position in his native tow n in ruins - his finances in tatters, his honour severely w ounded, and his future prospects o f office non-existent. W hat may have constituted the dregs o f the bitter cup he had to drink was an affidavit sw orn against him by Thom as Beard. It is to be found in the earl o f M anchester’s papers and it alleged that: O liver C rom w ell esquire and William Kilborne, gent., w ith a free assent and consent did agree to the renewing o f our late charter and that it should be altered from bailiffs to m ayor as they did hope it w ould be for future good and quiet o f the to w n .60

The im plication is that C rom w ell’s opposition to the charter followed his discovery that he was not to be an alderman, that he was a bad loser over a m atter o f personal preferment. The likeliest hypothesis (it is hardly an explanation) o f what had happened was this: that a bitter dispute over the Fishbourne bequest had led to a demand for a more settled charter; that those who had opposed Beard, including Crom well, were ruthlessly om itted from the new, closed oligarchy, and that they responded in a bitter attack on their opponents, Robert Barnard, Thom as Beard, and behind them, the M ontagus. W ithin twelve m onths, C rom w ell had sold up and m oved five miles to St Ives, to begin a new life as a yeoman farmer. V W hy St Ives? Probably because there was a suitable tenancy available, and because it allowed him to keep in touch w ith remaining friends in H untingdon. He retained a nom inal 17 acres o f freehold there; his m other remained behind, and one o f his daughters, Mary, was baptized in St Jo h n ’s parish church in 1636.61 59. C R O (H unt.), m icrofilm roll 171, parish register o f All Saints, baptismal entry for 22 A ugust 1633. 60. C R O (H unt.), M ontagu M SS, D D M 80/1983/1. A bbott, I, 68, is a copy o f an inadequate calendar version. 61. Sanford, Studies, pp. 241-4; C R O (H unt.), St Joh n ’s baptism register, 22 April 1636.


The Making o f Oliver Cromwell

But a further reason for his move to St Ives may have been that an old Cam bridge friend, H enry Downhall, had recently become vicar there. D ownhall presents us with a problem . The earliest extant letter o f C rom w ell’s is an invitation to Downhall, then a Fellow o f St Jo h n ’s College, Cam bridge, to be godfather o f Richard C rom w ell.62 Downhall, however, was even less o f a puritan than Thom as Beard. Although he enjoyed the patronage o f the earl o f Holland and o f Bishop Williams (both anti-Laudians), he voted for Buckingham in the bitter contest over the Chancellorship o f the University in 1625, and he was later a royalist arm y chaplain and was to be dispossessed o f his second parish, Toft, in Cambridgeshire, for hiring a curate who ‘observed ceremonies’. He was also accused o f obstructing the activities at St Ives o f the undoubtedly puritan lecturer, Job T ookey.63 This forces us back to a reconsideration o f C rom w ell’s spiritual conversion. It is generally acknowledged that this w ould have occurred between 1626 and 1636, with a recent preference for a date around 1628-30.64 A letter o f O ctober 1638 to his cousin Mrs St John is im portant testimony: . . . Yet to honour God by declaring w hat He hath done for my soul, in this I am confident, and I will be so. Truly, then, this I find: That he giveth springs in a dry and barren wilderness where no water is. . . . M y soul is w ith the Congregation o f the firstborn, my body rests in hope, and if here I may honour m y God either by doing or by suffering I shall be m ost glad. Truly no creature hath m ore cause to put forth him self in the cause o f his God than I. I have had plentiful wages beforehand, and I am sure I shall never earn the least mite. The Lord accept me in His Son, and give me to walk in the light, as He is the light. . . . You know w hat my manner o f life hath been. O h, I lived in and loved darkness, and hated the light. I was a chief, the chief o f sinners. This is true: I hated godliness, yet God had mercy on me. O the riches o f His mercy! Praise H im for me, pray for me, that he w ho hath begun a good w ork w ould perfect it to the day o f Christ. . . .65

This is generally acknowledged to be a model description o f a Calvinist conversion experience: ‘Once a man grasped the full assurance o f G od’s prom ise to him, he would pour out his heart 62. A bbott, I, 50-1. 63. For D ow n h all, see A .G . M atthew s, Walker Revised (O xford, 1948), p. 79 (though the original edition, viz. J. Walker, The Sufferings o f the Clergy (1714), II, 230, is fuller); T. Baker, History o f S t John's College, Cambridge (Cam bridge, 1869), pp. 199, 498, 487, 625; and C .H . C ooper, Annals o f Cambridge (5 vols. Cam bridge, 1842-53), III, 187. For T o ok ey, see b elow , p. 135. 64. Paul, Lord Protector, pp. 39-42; Fraser, Cromwell: O ur C h ie f o f M en (1973), pp. 36-40. 65. A bbott, I, 96-7.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

in praise and thanksgiving for this unm erited gift; the certainty o f his ow n salvation gave the puritan a trem endous sense o f his unrepay able debt to A lm ighty G od’, as Robert Paul put it.66 The contrast between an awareness o f having been ‘the chief o f sinners’ and a certainty o f salvation despite rather than because o f his nature is puritan hyperbole. It is not testim ony that Crom well was a reform ed libertine and hitherto an ignorant and non-practising Christian: it is testim ony to the shift from formalism and external religion to an inner certainty o f a specific call from God that gave an em pty life meaning and hope. C rom w ell had had that experience by 1638. It was to dominate the rest o f his life. Yet our revision o f D r Beard’s views challenges the assum ption o f a puritan schooling, and his father’s will (which contains no reference at all to his Faith or Hope, and alludes only to ‘m an’s life [being] like a bubble o f w ater’ before setting out the disposal o f his property),67 com bined w ith the anglican-royalism o f his Crom w ell relatives, weakens the case for a puritan childhood still further. It is probable that he had not had that conversion experience in 1626 when he w rote to H enry Downhall asking him to be Richard’s godfather in a letter utterly lacking in the biblical imagery and thankfulness to God that infused almost every letter after 1638.68 The evidence that his ‘conversion experience’ occurred in 1627-9 is not as strong as the evidence that it occurred after 1630. His speech in Parliament in 1629 is explicable as the words o f a pious protestant but o f one not yet assured o f salvation; his probable antipathy to Beard’s candidacy for a Fishbourne lectureship may point to any num ber o f personal grudges rather than to his being m ore precise than his old schoolmaster. The testim ony o f Sir Theodore Mayerne, the prom inent London physician, that he treated C rom w ell for depression (valde melancholicus) at the time o f the 1628/9 parliament, fits well with the idea o f a man on the brink o f a m ajor spiritual and personal crisis.69 Bishop Burnet, a surprisingly reliable source in such matters, reported that he had been told that C rom w ell ‘led a very strict life for about 66. Paul, Lord Protector, p. 37. See also pp. 399-400 w here Paul analyses the biblical references and sh ow s C rom w ell to have been drawing on both the Geneva Bible and the Authorized Version. From 1640 onwards he drew alm ost exclusively on the Authorized Version. Perhaps he was having a flirtation w ith the Geneva Version in the 1630s before reverting to the text he already kn ew w ell. 67. PR O , P R O B 11/130, quire 78, fo 115. 68. Paul, Lord Protector, p. 39. 69. Sir H enry Ellis, Original Letters Illustrative o f English History, 2nd ser. (4 vols. 1827), III, 248.


The Making o f Oliver Cromwell

eight years before the w ars’ (which w ould mean 1631 if Burnet - a Scot - was counting back from the Bishops’ Wars, and 1634 if he was counting back from the outbreak o f civil war in England).70 If this is correct, then the man responsible for his conversion w ould have been either the lecturer at St Ives, Job Tookey, w ho was suspended by Williams in 163571 and whose son was immediately afterwards awarded an exhibition by the Mercers C om pany to complete his studies at Em m anuel College, C am bridge72 (and we shall soon see w hy Crom w ell is likely to have been behind this award) or D r Walter Welles, another preacher w ith w hom C rom w ell had close ties (and, once more, someone we shall shortly meet again). If C rom w ell’s conversion followed rather than preceded the personal crises o f 1630-31, it would not have prevented his being a conform ist Christian or supporter o f social discipline in H untingdon. But it w ould make his outburst against M ayor Walden and Recorder Barnard a cry o f baffled pain rather than the ill-considered haughtiness o f a Zeal-in-the-Laud Busy. VI We know little about C rom w ell in the 1630s. He delayed paym ent o f the fine imposed upon him in 1631 for failing to take up a knighthood on the occasion o f the king’s coronation (a fine levied on all those w ith £40 per annum from freehold land).73 H ow ironic that it should fall upon a man adjusting from gentry to yeom an status! He seems otherwise to have lived in St Ives w ithout incident, paying his ship money, attending to family and business concerns. We get a glimpse o f him from later reminiscence, attending church, generally wearing ‘a piece o f red flannel around his neck as he was subject to inflammation o f the throat’.74 (This story is perhaps confirmed by C rom w ell’s own statement, made in a law suit arising from the adm inistration o f his uncle’s will in 1636 that he was ‘sickly’.75 70. G. Burnet, History o f M y O w n Times (ed. O . Airy, 2 v ols., 1897-1901), I, 121. 71. Cal. Comm. Compg. Delqts., II, 877-8, 1527; J. Hacket, Memoirs o f the Life o f Archbishop Williams (1715), p. 152. 72. Mercers Hall, Acts o f C ourt 1631-37, at the General Court on 10 N o v . 1635. 73. The best account is in Cal. St. Pap. D om., 1629-31, p. xiv. Abbott, I, 71 is misleading in im plying that C rom w ell was the last man in Huntingdonshire to com ply and that ‘his com position [may have been] paid by som eone else’. This has misled others into even m ore extreme statements (e.g. Hill, God's Englishman, p. 43). In fact the com missioners sent dow n to H untingdon sum m oned 35 men before them: 15 appeared, 11 failed to appear, and 8 - C rom w ell probably the last o f them - paid up without appearing (i.e. to avoid having to appear). 74. N ob le, Protector House, I 105n. 75. P R O , C 3/399/163.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

After his uncle’s death, he m oved to Ely, and to the adm inistration o f dean and chapter properties. There too we only have occasional glimpses o f him: a letter to London about a lectureship in 163676; an account o f his activities in relation to Fen drainage in 163777; and the letter to M rs St John in 1638.78 Too much has sometimes been made o f his support for the com m oners in the fens against the consortium o f D utch engineers, noble Adventurers and local gentry who were draining the Fen in a large area including Ely.79 Those involved included at least tw o o f his cousins. (His ow n immediate family had been active supporters o f fen drainage around H untingdon in his boyhood).80 There is not a shred o f evidence that Crom well, then or later, was opposed in principle to the drainage, which w ould result in the creation o f m any thousands o f acres o f rich arable land at a time when m any thousands o f the poor elsewhere in the country could barely survive a poor harvest; but like the uncle from w hom he inherited his Ely property, he was probably worried by the levels o f compensation offered to the com m oners whose livelihoods were threatened by the drainage. In 1653 he is reported to have said: the drainage o f the fens was a good w ork, but that the drainers had too great a proportion o f the land for their hazard and charge, and that the poor were not enough provided fo r.81

There is no reason to doubt that this was his attitude in 1638. His involvem ent is know n from a single, uncorroborated aside in a paper to the privy council that discusses the deploym ent by a local JP o f ‘crowd o f men and w om en armed with scythes and pitchforks’, to oppose one o f the D rainers’ agents w ho had tried to drive the JPs cattle off the fen. The report continues: it was com m only reported . . . that M r C rom w ell o f Ely had undertaken, they [the farmers] paying him a grout for every cow they had upon the com m on, to hold the drainers in suit o f law for five years and that in the meantime, they should enjoy every part o f their com m on.82

There is no supporting evidence that he made the offer, and none that anyone took him up on it. A report that he was also a spokesman 76. 77. 78. 79.

A bbott, I, 80-1. A bbott, I, 102-4. A bbott, I, 96-7. The m ost reliable accounts are in M. W ickes, O liver Cromwell and the Drainage o f the Fens (H untingdon 1981) and K. Lindley, Fenland Riots and the English Revolution (1982), pp. 95-6, 104, 115-9. 80. Sanford, Studies, pp. 253-6. 81. Cited in W ickes, Fens, p. 4. 82. A bbott, I, 103.


The Making o f Oliver Cromwell

for com m oners at a meeting with Drainers at H untingdon comes only from a totally unreliable source.83 His prom pt action in parliament in 1641 to secure a C om m ons’ com m ittee investigation o f a riot at Somersham and his rough handling o f M ontagu witnesses at the com m ittee was probably intended not to halt the drainage but to balance a one-sided report by the earl o f M anchester’s friends to a Lords’ committee. It may even have been a settling o f the old score from 1630.84 It was a sneer in the royalist press in 1643 that first gave him the title ‘Lord o f the Fens’ (= a nobody).85 As in the case o f the H untingdon Charter, the claim that the fen disputes show Crom w ell to be a precocious upholder o f popular rights does not really stand up. But - by the late 1630s - he was a precocious puritan. VII In 1636, C rom w ell w rote a letter to his ‘very good friend M r Storie, at the sign o f the Dog in the Royal Exchange’. In it, he w rote that: A m ong the catalogue o f those good w orks w hich your fellow citizens and our countrym en have done, this will not be reckoned for the least that they have provided for the feeding o f souls. . . . Such a w ork as this was your erecting the lecture in our country; in which you placed D r Welles, a man for goodness and industry, and ability to do good every way, not short o f any I know in England; and I am persuaded that sithcnce his coming, the Lord hath by him w rought much good am ongst us . . . surely, M r Storie, it were a piteous thing to see a lecture fall [when it is] in the hands o f so many able and godly men as I am persuaded the founders o f this are, in these times, wherein we see they are suppressed w ith too much haste and violence by the enemies o f God His truth. . . .86 You know , M r Storie, to w ithdraw the pay is to let fall the lecture; for w ho gocth to warfare at his ow n cost? I beseech you therefore in the bowels o f Christ Jesus, put it forw ard, and let the good man have his pays.87

Who is D r Welles and where was his lecture? He has been regularly and w rongly identified as D r Samuel Wells, later an army chaplain.88 83. D ugdalc, Short View, p. 460. 84. A bbott, 1, 130-2, is superseded by Lindley, Fenland Riots, pp. 115-19. 85. Ibid., p. 96; Fraser, C h ie f o f M en, p. 56; The title was bestow ed in the royalist newspaper Mercurius Aulicus in N ovem b er 1643. 86. This m ay w ell be a reference to W illiam s’s suppression, just three m onths earlier, o f jo b T o o k e y ’s lectureship at St Ives, and to the constant threat to the Fishbourne lecture in H untingdon (see b elow , pp. 139-41). 87. A bbott, 1, 80. 88. As by those w h o follow A bbott, 1, 8 In. A check o f the m ost elem entary sources w ou ld have sh ow n that this could not be so. Samuel W elles was baptized in 1614 and was still at university w ithou t an M A , let alone a doctorate, in 1636.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

It is widely and w rongly assumed that he was a lecture in H untingdon. In fact, he was almost certainly D r Walter Welles, lecturer in Godmanchester, just half a mile from H untington. We know next to nothing about the lecture itself and little m ore about Walter Welles beyond w hat he tells us about him self in a flurry o f letters dated from Godm anchester in 1630-31.89 In one o f these letters, Welles reveals that he studied in Leiden, and internal evidence dates his presence there to the early years o f the seventeenth century. (Certainly he does not seem ever to have studied in O xford or C am bridge.)90 We have no idea when he arrived in Godmanchester, other than he was lecturing in the tow n twice a week no later than 1630, and it seems that he was still there in June 1635, when he appears as a witness on the will o f a Godm anchester gentlem an.91 The letters he w rote in 1630-31 are to tw o interesting people: Samuel Hartlib and John D u ry .92 Hartlib was a Polish emigre who arrived in England in 1628 to set up an experimental school in Chichester based on Baconian principles, and w ho spent the next thirty years ‘in relieving his fellow refugees, encouraging lay piety, and in disseminating useful inform ation interfused w ith messianic speculations’.93 John D ury was the son o f a Scots emigre m inister in the Netherlands (and a friend of Welles in his ow n right) who was involved in the 1620s and 1630s in a plan for pan-protestant reunion. In that connection, Hartlib arranged for him to come to England. Welles’ letters show him to be close enough to the heart o f this reform ing group to be able to write a letter

89. G .H . Turnbull, Hartlib, D ury and Comenius (Liverpool, 1947), pp. 16-19, 67, 127, 134-40. I am grateful to D r Mark Greengrass and to the Hartlib Papers Project at the U n iversity o f Sheffield for a p h otocop y and transcript o f the m ost important o f these letters, to Hartlib, and dated 13 Sept. 1630. (Sheffield U n iv. Lib., Hartlib papers 3 3 /3 /1 -2 .) 90. N o W elles (or Wells or Weld) w ith a doctorate w h o looks plausible can be found in J. and S.A . V enn (eds.), A lum ni Cantabriensis (4 vols. Cam bridge, 1922-7) or J. Foster (ed.), A lum ni Oxoniensis (4 vols., O xford, 1891-92). Christopher Wells, vicar o f Water Eaton in the north o f H untingdonshire, is styled ‘Sacrae T h eologiae P rofessor’ (i.e. doctor o f divinity) in his letter o f presentation in 1629 (LAO , P D /1629/51), but he has no other link to C rom w ell or the Mercers. 91. P R O , P R O B 11/168 fo. 380. O ne further puzzle is that the Godm anchester subsidy roll for 1628/9 includes ‘Job T ook ey, clericus’ (PR O , E179/122/216). We k n ow that the vicar o f G odm anchester was John W ybarne ( V .C .H . H unts., II, 296; N o b le, ‘Incum bents’, p. 100). The likely explanation is that T o o k ey ow ned freehold land in G odm anchester although his lecture was clearly in St Ives. 92. H .R . Trevor-R oper, ‘Three Foreigners: the Philosophers o f the Puritan R evolu tion ’, in Religion, the Reformation and Social Change (1967); Turnbull, Hartlib, D ury and Comenius. 93. Trevor-R oper, ‘Three Foreigners’, pp. 249-50. Cf. G .H . Turnbull, Samuel Hartlib (O xford, 1920), pp. 16-18.


The M aking o f Oliver Cromwell

to Hartlib critical o f some aspects o f D u ry ’s scheme, and able to ask for a copy o f the m anuscript o f his com m entary on St Paul’s epistle to the Colossians.94 Welles’ close involvem ent with the Hartlib circle is also indicated by his reference to several well-wishers am ong the east midlands gentry, his apparent close links w ith the firmly Calvinist James Ussher, archbishop o f A rm agh,95 and his prom ise to discuss D u ry ’s scheme with Bishop Williams, ‘a very wise gentleman and very able to prom ote this cause . . . he favours all good businesses; but how far to trust him, I know n o t.’96 Williams’ penchant for radical chic and for treachery was never better expressed. In the 1630s, both Hartlib and D ury caught the im agination o f some o f the most prom inent anti-Laudian peers and gentry - prom inent am ong them the earls o f W arwick and Bedford and their clients and colleagues Oliver St John and John P ym .97 We do not know w hether C rom w ell’s links w ith Welles preceded or followed his departure for St Ives. N or do we know on behalf o f w hom he is writing. We can be fairly sure that ‘M r Storie’ is George Storie, a M ercer w ith strong N ew England ties.98 In a postscript, C rom w ell asks to be rem em bered to ‘M r Basse, M r Bradley and m y other good friends’.99 M r Bradley cannot be identified, but M r Basse is almost certainly the M ercer sent as one o f the com pany’s representatives to attend Charles I over the nom ination o f Beard to the Fishbourne lectureship.100 It seems likely that the Godm anchester lecture was tied up in some way to the Fishbourne lecture. There was a separate Fishbourne charity in Godm anchester - ten shillings a year to support four poor widows - and the revenue for this bequest came from a piece o f land in the neighbouring parish o f H artford, o f which C rom w ell was lay im propriator.101

94. Turnbull, Hartlib, D ury and Comenius, p. 230. 95. Sheffield U n iv. Lib., Hartlib M S 3 3 /3 /lb -2 a . 96. Turnbull, Hartlib, D ury and Comenius, p. 236. For W elles’ inclusion in a list o f petitioners on behalf o f D ury w hich reads like a roll-call o f 1630s puritanism, see BL Sloane, M S 1465, fo. 2. 97. T revor-R oper, ‘Three Foreigners’, pp. 256, 258. The links are strongest w ith the W arwick circle. See also BL Addit. M S 4276, fos. 176. 98. J.K. H osm er (ed.), W inthrop’s Journal (2 v o ls., N e w York, 1908, I, 64); Records o f the Court o f Assistants o f Massachusetts Bay, 1630-92 (1904), II, 117-19. 99. A bbott, I, 81. 100. Merccrs Hall, Acts o f Court 1625-31, fo. 275; J.R. W oodhead, The Rulers o f London (1965), p. 25 and P R O , E 179/251/22, E 179/272/36, sh ow him to be a liverym an in the com pany living in Cheapside. 101. V. C . H , H unts., Ill, 296.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

There are other elusive links. Thom as Edwards referred to the Godm anchester lecture when he opposed Beard’s appointm ent.102 Perhaps the Godm anchester lecture was a by-product o f Beard’s unpopularity w ith some in the 1620s (Welles and Beard lectured on the same days and at the same times). M ore likely, individual Mercers undertook to support Welles after the threat to silence the pulpits in H untingdon. W ith the death o f Beard, the All Saints lecture appears to have lapsed. That left the Fishbourne lecture on Saturday m ornings and Sunday afternoons. The first lecturer, Robert Procter, died or left after only a few m onths and was replaced by Dionice Squire, o f w hom little is know n other than that he was lecturer at St Leonard’s, Shoreditch, in the 1620s and was left £30 in Fishbourne’s w ill.103 This appointm ent alarmed both Williams and Laud: the Mercers had set up the lecture ‘w ith a proviso . . . that upon any dislike they have o f him, he shall at a m onth or a fortnight’s warning, give over the place, w ithout any relation to bishop or archbishop’. Laud consulted the king w ho ordered the lectureship suppressed: ‘for I w ould have no priest have any necessity o f a lay dependency’. 104 Williams assured Laud that the lectureship would be suppressed until the Mercers agreed both that the bishop should approve their nom inee and that the bishop alone could silence the man appointed.105 It has always been assumed that the lecture was thereupon suppressed; but it was not so. Squire died w ithin weeks o f Williams’ letter to Laud, and yet the com pany proceeded to a new and particularly controversial appointm ent, John P oynter.106 He had been in trouble w ith High Com m ission for holding a lectureship while unlicensed in London (he was discovered soon after Laud arrived in that diocese) and he had recently been a lecturer in W arwickshire in the midst o f a particularly godly circle.107 Despite this, and despite holding a lectureship w ithout holding a living - in direct contravention o f the instructions regarding lecturers issued in 1633108 - he remained in post until after Williams 102. 103. 104. 105. 106.

M ercers Hall, Acts o f Court 1625-31, fo. 248r. P R O , P R O B 11/145, fo. 464. L aud’s Works, V. 321. Ibid., VI, 348-52. H is selection (on 12 A ugust 1634) is discussed in Mercers Hall, Acts o f C ourt 1631-37, fo. 13lr. D uring the interval, the com pany paid for seven short-listed lecturers to preach to them (Mercers Hall, Fishbourne Bequest, M onies Received and Paid, 1627-56, fo. 34r). 107. P. Seaver, The Puritan Lectureships (Stanford, 1970), pp. 176, 179, 246-7; Calamy Revised, pp. 397-8; A. H ughes, Politics, Society and C ivil War in Warwickshire, 1620-1660 (Cam bridge, 1987), p. 73. 108. E. Cardwell, Documentary A nnals o f the Reformed Church o f England (2 vols., O xford, 1839), II, 178.


The Making o f Oliver Cromwell

him self had been sequestered from his bishopric and locked in the Tow er in 1638.109 O nly then was the Fishbourne lecture suspended. C rom w ell’s continuing connection both with H untingdon and with the Mercers is confirmed by a cryptic entry in the M ercers’ register110 for early 1640 recording a visit by C rom w ell and William Spurstowe (one o f those the com pany sent to the king to lobby against Beard in 1630, and one w ith decidedly puritan leanings).111 The visit was expressly to help to get Poynter reinstated. It seems im probable that it was purely coincidental that some Mercers were privately funding the Godm anchester lectureship when the public lecture at St M ary’s was threatened with suspension; and that C rom w ell’s name crops up so frequently in connection w ith the company. But the evidence gives out on us. Too m any pieces o f the jigsaw are missing for its overall shape to be determined. C ro m w ell’s friends am ong the M ercers had connections into the circle o f alienated m agnates around the earls o f B edford and W arw ick and V iscount Saye and Sele w ho were prom inent in obstructing the Personal Rule in C hurch and State, w ho were active in puritan colonial ventures, and w ho w ere planning to bring C harles’s governm ent under strict aristocratic control if and w hen the o p portunity provided itself.112 C ro m w ell’s ow n links look strongest w ith W arwick, w hose pow er-base lay in Essex. The B arringtons (close political allies) and the B ourchiers (O liver’s in-laws and tenants o f a W arwick manor) were at the heart o f that circle, and C rom w ell hinted to M rs St John that family patronage had procured places for his sons at Felsted School (with its strong W arwick connections - W arw ick’s close personal interest in the school and other hints in Felsted sources strengthen the connection).113 There are also links between Crom w ell and 109. The suspensions seem s to have lasted for six m onths in 1638 and for a further eighteen m onths from M ichaelm as 1639 to early 1641 (PRO , SP 16/390/25 and 25.1: SP 16/540/403); and Mercers Hall, Fishbourne A ccounts 1627-56, passim. 110. Mercers Hall, Acts o f Court, 1637-41, fo. 203r-v. 111. M .F. Keeler, The Long Parliament (Philadelphia, 1955), pp. 346-7. Spurstow e was clearly linked to the parish o f St Stephen’s, C olem an Street and to its god ly m inisters John D avenport and John G ood w in . H e was a major investor in the M assachusscts Bay C om pany (V. Pearl, London and the Outbreak o f the Puritan Revolution [O xford, 1964], pp. 75, 169, 194n). 112. For a major reassessm ent o f this question see, J.S .A . A dam son, ‘The Baronial C on text o f the English C ivil W ar’, T R H S , 5th ser., XL (1990), 93-120. 113. Craze, Felsted, pp. 27, 50-64. Sons o f tenants w ere given priority at the school under the deed o f foundation. It seem s plausible that this w ou ld be extended to the sons o f daughters o f tenants; the hint in A bbott, I, 97, seem s to be to M asham influence.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

Viscount Saye and Sele via the schoolmaster o f Felsted, M artin Holbeach, and via the St Jo h n s.114 As John Adamson has show n,115 that is the group w ith w hom he was to closely associate from 1642 onw ards. He m ay have been com pletely on the fringes, an obscure cousin o f som e close friends o f great men. B ut, piling speculation on speculation, w hat has survived m ay ju st be the fragm entary rem ains o f a m ore central role w ithin one or both circles. For we have yet to confront the greatest o f all puzzles o f his early life: his return to parliam ent as burgess for the city o f C am bridge in the elections o f 1640. VIII Ever since 1558 (and probably from much earlier) only tw o types o f men were returned as burgesses for Cambridge: the m ajority were senior m embers o f the corporation, including recorders; a m inority were nominees o f successive High Stewards o f the tow n, invariably the Lord Chancellor or Lord K eeper.116 In the 1620s, for example, Lord Keepers Bacon and C oventry had nom inated the clerk o f the Privy Council, Thom as Meautys (and in 1626 C oventry had also secured the second seat for his secretary). M ore often than not the recorder held the other seat.117 C rom w ell’s return to both parliaments in 1640 - in the spring as an apparently uncontested partner for M eautys, in the autum n in a contest in which he and a puritan councilman, John Lowry, defeated the Lord Keeper’s brother as well as M eautys - is thus very surprising. N o evidence throw ing light on this contest appears to survive in the local records.118 We know that he was made a freeman o f the borough on 7 January 1640119 (after the election was called and before the writs arrived). But it is surely too glib to say, as W .C. A bbott did, that: He was now forty years olu, at the height o f his vigour and capacity, hardened by active outdoor life, a man o f substance and position, well114. Ibid.; H olbeach’s fam ily came from Saye manors near Banbury. 115. J. A dam son, ‘O liver C rom w ell and the Long Parliam ent’, in J. M orrill (ed.), O liver Cromwell and the English Revolution (London, 1990), pp. 55, 65. 116. P. Hasler (ed.), History o f Parliament: the House o f Commons 1558-1603 (3 vols., 1981), I, 121; V .C .H ., Cambs., Ill, 68-76. 117. Ibid.; J.K . Gruenfelder, Influence in early Stuart Elections 1603-1640 (C olum bus, O h io, 1981), pp. 5, 23n. 118. The story told by Heath, Flagellum, pp. 81-2, was discredited by C ooper, Annals o f Cambridge, III, 296-304. A b b ott’s assertion (I, 109) that the election was ‘hard fought and bitter’ is pure fabrication. 119. Sanford, Studies, p. 267.


The M aking o f Oliver Cromwell know n in the com m unity, w ith wide relationships through his family, business and church associates. He had much experience as a landowner and grazier, as a burgess o f H untingdon and a m em ber o f parliament, as a lessee o f cathedral lands and in the fen dispute. He had developed his talents as a speaker . . . to this he joined a sense o f leadership, deep sym pathy w ith those w ho seemed to him oppressed, and confidence in his cause and him self.120

In fact he was an estate manager only recently recovered from a spell as a yeoman, with a troubled medical record and less credentials for eloquence and as an upholder o f the oppressed than this assumes. He had neither the substance, nor the record o f achievement, to be able to stand on his ow n account for parliament. It is hard to think o f any other M P with an income as low as £300 who was not either a councilman serving for his ow n borough or a client im posed on a borough by a noble patron. The absence o f any letters (other than those o f Lord Keeper Finch) in the borough records makes it seem unlikely that he was nom inated by a peer.121 In any case the city would probably have resisted direct attem pts by ‘strangers’ to interfere. It may just be the case that it was not the patronage brought to bear on his behalf, but the patronage that his return w ould bring to the tow n that explains his election. Cam bridge had many grievances, especially against the university (for tuning its pulpits, for example). It m ight hope that these grievances could be addressed in parliament. If so, it would be faced by the opposition o f the Chancellor o f the University, the earl o f Holland, no friend to the Laudians, but a courtier and a man jealous o f the privileges o f the university. If C rom w ell was perceived as a man who could pull strings with H olland’s elder brother, the earl o f W arwick, his return becomes m ore explicable. There is one shred o f evidence which, if it is reliable, gets us beyond the circumstantial into a definite connection. But it is from an unsatisfactory source, a day book compiled in the 1690s.122 The author, a dissenter broadly sympathetic to the m em ory o f the parliamentarian cause, recorded the following story, which he may have heard from Oliver St John in his old age:123 . . . the true cause o f the calling the Long Parliament thus: at the dissolution o f the form er short parliament the members both Lords 120. A bbott, 1, 109-10. 121. C ooper, Annals, III, 296-9, 303-4. 122. BL, Addit. MS 4460, fo. 74v. The catalogue describes this as ‘extracts from the day books o f D r H enry Sampson, 1693-8’, and gives Sam pson’s im m ediate inform ant as the nonconform ist m inister John H ow e. 123. B etw een this and the follow in g (connected) entry about the A ttem pt on the Five M em bers, Sam pson records: ‘this from m y Lord C h ief Justice St Joh n ’s ow n m ou th ’.


The Nature o f the English Revolution and C om m ons had a great opinion that the king’s affairs ere long w ould necessitate him to call them together again, therefore such as resided about London met together frequently and gave intelligence by M r Samuel H artlib and M r Frost to those in the country o f affairs. Ere long, they gave a m ore general sum m ons to come all up, w ho not only came themselves but brought up also such country gentlem en as they could confide in, am ongst the rest M r O liver St John brought w ith him M r O liver Crom w ell, the first public meeting this gentlem en ever appeared at. They agreed to send dow n a petition to the King at Y ork, subscribed by tw enty Lords and above 40 C om m ons to pray him to call a parliament, that 2 Lords and 4 C om m ons o f their num ber should carry it dow n, the Lords pitched upon the earl o f Essex and Lord H ow ard o f Escrick, the names o f the C om m ons I have forgotten but Crom w ell I am sure was the last & Essex plainly refused to go.

The late dating and the uncertain source make this highly suspect. Yet some o f the detail - such as the references to Hartlib and Gualter Frost, and the unexpected prom inence accorded to H ow ard o f Escrick - gives it plausibility. The background to the petition o f the twelve peers and the secret meetings that preceded the petition (in which both W arwick and Saye took leading roles) was not widely reported in the late seventeenth century. It is a tantalizing source, but can only be offered here as a spur to further thought and research: a suggestion and no more. IX This thesis about C rom w ell’s links w ith the leading oppositionists in the late 1630s can be taken forw ard by looking at his actions and contacts in the first tw o years o f the Long Parliament. In fact, the evidence points tw o ways. John Adamson argues that ‘there is little evidence that Crom w ell was an effective collaborator, much less a client, o f any m ajor figure in either house’, and he portrays him as a loner, a man w ho met w ith little success in his gauche interventions into the high politics o f 1641. Such an interpretation clearly carries much w eight.124 But it is possible to put a rather different gloss upon his evidence, one which fully acknowledges C rom w ell’s incompetence while still seeing him as jobbing for a powerful faction. Crom w ell was immediately visible and at the heart o f controversy in the Long Parliament. In its first week he presented John Lilburne’s petition for a review o f Lilburne’s conviction and sentence for printing and distributing unlicensed (puritan) pamphlets; he was added to the powerful com m ittee - including Pym , Ham pden, Holies and St John 124. See Adam son, ‘O liver C ro m w ell’, pp. 51-2.


The Making o f Oliver Cromwell - already investigating the case o f the first o f the ‘puritan’ m artyrs o f

Star Cham ber, Robert Leighton; and to a series o f other committees investigating ecclesiastical tyranny and innovation.125 In all he sat on eighteen committees in the first session o f the Long Parliam ent.126 H ow did this come about? W hy should Lilburne entrust a man who had hardly ever spoken before with his petition unless he was seen as someone w ith powerful friends? Was the case o f so controversial a firebrand deliberately handed by someone o f im portance to someone not too closely identified with him? We should rem em ber that Lilburne was flogged and incarcerated for helping to prom ote John Bastwicke’s Letany and that Bastwicke’s petition to both the Short and Long Parliaments was introduced by P y m .127 Bastwicke may also have been at the centre o f the struggle for pow er at Colchester between the factions o f the earl o f W arwick and Sir John Lucas.128 Was it C rom w ell’s ow n idea to move the second reading o f the annual parliaments bill (which became the Triennial Act)?129 It also seems unlikely that a loner and a wholly unreliable m em ber would be found so prom inently involved in the bill for the abolition o f episcopacy root and branch in May 1641 (he and Sir H enry Vane - another Massachusetts link and a man very close to oppositionist leaders handed a draft to Sir A rthur Haselrig who briefed Sir Edw ard Dering w ho actually introduced it).130 It was Crom w ell w ho flew kites that the earl o f Essex be appointed as Lord General by ordinance in August 1641 and O ctober 1641 (though w ithout getting anywhere), but whose return to the subject o f parliamentary control o f the militia in January 1641 led to the setting up o f the com m ittee that produced the Militia O rdinance.131 Certainly many o f his speeches were counter125. W. N otestein (ed.), The Journal o f Sir Simonds D ’Ewes from the beginning o f the Long Parliament to the opening o f the trial o f the Earl o f Strafford (N e w H aven, 1923), p. 19; CJ, II, 24, 44, 52, 54, 56. It should be added that the cases o f the puritan victim s o f the Star Cham ber w ere soon forgotten or laid on one side. 126. Firth, Cromwell, pp. 48-9. 127. J. M altby (ed.), The Short Parliament Diary o f Sir Thomas Aston, C am den Society, 4th ser., X X X V (1988), 109; N otestein , D E w e s , p. 4. For B astw icke’s close ties w ith Lilburne, see F. C ondick, ‘The Life and W orks o f Dr John B astw icke’, U n iv. o f London PhD thesis (1984), pp. 90-4, 147. 128. Ibid., pp. 57-60, 317-26. For B astw icke’s links w ith D ury (from his days in Leiden), and Hartlib, ibid., p. 40. 129. N otestein , D E w e s , p. 196. It had been introduced six days earlier by W illiam Strode (ibid., p. 188n). 130. Sir Edward D ering, A Collection o f Speeches (1642), p. 62; A bbott, I, 128-9. 131. W .H . Coates (ed.), The Journal o f Sir Simonds D E w e s from the first recess o f the Long Parliament to the withdrawal o f King Charles from London (N ew Haven, 1942), p. 145; W .H . Coates, (eds.), A .S. Y ou n g and V. F. S n ow (eds.), The Private Journals o f the Long Parliament, 3 January to 5 March 1642 (N ew H aven, 1982), pp. 67, 551-5. LJ, IV ,‘625-7.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

productive. His contem ptuous com m ents on episcopacy in February 1641 almost led to him being called to the Bar o f the House - a kind o f parliamentary excomm unication, as D ’Ewes saw it, usually reserved for those w ho challenged the rights o f the Houses to act ultra vires.132 His intem perate outbursts against the M ontagus’ witnesses in the Fenland disputes’ com m ittee also almost led to his getting into trouble.133 He had all the appearance o f an unguided missile not really under ground control. Such a missile could be useful when ideas were to be floated: a kind o f parliamentary forlorn hope. He was a man who could be trusted not to waiver on committees concerned with the destruction o f Laudianism and on other issues on which the House o f C om m ons was not divided. But, as his intem peracy in the February debates on root and branch reform made clear, he was not to be trusted when tact, sensitivity and gradualism were required. Thus on issues essential to the reform ers’ progress but likely to be deeply divisive, he kept (was kept?) silent. He did not speak in the debates on Strafford, on the Grand Remonstrance, on the Militia Ordinance (once it was up and running), on the Nineteen Propositions. X By the spring o f 1642, C rom w ell was one o f those ‘violent spirits’ given to ‘agitation’ and ‘asperity’ who so alarmed the conservative, respectable puritan-parliam entarianism o f Sir Simonds D ’E w es.134 There was a notable increase in his prom inence.135 As the country slid into civil war, he was one o f those who grasped nettles, took the initiative, as Austin W oolrych shows in his account o f how Crom w ell energized the militias o f his hom e counties. The years o f doubt and depression, im potent impulsiveness and provincial obscurity, lay behind him. In 1642 Crom w ell was no republican, and probably not a religious libertarian. He w ould still have believed that an authoritarian national C hurch could be created, answerable to G od’s will. He could still look to the Scots as exemplars. The war was to change all that. But while other godly men who w ent to war to reform the Reform ation fell away in despair as puritanism disintegrated and as parliamentary tyranny came to replace royal tyranny, C rom w ell

132. N otestein , D ’Ewes, pp. 339-41. 133. A bbott, I, 130-2; Edward H yde, The Life o f Edward, Earl o f Clarendon (3 vols., O xford, 1761), I, 78. 134. V. S n ow and A .S. Y ou n g (eds.), The Private Journals o f the Long Parliament, 1 March 1642-1 June 1642 (N e w H aven, 1987), p. xxiii. 135. Ibid., p. xviii.


The Making o f Oliver Cromwell

became ever clearer as to his task. If God willed the destruction, the overturning o f all the landmarks o f C hurch and State, then his trust would not be shaken. He had told M rs St John that: I live in Mesheck (which they say signifies prolonging ); in Kedar, which signifieth blackness: yet the Lord forsaketh me not. T hough He do prolong yet He will (I trust) bring me to his tabernacle, to His resting place. M y soul is w ith the congregation o f the firstborn, body rests in hope . . . 136

If the speculations in this chapter are at all reliable, Crom w ell w ent through a dark night o f the soul in the years 1629-31: he was stripped o f all the pretensions and all the com forts o f rank, honour and standing. Yet God had then shown him the purpose o f that suffering, had taught him to trust Him . In a sense, what Crom w ell had gone through in those vital years was w hat England was to go through in the years around 1649. Then, too, there was a descent into a national hell as old certainties collapsed and structures crumbled. C rom w ell’s view o f G od’s plan for England was to remain malleable and ever-changing. But his knowledge that God had a plan for England and that he was part o f that plan sustained him through war in three kingdom s and through a political career that brought him via regicide to the very edge o f the throne itself. The personal faith o f the man who was to be Lord Protector o f England, Scotland and Ireland had been forged in the crucible o f a deep personal crisis that is almost but not completely lost to us. The records o f his m aking tell us little: but they tell us enough.

136. A bbott, I, 96-7. The reference to M esheck and Kedar is to Psalm 120 v. 5 (biblical wildernesses) and to ‘the congregation o f the firstborn’ is to H ebrew s 12 v. 23 (in the Geneva translation) and means the elect o f Christ.


The Church in England 1 6 4 2 -1 6 4 9

I In religion, as in politics, the Parliamentarians knew what they would not have, but not what they would have.1 In 1640 there was a broad consensus that the Laudian experim ent had to be halted and reversed, but no agreement w hether to attem pt to restore ‘the pure religion o f Elizabeth and Jam es’ or to make a fresh start. By 1642 m ost o f those who joined the king were com m itted to the former, m ost o f those w ho stayed at W estminster to the latter. From 1642 to 1646 the House maintained an uneasy unity. The great m ajority were com m itted to the replacement o f the Anglican2 C hurch by a new form o f national C hurch and were com m itted to the principle o f uniform ity within that new Church. There were few MPs willing to concede any toleration outside the new C hurch to the tiny minorities o f separatists or sectaries. Their uneasy unity was shattered in the course o f 1646-7 1. M uch o f the expense incurred in researching this paper was m et by a generous grant from the Archbishop Cranmer Fund o f the U n iversity o f Cam bridge, w hich I gratefully acknow ledge. Earlier versions o f the essay were read at seminars in Cam bridge (at Peterhouse H istory Society and at Professor Christopher B rook e’s ecclesiastical history seminar), in (O xford at the Stubbs Society), and in Bristol (at the A cton Society). I am grateful to the contributors to the discussion on all those occasions for their helpful com m ents. The final draft was read by A n thon y Fletcher, Chris H aigh, Patrick H iggin s and Blair W orden and gained enorm ously in content and presentation thereby. Several m em bers o f m y ow n graduate seminar have generously provided m e w ith references: Patrick H iggins, Judith M altby, John T w ig g , T im Wales and especially Paul G ladwish. 2. The w ord ‘A nglican’ is used throughout to mean conform ity to the canons and constitutions o f the Church o f England as they had developed since 1559. It was used in this sense by contem poraries - for exam ple, Charles I, in a proclam ation o f 14 M ay 1644, undertook to defend ‘this m ost h oly religion o f the Anglican C hurch’. See D . N eal, History o f the Puritans (1822), III, 77.


The Church in England 1642-9

by the debates which settled the new national Church. While the great m ajority wanted a national Church, a considerable num ber disliked the one proposed by the W estm inster Assembly and w ould have preferred a settlement which gave m ore autonom y at parish level, or m ore power to the laity. This m inority had to decide w hether to accept defeat and subm it themselves to the Presbyterian scheme, or to demand a right to opt out. By taking the latter course this large m inority made the cause o f toleration far more general and powerful than it had been before it changed the course o f English politics.3 These developments have been much studied, and they are very im portant. But there is another side to the ecclesiastical history o f the 1640s - the com m itm ent by the m ajority in Parliament to eradicate Anglican worship and observance. The will o f Parliament was clear and unam biguous; but the program m e was a miserable failure. W ithin the limited space available here, it is not possible to examine the complex problem o f how far the aspirations o f the puritans in Parliament in the 1640s represented the articulation o f a program m e long cherished by puritans among the gentry, urban oligarchs, the clergy. In order to impose limits to the discussion, the principal aim here will be to examine the effectiveness o f a num ber o f specific objectives laid dow n by ordinance between 1643 and 1649: the suppression o f the Book o f C om m on Prayer and its replacement by the Directory o f Public Worship; the suppression o f the old Christian festivals, particularly Christmas, Easter and Rogationtide; the substitution o f one pattern o f admission to holy com m union by another; the removal or destruction o f idolatrous and superstitious objects and images from the churches. It is the argum ent o f the essay that all these ordinances were not only largely ignored but actively resisted; that despite the provision o f penalties for non-observance, local committees and others charged w ith the enforcement found themselves unable or unwilling to carry out their duties. O ne is reminded o f the inability o f bishops, archdeacons and ecclesiastical courts in general to eradicate puritanism in the half century before 1640. The tables were turned w ith a vengeance: puritan non-conform ity under Anglican harassment gave way to Anglican non-conform ity under the puritan yoke. The subject is an im portant one, yet historians have been so dazzled by the emergence o f the radical sects (although it seems probable that at no point in the 3. For this paragraph, above all W. A. Shaw, The History o f the English Church during the C ivil War and under the Commonwealth (1900), I, 1-384; see also, A. Fletcher, The Outbreak o f the English C ivil War (1981), passim, and W. A bbot, ‘The Issue o f Episcopacy and the Long Parliam ent’ unpublished D . Phil thesis, O xford (1981).


The Nature o f the English Revolution

critical period 1643-54 did m ore than five per cent attend religious assemblies other than those associated w ith their parish churches)4 that they have failed to recognize that the greatest challenge to the respectable puritanism o f the parliamentarian m ajority came from the passive strength o f Anglican survivalism. If the essay ignores the radicals, it is not because they are unim portant, but because the balance needs to be redressed. This im balance results from the nature o f the evidence: the Anglicans did not publicize their defiance - there are no tracts draw ing attention to their activities; those clergy w ho m aintained the old services and practices did not keep diaries or w rite autobiographies; puritan non-conform ity before 1640 is recorded in the volum inous church court records while the com parable records o f the 1640s, the county com m ittee papers, do not survive. C o n versely the basic sources upon w hich this paper is based have never been properly studied: church court records tell us about those w ho w ere disobedient, churchw ardens’ accounts tell us - very boringly in the m ain - about ordinary daily parish business and obedience. These accounts are scattered and it is only in recent years that they have been transferred in any num ber from vestry safes and cupboards to county record offices. C hurchw ardens’ accounts have been used by historians o f particular parishes, but not by historians o f counties or dioceses, let alone historians o f England. Study o f them show s, how ever, that by 1640 m ost English parishes carried out the duties prescribed by law and by the Prayer Book conscientiously and often enthusiastically. The rhythm s o f the Anglican Year (itself deriving from m ore ancient custom ), and the regular adm inistration o f the sacraments, were carefully observed, church ornam ents and images cherished. These same accounts even less used by historians o f the 1640s and 1650s - will show the ineffectiveness o f parliam entary decrees in very different regions. Thus this essay rests upon the hypothesis that religious com m itm ent is best observed in conditions o f persecution. It is surely insufficient to portray the m ajority o f Elizabethan and early Stuart Englishmen as wishy-washy, indolent, pale creatures besides the thrusting, vigorous puritans and the dogged, ostracized popish recusants. If three generations o f Anglican practice meant anything to them, then the events o f the 1640s w ould test their mettle. The

4. This is a com p lex and controversial point w hich I intend to argue elsewhere. The figure m ay w ell be too lo w once the Quakers em erged in the m id-1650s.


The Church in England 1642-9

essay also grew out o f the puzzle that if Anglicanism collapsed so utterly in the 1640s and 1650s, how was it that it emerged so quickly, confidently and joyfully in m ost parishes in 1660-2? What becomes apparent to anyone who wades through surviving churchwardens’ accounts all over the country for the Civil War and for the Restoration years was the spontaneity o f the response in 1660 compared with the reluctant and partial acceptance o f change in the 1640s. The strength of the Anglican reaction o f 1660 lay not exclusively, or even principally, in the response o f a gentry who craved the return o f a hierarchical C hurch which w ould shore up a hierarchical governm ent and society, but in the popularity o f traditional religious forms at all levels o f society. What follows is a five-part discussion o f religious policy for and practice in the parishes in the 1640s. We will look first at the way Parliament attem pted to dismantle the old Church; secondly, at the aborted Presbyterianism designed to take its place; thirdly, at the failure o f king and bishops to give a lead to their flock; fourthly, at the background and experience o f the parish clergy; and finally at the evidence for Anglican revival and resurgence in these unprom ising conditions. II

The old C hurch was dismantled piecemeal between 1641 and 1646. Laudian innovations in doctrine, governm ent, discipline and liturgy were overthrow n, and ecclesiastical jurisdiction was emasculated by the Acts abolishing the C ourt o f High C om m ission and barring those in holy orders from holding secular offices. Recent innovations in church furnishing (most notably the railing o f the altars in the east end) were ordered to be reversed. The Houses assumed wide-ranging powers to suspend ministers certified to them as scandalous in life or doctrine, and they deliberated over several schemes for the further reform o f C hurch governm ent and discipline.5 N othing was actually done, however, expressly to challenge the basis o f the Elizabethan Acts o f Supremacy and U niform ity.6 The attack on the defining characteristics o f the old C hurch - episcopacy, the church courts, the Prayer Book, the Anglican calendar - was undertaken step by

5. Shaw, English Church, I, 1-144; II, 295-300, J. Stoughton, A History o f Religion in England (rev. ed., 1881), I, chs. 1-4; F .M .G . H igham , Catholic and Reformed (1962), pp. 181-210. 6. These A cts w ere not repeated until 1650 - C .H . Firth and R.S. Rait, Acts and Ordinances o f the Interregnum (1911), II, 423.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

step from 1643-6 in collaboration with the W estm inster Assembly (a body o f 121 divines, 10 peers and 20 members o f the C om m ons, to w hom Scots commissioners were soon added). This assembly was asked to propose a settlem ent o f the Church ‘agreeable to G od’s Holy W ord’ and to ‘the C hurch in Scotland and other Reformed churches abroad’.7 Despite the mass o f anti-episcopalian propaganda and the com m itm ent o f the assembly from the outset to alternative forms o f governm ent, the office, title and authority o f bishops were not suspended or abolished until O ctober 1646. In early 1643, the tw o Houses approved a bill abolishing the existing frame (archbishops, bishops, deans, chapters and so on), and this bill was sent to the king as part o f Parliam ent’s term s for a settlement, but the bill was not converted into an ordinance. It had no legal force. Fourteen o f the tw enty-six bishops had their tem poral possessions sequestered by an ordinance o f March 1643, but the remaining twelve were left free to enjoy their properties and powers; six o f them were indeed invited (under their episcopal titles - for example, D r Ralph B row nrigg, bishop o f Exeter) to be m embers o f W estm inster Assembly; an ordinance for demolishing m onum ents o f superstition in 1644 was to be superintended in the cathedrals by the deans. The m ost im portant effect o f this failure to proceed to abolition was that the bishops retained sole right to ordain men to the m inistry for m ost o f the war, and those so ordained up to O ctober 1646 (in theory) and up to mid-1654 (in practice) were deemed qualified to hold a living in the national Church. Nonetheless, the situation was a confused one: ministers were deprived in Lincolnshire in 1644, for example, in part for upholding the office o f bishops since it had been ‘voted dow n by Parliam ent’.8 The abolition and replacement o f the Prayer Book (rather than its modification) seems only to have become certain after the alliance w ith the Scots. N o formal ban on its use was attem pted until January 1645 (although the tw o Houses ceased to use it in their ow n religious observances from early 1644). In January 1645 it was replaced by a new service book, the D irectory o f Public Worship, draw n up by the W estm inster Assembly. This ordinance was almost wholly a dead

7. Ibid., I, 180. For its deliberations, see Shaw, English Church, 1. 145-384. 8. Firth and Rait, Acts, I, 106, 176, 180, 425, 879; Shaw, English Church, I, 138; J.W .F. H ill, ‘The Royalist C lergy o f Lincolnshire’, Lincolnshire Architectural and Archaeological Society, Reports and Papersr, no. 2, pt I (1938), 59. See also b elow , pp. 161-3.


The Church in England 1642-9

letter, and probably less than 10 per cent o f parishes had acquired the new book six m onths later. In August, Parliament publicly acknowledged this neglect in a further ordinance which required the knights and burgesses to send dow n to their county committees sufficient copies o f the Directory to be distributed to each parish (who had to pay for them). C ounty committees were in return to collect in and to destroy all copies o f the Book o f C om m on Prayer. Fines and im prisonm ent were prescribed for the continued use o f the old book.9 Despite the survival o f relevant com m ittee and quarter sessions papers (and the reiterated commands from Parliament) there is not a single know n instance o f these penalties being imposed and, as we shall see, little evidence that the D irectory was distributed.10 The doctrinal formularies o f the C hurch o f England were abrogated in 1645. Unfortunately, although m any parliamentary ordinances required p ro o f o f orthodoxy from those holding parish livings, no definition o f orthodoxy was ever forthcom ing. A Large Catechism (of 196 questions), a small one (of 107 questions) and a Confession o f Faith were drawn up by the W estminster Assembly but were never approved by the Houses and thus never published by authority.11 The D irectory did not lay dow n any set forms, but offered a guide to the construction o f do-it-yourself services. It did not even require the use o f basic formularies like the Nicene or Apostles’ creeds. The nearest thing to an agreed doctrinal statem ent approved during the whole period was the list o f elementary truths, a knowledge o f which was made a condition o f admission to the Lord’s Supper in O ctober 1645.12 O n 19 December 1644 the House o f C om m ons realized that the next m onthly Fast w ould fall on 25 December, Christmas Day. They rushed out an ordinance sm ugly entitled ‘for better observance o f the M onthly Fast, and m ost especially next Wednesday, com m only called the Feast o f the N ativity o f C hrist’ on which ‘men took liberty to carnal and sensual delights, contrary to the life which C hrist him self led on earth’. 13 The attack on the Anglican calendar was later extended by a comprehensive ordinance which banned the observance o f Christmas, Easter, Whit, Holy Days and Saints 9. Firth and Rait, A cts, I, 582-607, 755. The best brief account o f the D irectory is in H igham , Catholic and Reformed, pp. 217-20. 10. See b elow , pp. 164—7. 11. All three, together w ith other papers from the assem bly, were published in a collective volu m e entitled The Confession o f Faith (Edinburgh, 1885). 12. Firth and Rait, Acts, I, 789. 13. Ibid., I, 580.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

Days, as also the Rogationtide peram bulations o f the bounds o f the parish. Instead, the second Tuesday o f every m onth was set aside as a day o f T hanksgiving.14 As we shall see, these decrees were widely disregarded. Finally, Parliament set out to purify churches o f popish and superstitious objects and m onum ents. Parliam entary orders in 1641 had already ended Laudian experiments w ith east-end altars, and had ordered the removal o f altar-rails and the levelling o f chancels. Then in August 1643 they w ent much further, requiring the destruction o f candles, tapers and basins from the com m union tables, and all crucifixes, crosses, images, pictures and superstitious objects relating to the Virgin M ary, the persons o f the Trinity and the saints (though not, curiously, representations o f the devil or o f O ld Testam ent figures). In 1644 a further ordinance added vestments and other popish relics such as fonts and organs. These new ordinances were directed against objects which had adorned the churches for centuries.15 It is instructive to com pare the w ay the 1641 instructions were quickly and efficiently enforced by churchw ardens and parish officers whereas the ordinances o f 1643-4 w ere w idely ignored until peripatetic com m issioners came along. As we shall see, these com m issioners often m et active or passive obstruction from local congregations or parish officers.16 The w orst iconoclasm probably occurred in the cathedrals. At least fifteen o f the tw enty-six were seriously vandalized by detachm ents o f the arm y w ho w ent far beyond the instructions o f Parliam ent. Some cathedrals w ere partly dism antled and their building m aterials used for other projects (for exam ple, Lichfield, H ereford). T he corporation o f Y arm outh petitioned that N orw ich cathedral be dism antled and the stone used to build a new w orkhouse and to strengthen the piers o f Y arm outh harbour; at Gloucester a block and tackle were m ounted on the tow er as the first stage o f a proposed demolition; the R um p three times debated the pulling dow n o f them all. In the event, m ost were taken over as preaching centres (Exeter w ith a central dividing wall erected

14. Ibid., I, 420-2, 607, 954. 15. Ibid., I, 265, 425; Shaw, English Church, I, p 103-10. 16. For the journal o f the leading iconoclast, see The Journal o f William Dowsing, ed. E .H . E velyn-W hite (Ipswich, 1885), for his tour o f Suffolk, an d J.G . Cheshire, ‘W illiam D o w s in g ’s D estructions’, Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire Archaeological Society Transactions, III (1914), for Cam bridgeshire. There is a good sum m ary in A. K ingston, East Anglia in the Great C ivil War (1897), pp. 329-32. M y im pressions are form ed from an analysis o f 150 sets o f churchwardens’ accounts in western and eastern England (see b elow note 45).


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to keep apart rival Presbyterian and Independent congregations). Others were secularized: Lichfield, D urham and St Paul’s were used as barracks or prisons (in St Paul’s cavalry occupied the nave, but the cloisters were turned into a shopping precinct), while St Asaph was used as a wine shop and as a shippen for the local postm aster’s oxen, and the font as a hog-trough (the bishop’s palace at Exeter became a sugar bakery). All in all, the cathedrals suffered m ore than the parish churches, as we shall see.17 Let us conclude this section by pointing out w hat was not attacked: the parish system with its traditional officers (churchwardens, overseers, select and general vestries); lay im propriation (although royalists who held rights to receive tithes and to present to livings had to surrender them , albeit in return for generous reductions in the size o f their com position fines); the responsibility o f all to pay tithes. This is another point to which we shall return. Ill In place o f the Elizabethan Church, Parliament approved a new settlem ent which was intended to introduce a uniform ity in government, discipline and worship binding on all.18 W hat em erged was a four-tier structure. The ancient parishes were to remain as the basic unit, w ith the minister joined in the regulation o f both worship and discipline by elders elected by all those parishioners who had taken the C ovenant and who were not ‘servants that had no families’. Parishes were to be grouped into ‘classes’ (roughly the size of the old wapentake or hundred and comprising between ten and tw enty parishes), and the classes in turn were to be grouped into provinces, one for each county and one for the city o f London. Each parish was to be represented in the classis by its minister or ministers and by one or tw o lay elders, and each classis was to send clerical and lay nominees to the provincial assemblies. Finally there was to be a national synod whose actions were subject to ratification by Parliament. This scheme was a heavily modified version o f the proposals which came out o f the W estm inster Assembly. The Houses 17. J.R. Phillips, The Reformation o f the Images (Berkeley, 1973) pp. 192-200; V. Staley, Hierurgia Anglicana (revised edn., 1902^-4) I, 92-101, 185-6; II, 256-70; Stoughton, History o f Religion, I, 313-16; M .E .C . W alcott, Traditions and Customs o f Cathedrals (1872), pp. 29-42; G .B . Tatham , The Puritans in Power (Cam bridge, 1913), pp. 256-63; A History o f York Minster, ed. G. A ylm er and R. Cant (York, 1977), pp. 211—15, 439—40, 503; J.F. Chanter, The Bishop’s Palace, Exeter (Exeter, 1932), p. 93; R.W . K etton-C rem er, Norfolk in the Great C ivil War (1969), pp. 224-38. 18. Firth and Rait, Acts, I, 749, 833, 1062.


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were determ ined to ensure that the laity were fully represented in every aspect o f C hurch governm ent and discipline, and they thus enhanced the pow er o f the elders at all levels. They also weakened the pow er o f the classes and provinces and built up the autonom y o f the parishes, in which the m inister could be overborne by the elders, and strengthened the pow er o f Parliament as the ultim ate source o f ecclesiastical legislation and jurisdiction. These changes led the Scots to dismiss it as a ‘lame erastian presbytery’. Parliament required the use o f the D irectory in all churches, but never ratified the catechisms or Confession o f Faith.19 The reorganization never really got o ff the ground. A lthough it gained m ajority support in the H ouses, there was no general support for it in the country. The problem was that the im plem entation o f the scheme required the co-operation o f local lay com m issioners. The proposals allowed each county to decide for itself the m ost sensible way o f grouping parishes into classes.20 G roups o f com m issioners w ere expected to m eet and to draw up proposals w hich w ere then vetted and approved by Parliam ent. It afforded m assive opportunities for prevarication, for delay, and for producing unacceptable schemes. Furtherm ore, the will o f Parliam ent to enforce the scheme disappeared in effect from the tim e o f the arm y ’s first occupation o f London in A ugust 1647. W ithout central backing, and w ith the achievem ent o f de facto toleration from O ctober 1647 and de jure toleration from 1650, the w hole rationale failed.21 A lthough the ordinances enjoining the Presbyterian order remained in force from 1645 to 1654,22 they became increasingly inoperative after the w inter o f 1647-8. E ight o f the forty English counties (plus London) produced Presbyterian schemes and made som e effort to put them into operation (Cheshire, Essex, Lancashire, M iddlesex, Shropshire, Som erset, Suffolk, Surrey) and tw o m ore (D erbyshire and - m uch later - N ottingham shire) appear to have established a partially operative classical system w ith out presenting it to Parliam ent for approval. Six other counties

19. Shaw, English Church, I, 145-384. The best brief account is in H igham , Catholic and Reformed, pp. 213-23. 20. Shaw, English Church, II, 1-33, 365-400. For im portant m odifications, seeG . Yule, The Puritans in Power, (Sutton Courternay, 1981), appendix II, and C .E . Surman, ‘Classical Presbyterianism in England, 1643—1660’, unpublished M A thesis, M anchester (1949), pp. 35-59. 21. Yule, Puritans, conclusion. 22. For the C rom w ellian reform, see C. Cross, ‘T he Church in England, 1646-1660’, in The Interregnum, ed. G .E. A ylm er (1975), pp. 104—5.


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produced schemes w hich were never approved or im plem ented (D urham , H am pshire, N orthum berland, W iltshire, W estm orland, Y orkshire [West Riding]), but tw en ty -fo u r counties m ade no formal response. O nly in tw o areas (London and Lancashire) does the provincial m achinery ever seem to have com e into being, and it is probable that by the early 1650s only seven or eight o f the seventy or so classes form ally established in the years 1645-8 were still functioning.23 All was not total chaos, however. The civil pow er had established some supervision over aspects o f parochial life pending the introduction o f Presyterianism, and m uch o f this ad hoc governm ent persisted dow n to the introduction o f the Crom wellian reforms in 1654. Existing rights o f patronage to livings were protected except where the patron was the C row n, the bishops, the deans and chapters or sequestered Royalists. In those cases patronage was exercised by the com m ittee o f plundered ministers in London, either directly or through local county committees, in response to advice from the parishes.24 C ounty committees - again supported by central bodies - had pow er to eject those whose religious practice, morals or political beliefs they found repugnant. The profits from dean to chapter and confiscated royalist im propriations were made available w ithin each county as a fund for augm enting the stipends o f ministers in the poorer parishes, and tentative beginnings were made to the rationalization o f parish boundaries, large ones being broken up and small (mainly urban ones) amalgamated. Finally, much o f the business o f the old church courts was transferred to the JPs at quarter sessions. M uch o f this, however, was only formalized after 1649.25 This extension o f lay control is one o f the reasons w hy county committees were so reluctant to im plem ent the parliamentary Presbyterianism. But there was another reason. The English puritan gentry had probably always preferred a looser system o f church governm ent giving effective autonom y for each parish in matters o f worship 23. For the records see especially ‘The Register B ook o f the 4th classis in the province o f L ondon’, ed. C .E . Surman (Harleian Soc., L X X X II-L X X X III, 1952-3); ‘M anchester Classical M in u tes’, ed. W .A . Shaw (Chetham Society, n.s. X X , X X II, X X IV , 1888-91); ‘Bury Classical M inutes’, ed. W .A . Shaw (Chetham Soc., n.s. X X X V II, XLII, 1896, 1898), w hich also contains the records o f the N ottin gh am Classis; and ‘M inutes o f the W irksworth C lassis’, ed. J.C . C ox Journal o f the Derbyshire Archaeological Soc., II (1879). 24. W .A . Shaw, The Financial Administration o f the Revenues o f the Disendowed Church (Manchester, 1893); also his English Church, II, 175-286. 25. See e.g. A. Fletcher, A County Comm unity at Peace and War: Sussex, 1600-1660 (1975), pp. 113-1.


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and discipline (non-separating Congregationalism ).26 This is what the stalemate o f 1648-54 achieved. It was then institutionalized by the Protectorate. But such a developm ent contains a deep irony. If each parish was allowed to decide its ow n patterns o f worship and observance, then those who wanted to m aintain the old Prayer Book and the old rhythm s o f Anglicanism could easily get their ow n way. As we shall see, the county committees, after their initial enthusiasm for ejecting scandalous and insufficient men, were unable or unwilling to stamp out the old practices.27 IV The cause o f Anglicanism received surprisingly little help in the later 1640s from the king and the bishops. Although the king raised him self to claim a m artyr’s crown, he had done very little to guide those whose religious preferences were the same as those he professed. It is amazing - in view o f the apparent earlier cooperation between them - how quickly Charles abandoned Laud. He left him to rot in the T ow er and made no serious attem pt to prevent his trial and execution (for example, by exchanging him for im portant parliamentarian prisoners). By 1642, he had abandoned all the claims made for the C hurch by Laud and was openly identifying him self w ith an earlier tradition. He issued a proclam ation (recording an oath he had taken immediately before receiving com m union from Ussher, Archbishop o f Arm agh - m ost m oderate o f all the bishops, and allowed by Parliament to hold the office o f chaplain to Lincoln’s Inn throughout the 1640s), in which he pledged him self to maintain ‘the established and true reform ed protestant religion as it stood in its beauty in the happy days o f Queen Elizabeth, w ithout any connivance o f popery.’28 He nom inated eleven new bishops between 1641 and 1643. Eight o f them had been in trouble w ith Laud, and all o f them were strict Calvinists in the m ould o f Grindal and Abbott. He also prom oted several bishops, m ost notably Laud’s arch-enemy on the bench, Bishop Williams, who was transferred from Lincoln to Y ork.29 Apart from a flurry o f proclamations in mid 1643, denouncing the Covenant and urging loyal subjects to w ithhold tithes from intruded 26. See the su ggestive remarks o f P. C ollinson, ‘T he G od ly’, paper to Past and Present conference on Popular R eligion (1966), p. 22 (cited in Fletcher. Sussex p. 117). 27. See b elow , pp. 163-73. 28. R.R. Steele, Bibliotheca Lindesiana: A Bibliography o f Royal Proclamations o f Tudor and Stuart Sovereigns (O xford, 1910), I, 295. 29. P. King, ‘The Episcopate during the C ivil War, 1642-1649’, E H R , LXX XIII (1968), 526-48; J.H . O verton, The Church in England (1897), II, 95-7; D N B .


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ministers, he did very little to advise people how to respond to the changes im posed by ordinance.30 His attachment to the old C hurch was not as inflexible as hagiography maintains. At various times between 1646 and 1649 he expressed a public readiness to contemplate an abandonm ent o f the Act o f U niform ity, to reduce the num ber o f bishops to four, or to accept a Presbyterian system experimentally for three years. H ow ever tem porary he privately resolved such concessions w ould be, they presented a poor impression to ordinary Anglicans as they struggled to find ways o f being faithful to the Church. M ost remarkable o f all, Charles appears to have made little effort, during his captivity with the Scots and at Holdenby, to insist on the use o f the Prayer Book. When his ow n chaplains forced themselves past his guards at Hatfield in the sum m er o f 1647, it was the first time for over twelve m onths that he received the Anglican sacram ent.31 The bishops gave little formal lead either. They spent much o f 1641-2 striving to preserve their secular powers - their right to sit in the House o f Lords and to hold office - and several o f them spent long periods in prison (twelve were threatened w ith im peachment over the canons o f 1640; another, overlapping, group o f twelve were im prisoned for protesting that anything done by the Lords during their enforced absence - occasioned by the presence o f an angry picket-line outside the House - as invalid; Laud was in the Tow er from M arch 1641 until his death, W ren from 1641 to 1660). In every diocese (with the partial exception o f Exeter) the diocesan machinery collapsed in the w inter o f 1642-3, although the routine business o f nom inating and collating to livings did continue. It is unlikely that m ore than tw o or three bishops remained in their cathedrals, even in Royalist areas. Several were at O xford but they made no joint statements and offered no joint advice to those troubled by the C ovenant or the ban on the Prayer Book or the sequestration o f their m inister and the intrusion o f a parliamentary nominee. Three bishops spent the war years quietly in London, tw o were in arms, but m ost retired to country livings and kept their heads low. The 1640s and 1650s may have seen a great flowering o f Anglican devotional literature and doctrinal works but the leading figures were not the bishops. Such works as the bishops themselves did write were

30. Stcclc, Proclamations, I, 292-303. 31. K ing, ‘Episcopate’, pp. 54—7; A bbot, ‘Issue o f E piscopacy’, ch. 6; A. K ingston, The C ivil War in Hertfordshire (1894), p. 72.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

personal utterances, not formal statem ents.32 But the bishops made one crucial contribution: they continued to ordain. V In the later 1640s, the people o f England had been clearly instructed by the victors in the civil war to abandon their old religious practices. The diocesan institutions which had upheld the old forms had crumbled and although no new ecclesiastical structure was operative in m ost areas, the civil pow er had assumed m uch o f the old coercive power. They were given little help by the king or the bishops. Crucially, however, m ost o f them still had their old clergy to lead them. It has been reliably estimated that some 2,780 clergy (including curates, lecturers and so on) were harassed by the authorities in the period 1641-60. But o f these, 400 obtained new livings, 200 were pluralists allowed to keep one o f their livings, 270 managed to stay on or were reintruded into their livings despite the orders o f local or central committees, and 320 were only ejected after 1649. Thus, only 1600 were dispossessed in our period - less than one in five. If there was a norm al death rate o f ministers in the 1640s, then between three-fifths and tw o-thirds o f all parishes had the same ministers in 1649 as they had had in 1642.33 N o t all vacant livings could be filled in the 1640s. There were not enough men to fill them and (until the scheme for augm enting the stipends o f poor livings was brought fully into operation in the 1650s) many livings were too poor to attract qualified preachers. From 1644 onwards, Parliament made provisional arrangements for ordination (by clerical commissioners in London and Lancashire), and from 1646 perm anent arrangements (all classes were em powered to ordain those properly qualified and w ith a call from a parish). M en from m ore than half o f the English counties were ordained by the London classis in the years after 1646, for example. Nonetheless, the best estimate suggests that no m ore than 700 men had been ordained under the authorized arrangements before Crom w ell introduced his Triers in

32. K ing, ‘E piscopate’, pp. 528-33; see also the chapters on ecclesiastical history in m any Victoria County History volum es, as Cheshire III and Cumberland II; D N B ; R. Bosher, The M aking o f the Restoration Settlement (1951), chs. 1-2; J. Packer, The Transformation o f Anglicanism (1969), passim. 33. I. Green, ‘The Persecution o f “Scandalous” and “M alignant” Parish C lergy during the English C ivil War’, E H R , X C IV (1979), 525.


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1654.34 It is quite certain that the great m ajority o f those who took up the m inistry for the first time between 1644 and 1649 were episcopally ordained. The abolition o f episcopacy did not slow dow n the flow o f ordinands presenting themselves to the bishops in their rural retreats (at least ten bishops still held parish livings) and episcopal ordination - despite the disquiet expressed by the Lancashire province in 164935 remained valid and sufficient in the eyes o f authorities desperate to fill vacant livings. H ow utterly and ironically were the roles o f Anglican and puritan reversed! In Lincoln diocese alone, official listings at the Restoration show that ninety-tw o men w ho then held livings had been episcopally ordained since 1646; the records o f London and N orw ich dioceses provide comparable figures. Joseph Hall, bishop o f N orw ich between 1646 and his death in 1654 ordained over fifty men who served in those tw o dioceses alone. Yet m ost o f the ordinations were carried out by itinerant Irish and Scottish bishops. A m ong the English bishops, it is clear that it was the anti-Laudians who were m ost active, the only exception being Skinner o f O xford, probably the m ost energetic o f all in his convenient nook close to the university city o f O xford. He is said to have ordained hundreds. Some o f those ordained by the Presbyterians subsequently presented themselves for episcopal ordination. Surely the fact that - given a choice and given the legal and ecclesiastical complications - the great m ajority o f the new clerics had sought out the bishop tells us som ething about the preferences o f those who filled a m ajority o f the vacant livings up and dow n the county.36 The pattern o f persecution has recently been clearly established. What seems clear is that the distribution o f ejections was determined less by the malignancy o f the clergy than by the persecu ting tem per o f local commissioners. Thus the highest percentage o f expulsions were in solidly parliamentarian areas (London, Cam bridgeshire, Suffolk and so on) and the lowest in solidly royalist areas. Often the presence o f an individual hardliner could lead to differential levels o f sequestration within counties (as in Cheshire and Wiltshire).

34. Firth and Rait, A cts, I, 521, 865; Surman, ‘Classical Presbyterianism ’, chs. 2 and 3; H. Smith, The Ecclesiastical History o f Essex under the Long Parliament and Commonwealth (Colchester, 1932), pp. 121—6; ‘Register B ook o f the Fourth Classis o f the Province o f L on d on ’, ed. C .E . Surman (Harleian Society, L X X X IIL X X X III, 1952-3), xiii. 35. Ibid., p. 15. 36. Smith, Essex, pp. 326-30, 410; K. Major, ‘Lincoln D iocesan Records’ T R H S , 4th ser., X X II (1940), 56; King, ‘E piscopate’, pp. 531-2. D N R , Autobiography o f Simon Patrick (1839), p. 38.


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Secondly (as w ith iconoclasm), one needs to distinguish tw o phases o f persecution. In the first tw o years o f the Long Parliament, the initiative was often taken by outraged parishioners. Several hundred petitions were presented to Parliament in 1641 and 1642 and formed the basis o f the first 200-300 ejections. From 1643 on, however, there was a different pattern. As D r Green says: ‘there are strong grounds for thinking that it was pressure from above rather than from below that triggered off m ost o f the ejections. ’37 Thus the instructions issued to the Lincolnshire commissioners adm itted that ‘it is found by sad experience that parishioners are not forward to complain o f their ministers, although they be very scandalous.’38 The stereotyping o f the depositions against the clergy makes use o f them difficult, but some points do emerge. D r Green thinks that less than half o f those sequestered were accused o f Laudian practices or ceremonial innovation. He puts m ore stress on simple pastoral insufficiency and on political bias.39 It may be, however, that he relies too heavily on an analysis o f the earliest cases. A careful reading o f the depositions from Suffolk, Lincolnshire, Essex and Wiltshire40 suggests that the m ost im portant failings o f those ejected after 1643 were insufficiency as preachers, Laudian practices and political unsoundness. Very few were ejected for upholding ‘the true reform ed protestant religion o f Elizabeth and Jam es’ - for using the Prayer Book, for celebrating Christmas or Easter,41 or for welcoming all their parishioners to the com m union table - even after such actions were banned. In Dorset, for example, such ministers were rem onstrated with, warned, but not suspended, and the same seems to have been true elsewhere.42 Furtherm ore, although many were suspended for overt royalism, m any m ore were suspended for refusing to take sides: for reading royalist and Parliamentarian declarations; for observing both royalist and parliamentarian fasts (and how far can one rely on depositions such as that against M r Fisher that he read royalist declarations 37. 38. 39. 40.

Green, ‘Persecution’, pp. 509-13, 518. BL Add. M SS 5829 fos 6-8. Green, ‘Persecution’, pp. 511-12. C. H olm es, ‘T he Suffolk C om m ittee o f Scandalous M inisters, 1644—1646’, Suffolk Records Society, XIII (1970), 19-24 and passim; H ill, ‘R oyalist C lergy’, passim; Smith, Essex, passim; BL Add. M SS 5829; Add. M SS 22084; Tatham, Puritans in Power, pp. 65-92; A. Tindal-Hart, The Country Clergy, 1558-1660 (1958), pp. 120-5. 41. But cf. A .M . Everitt, T he Comm unity o f Kent and the Great Rebellion (Leicester, 1966), pp. 231-2, 243. 42. The Standing Committee o f the C ounty o f Dorset, 1646-1650, ed. G .H . M ayo (Dorchester, 1902), passim.


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‘audibly and distinctly’, and parliamentary ones ‘w ith a low voice’?).43 Isaac Allen o f Prestwich, Lancashire, affords a good example. He was sequestered in N ovem ber 1643 on nine counts, including failure to instruct his parish to support Parliament, answering a royalist sum m ons to a meeting in Manchester in June 1642, and hesitation before taking the Covenant. In each case this represents the attempts o f a neutral to obey the law o f the land as he understood it. His defence shows ‘a man driven by force o f circumstance out o f the attitude o f neutrality he had endeavoured to adopt’. He subsequently regained his parish and remained there throughout the Interregnum , stubbornly refusing to attend the vigorous M anchester classis within which his parish lay, yet apparently im m une to its threats.44 Finally it should be stressed how frequently the attem pt to oust a m inister led to resistance from parishioners. This sometimes took the mild form o f a petition, but it could also take the form o f a tithestrike against his successor, the physical protection o f the parsonage against the attem pts o f a minister intruded by the com m ittee o f plundered ministers to take up residence, or even - after a period o f disillusionment w ith a new minister - the violent reintrusion o f a sequestered minister, usually w ith the Book o f C om m on Prayer in hand. We shall return to this subject at the end o f the paper. The great m ajority o f the clergy, then, were men who had served and conform ed under Laud or who were episcopally ordained in the 1640s when the decision to seek out a bishop was a decision w ith very obvious political and ecclesiastical connotations. H ow did these men respond to the challenges and invitations laid dow n by Parliament? VI H ow ever much parliamentarians differed over the religious settlement they wanted, they were united in wanting to end the popish distractions in liturgy and observance that had m arred the old Church. They explicitly set out to break m en’s attachment to the Book o f C om m on Prayer, to the Anglican calendar and sacramental pattern. They created a num ber o f offences with civil penalties sharper than those held over puritan non-conform ists in the pre-w ar period. To find out how effectively these prohibitions were enforced, I have examined the surviving records o f county committees and 43. BL A dd.M SS 5829, fos 36-7. 44. T atham , Puritans in Power, pp. 264-7; ‘M anchester Classical M in u te s’, ed. W .A . Shaw (C hetham S ociety, X X , X X II, X X IV , 1888-91), 26, 32, 109, 111, 116, 208, 2 5 1 -3 , 284, 289, 293, 2 96-302.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

quarter sessions, and also 150 surviving churchw ardens’ accounts for ten counties in western and eastern England.45 C hurchw ardens’ accounts record all the expenses incurred on such items as church fabric, ornaments, vestments, service books, bread and wine for com m unions (and much else besides). They also frequently include annual or irregular inventories o f church goods. The survival o f such records for the m id-seventeenth century owes m ost to the vagaries o f eighteenth- and nineteenth-century vicars and vestries in preserving their records. There is no reason to doubt that the 150 sets o f accounts are a representative cross-section. First o f all, they help to dem onstrate the continued use o f the Prayer Book. Inventories record their survival in m ore than onethird o f all parishes. This is an am biguous finding. It could be that the Prayer Book was retained but not used; or that it was used in many m ore parishes but prudently not recorded w ith other parish effects. After all, possession o f it was an offence, and an ordinance had required churchwardens to surrender all copies to county committees. It is perhaps striking that m ost inventories continue to record the preservation o f Bishop Jew el’s Apology and Erasm us’s Paraphrases (which were not banned) but not the Book o f Homilies (which was). It is perhaps also w orth noting that in the period up to the civil war four times as many churches possessed copies o f Jew el’s defence o f the Elizabethan settlem ent as possessed Foxe’s Book o f Martyrs , w ith its puritanical expectation o f a m ore perfect reform ation. Certainly m ore churches possessed the Prayer Book than possessed the Directory: less than 25 per cent recorded purchasing the latter and less than 25 per cent o f inventories record it. It seems to have widely been used only where either the classical system came into being, or where county committees made strenuous efforts to enforce the ordinance o f August 1645 (as in Dorset and Gloucestershire where the travelling expenses o f wardens sum m oned up to the committees to receive it are recorded as well as the eighteen pence or tw o shillings charged for copies: in contrast only one o f tw enty sets o f accounts for N orfolk m ention it). M ore general evidence adds powerfully to the suggestion that the

45. I have exam in ed all extant accounts in the fo llo w in g cou n ty record offices: C heshire, W orcestershire, H erefordshire, G loucestershire, W iltshire, D orset, C am bridgeshire, N o rfo lk and S uffolk. I have seen som e C heshire and N o rfo lk accounts still held by the parishes th em selves. In addition, Paul G ladw ish gen erou sly m ade available his n otes and transcripts o f the accounts o f Shropshire and B ristol.


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Prayer Book was widely used. John Evelyn had no difficulty in finding churches in London which used it throughout the 1640s and 1650s; Sir John Bram ston wandered in off the street into a church in Milk Street and found the old liturgy in use. His father’s carriage outside aroused interest, and soon the church was packed out. Churches in the very centre o f towns continued quietly to use the Book, even in small boroughs like Abingdon, where a ‘puritan’ corporation failed to prevent its use in one o f the tw o churches. In both O xford and Cam bridge colleges the old service books were in frequent use dow n to the sum m er o f 1647 if not later. Fragm entary evidence from m any counties suggests that prudent observance was very com m on. Leading Anglican moderates like Robert Sanderson and Jerem y Taylor w rote out modified versions to evade the terms o f the ordinances; others memorized the com m on elements in daily prayer and the com m union service. Even where local authorities were inform ed o f the continued use o f the Prayer Book, they were too busy with other things, too desperate to fill pulpits, too pessimistic about the effectiveness o f suspensions, to take effective action. The parallels w ith the impotence felt and ambivalent attitudes held by pre-w ar bishops to puritan non-conform ity are very obvious. To give an example: the Dorset com m ittee were told in December 1647 about at least seven ministers who continued to use the banned liturgy. The seven were instructed to desist but no further action was taken against them, despite the specific penalties laid dow n in the 1645 ordinance. A petition o f Presbyterian ministers in Essex in Decem ber 1647 spoke o f the Prayer Book as being ‘usually used’ in the parish churches there, and a similar petition from Londoners was delivered to Parliament at the same tim e.46 M uch m ore striking is the evidence o f the continued observance o f the established pattern o f holy com m union.47 There are tw o aspects to this: the occasions on which com m unions are celebrated, and the rules governing admission to the sacrament. Although customs varied from diocese to diocese, the general

46. Diary o f John Evelyn, ed. E.S. de Beer (O xford, 1955), vols. I and II. passim; H igham , Catholic and Reformed, pp. 257-8, 264-72, O verton, Church, II, 119-21; ‘A utobiography o f Sir John B ram ston’ (Cam den Society, X X X II, 1845), 91-7; K etton-C rem er, Norfolk, pp. 332-3; A .E . Preston, The Church and Parish o f S t Nicholas, Abingdon (1929), p. 97; Tatham, Puritans in Power, chs. 4 and 5; N eal, History o f the Puritans, III, 365-9; C U L Baker M SS 25/167; Stoughton, History o f Religion, II, 83, 103-4, 280-92, 322-4; Fletcher, Sussex, p. I l l ; M ayo, Standing Committee, pp. 318-19, 376; Smith, Essex, p. 84. 47. Based on sources in note 45.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

pattern before 1643 was for com m union to be held on the three great feasts o f Christmas, Easter and W hit (sometimes as part o f a m onthly celebration, m ore frequently as part o f a basically quarterly pattern). The only parishes where com m union was not celebrated at the great feasts before 1642 are those w ith incumbents know n to have been puritan non-conform ists in other respects. The observance of these feasts was banned by ordinance in 1646 which reinforced the instructions o f the Directory. The pattern o f purchases o f bread and wine suggest that in 1646 com m unions were still held on the major feasts in 85 per cent o f all parishes; the proportion reached a nadir in 1650 when Easter com m unions are recorded in only 43 per cent o f the accounts. From 1650 and particularly from 1657 the proportion o f recorded Easter com m unions increases. In m any places the old feasts were very publicly celebrated: in godly Gloucester, one parish held special services with guest preachers every Easter Sunday w7hile another rang its bells for the king’s birthday every year dow n to 1648 and continued to deck out the church w ith rosemary, bay and holly to celebrate Christmas as late as 1650. The annual Rogationtide perambulations o f parish boundaries were banned by ordinance in 1644 but persisted in over one-third o f all parishes, including tw o in the city o f N orw ich.48 Parliam entary ordinances did not ju st ban holy com m unions on feast days; they attem pted to restrict access to the com m union table to those adequately prepared m orally and spiritually.49 Anglican practice had been to admit all those not openly scandalous, unrepentant and forewarned to stay away. Puritans denounced this as a ‘prom iscuous’ practice and preferred a ‘closed’ or ‘railed’ com m union. All those who wished to take com m union had to present themselves for examination by the m inister and elders on specific days immediately before the celebration. Formal docquets were given to those approved. In 1645 Parliament even drew up a list o f doctrinal positions, knowledge o f which had to be shown by those w ho came before the elders. Admission was thus by ticket only. By 1650 the pattern o f holy com m unions at Easter and (less frequently) at other major feasts was observed in 43 per cent o f the parishes. In almost every case the am ount recorded as spent on bread and wine was comparable w ith the sums spent before the civil 48. N N R O PD 58/38 (St Lawrence); N N R O PD 59/54 (St Gregory); G R O P 154/14 CW 2/1 (St Michael); C R O P154/11 CW 2/1 (St Mary). For earlier com plaints, see Staley, Hierurgia Anglicana, I, 257. 49. Firth and Rait, Acts, I, 789, 833, 852; and N eal, History o f the Puritans, III, 245—7.


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war. It seems as if the open-com m union policy went along with the old pattern o f celebration. Yet an alternative pattern o f celebrations - at times other than the main feasts - is recorded in only 20 per cent o f parishes. These celebrations were usually very infrequent less than annually - and the D irectory’s recom m endation o f regular com m unions (by which was meant at least once per quarter) was extremely rare. In these 20 per cent o f cases the am ount spent on bread and wine was usually less than a third o f the am ount spent on the pre-w ar celebrations. This is evidence o f ‘closed’ com m unions. Yet in 38 per cent o f parishes, there is no record o f any com m unions from 1646 (and often earlier) to 1650 (and often later). This could be because the change o f open to closed com m union resulted in a change o f practice: it may be that the bread and wine were no longer paid for out o f the rates but by the communicants at a special collection. There are occasional traces o f this in the records. But there is m ore evidence that the silence o f the records results from the suspension o f the Lord’s Supper. M any ministers felt unable to celebrate the sacrament (indeed disqualified from doing so) because they were unable to hold the necessary preparatory meetings until elders were chosen, which, as we have seen, they m ostly never were. This could be a problem even where Presbyterian classes were established. But it could also stem from another consideration: the new system was all too likely to lead to divisions in the parish, w ith those refused admission w itholding their tithes in protest. This is expressly the reason w hy Ralph Josselin held no com m unions from 1642 to 1650, when he finally held examinations and adm itted thirty-four persons, less than onetenth o f those previously eligible. In 1646 he recorded that ‘speaking concerning our intermission o f the Lord’s Supper I told them that perhaps some feared offending people in point o f my maintenance they would deny me my stipend’.50 Similar feelings appear to have underlain the tithe strikes in 1647 against m any ministers intruded in previous years in East Anglia and elsewhere.51 M uch o f this stubborn liturgical conservatism may be simply a reaction against every manifestation o f parliamentarian interference in the localities. It does not necessarily indicate that long-established loyalties were being dem onstrated. That it was in fact the latter could be dem onstrated - if space perm itted - from the evidence o f the churchw ardens’ accounts o f the period before 1640 and after 1660. 50. The Diary o f Ralph Josselin, 1616-1683, ed. A. Macfarlane (1976), pp. 77, 96, 234-6. 51. See below, pp. 170-1.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

Indeed, the increase in Easter com m unions as official pressure was relaxed in the 1650s is suggestive too. But the best evidence o f a positive ingrained Anglicanism comes from the law courts. I have failed to find any prosecutions in the latter 1640s for use o f the Book o f C om m on Prayer: there are many indictments and presentments o f ministers for not using it. In N orfolk at the m idsum m er quarter sessions o f 1645, Peter Byng was presented by a grand ju ry for ‘cutting and misusing the prayer book’.52 There was a similar case in 1648, where the Elizabethan Act o f U niform ity was invoked to enforce the use o f the Prayer B ook.53 In Cam bridgeshire in 1648, six ministers were indicted for ‘refusing to administer the sacrament but according to the D irectory’. They were convicted and had to appeal to the parliamentary C om m ittee o f Indem nity.54 At Beeston Regis in N orfolk, according to three eye-witnesses in 1648, William Feezer arrived at the church with a group o f w om en and an ejected clergyman intending to baptize Feezer’s child. The party was met by the vicar who asked why his offer to baptize the child had been ignored. Feezer asked w hether the vicar w ould use the font, but was told that this was contrary to the Directory. Eventually the situation deteriorated into a scuffle.55 The D irectory barred any formal liturgy for the dead: kneeling by the grave, praying beside the corpse or the grave was banned, and ‘m editations and conferences suitable to the occasion’ were all that was allowed.56 An alderman o f Ripon who tried in 1648 to prevent the burial o f a child by a vicar using the old burial service found him self indicted and convicted o f assault and subsequently outlaw ed.57 As late as 1658 Richard C rom w ell was to issue a proclam ation recounting the difficulties o f godly ministers, some o f w hom were still being indicted in the courts for not using the old liturgy.58 W ith the law - and the ingrained sensibilities o f the puritans - so widely flouted, it is clear that the yearning for a godly reform ation was stillborn. VII It m ight be argued that m ost o f the evidence for the survival o f

52. N N R O C /5 3 /b o x 37, bundle I, unfol. 53. PRO SP 24/1, fo. 187. 54. PR O SP 24/3, fos 118, 152; SP 24/4, fos 68, 77; SP 24/78, unfol.: petition o f W m Stephenson et al. 55. N N R O C /83/40: depositions o f W. Greene, P. Rickm an and A. N ich olls. 56. Firth and Rait, Acts, I, 604. 57. PR O SP 24/2, fos 98, 171; SP 24/3, fo. 42. 58. Steele, Proclamations, I, 374.


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Anglican practice says m ore about the laziness o f m ost parish clergy and a lack o f zeal in m ost parliamentary agents. But there is a great deal o f evidence o f positive com m itm ent to old values and practices. Back in 1641-2, petitions in defence o f the Established C hurch were circulated in over half the English counties (in addition to one from the six counties o f N orth Wales). It is true that m ost o f them were responses to anti-episcopalian petitions, but it is also true that m any o f the petitions were begun at, or approved by, meetings o f the county com m unity at quarter sessions or assizes. The initiative seems usually to have lain w ith the laity, usually w ith the greater gentry but sometimes with the m inor gentry and freeholders who made up the grand juries. In that sense, the defence o f the C hurch lay closer to the heart o f the county communities than did the puritan critiques. There is no m ore (though no less) evidence that the m iddling sorts swarm ed to sign these petitions than to sign anti-episcopal ones. M ost o f these petitions contained not only reasoned (and often muted) defences o f the office o f bishop, but also defences o f the Prayer Book, as yet under no parliamentary attack. The language used in the defence o f the Prayer Book was usually w arm er and m ore positive than that used in defence o f episcopacy. It is clear that some puritan petitions criticized the Prayer Book, but few or none had called for its abolition. It had been more violently attacked by itinerant preachers, or had fallen into disuse in particular parishes. Nonetheless, the threat was widely perceived and widely condemned. Finally, the petitions revealed, in M r Fletcher’s words, ‘that although they show no sym pathy for Arminianism, they indicate that an alternative view o f the church from the puritan one was held by substantial num bers o f people’.59 By 1645, there was widespread revulsion against the war in a great swathe o f counties across the south o f England and along the Welsh Marches, as men banded together to halt the effects o f war, to limit the demands made by the tw o sides or to neutralize their region. The appeals for a return to ‘norm ality’ in these areas were frequently led and articulated by yeoman-farmers, rural craftsmen, m inor gentry. These Clubm an risings coincided with Parliam ent’s first efforts to suppress the Prayer Book. The demands o f m ost

59. This paragraph is based on Fletcher, Outbreak, ch. 9, supplem ented by a reading o f Sir T hom as A ston, A Collection o f Sundry Petitions (1641) (in BL E E.201 [26]); J.S. M orrill, The Revolt o f the Provinces (1976), p. 151; J.S. M orrill, Cheshire 1630-1660 (O xford, 1974), pp. 35-7; BL A dd.M SS 36913 fos 136-41; C R O QSF 1642 no. 4 fos 23-4.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

C lubm an groups include a defence o f the old liturgy. In Wiltshire, for example, m any clergy w ho had remained politically inactive up to that point, accepting orders from whoever controlled their area, joined the Clubm en emphasizing the need to preserve the old ways in religion. Later in the year, many leaders o f the ‘Peaceable A rm y’, an anti-war group in Glamorganshire who had banded together to drive out royalists seeking to create yet another marching army after the debacle at Naseby, and who had allied themselves to Pem brokeshire parliamentarians to achieve that end, broke from their new friends in part because o f attacks on the Prayer B ook.60 Positive action was often m ore localized still. We have already noted that in 1641-2 there was a ready compliance by churchwardens and others in the dismantling o f the Laudian innovations: churchw ardens’ accounts record the alacrity w ith which altar-rails were dismantled, chancels levelled and so on (though it should be stressed that in 80 per cent o f parishes they had recently been erected w ith the same speed - many parishes purchasing cushions or carpets to enhance the appearance o f the rails or for the ease o f those who kneeled at the rails. It should also be noted that rails were built in 1641-2 in some churches - including some in unlikely places like W roxeter, the Tem ple C hurch in the centre o f Bristol, Sherborne.61 The later enforced destruction o f older ornaments and images was far less frequently im plemented by the parishioners themselves: rather it had to await the arrival o f special itinerant commissioners like William D ow sing.62 Occasionally, as at All Hallows, Barking, the parish did act on its own. There, churchwarden Sherman was chided for allowing a statue o f St Michael to remain. O n consideration, he decided that ‘it stood so many years and had done no miracle, therefore he conceived it was no saint’, a rather non-puritan reason for iconoclasm. The leading authority on the subject, however, gives a series o f examples o f churchwardens obstructing commissioners or hiding idolatrous objects ahead o f their visit.63 It has been said that the history o f the English Revolution can be w ritten around the history o f tithes. There is truth in this. But - until the rise o f the Quakers, if not later - the num ber o f tithe-refusals based on Anglican scruples, that the minister was not discharging his 60. M orrill, Revolt, pp. 92-9, 201. 61. Shropshire R O 2656/18 (Wroxeter); B R O 0065(22) C a l5 (l) (the T em ple Church, Bristol); D R O P 155 CW 113 (Sherborne). 62. See J.S. M orrill, ‘W illiam D o w sin g , the Bureaucratic Puritan’, in eds. J. M orrill, P. Slack and D . W oolf, Public M en and Private Conscience in Seventeenth-Century England (O xford, 1992), pp. 178-203. 63. Smith, Essex, pp. 174-93, 408; Phillips, Reformation, pp. 184-9.


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proper duties or had an insufficient title, were m ore num erous than instances o f refusals based on a radical critique o f hireling priests. By the ordinances o f N ovem ber 1644 and August 1647, jurisdiction in tithe disputes was transferred to quarter sessions. It is clear that the second, and probably the first, was a specific response to a royalist campaign to withhold tithes from intruded ministers. As early as M ay 1643, a royal proclam ation had inhibited paym ent o f tithes to anyone but the ‘lawful incom bent’, and this was m uch quoted in the sum m er o f 1647. In Cheshire in September o f that year the JPs, appraised that the inhabitants o f Tattenhall had withheld tithes at the instigation o f a group o f royalist clergy, recorded that they ‘conceive the Ordinance for paym ent o f tithes cannot be put into execution w ithout bloodshed’. A dozen intruded clergymen in Dorset between 1646 and 1649 found themselves unable to collect tithes. In Cam bridgeshire in mid-1647 there were tithe strikes in favour o f extruded ministers in at least four parishes. This was not just support for ejected ministers. It will be recalled that the main reason w hy Ralph Josselin did not celebrate the L ord’s Supper in the 1640s was that he feared a tithe-strike by those excluded.64 But the best evidence o f all o f com m itm ent to the old ways is that afforded by the reintrusion o f ejected ministers in their parsonages and pulpits by their old parishioners. M any parishes lobbied so successfully that local committees dared not or chose not to enforce a planned ejection. Elsewhere men used force to keep out or to remove a nominee o f the com m ittee o f plundered ministers. This could happen in the heart o f London in 1647 and in Southw ark in 1649.65 As with tithe refusals, a high proportion o f all reintrusions occurred in the m onths July to September 1647. What almost all the following have in com m on is that the ministers brought the Prayer Book back w ith them. Mobs o f parishioners secured the return o f ejected men in at least seven Essex parishes; at Soham in Cam bridgeshire a major riot preceded the trium phant return o f Richard Exeter to the pulpit from which he had been driven in 1644 for drunkenness, innovation and disaffection to Parliament. The neighbouring m inister who assisted the operation kept his living up to 64. Firth and Rait, Acts, I, 567, 996; Steele, Proclamations, I, 292; ‘Plundered M inisters A ccou n ts’, ed. W .A . Shaw (Lancashire and Cheshire Records Society, X X V III, 1894), 185-7; M ayo, Standing Committee, pp. 108, 120, 353, 384, 419, 430, 438, 442, 448, 452, 453, 475, 50(){ Walker Revised, ed. A .G . M atthew s (O xford, 1948), pp. 79-84; K ingston, East Anglia, pp. 393-5. 65. M. Coate, Cornwall in the Great C ivil War and Interregnum (O xford, 1940), pp. 333-4; Tindal-Hart, Country Clergy, pp. 128-9; PRO SP24/77 unfol.: petition o f D . Souton; BL A dd.M SS 15671, fo. 240.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

and beyond the R estoration.66 There were similar incidents elsewhere in Cam bridgeshire. Sometimes those w ho assisted a minister to regain his living were among those who had helped to get him sequestered - as in the case o f M eric Casaubon in K ent.67 In Cheshire there were six reintrusions - the initiative coming from within the parishes, and sometimes from those involved in the earlier ejection. Let us conclude with tw o specific examples. At Aldenham in Hertfordshire, Joseph Soane was sequestered in 1643 and the living conferred by the com m ittee o f plundered ministers on John Gilpin. When the latter tried to hold a service on Whit Sunday 1643 (perhaps om itting the usual communion?) a m ultitude o f parishioners drove him out and reinstalled Soane. Gilpin complained to the House o f Lords who had Soane imprisoned, but he quickly subm itted and was released. He thereupon reoccupied his glebe and parsonage. The county com m ittee sought to arbitrate and finally persuaded both men to w ithdraw . The (royalist) patron then presented a third man. So things rested until July 1647 when Soane reappeared and was reintruded by his parishioners, and despite attem pts to oust him he stayed put until after the R estoration.68 At Bebington in Cheshire, Ralph Poole was ejected in 1646 for alehouse-haunting and preaching against Parliament, and the com m ittee o f plundered ministers nom inated Josiah Clarke to take his place. In M ay 1647 a large num ber o f men petitioned on behalf o f Poole, and the com m ittee suspended the paym ent o f tithes until a decision was reached. In June, they decided in favour o f Clarke. B ut in July, an aggressive picket-line kept the new vicar out and reinstated Poole. O n 17 August the county com m ittee adm itted that they were powerless to act. The best the com m ittee o f plundered ministers could do was to refer the case to the arbitration o f two MPs and the sherrif.69 All this time, Poole had been receiving the tithes which were due. W hat lay behind this surge o f activity in the sum m er o f 1647 were the rum ours o f an im pending settlement between king and the army that w ould lead to the revival o f episcopacy and o f the Prayer Book (albeit w ith a freedom for tender consciences outside the restored Church). M any o f those involved in the reintrusions claimed to have seen a declaration from Sir Thom as Fairfax to that effect.70 66. Smith, Essex, pp. 157-61; K ingston, East Anglia, pp. 326-8; M atthew s, Walker Revised, p. 81. 67. Tatham, Puritans in Power, pp. 58-9, 69; Tindal-Hart, Country Clergy, p. 120. 68. K ingston, Hertfordshire, pp. 164—7. 69. Shaw, ‘Plundered M inisters A ccou n ts’, pp. 175-82, 189. 70. E .g. ibid., pp. 183-9; Smith, Essex, pp. 162-3.


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T hat this militant resurgence o f Anglicanism was widespread is further supported by the issuance o f a new ordinance on 23 August 1647 which declared that whereas divers ministers in the several counties o f the kingdom for notorious scandals and delinquency have been put out o f their livings by authority o f Parliament and godly, learned, and orthodox ministers placed in their room s . . . the said scandalous and delinquent ministers by force or other ways have entered upon the churches and gained possession o f the parsonages, tithes and profits.71

The Prayer-B ook rebellion o f 1647 was the prelude to the second civil war. Several o f the incidents which sparked off the provincial risings o f 1648 were concerned w ith the suppression o f Christmas or o f the Prayer B ook.72 VIII There has been no space in the course o f this essay to look at all the ecclesiastical developments o f the 1640s. Instead I have concentrated on one neglected but m ajor problem. A rounded account73 would obviously attem pt to show what happened in those parishes where the Presbyterian discipline was settled or where the old system collapsed but was not replaced by a Presbyterian discipline. It w ould have to look at the emergence and grow th o f the Baptist churches and o f gathered congregations in towns and (to a lesser extent) the countryside; and at the peculiar religious situation in the N ew M odel A rm y (which probably owed as m uch to the lack o f chaplains as to the radicalism o f its chaplains).74 I have been rather vague about the social base o f Anglican survivalism. It seems quite possible that this was not gentry-led but frequently owed its strength to the very middling sort who we are often told were the bedrock o f puritanism .75 If this conclusion is borne out by the case studies on which I am now engaged, it would confirm my belief that the middling sort were as deeply divided as were the gentry, though perhaps about different things. W hy does it m atter that so m any people cared fo r the C hurch

71. Firth and Rait, Acts, I, 999. 72. Everitt, Kent, pp. 231-40; K etton-C rem er, Norfolk, pp. 337-40; M orrill, Revolt, pp. 125-30, 207. 73. Sec, e.g ., Cross, ‘Church in England’, in A ylm er, Interregnum, pp. 99-120. 74. I o w e this point to discussions w ith D r Anne Laurence and to the paper she delivered to m y graduate seminar in Cam bridge in N ovem b er 1980. 75. Cf. B .S . M anning, ‘The G odly P eop le’, in the book he edited, Politics, Religion and the English C ivil War (Manchester, 1973).


The Nature o f the English Revolution

o f England; that after eighty years o f m aturation, a hybrid church, thoroughly if m urkily reform ed in its doctrines, unreform ed in its governm ent, a m ish-m ash in its liturgy, had achieved not only an intellectual self-confidence but a rhythm o f worship, piety, practice, that had earthed itself into the Englishm an’s consciousness and had sunk deep roots in popular culture? A ttem pts to destroy that tradition have been show n largely to have failed. O ne reason was that those charged to carry out the task had too much else to do. A nother is that they had so little help from men and w om en w ho would voluntarily do no m ore than pluck off the cuttings recently grafted on to the healthy stem by Laud. Given this initial hostility to their aims, successive regimes lacked imagination. They reiterated all the ‘thou shalt nots’ w ithout offering positive alternatives. In place o f the old feasts, for example, they set aside the second Tuesday o f every m onth as a day o f Thanksgiving. The ordinance was almost wholly given over to proscribing forms o f celebration.76 N o attem pt was made to create a new public holiday to celebrate the Revolution. Throughout the 1640s and 1650s, the only event celebrated by the ringing o f bells in almost all parishes was 5 N ovem ber, the deliverance from popery. N o attem pt was made to turn, say, 3 September (C rom w ell’s day o f providences) into such a day. Successful religious revolutions adapt themselves to popular culture just as m uch as they change it. But the official reform ation o f the 1640s and 1650s was negative, sterile. As the 1650s wore on, an increasing num ber o f parishes observed the old feasts and held open com m union services. At Easter 1660, before Charles’s return, there were celebrations o f the sacrament in over half the parishes. D uring 1660 there was a spontaneity and responsiveness in the restoration o f the old C hurch in m ost areas quite unlike the sloth (at best) in the previous period. O n Christmas Day 1656, John Lambert, speaking in Parliament, justified the Decimation Tax on the whole royalist party by claiming that even as he spoke, the bulk o f the royalist party were in their homes, ‘m erry over their Christmas pies’.77 For Lambert it was a sym bol that they had not accepted the Revolution, had not turned away from old superstitions. He was right, but there was nothing he could do about it. O n Christmas Day 1657, John Evelyn was at a com m union service in central London when soldiers entered the chapel. They waited until the service was over, then arrested the

76. Firth and Rait, Acts, I, 905. 77. Parliamentary Diary o f Thomas Burton ed. J.T . Rutt (1822), I, 240.


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leaders and took note o f the rest. The leaders were questioned and then released.78 It was an act o f futile bullying. Further study may well show that the m ore the Puritans tried to abolish Christmas, the m ore certain their downfall became.

78. H igham , Catholic and Reformed, p. 270.


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Problems o f Allegiance

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Introduction: County Communities and the Problem o f Allegiance in the English C iv il War

I I began to research the English civil wars in that useful ten-m onth gap which O xbridge candidates used to have between school and university. The schoolmaster w ho inspired me to be a historian, N orm an Dore, asked me w hether I w ould like to spend time getting together some statistics on the allegiance o f the Cheshire gentry in the Great Civil War to help him w ith a local history he was w riting;1 I was thrilled. In the ensuing m onths I got to know many o f the printed records (such as M rs M ary Everett Green’s Calendar o f the Committee fo r Compounding with Delinquents) that have been part o f m y life ever since. This was in the spring o f 1964, and although the Gentry C ontroversy was no longer raging,2 it was still the startingpoint for m ost students o f the period. Subsequently I spent m y undergraduate Long Vacations developing the w ork I had started in 1964 and the fruits o f that further research were w ritten up as an O xford Prize essay in 1967, a version o f which was subsequently published.3 Looking over it again recently, I was struck at how quickly I became concerned by what I saw as the distortions o f num ber-crunching approaches to allegiance. Tw o

1. R .N . D ore, The C ivil Wars in Cheshire (Chester, 1966). 2. T hose historiographically-m inded enough or prurient enough to want to acquaint them selves w ith this academic blood -lettin g can approach it through L. Stone, The Causes o f the English Revolution (1972), pt II. 3. ‘The A llegiance o f the Cheshire Gentry in the Great C ivil War’, Trans. Lancs and Cheshire A ntiq. Soc. (1967). This was a paper written by m e but carefully vetted by N orm an D ore, and it appeared under our join t nam es, as it replaced a paper w e had given to the society join tly in the winter o f 1964/5.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

things were very obvious to me even then: one was the problem o f social specificity and social cohesiveness - the problem o f deciding who was am ong the gentry and who was not; and the allied difficulty o f seeing what a small landowner with an incom e o f £50 per annum, w ith freehold in one or tw o parishes, had in com m on w ith the great county families w ith incomes well over £1,000 p.a. from land in several counties. M ore im portantly, I became aware that political choices were frequently constrained, and that the sources for identifying and labelling men ‘royalist’ and ‘parliamentarian’ distorted m ore complex realities. I rem em ber a deep sense o f dissatisfaction with and revulsion against modelling o f civil war allegiance on the basis o f putting individuals into one o f three boxes labelled royalist, parliamentarian and other, and then tipping out the contents o f each box and looking for statistical variants between them. The essay reprinted here as chapter 9 reflects those concerns. It began life as a review o f the m ost thoughtful and thorough o f the studies based on num ber-crunching techniques.4 II I began m y D. Phil, in O ctober 1967 ju st after the publication o f Alan E veritt’s The Community o f Kent and the Great Rebellion (1966). It influenced me greatly, as did tw o other works by Everitt developing the thesis o f his book.5 Everitt disdained prosopography and distribution curves. Instead he explored the claustrophobic atm osphere o f local governm ent and politics, the self-contained worlds o f local gentry who were first and forem ost concerned w ith local issues and whose behaviour in the civil war owed little to inform ed choices based on the traditional ‘constitutional’ and ‘religious’ issues to be found in general studies o f the period. By the time I laid dow n my pen and subm itted my thesis in December 19706 I thought I had shown that in Cheshire as in Kent, there was a county com m unity o f leading families whose political behaviour was shaped by pre-existent local loyalties, and whose political culture was built around a deep loyalty to the social and administrative institutions o f Cheshire and a natural suspicion o f the centralizing tendencies o f the C row n (before the civil wars) and o f successive regimes after the wars. 4. B .G . B lack w ood , The Lancashire Gentry and the Great Rebellion, 1640-1660 (Manchester, 1978). 5. A .M . Everitt, Change in the Provinces 1600-1660 (Leicester, 1969) and ‘The Local C om m u n ity and the Great R ebellion’, Historical Association Pamphlet G 70 (1969). 6. Subsequently published w ith relatively m inor changes as Cheshire 1630-1660: County Government and Society during the ‘English R evolution' (O xford, 1974).


County Communities and the Problem o f Allegiance

I had recovered ‘neutralism ’7 and I equated it w ith ‘localism’. But I had also decided that Everitt underestim ated the ideological force o f religion as a solvent o f local loyalties; and generally my account emphasized far m ore than his had the way that national events and issues o f principle disrupted local patterns o f behaviour. As I put it: local tensions and preoccupations proved m ore im portant than national issues or abstruse constitutional principles. The overriding political unit was the county com m unity, and the particular situation in Cheshire diffracted the conflicts between King and Parliament into an individual and specific pattern.8

Thus the parties around which Cheshire politics operated and polarized in the 1640s appear first to have form ed in the 1620s at a time when tw o groups o f families, one o f w hom had bought baronetcies and the other Irish peerages in the expectation o f achieving social prim acy (e.g. in local courts and on ceremonial occasions), found that each group refused them the deference they thought they were ow ed.9 This line o f interpretation was followed in a num ber o f other studies (especially in unpublished theses), m ost notably a study o f Sussex by A nthony Fletcher which I reviewed rather ungratefully (see below, ch. 10). These studies certainly put paid to the ‘gentry controversy’ and to the argum ent that the civil wars represented a clash between separate and opposed social groups. They drew attention to the reluctance o f m ost men to become involved, the contingent factors that skewed the political behaviour o f many individuals and families, the existence o f resentment at the interference o f the state in the affairs o f local com m unities as a factor in determ ining political behaviour before, during and in the afterm ath o f the wars. In a rather trenchant review o f Brian M anning’s The English People and the English Revolution (below, ch. 10) I reiterated all these points and more, noting that his approach (that w ith the gentry divided against themselves, the 7. B .S . M anning, ‘Neutrals and neutralism in the English C ivil War’, O xford D . Phil. (1957), was the pioneering w ork. But M anning had never explored the local contexts o f neutralism and he was m uch m ore concerned w ith popular anti-sentim ent in such m ovem ents as the Levellers. 8. M orrill, Cheshire, p. 330. And see also h o w I expressed these issues in m y introductory remarks to the chapter on Local Studies in J.S. M orrill, SeventeenthCentury Britain 1603-1714 (Critical Bibliographies in M odern H istory, London, 1980), pp. 124-6 (‘N ational issues took on different resonances in each local context and becam e intricately bound up w ith purely local issues and grou p in gs.’). 9. I had not established this w hen m y first book was published. But see J.S. M orrill, ‘Cheshire Parliamentary H istory, 1543-1974’ in The Victoria County History o f Cheshire, II (1979), 107, and b elow , Ch. 9, p. 198 n. 21.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

radicalized middling sort were able to make a decisive contribution on the parliamentarian cause) was not sustainable.10 The culm ination o f m y thinking about these issues came with the publication o f The Revolt o f the Provinces in 1976. This has been an influential book, but not in the ways I had anticipated. It has, I think, been m ost influential in the largely unresearched first chapter, and through its ill-thought out and m isunderstood title. It began life as a study o f the workings o f the committees o f sequestration and com pounding which administered the estates o f convicted royalists. I aimed to show through this general study the com plexity o f allegiance and the differences, over time and in space, in the ways different bodies o f parliamentarians defined royalism and treated individual royalists. I had already decided that there were com m itted ‘neutrals’ and I was keen to show how often they got caught in the net o f ‘delinquency’ and hence into the num bercrunchers’ royalist box. But I then hit upon the Clubm en and through them other anti-war m ovem ents and the subject took on a life o f its own. Still, the book is based on a great deal o f research in the dustier parts o f State Papers Office11 and I am still broadly convinced by the lines o f argum ent in the second and third parts o f the book which deal w ith how the provinces were mobilized for w ar12 and with how Parliament w on the war but lost the peace in the provinces. The account o f the period up to 1640, w ith its distinction between ‘pure’ and ‘official’ ‘country’, its account o f bewildered local elites reacting against the harsh, centralist policies o f Charles I was very m uch a lead-in only, was not intended to carry much interpretative w eight and was manifestly oversimplified and at times plain wrong. W hen I first sent in the m anuscript to the series editor, it was in four chapters (the existing three and a fourth on the Second Civil War and its aftermath). The book was called Conservatives and Radicals in the English C ivil Wars. The series editor (quite rightly) disapproved o f

10. A n ew edition o f this b ook has recently been published (Bookm ark Press, 1991) w ith an unrepentant forew ord by Brian M anning. I fear I have to say that he has not persuaded m e that I was w ron g in any o f the counter-argum ents I deployed in ch. 9 and w ou ld still write m uch the sam e review as I did 15 years ago. I w ou ld h ow ever probably indicate h o w w ell I think the last tw o chapters on the later 1640s and on the Levellers have stood up to the test o f time. 11. Especially SP28, the C om m on w ealth Exchequer Papers; but also SP20 (C om m ittee o f Sequestrations), SP23 (C om m ittee for C om p oun d in g) and SP24 (C om m ittee for Indem nity). For som e o f the fruit o f the latter, see b elow , ch. 15). 12. The on ly significant critique o f this chapter is contained in Ann H u gh es’s ‘The K ing, the Parliament, and the Localities during the English C ivil War’, Jn l. Brit. Studs., X X IV (1985).


County Communities and the Problem o f Allegiance

the title and asked me to think again. I did, and sent him other rather feeble suggestions. He phoned me in the middle o f a seminar (I was then teaching at Stirling University) and on the spur o f the m om ent I dream t up The Revolt o f the Provinces. I now realize that there were tw o things w rong w ith it. The first is that I think w hat I was trying to convey was the idea o f Revolt in the Province. The second is that I think I saw the revolt of the provinces as the culmination o f the process, i.e. the second civil war. This is where the second problem arose. The m anuscript I had subm itted contained 80,000 words rather than the contracted 70,000 and the publishers required it to go on a diet. I decided to cut the fourth part and incorporate a truncated account o f the second civil war as a culmination to part 3. The two decisions - on title and how to get within the w ord limit - thus cut against one another. Retitled Revolt in the Provinces, I think the book holds up reasonably well! Nonetheless it is now clear that the general approach adopted by Everitt, Fletcher, m yself and others contained serious exaggerations. T w o historians m ore than any other have taught us to get a more balanced view o f the relationship between locality and centre. Essays by Clive H olm es13 and Ann H ughes14 have confronted the issues head-on, although m uch else has been w ritten on the subject.15 Holmes challenged the emphasis placed in earlier studies on the social and cultural introvertedness o f ‘county com m unities’, and he emphasized that experience o f the Inns o f C ourt, o f the lawcourts and fleshpots o f London, and the ingrained habits o f reading widened cultural horizons. He is obviously right, although there is a scale o f extrovertedness and E veritt’s Kent (with its geographical position and peculiar inheritance customs) and my Cheshire (a county palatine that had had no MPs - and no parliamentary taxes - and no JPs until 1543, and which still had local courts that precluded Cheshire business from the W estm inster courts)16 are obviously at one end o f the scale.

13. C. H olm es, ‘The C ou n ty C om m u n ity in Stuart H istoriography’, Jn l. Brit. Studs. (1978), 54—73. XVII 14. A. H ughes, ‘Local H istory and the O rigins o f the C ivil War’, in R. Cust and A. H ughes (eds.), Conflict in Early Stuart England (1989), pp. 224—53. 15. C. H olm es, Seventeenth-Century Lincolnshire (Lincoln, 1980); A. H ughes, Government, Society and C ivil War in Warwickshire 1620-1660 (Cambridge, 1987); A. C oleby, Central Government and the Localities: Hampshire 1649-1689 (Cambridge, 1987); and works referred to in the bibliographical note in H ughes, ‘Local H istory’, p. 260. 16. It even had its o w n jud ges o f Great Sessions and was thus not visited by jud ges o f the central courts on assize circuit. The Cheshire Great Sessions therefore did not ‘em phasize the local m agistracy’s responsibility to and dependence upon, a central system o f govern m en t’ (H olm es, ‘C ou n ty C o m m u n ity ’, p. 63).


The Nature o f the English Revolution

O ther points are also well taken. E veritt’s distinction o f the ‘county’ gentry, whose social, administrative and cultural sphere o f interest and influence was the shire, and the ‘parish’ gentry, whose sphere was their im mediate neighbourhood, is im portant but perhaps overdraw n,17 and his preoccupation w ith the form er in writing political history is certainly limiting. Again, I was rightly criticized for bum pkinizing the gentry (and, by implication, the m iddling sort), misrepresenting their knowledge o f what was happening in the world and understating their ability to place their knowledge within sophisticated fram eworks o f understanding.18 It is also clear that I too readily equated localism and neutralism: there are connections but not coincidence in 1642.19 III Although neither Holmes nor Hughes is in danger o f throw ing out the baby w ith the bathwater, some o f their readers m ight be. I w ould therefore like to restate the middle ground in relation to the significance o f local loyalties and the problem o f allegiance in the civil wars. As I suggested in another essay in this collection, during the period 1559-1660 and especially 1603-60 the county was a unique locus o f pow er and political authority: it came between tw o periods when the great noble house served as a locus o f effective regional authority and power; it was the heyday o f the Lieutenancy20 and a time when all the greater gentry sought admission to the county commissions o f the peace; it was a time o f intense status-consciousness, in which heads o f families measured their standing by their position w ithin the

17. I found it helpful in explaining the changing style o f local governm ent w hen the ‘parish gentry’joined the com m issions o f the peace in the 1650s (M orrill, Cheshire, ch. 6). 18. H o lm e s’ exam ples o f Spelm an’s History o f Sacrilege and S cot’s Discoverie o f Witchcraft are as extrem e on the one side as exam ples o f h o w m em bers o f a ‘national intellectual coterie . . . could articulate their local experience and concerns, organize and explain them , and generalize from them w ithin the fram ework o f a com m on intellectual system ’ as m y use o f W illiam D avenport was on the other side (H olm es, ‘C ou n ty C o m m u n ity ’, p. 59; J. M orrill, ‘W illiam D avenport and the “Silent M ajority” o f early Stuart England’, Jn l. Chester Arch. Soc. (1974), sum m arized in M orrill, Revolt, pp. 19-22. 19. Fletcher, Outbreak, pp. 380-404; H ughes, ‘Local H istory’, 237-8. 20. But not necessarily o f the Lords Lieutenant. In som e counties one great fam ily really did dom inate local defence and the policing o f the religious settlem ent. B ut in others effective p ow er had shifted by the early seventeenth century to the deputy lieutenants, drawn from am ong the senior JPs. I o w e this point, w hich strengthens m y general argum ent, to a discussion w ith D avid Smith.


County Communities and the Problem o f Allegiance

pecking order o f county rankings. It is the age in which gentlemen had the coats o f arms o f county families painted as friezes around their walls or on their ceilings. It is an age in which the gentry measured their status by rankings within the county and in which this was a (in many cases the) determ ining issue when parliamentary selection went w rong and a contested election had to be held.21 If county governm ent was quite diffuse, w ith the lathe or other petty sessional division as m uch the centre o f practical action as the county itself, nonetheless only a grand ju ry at quarter sessions or assizes could draw up and endorse and present a petition in the name o f the shire to king or parliament; only a grand ju ry serving for a whole county could impose a rate upon local com m unities;22 and as I put it in 1983: ‘the social and political institutions o f the county were arenas within which rivalries were w orked out, disputes arbitrated, prestige and honour w on and lost.’23 Ann Hughes tells us that economic boundaries do not follow jurisdictional ones, that many counties are made up o f sharply contrasted farming regions or farming and industrial regions. She reports that in an unpublished paper Hassell Smith showed how MPs from the sheep-corn farming belts dom inated the parliamentary representation o f several counties in the early seventeenth century and uses this to suggest that counties are not hom ogeneous units.24 Indeed not, but Hassell Sm ith’s tentative but persuasive conclusion is that the electoral geography in the counties he had studied may have been dom inated by the perceived inequities o f the rating system at a time when all landowners paid low national taxes but high local rates. The distribution as between occupiers and owners differed sharply between farming regions and may well have been a key issue in local politics. M y conclusion from this would differ from Ann H ughes’s. At this crucial stage o f state formation, Englishmen had to find ways o f cooperating and resolving differences at a local level, and the institutions o f the county were where they prim arily did so. As a result o f recent w ork we can now see how far and how often conflict

21. M. A. Kishlansky, Parliamentary Selection (Cam bridge, 1985), esp. chs. 3-4; see also A. Fletcher, ‘H onour, Reputation and O ffice-H old in g in Elizabethan and Stuart England’, in Fletcher and Stevenson (eds.), Order and Disorder, pp. 92-115. 22. A point I discussed at length in The Cheshire Grand J u r y , 1525-1667: a Social and Administrative Study (Leicester, 1978), pp. 33-7, 44—5. For the significance o f the county and its institutions in the petitioning activities o f the early 1640s, see A. Fletcher, The Outbreak o f the English C ivil War (1980), chs. 6, 8, 11. 23. See above, p. 48. 24. H ughes, ‘Local H istory’, pp. 229-37.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

m anagement required appeals for arbitration or confirmation o f local agreement to the centre. Similarly m y reading o f the evidence Clive Holmes adduces for the reduction o f fenland violence and which he attributes to a popular awe o f statute is different from his. It seems to me that locally-arrived-at agreements in fenland disputes were confirmed and made good by-the passage o f local acts o f Parliament (which made voluntary agreements readily enforceable).25 When I read studies o f the fifteenth century, pre-em inently now Christine Carpenter on W arwickshire,26 or when I read Hassell Smith on Elizabethan N orfolk27 and Diarmaid M acCulloch on T udor Suffolk,28 I am struck again by the slow decline o f local pow er structures built around the noble household, the liberty and the manor, and the gradual rise o f the institutions o f the shire - lieutenancy, commission o f the peace, revival o f the shrievalty - and o f the civil parish, whose officers were supervised (unlike those o f the manor) by the C row n-appointed officers o f the shire. This gradual and perceptible shift in the locus o f pow er reached a peak around the middle o f the seventeenth century. After that the re-emergence o f mega-rich families whose interests were as m uch m etropolitan as provincial, the w ithdraw al o f the greatest families from the tedium o f local governm ent and the bureaucratization o f many sensitive matters such as tax assessment all led to a shift away from a relative countymindedness. The sixteenth century not only saw the developm ent o f county institutions. It saw the developm ent o f a fierce pride in local customs and local procedures. Clive Holmes suggests that w hat I called ‘conventions and customs to meet local needs’ developed only where the relevant legislation gave JPs discretionary powers. ‘In fundam entals’, he asserts, the English county communities were governed by a com m on law .29 I do not wholly agree. There was a clear statutory duty incum bent upon JPs to raise a county rate for the

25. H olm es, ‘Drainers and Fenmen: the Problem o f Popular Political Culture in the 17th C entury’, in Fletcher and Stevenson (eds.), Order and Disorder, pp. 166-95. I w ill present m y evidence for this reassessm ent in an essay forthcom ing in a festschrift. 26. C. Carpenter, Locality and Polity: a Study o f Warwickshire Landed Society, 14011499, (Cam bridge, 1992), a book w hich self-consciously opens a dialogue w ith ‘county com m u n ity’ studies o f the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 27. A. Hassell Sm ith, County or Court: Government and politics in Norfolk, 1559-1603 (O xford, 1974). 28. D . M acC ulloch, Suffolk and the Tudors: Politics and Religion in an English County 1500-1600 (O xford, 1986). 29. H olm es, ‘C ou n ty C o m m u n ity ’, p. 64.


County Communities and the Problem o f Allegiance

maintenance o f bridges on the king’s highway. In Cheshire, the statute was ignored because the Cheshire justices preferred their ow n system which predated the statute. And even if the powers o f grand juries were determined w ithin local discretion they could be cherished.30 This matters, because w hat was argued by Everitt and myself, and w hat m ust not be overlooked, is that the governm ent o f Charles I became clumsily interventionist, riding roughshod over such local customs and traditions in a drive for efficiency and uniform ity. H ow ever m uch I may have filtered objections o f fundamental principle out o f m y account o f the story o f Ship M oney and left only localist concerns in (and I certainly did oversimplify the story),31 it is im portant not to reverse the filter and return to a story o f Ship M oney as a tax resented essentially because it was ‘unconstitutional’.32 The Book o f O rders and the exact militia (especially in the attem pted use o f county m unitions in 1639-40), are other examples o f a heavyhanded governm ent that was far less skilful than its Elizabethan and Jacobean predecessors in using conciliar arbitration and patronage as a carrot (as well as a stick) to keep local governors on w hat I called ‘the treadmill o f endeavour’. IV I w ould still like to make the following claims for the im portance o f local studies o f the origins o f the civil war. First, that localism was an im portant factor in alienating many people from the governm ent o f Charles I by 1640; that it limited the support that both the king and his opponents were able to call on in 1642; and that an understanding o f the ways local loyalties lie helps to an understanding o f the patterning o f allegiance in any part o f England. When I w rote m y thesis, and when I w rote The Revolt o f the Provinces, it never occurred to me that anyone would challenge the im portance o f religious passions in compelling m any men to choose

30. M orrill, Cheshire Grand Jury, pp. 241-3, for an account o f a local agreem ent w hich lasted from 1616 to 1652. 31. M orrill, Revolt, pp. 24—30; H olm es, ‘C ou n ty C om m u n ity’, pp. 65-9; H ughes, ‘Local H istory’, pp. 232-4; see n o w A lison G ill’s U n iversity o f Sheffield PhD thesis (1991), an exceptionally thorough and persuasive analysis o f the w h ole question, w hich reaches conclusions that dem onstrate that there w ere ideological and functional aspects to Ship M on ey refusal. 32. In a brilliantly playful passage in a lecture to sixth formers in March 1992 I heard Conrad Russell m ake som e very suggestive parallels betw een Ship M on ey in the 1630s and Poll Tax in the late 1980s, resented by m ost, resisted by som e on principle, by others on grounds o f equity, avoided by m any to the point o f distraint but not beyond.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

sides; nor did I ever doubt that at the level o f high politics both the calculations and the miscalculations o f the royal family, old and new councillors, peers and managers o f the House o f C om m ons were likely to result in a collapse o f trust and a call to arms. I was concerned to distinguish between those people who made civil war happen and those who got draw n in to a war o f other people’s making. Later I became concerned w ith analysing the political psychology o f the activists33 but I felt then and feel now that the m ost im portant task was to look at how (unlike in 1688) the centre failed to hold in 1642. In the introduction to the new edition o f The Revolt o f the Provinces published in 1980, I noted that N orm an Dore had jokingly told me I had dem onstrated that the civil war had not broken out in 1642. This has been seized on by C hristopher Hill and others and much used against me. It has become rather tedious. W hat N orm an Dore clearly m eant is that I had shown that civil war need not have broken out, that the forces for peace and settlement were strong; that m ost people were reluctant participants and warriors; and that we need to distinguish w hat determ ined the allegiance o f those who made it happen from w hat determ ined the behaviour o f those sucked into a w ar they had sought to prevent. In the sum m er and autum n o f 1642 men and w om en had to react to a series o f challenges: whether to act under the parliamentary militia ordinance or under the royal commissions o f array; w hether to obey orders from those w ho had so acted; w hether to respond to direct summonses from the king; whether to pay the loans which Parliament sought to require all landholders to pay; w hether to obey orders or answer requests from local magnates. In deciding how to rsepond to this continuous stream o f options, men (often after taking the advice o f their wives or mothers) allowed all kinds o f factors to influence them: they could put the welfare o f their families first, and give aid to the side m ost likely to plunder them if they did not; they could behave deferentially, saying to themselves that some local m agnate was m ore likely to understand the issues than they were; they could (for no better reasons than prudence and inertia) follow the lead o f others in a local grouping which had stood together in local politics over the preceding years; they could follow short-term self-interest, seeing a way o f making a bit o f money by a short-term 33. See section A. It was Barbara Shapiro w h o explained to m e that that was what I w as about after I had given a paper in T oronto (published as ‘Sir W illiam Brereton and “England’s Wars o f R eligion ’” , Jn l. Brit. Studs., 24 (1985), w hich was said by m y com m entator to sh ow I had changed m y mind.


County Communities and the Problem o f Allegiance

commission in a war expected to be over by Christmas; or they could decide on matters o f principle (religious, constitutional) and prejudice (fear o f popery, fear o f religious anarchy). There w ould be as many patterns o f choice as there were people. M y earlier studies presumed that we knew what the m atters o f principle were, but that we needed to know w hat else skewed the behaviour o f individuals. I also hoped that in those studies I m ight be able to isolate those issues o f principle which proved so powerful and effective that they brought particular men to the fore. I have spent much o f the past ten years w orking out the political psychology o f those w ho made free choices and then compelled many others to make much m ore reluctant choices. If we revert to thinking that we can understand allegiance in the English civil war as being determ ined by simple rational choices between tw o party manifestoes we will not only fail to understand how it came about, but w hy it had the shape that it had, and why it had the outcom e that it had. When I first w rote about allegiance in the civil war, I was preoccupied with questions o f gentry allegiance. This was partly because I despaired o f being able to find sources adequate to measure let alone account for the political choices being made at sub-gentry level, and partly because I think I underestim ated the freedom o f choice that existed within that society. (I will confess to underestim ating it but not to discounting it.) Since then I have been taught both just how real that freedom was and how it can be studied. Derek H irst’s w ork on the independence o f a m uch larger electorate was im portant in opening m y eyes to this, even if it now seems clear that he took his case further than it can be pushed.34 Later local studies, notably Ann H ughes’s study o f W arwickshire, show what could and should have been done w ith Cheshire sources.35 Above all, David U nderdow n, in his wonderfully rich and challenging account o f the political cultures o f royalism and parliamentarianism 36 offers an account o f an England

34. D . Hirst, Representative o f the People? (Cam bridge, 1975), especially chs. 6-7. Hirst certainly sh ow s that w henever there was a contest the elite had difficulty in controlling the electorate, but he does not acknow ledge h o w lim ited w ere the opportunities o f the electorate to decide w hether there should be a contest. It was alm ost un k now n for those outside the elite to challenge the nom inees o f the elite. C ontests on ly take place w hen the elite cannot agree h o w to share the representation. For a robust and m ore general critique o f Hirst, see Kishlansky, Parliamentary Selection, chs. 3-4. 35. A. H ughes, Government, Society and C ivil War in Warwickshire 1620-1660 (Cam bridge, 1987), chs. 1-4. 36. D .E . U n d erd ow n , Revel, Riot and Rebellion (O xford, 1985).


The Nature o f the English Revolution

in which men o f all social groups are making free and inform ed political choices. M y long review o f his thesis is republished below as chapter 11, and m y doubts and hesitations are there recorded. But Revel, Riot and Rebellion is undoubtedly m y book o f the 1980s as far as civil-war studies is concerned and it is a book which m ore than any other decided me not to accept an invitation to publish a new edition o f The Revolt o f the Provinces. It w ould require me to rethink too much. Instead I will address U nderdow n’s agenda elsewhere and sort out what for me is the wheat from the chaff o f his argument. It will be an abundant harvest.



The Northern Gentry and the Great Rebellion

I The publication o f The Lancashire Gentry and the Great Rebellion, 1640-1660x is a notable event. D r Blackwood has w orked on this subject for m ore than tw enty years,2 and the result is a book more thoroughly researched, m ore clearly w ritten and m ore disciplined than any o f its kind. The title promises both m ore and less than the book performs. For D r Blackwood is concerned with people not events, groups not individuals, society and economics not politics and governm ent. There is no account here o f the civil war in Lancashire, nor o f the institutions and values o f the Interregnum . D r Blackwood studies the Lancashire gentry as a group, analysing their num ber, their wealth, their values over the seventeenth century as a whole. Above all, he is concerned to examine what divided one group from another in 1642, to see to what extent they were divided and to find out how far the costly violence o f the war changed the face o f Lancashire society. To w hat extent did the civil wars prosper the wealth and status o f the parliamentarians and damage those o f the royalists? In answering this question, he has extended his researches dow n to the end o f the seventeenth century and by straddling the Restoration settlement has broken new ground in local studies. Those familiar with the journals and transactions o f northern historical societies - including Northern History itself - already be

1. B .G . B lack w ood , The Lancashire Gentry and the Great Rebellion, 1640-1660 (Manchester: U n iversity Press for the C hetham Society. 1978). 2. H e first exam ined the question in an O xford U n iversity B Litt. thesis in 1956. the present w ork is a revised version o f his O xford U n iversity D . Phil, thesis o f 1973.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

familiar w ith D r B lackw ood’s approach to the subject,3 and some o f his findings will already be familiar to them. This book, however, is m ore than a gathering together o f his earlier articles. It offers an economical, coherent and lucid account o f a society under stress. Experts will have to turn at times to the articles for a fuller explanation o f his methods and o f his sources, but his argum ent here comprehends and extends everything he has said elsewhere. The book is easy to use and every chapter ends w ith a splendid sum m ary o f his argument. It is a mine o f useful inform ation. But it has to be used w ith caution. His definition o f crucial terms and compilation o f particular sets o f figures are open to objection. Above all, his conclusions and figures are not comparable with those o f other historians o f northern counties, and it will be a principal purpose o f this article to show how the approaches o f the leading analysts o f gentry behaviour are based on such distinct presuppositions that their books cannot be used side by side.4 Beyond that I want to w ithdraw some o f the criticisms o f this kind o f approach to civil war studies which I have advanced elsewhere, and to suggest some ways forw ard for all local studies in this period. Let us first, however, state D r B lackw ood’s conclusions. II D r B lackw ood’s book falls into four parts, neatly summarized by the four chapter headings: Lancashire on the Eve o f the Civil War - Econom y, Population and Gentry; the Cavalier and Roundhead Gentry; The Roundheads in Power; the Fate o f the Cavaliers. There is also a brief concluding chapter. In his opening chapter, D r Blackwood discusses the 774 gentry families o f Lancashire in 1642. He examines their distribution within the county (finding them thicker on the ground in the arable regions 3. E .g. ‘The E conom ic State o f the Lancashire Gentry on the E ve o f the C ivil War’, N(orthern) H (istory), XII (1976), 53-83; ‘T he Cavalier and Roundhead Gentry o f Lancashire’, Transactions o f the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, L X X V II (1967), 23-46; ‘The Catholic and Protestant Gentry o f Lancashire during the C ivil War Period’, Transactions o f the Historic Society o f Lancashire and Cheshire, C X X V I (1976), 1-29. T hese are fuller (particularly on points o f m eth od ology and definition) than com parable sections o f his book, and are not rendered redundant by its appearance. 4. In particular I want to discuss D r B lack w ood ’s w ork in relation to J.T . Cliffe, The Yorkshire Gentry (1969); C .B . Phillips, ‘The Royalist North: The Cum berland and W estm orland Gentry 1642-1660’, N H , X IV (1978), 169-92 and D r Phillips’ thesis, ‘T h e G entry o f Cum berland and W estm orland, 1600-1665’ (unpub. P hD thesis, Lancaster U n iv. 1974); and M .D .G . W anklyn, ‘Landed Society and Allegiance in Cheshire and Shropshire in the First C ivil W ar’ (unpub. PhD thesis, M anchester U n iv. 1976).


Northern Gentry and the Great Rebellion

than in the ‘sem i-industrial’ south-east o f the shire), he finds that the great m ajority were mere or lesser gentry (gentlemen) rather than county or greater gentry (esquires, knights, baronets). There was extensive m obility into and out o f the lower reaches o f gentry society, and an expanding num ber o f urban gentry. He finds local political and administrative pow er to have been concentrated in the hands o f the non-recusant half o f the greater gentry. He finds them ‘economically heterogeneous’ but generally very poor in comparison w ith other northern gentry (let alone southern ones). He finds them, as a group, m uch less enterprising, much less well educated than the elites o f other counties. Seventy-two per cent o f the greater gentry were descended from pre-Tudor gentry families and eighty-one per cent had settled in Lancashire before 1485 (a higher figure than for any other recorded county). Lancashire also had an unusually high rate o f gentry marriages in which both partners were born within the shire. M ore than ninety per cent married daughters o f gentry. The other distinctive characteristic was the very high proportion o f recusant gentry - almost thirty per cent. In the second chapter, D r Blackwood examines allegiance in the civil war. Barely one third can be classified as being either Royalist or Parliamentarian, though D r Blackwood is less clear than he m ight be about w hether the rest are unknow n or are dem onstrably non-aligned. He has, however, found fewer divided families and fewer examples o f men who changed sides than D r Cliffe found in Yorkshire. Am ong those w ho did take sides, the Royalists enjoyed a numerical superiority o f 2:1. He argues, however, that they failed to take advantage o f this superiority for three reasons; m any m ore Royalists than Parliamentarians left the county to fight elsewhere; there was much popular resistance to royalist recruitm ent; and a higher proportion o f Parliamentarians were actively com m itted while much o f the royalism was passive. An analysis o f the tw o groups revealed little difference between them. N either in terms o f age, younger sons, lineage, status, office holding or economic state does there seem to be any marked distinction between the tw o groups. T w o significant differences alone stand out. First, the parliamentarians appear to have been better educated than the royalists . . .5 Secondly, m ost parliamentarian families were puritan and m ost

5. H e docs not add that if one excludes recusants from the royalist side (they w ere unable to take the oaths required to matriculate) the difference vanishes. Indeed both absolutely and proportionately protestant R oyalists w ere m ore highly educated than were the Parliamentarians.


The Nature o f the English Revolution royalist families were papist. There seems little doubt that religion was the issue w hich principally divided the tw o sides.6

In the third chapter. D r Blackwood does tw o things. Firstly he examines the men who ran local governm ent in the period 1645-60 and contrasts them w ith the pre-w ar governors. He finds that the collapse o f the pow er o f the greater gentry was m ore delayed and less complete in Lancashire than elsewhere. And he adds a challenging caveat: ‘the changes in local governm ent lose some o f their social significance when one notes the large num ber o f non-gentry officers am ong the Lancashire royalist forces and realises that similar changes in governm ent may have occurred if the Cavaliers had w on the civil w ar7 Secondly, he studies the active land m arket created by the confiscation and sale o f C row n, C hurch and royalist land in the decade after 1646. He finds very few Lancashire Parliamentarians benefiting from this bonanza. N o t many bought land, and those who did usually lost their purchases in the 1660s. Virtually no new families established themselves in Lancashire as a consequence o f the Revolution and the rate o f extinction o f parliamentarian gentry families in the late seventeenth century was similar to the extinction rate o f ex-royalist families. In the fourth chapter, D r Blackwood considers the other side o f the same problem: ‘the fate o f the Cavaliers’. Very few families were ruined, either by the fines levied by Parliament, or even by the forced sale o f all their estates. The great m ajority o f royalist land was bought back by the families themselves either before or shortly after the Restoration. M any families died out or faded away (more often from pre-w ar indebtedness than from the effects o f the civil war), but others benefit from im proved rents, and better estate m anagement in which ex-royalists and ex-parliamentarians engaged equally. These conclusions invite comparisons w ith the w ork o f other historians o f the northern counties, m ost particularly D r Cliffe’s study o f Yorkshire and D r Phillips’ w ork on Cum berland and W estmorland (both in print), and also D r W anklyn’s unpublished thesis on Cheshire and Shropshire.8 But there are major obstacles in the way o f such comparisons. For each historian has recognized a series o f definitional and methodological problems, and each has

6. B lack w ood , Lancs. Gentry, p. 66. 7. Ibid., p. 101. 8. See w orks listed in note 4.


Northern Gentry and the Great Rebellion

solved them in his ow n way. This has affected their results and called into question the usefulness o f a comparative, quantitative approach to the social history o f the Great Rebellion. Ill Who were the northern gentry? This simple little question plunges us immediately into a quagmire. The problems stem from conflicts within the sources. Some men are inconsistently titled in different classes o f docum ents o f similar date, and m any men were accorded status titles by their neighbours to which they had no formal legal right. Faced by these problems, each local historian has come up with his ow n empirical, rather mechanistic solution. D r Cliffe sticks closely to the heralds’ visitations and admits that, if he had allowed for selfascription, he would have increased the num ber o f Yorkshire gentry by m ore than 50 per cent.9 D r Blackwood and D r Phillips both opt for a wider definition, accepting all those who are consistently styled gentlemen in the sources they have used.10 In m any ways, this seems the m ore satisfactory for reasons we will explore, but it has problems o f its own. The m ost thorough discussion o f the problem is contained in D r W anklyn’s thesis, and he presents very sound reasons for finding the sources unhelpful for m odern historians. ‘Landed society was not a rigid hierarchy o f autonom ous groups but an organic whole in which differences o f rank were bridged and blurred by factors like marriage and friendship.’ He proposes instead that historians draw up a series o f tests based on wealth, status, title, antiquity, offices and marriage and use these as a grid which will break landowners dow n into four or five fairly distinctive groups. At the bottom end this excludes many mere gentlemen (particularly those with a landed income o f less than £40 p.a.). This proves a m ost useful analytical tool in discussing differences between Royalists and Parliamentarians, but it ought not to be used as a new model for understanding the social history o f the period.11 H ow can the position be clarified? It seems to me that we should

9. For the clearest statem ent o f D r C liffe’s view s, see A .M . Everitt, Change in the Provinces (Leicester, 1966), p. 56. 10. B lack w ood , Lancs. Gentry, p. 4; Phillips, N H , X IV (1978) 68. T h ey do differ from one another, how ever, since D r B lack w ood places great reliance on freeholders’ books and accepts their ascription o f gentility w ithou t corroboration, w hile D r Phillips regards such books as unreliable. 11. W anklyn, thesis, ch. 2. I should add that Dr W ankyln’s analysis is o f ‘landed society’. H e therefore considers yeom en - and husbandm en - freeholders as w ell as the gentry.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

stand back from the tax rolls, court records, feet o f fines etc. and try to find out from literary sources and polemical w riting o f all kinds w hat contemporaries thought made a gentleman a gentleman: to examine the concept o f gentility. I believe this does help to explain the problems in the source material used by these historians. What follows is impressionistic and cannot be fully docum ented here, though I hope to prove my assertions elsewhere. N or is much o f m y evidence distinctly northern. But let us see what happens if we assume that contemporaries knew w hat they were doing.12 First o f all it m ust be stressed that the term ‘gentry’ had no formal or legal authority. It was a generic term coined by sixteenth-century Englishmen to embrace a series o f quite separate social groups: the knights, esquires and gentlem en.13 These groups were discerned as having a ‘quality’ in com m on - gentility or nobility14 - which set them apart from other status groups, notably the yeomen. It is o f m ajor im portance that contemporaries neither then nor later saw any need to coin a w ord to conjoin the ‘m ere’ gentry and the yeom anry despite the obvious similarity o f wealth and other characteristics which they shared. W hatever united them was exceeded by what distinguished them, while contemporaries did discern som ething which united the £40 p .a .15 gentlem an-freeholder and the £2,000 p. a. baronet. ‘Gentility’ then was a concept with no legal basis. It embraced three, later four16 groups who derived their titles by different means (knights and baronets by the direct action o f the monarch:

12. What follow s is based on a reading o f a w id e variety o f tracts and other writings about social and political obligations and rights written in the century and a h alf before 1640. T he stim ulus, and m any o f the ideas, are derived from an unpublished paper on conceptions o f status given by the late John C ooper at O xford in 1972. H ow ever, that paper was m ainly concerned w ith the period 1450-1550. 13. The earliest use o f the term as one o f social reference cited in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary is 1585. 14. N o b ility is the quality shared by the peerage (nobilitas major) and the gentry (nobilitas minor) w hich set both apart from the com m ons. The term nobility properly meant peers plus gentry, but Was increasingly used sim ply for the peerage. O n e term never used for the peerage before 1640 is ‘aristocracy’, a term used to describe a system o f governm ent, not a social group. The best general discussion o f these questions is Sir A. Wagner, English Genealogy (rev. ed. 1972). part IV. 15. £40 p.a. from freehold land was the requirement o f a knighthood. D r Wanklyn advances several good reasons for believing that in the north m idlands by the 1630s it was the m inim um required for a claim to gentility. 16. W ith the creation o f the baronetcy in 1611. See L. Stone, The Crisis o f the Aristocracy (short paperback edn., O xford, 1967), pp. 43-8.


Northern Gentry and the Great Rebellion

esquires by the action o f the heralds, etc.). The titles themselves are all terms which had originated and had had a specific meaning within a chivalric context which had passed away. All had lost their original purpose and resonance. All had represented the right to hold blocs o f land in exchange for distinctive obligations and responsibilities. All the titles survived into an age when those obligations had been extinguished. The problem faced up to by hum anist thinkers in the sixteenth century was w hether to abrogate those redundant titles or to reinvest them with a new meaning. They opted for the latter course. By the early seventeenth century a new conception o f gentility had totally supplanted the old one. M uch less emphasis was now placed on the ranking within rural society, and the new concept was intended to give a com m on strength and purpose to all those titles. The new conception was an adaptation o f Aristotle’s definition o f the citizen as the man whose wealth and leisure freed him from material preoccupations for the task o f equipping him self to govern the polis , the state. Just so, the gentry were set free from working for a living, set free to devote themselves to the com m on weal. The gentry were the governors. The tw o crucial attributes o f the gentry were independence and leisure. Independence meant an adequate income to support him self and his household, and also it meant freedom from the will o f others (landlords, employers, etc.). Thus a gentleman owned and derived his income from freehold land or property. Leisure was freedom from material concerns and freedom fo r governm ent and the cultivation o f an equitable, judicious and responsible m ind and tem peram ent. Thus the ideal form o f gentry wealth came from rents. Yet gentility is not a description o f social function. It was a quality, a capacity to govern. The actual governors were drawn from am ong a large reservoir o f capable men, the gentry. The greater gentry (esquires and above) governed their county as justices,17 sheriffs, militia officers, etc. The mere ‘gentlem en’ had lesser responsibilities as lords o f m anors,18 high constables, and m ore arguably as grand ju ry m e n .19 17. Significantly, D r W anklyn found that a num ber o f ‘m ere’ gentlem en becam e esquires as soon as they joined the com m ission o f the peace. 18. Indeed I w ou ld argue that w hile in general one can find gentlem en w h o are not lords o f manors. O ne cannot easily find lords o f manors w h o are not gentlem en - this despite the small size and attenuated jurisdiction o f m any manors. 19. I have argued the case for grand jurym en elsewhere: J.S. M orrill, The Cheshire Grand Jury 1625-1659 (Leicester, 1976), pp. 15-20. U nfortunately, the case is less strong than I supposed. D r W anklyn finds that a m ajority o f m y gentlem enjurym en were still called yeom en in such sources as the feet o f fines and says that the assize and quarter session ascription o f gentility to them was ‘a mere legal fiction ’.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

This was an ideal, o f course, and bore only a partial resemblance to reality, but it offered a com forting explanation to rulers and ruled o f the unequal distribution o f wealth, and it revived defunct titles. It was excellent as a concept but was hard to apply to individuals. A man was a gentleman if he had the manner, the breeding, the bearing, the independence o f means and mind, to take responsibility for the welfare o f his com m unity. Wealth, birth, cousinage, life-style, education, w ould all play a part: there were few preconditions, but a certain ‘score’ derived from the sum o f the above was necessary if a man was to be accepted by his neighbours as a gentleman. Seventeenth-century Englishmen may have had difficult in articulating w hat made a gentleman: but they knew one if they saw one. Contem poraries differed in their perception o f gentility in individuals - as our sources reveal. But they did care passionately about it: they took one another to court to prove or disprove entitlem ent;20 they disrupted local governm ent if due precedence was not observed; they feuded over it.21 Thus, I believe we m ust begin by assuming that seventeenthcentury Englishmen meant w hat they said when they styled one another ‘gentlem en’ or ‘esquire’. The heralds came infrequently and applied criteria which were outm oded and only remained useful because they were applied fraudulently. But they were inefficient and should not be treated as authoritative. Drs Blackwood and Phillips are surely right to include all those ‘consistently’ called gentlemen by their contemporaries - or at any rate they are right to do so in m ost respects. But their m ethod has tw o weaknesses. It does not disclose the changing meaning o f ‘gentlem an’ during the century,

20. E .g. G .C . Squibb, The High Court o f Chivalry (1958), pp. 161-75; A. Wagner, English Genealogy (O xford, 2nd edn., 1972), pp. 124-6 21. D r W anklyn sh ow s h o w both Shropshire and Cheshire local governm ent was disrupted in the 1620s by a row over precedence betw een the counties’ baronets and those w h o had recently purchased Irish peerages. The conflicts w ere partly defused in 1629 by Charles I’s com prom ise w hich accorded precedence to the viscounts in return for their exclusion from all future com m issions o f the peacc (W anklyn, thesis, p. 84). I w ou ld n o w see this as the cause o f the divisions w h ich played so im portant a part in Cheshire politics betw een 1639 and 1642: J.S. M orrill, Cheshire 1630-1660 (O xford, 1974), pp. 20-69. Failure to note this com prom ise was one o f the things w h ich m ade m e m isleadingly write o f the ‘w ithdraw al’ o f V iscounts C h olm on d eley, K ilm orey, etc. from local governm ent in the 1630s. M y b ook on Cheshire contains a num ber o f similar inaccuracies, m any o f them genealogical. O n e o f the spin-offs o f the group-biography approach advocated by Drs B lack w ood , W anklyn etc., is that they are less likely to make the kind o f m isidentifications w hich have flawed m y w ork.


Northern Gentry and the Great Rebellion

and (connected w ith it) it uncritically accepts the intrusion o f urban or pseudo-gentry. The right o f urban oligarchs, who owned little or no freehold land, to be styled gentleman was conceded by the end o f the seventeenth century, but not earlier. The new conception o f gentility outlined above had been devised to shore up rural society. N o account was taken o f the position o f borough governors, yet m any o f the defining characteristics o f the new gentry - wealth, literacy, discretion, responsibility for the welfare o f their com m unity - were equally appropriate to their situation. Furtherm ore, urban elites were recruited largely from am ong the younger sons o f rural gentry families. N o w onder they clamoured for and began to ascribe to themselves the same status as their rural cousins. They became what Professor Everitt has called the ‘pseudo-gentry’.22 B oth D r Blackw ood and D r Cliffe include them in their survey (they comprise 12 per cent o f D r B lackw ood’s families in 1642, and a higher proportion in 1664). D r W anklyn rigorously excludes them and for the period up to (at least) 1650 I think he is right. For the majority o f the population and m ost rural gentry resisted the change. Indeed as it became more and m ore com m on practice, conservative country gentry coined a new term to describe themselves and to protect their distinct identity as a rural group: for the first time the w ord ‘squire’ is used as a term o f social reference23 I have dwelt at length - and have been forced to rely on obiter dicta - not only to suggest an alternative way in which this problem o f determ ining gentry status m ight be approached (for the w ork o f local historians hitherto has been so unimaginative - a criticism as valid for my ow n w ork as that o f others) but also because it has implications for all the statistical tables upon which the local studies under discussion are based. For it is generally agreed that those at the tail o f the gentry are far less likely to have been actively involved in the civil war than those at the top o f the gentry. Furtherm ore tables for average wealth, size o f holdings, etc. or o f the proportion o f gentry with higher education, marriages w ithin the county and ancient gentry lineage are seriously affected by the num ber o f m inor gentry included. In other words the w ork o f Drs Cliffe, Phillips, Wanklyn and Blackwood are non-comparable. It is unfortunate that the others did not foresee

22. Everitt, Change in the Provinces, pp. 43-6; A .M . Everitt, ‘Social M ob ility in early M odern E ngland’, Past and Present, 33 (1966), 70-2. 23. Shorter O xf. Engl. Dictionary.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

D r W anklyn’s practice o f producing separate tables for each o f his categories or gentry. This w ould have minimized the problem. IV Once the gentry have been identified, D r Blackwood, like D r Cliffe and D r W anklyn examines the nature and scale o f their wealth (including both their pattern o f income and expenditure) and their other activities: education, m obility, marriage, office-holding, etc. The sources for all these are o f variable quality, and it m ust be said that D r Blackwood is not always clear in this book about the problems involved. However, readers can be assured that if they turn to the relevant sections o f the thesis from which the book is drawn, they will find the problem s fairly faced. T w o o f his sets o f tables call for further com m ent, however. These are the tables o f gentry income from land, and the tables listing ‘Puritans’. There has been a lively debate in the pages o f Northern History about the possibility o f using sequestration and com position records as sources o f gentry income. D r Phillips argued that - in C um bria at any rate - the com position papers seriously understate the income o f the gentry. This understatem ent arises from not surprisingly deceit on the part o f the defeated Royalists and also from connivance in that deceit by local officials . . . ’,24 and he suggested that others had placed too m uch reliance upon these sources. D r Cliffe responded to this challenge by a spirited defence o f his use o f such sources for Yorkshire, and warned us ‘to be very cautious about generalisations based on the limited evidence available for a rem ote and sparsely populated area o f northern England’.25 He is strongly supported in this by D r W anklyn, w ho argues that the careful scrutiny o f the valuations by county commissioners who had themselves administered the estates while they were under sequestration, and the very great danger to delinquents posed by professional informers, would tend to make all but the im prudent honest in their declarations.26 - But there is strong support for D r Phillips’ arguments in this new book. D r Blackwood argues that ‘at least 32 out o f 74 com pounding Royalists appear to have undervalued their lands’, m any o f them with great deceit and by a very substantial am ount. He can find only

24. C .B . Phillips, ‘The Royalist C om p osition Papers and the Landed Incom e o f the Gentry: A N o te o f W arning from C um bria’, N H , XIII (1977) 161. 25. J.T . Cliffe, ‘T he Royalist C om p osition Papers and the Landed Incom e o f the Gentry: A Rejoinder’, N H , X IV (1978) 168. 26. W anklyn, thesis, pp. 284—7.


Northern Gentry and the Great Rebellion

seven examples o f accurate com position statem ents.27 Furtherm ore, it is only fair to point out that D r Holiday, who has subjected the Yorkshire sequestration and com position papers to a scrutiny as detailed as that o f D r Cliffe, arrived at a much less sanguine conclusion. Pointing out that 28 per cent o f all active Royalists remained undiscovered and unsequestered, stressing that the inefficiency o f the system was such that many Royalists were not resequestered when they failed to pay their fines, dem onstrating how inaccurate the comparable assessments by the C om m ittee for the Advance o f M oney were, D r Holiday takes a gloom y view o f the efficiency o f the Yorkshire sequestrators.28 Thus the question remains open. There is nothing in my experience o f the partiality, overburdened life and chaotic record-keeping o f county committees to make me believe that the system w ould be well-administered. O n the other hand, the empirical evidence o f actual correlation o f com pounding records and other sources presented by Drs Cliffe and W anklyn cannot be gainsaid. The issue is still open. Here it is m ost im portant to stress that some o f our local studies make extensive use o f this source and others do not. And this has its effect on their comparability. D r Blackwood will not trust com position papers. Yet he expresses confidence in subsidy rolls. Despite the fact that fewer and fewer names appear in the rolls as we m ove from the sixteenth to the seventeenth century, and despite the grow ing inefficiency o f the subsidy as a form o f parliamentary taxation, D r Blackwood believes that assessments were regularly reviewed and can be used, for the gentry at least. His defence o f this source both in the book and elsewhere is rather perfunctory, and his use o f a multiplier o f fifty for all gentry on the basis o f an off-the-cuff remark by Lord Treasurer Cranfield and o f three case studies is certainly an unusually weak link in his argument. Fortunately his use o f the rolls is strongly supported by the arguments o f D r W anklyn who has examined the problems far m ore thoroughly. He shows - to m y surprise - how much care was taken to adjust the rolls to take account o f changing ranking in county society. He suggests that individual gentry would not want to be seen to have been overtaken by others in the listing (it could be added that the paym ent was never a heavy burden on any o f them). The hierarchy o f income, as expressed in the rolls, is also reflected in 27. B lack w ood , Lancs. G entry, pp. 115-19. 28. P.G. H oliday, ‘Royalist C om p osition Fines and Land Sales in Yorkshire, 16451665’ (unpub. PhD thesis, Leeds U n iv. 1966), ch. 1.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

the distribution o f offices and positions o f merit. ‘Subsidy rolls reveal, in a “rough and ready” fashion, the hierarchy o f landed w ealth.’ This seems a plausible if unexpected fact, and it is used m ost imaginatively by D r W anklyn.29 D r B lackw ood’s usage seems to be over-precise, as dangerous as the reliance o f others on com position papers, and it certainly undermines the confidence with which one can compare his tables for income w ith those derived from other sources for other counties. But as a rough way o f com paring Royalist and Parliamentarian in terms o f ‘were the Royalists wealthier?’, his figures are still usable. That is, his statement that fifty-three Royalists and only eighteen Parliamentarians had incomes o f £500 p. a. or m ore is unreliable and should not be used for comparative purposes. But it probably remains reasonable to say that fifty-three o f the wealthiest seventy-one families in Lancashire were Royalist. V I shall com m ent m ore briefly on D r B lackw ood’s definition o f ‘Puritan’ gentry. He writes: the following may be classed as Puritans: those appointing or financially assisting Puritan ministers; builders o f chapels used for Puritan worship; m embers o f puritanical religious committees; elders o f Presbyterian classical assemblies; members o f Independent congregations: and finally, those show n to be Puritans by their wills, correspondence or the opinions o f their contem poraries.30

This is quite different from and inferior to the definition offered by D r Cliffe,31 so that their tables for religion are not comparable. In particular D r Cliffe (surely correctly?) only uses evidence o f puritanism which can be found before 1642. D r Blackw ood’s inclusion o f evidence from after 1646 cannot be defended. The events o f the civil war, the formal abolition o f episcopacy and the Book o f C om m on Prayer, the response to the pressure o f new events, all must have had a profound effect on many o f the gentry. M ore generally, o f course, there is the question o f w hether a ‘P uritan m ovem ent’ existed in the early seventeenth century. T here is no evidence that B lackw ood’s 114 puritan gentlem en saw them selves as such. Religious views are not easily divided into neat com partm ents (Laudian/Anglican/Puritan). Religious views form a spectrum . There are issues w hich tended to distinguish m en one 29. W anklyn, thesis, ch. 4. 30. B lack w ood , Lancs. Gentry, pp. 27-8. 31. Cliffe, Yorks. Gentry, pp. 260-2.


Northern Gentry and the Great Rebellion

from another: episcopacy/the existing church courts/the lawfulness o f the Prayer B ook, etc. B ut none o f these is straightforw ard. Those w ho w ished to abolish episcopacy or to re-w rite the B ook o f C om m on Prayer may be fairly described as Puritans. But w hat o f those w ho w anted bishops’ pow ers to be reform ed and reduced only, or those w ho w anted m ore freedom for individual m inisters to om it the ‘noxious cerem onies’ from the Prayer Book though not the abolition o f the Prayer Book? D em ands for a preaching m inistry, for a tough line w ith recusants, for greater lay piety and household religion were certainly attributes o f the self-appreciating godly or puritans, but were not restricted to such m en.32 Once more, I do not want to say that this invalidates all D r Blackw ood’s findings. His ‘puritan’ gentry certainly include men with a wide variety o f beliefs, and m any w ho would not have seen themselves, or been seen by their contemporaries, as puritans. The num ber and ‘group profile’ o f his puritans differ from that which he would have got had he used the definitions o f other local historians. But his figures, though blurred and distorted by his definition, are still useful in their way. W ithin his puritan group are a significant body o f men who did want to bring the English C hurch into line with Continental or the Scottish models, and their existence is im portant. VI H ow easy is it to decide who is a Royalist and who is a Parliamentarian? H ow meaningful is it to draw up tw o lists and to compare the size and com position o f the tw o groups? Drs Blackwood, Cliffe, W anklyn and (with reservations) Phillips, believe it is feasible and meaningful. I have, in the past, strenuously denied it, but Drs Blackw ood and W anklyn have recently forced me to make a partial retraction. Let me briefly summarize what I have said elsewhere.33 1. Because Parliament w on the civil war and instigated proceedings against all their opponents, the sources are very unequal and stronger for identifying Royalists than Parliamentarians. 2. M any neutrals and timid collaborators, and even some victims o f internal divisions within the parliamentarian cause, were wrongly 32. For gentry puritanism in the N orth before the civil war, see also R .C . Richardson, Puritanism in North-W est England (Manchester, 1972), and additional com m ents by J.S. M orrill, ‘Puritans and the Church in the D iocese o f C hester’, N H , VIII (1973). 145-55. 33. M orrill, Cheshire 1630-1660, ch. 2: J.S. Morrill. The Revolt o f the Provinces (1976), passim: also J.S. M orrill and R .N . D ore, ‘The Allegiance o f the Cheshire G entry in the Great C ivil W ar’, Trans. Lancs and Chesh. A ntig. Soc., LX X V II (1967), 47-76.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

treated as Royalists after the wars and appear in the lists o f Royalists produced by recent historians. Some o f these would undoubtedly have been called Parliamentarians by the Royalists had they w on the civil war and instigated similar sequestration proceedings.34 3. The records tell us a great deal about a m an’s activity, much less about his beliefs. Many men are likely to have followed the line o f least resistance, accepting any com m and from either side which came in due form, or else doing what they were told because they were surrounded by com m itted supporters o f one side who threatened to destroy their property or seize their family and themselves if they refused to cooperate. All these problems exist and they weaken the case for the sufficiency o f the kind o f analysis presented by D r Blackwood. But they do not make the exercise pointless. N or should such arguments be overstressed. The sources for Royalists and Parliamentarians are not as unequal as I once supposed.35 A m ore thorough and prolonged study than I attem pted can produce a fairly balanced list and can minimize the difficulties raised in point (2) though it will not eradicate them. Point (3) is a substantial one and certainly affects the picture, and I shall return to it. Furtherm ore, whatever a m an’s motives, however little they had to do with actual com m itm ent to the victory o f king or Parliament, however m uch to do with self-preservation or the restoration o f peace in his ow n area only, and so on, it is not necessarily valueless to examine what characteristics were shared by all those who in fact acted for one side or the other. Perhaps m ost o f the gentry o f northern England followed the line o f least resistance. But that in itself may be significant. They could have chosen a different if m ore difficult path. The conclusions reached by local historians o f the N orth who have attem pted the approach advocated by D r Blackwood are unspectacular but im portant. Let me draw out the ones which seem to me unimpeachable. 1. In every case except that o f Cheshire, the num ber o f R oyalist

34. I have offered a case study in ‘W illiam Davenport and the “Silent M ajority” o f early Stuart England’, Journal o f the Chester Archaeological Society, LVIII (1975), 115-30. 35. I first made this statement on the basis o f research I undertook as an undergraduate and uncritically retained it in m y b ook on Cheshire 1630-1660, pp. 70-4. D r W anklyn rightly takes m e to ta sk . for this overstatem ent in his thesis, ch. 3, w here he points out the fullness o f the parliamentary administrative records, particularly for Cheshire, in the 1640s. T hese afford inform ation about both active and passive Parliamentarians.


Northern Gentry and the Great Rebellion

gentry considerably outnum bered the num ber o f Parliam entarian gentry. Cum berland and W estm orland36 Lancashire37 C heshire38 Shropshire39 Y orkshire40

Royalist 77 272 117 85 242

Parliam entarian 21 138 138 64 128

2. The Royalists are particularly strong am ong those with the highest income, largest estates and the largest share o f county offices. However, it is possible that the king’s progress through the N orth o f England and his personal appeal and commands to these leading gentry in the autum n o f 1642 was responsible for this pattern. 3. The Royalists received substantial support from the Catholic com m unity, far more than is implied by the w ork o f D r Lindley.41 O ver one third o f the Yorkshire, and almost tw o-thirds o f the Lancashire, royalist families were Catholic;42 In both those counties and in Cheshire a m uch higher proportion o f the Catholic than o f the Protestant gentry were actively royalist. 4. N o other county study has confirmed D r Cliffe’s finding that the prospering (as against the wealthiest) gentry tended to be parliamentarian. This has been looked for in all the other studies, but 36. Phillips, N H , X IV (1978), 175. I have added together the sixty-five ‘R oyalists’ and tw elve ‘uncertain R oyalists’. His list is o f ‘heads o f families by allegiance as determ ined in 1644’. 37. B lack w ood , Lancs. Gentry, p. 47. These figures are for all gentry, including heads o f families, heirs and younger sons. In a separate table, p. 46, he divides the gentry families into 177 Royalist, 91 Parliamentarian, 24 side-changers and divided. He bases his lists on political behaviour betw een 1642 and 1648. 38. W anklyn, thesis, ch. 3. H e bases his tables on the allegiance o f the effective head o f gentry households. I have com bined his totals o f ‘active’ and ‘m oderate’ Royalists and Parliamentarians. H e only includes those w h ose political behaviour can be observed in the course o f 1642-3. 39. Ibid. 40. Cliffe, Yorks. Gentry, p. 336. These figures are o f royalist and parliamentarian fam ilies over the period 1642-8. 41. K.J. Lindley, ‘The Part Played by C atholics’, in Politics, Religion and the English C ivil War, ed. B .S . M anning (1973), pp. 127-76. 42. B lackw ood, Lancs. Gentry, p. 65; Cliffe, Yorks. Gentry, p. 334. B lack w ood offers m ore precise criticism s o f Lindley’s w ork in his O xford D . Phil, thesis, pp. 182-5. For further stress on the im portance o f C atholics, see P.R. N ew m an , ‘Catholic Royalist A ctivists in the N o rth ’, Recusant History, X IV (1977), 26-7; he dem onstrates h o w large a proportion o f the army officers w ere recusants. See, how ever, Phillips, N H , X IV , 175, w here he reasserts that ‘Cum berland and W estm orland w ere not strongholds o f papist superstition’ and that m ost papists w ere inactive in the war.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

in vain. D r W anklyn finds that parliamentarianism was particularly strong am ong the families w ho had risen since 1540 (in Shropshire this was also true o f cadet lines)43 and am ong those just not wealthy or prestigious enough to have secured themselves in the commission o f the peace and other leading positions, but this in turn has not been found in other counties (though the subtlety o f D r W anklyn’s m ethodology may have helped him here). 5. N o other major distinction has been found between the R oyalists and Parliamentarians. All these seem to me to be useful and viable conclusions, as long as we do not conclude that this is the only way to approach the problem o f gentry allegiance, and as long as we are careful to put them in perspective. A m ajority o f the northern gentry did help the king. It does not mean that a majority wanted the king to win an out-right victory; that is an entirely different question. A m ajority o f the Catholic gentry did help the king and w ithout that help the Royalists w ould barely have outnum bered the Parliamentarians (or w ould they? perhaps fewer Protestants helped the king because he gave so much pow er and influence to recusants). It may be that m ost o f these studies have been comparing the w rong things. D r Wanklyn suggests that activists on both sides had a great deal in com m on which distinguished them from those who stayed out o f the war. M ost o f those w ith the greatest wealth, m ost o f those who were prospering, m ost o f those w ho had diversified their income by engaging in trade or the exploitation o f mineral resources were active on one side or the other. The declining, debt-ridden gentry, those w ithout such resources and those w ho had not done well from the buoyant land market, tended to be inactive.44 His suggestion appears to be true o f other counties, but cannot be easily extrapolated from the tables presented by Drs Blackwood and Cliffe. O ne final caveat inhibits direct com parison o f the tables in the several books and theses. They differ in the tim e-scale w ith w hich they seek out evidence o f royalism and parliam entarianism . D r C liffe’s tables ‘cover the period o f the tw o Civil Wars 1642-8’.45 So do D r B lackw ood’s. D r Phillips produces separate tables for allegiance in 1644 and 1648,46 while D r W anklyn confines him self to the period up to the end o f 1643, arguing that the danger o f 43. 44. 45. 46.


W anklyn, thesis, ch. 4. Ibid. Cliffe, Yorks. Gentry, p. 336 n. 2. A rguing that it was only in 1644 that the gentry made m eaningful choices and that the second civil war was a new and distinct conflict.

Northern Gentry and the Great Rebellion

including collaborationists as activists grow s greater as the w ar proceeds. The assum ption that the first and second civil wars can be treated as a unit is a very poor one, for the issues are arguably totally different and in som e ways unrelated.47 In this, as in m any other respects. D r W anklyn’s instincts seem sounder. M eanwhile, we find once again that it w ould be dangerous to attem pt to use the resulting figures for anything m ore than the m ost general o f purposes. VII The quantitative approach then, has its value. But so, I believe, does the approach I have hitherto adopted, and which is evident in my book on Cheshire in the mid seventeenth century. There I argued that the m ost fruitful approach to the origins o f the civil war by an analysis o f local governm ent and politics in the years before 1642. I found tw o groups o f gentry apparently antipathetic and engaged in a struggle for local supremacy. What divided the two groups were essentially local questions. The course o f local politics between 1640 and 1642 led to one o f these groups supporting the king in the civil war, while the other groups tried to neutralize the county, to keep it out o f the war. This second group was split asunder by short-run factors in the autum n o f 1642, an im portant section attaching itself to the royalist party, the m ajority forming the ‘m oderate’ wing o f the parliamentarian m ovem ent in the county, linking up with a radical group o f m inor gentry under the patronage o f Sir William Brereton. I argued that the groupings in 1642 were unpredictable and unlikely and that if any deep socio-economic divisions existed within the gentry they w ould exist in the groupings o f 1630 or 1640, not those o f 1642.48 This approach has not been attem pted for any other northern county, but it was itself modelled upon Professor E veritt’s study o f Kent, and it has since been successfully attem pted for Somerset, Sussex and the counties o f East Anglia,49 and in a 47. For recent reinterpretations o f the second civil war, see M orrill, Revolt o f Provinces, section 3, and R. A shton, The English C ivil War 1603-1649, pp. 317-28. 48. M orrill, Cheshire 1630-1660, ch. 2 particularly pp. 70-4. 49. A .M . Everitt, The Com m unity o f Kent and the Great Rebellion (Leicester, 1966); A. Fletcher, A County Com m unity at Peace and War: Sussex 1600-1660 (1975); D . U n d erd ow n , Somerset in the C ivil Wars and Interregnum (N ew to n A bbot, 1972); C. H om es, The Eastern Association in the English C ivil War (Cam bridge, 1975). T w o recent theses w hich adopt a similar approach are R .H . Silcock, ‘C ounty G overnm ent in W orcestershire 1603-1660’ (unpub. P hD thesis, London U n iv. 1975); and C .G . D urston, ‘Berkshire and its C ou n ty Gentry, 1625-49’ (unpub. P hD thesis, Reading U n iv. 1977), w hich also includes a very thorough series o f about thirty individual biographies and a group profile.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

second book I have proposed a scheme for the whole o f England.50 O ne vital point which has emerged is the strength o f neutralism in 1642. M any men subsequently to fight on different sides could be seen making com m on cause to limit the spread o f the war to their area, and such men seemed to have so much in com m on that to see them - once events made neutralism impracticable - as having chosen sides by any criteria testable by group analysis seems implausible. Since there were formal attem pts at neutrality in Cheshire, Lancashire and Y orkshire,51 and similar sentiments were clearly very strong in Cum berland and W estm orland (Dr Phillips sees these counties before 1644 as ‘essentially a neutral area in which the royalists, rather than the parliamentarians, tried to recruit support’),52 this kind o f approach may appear incompatible with that adopted by Drs Blackwood, Cliffe and Wanklyn. But the sufficiency o f this approach is itself open to question. Firstly, the Cheshire pattern (where groups o f gentry who had been allied in local politics in the sixteen-twenties and thirties, who had made com m on cause in the elections on 1640, in the campaign over episcopacy in 1640-1 and in the struggle to neutralize the the county in 1642, split asunder at the last) may have been untypical. Elsewhere the groupings o f 1642 may well have corresponded m ore closely with those o f 1640. Secondly, a case can be made (though I do not accept it) that neutralism has been overstated. D r Wanklyn, for example argues that the group I w ould call ‘neutrals’ were men who ‘knew which side they w ould join once the die was cast, but strained every nerve to keep the peace, for fear o f the effect war m ight have on the traditional pattern o f rural society’.53 This is certainly an arguable case, and one difficult to overthrow . Nonetheless I w ould want to say that such men should not be placed in the same card-index as those com m itted to strain every nerve to give victory to king or Parliament. W hat the moderates who w ould join the king and the moderates who w ould join Parliament shared w ith each other was greater than what each shared with the com m itted Royalists and the com m itted Parliamentarians. It is at this stage that I believe that a model such as the one used by Drs Blackwood and Cliffe in particular is inadequate. They define Royalists and Parliamentarians by their actions and not by their intentions. If we could establish the

50. M orrill, Revolt o f Provinces, section 1. 51. Ibid.: B .S . M anning, ‘Neutrals and N eutralim s in the English C ivil W ar’ (unpub. D . Phil, thesis, O xford U n iv. 1957), ch 2. 52. Phillips, N H , X IV , 173. 53. W anklyn, thesis, p. 199.


Northern Gentry and the Great Rebellion

names o f those who believed either in the royalist cause for its own sake or in the parliamentarian cause for the achievement o f a godly reform ation in C hurch and State, then we m ight find clear distinctions in the profile o f each group. Such listings would not be exhaustive. Their incompleteness is inevitable given that the sources are so often silent or misleading on questions o f motivation. But they need not be exhaustive. A cross-section o f each party is adequate. Here again, the approach pioneered by Professor Everitt and followed up by myself, Professor U nderdow n and others, can help. Family papers and county com m ittee papers allow historians to identify the radical groups within parliamentarian m ovem ents who are dedicated to victory and to a godly reform ation.54 It would be possible to draw up lists o f such men for many counties and to subject each to group analysis. Similar groups could be identified within the royalist parties. The remaining members o f both parties could then be examined independently and together and w ould quite probably look very m uch alike and in clear contrast to the militants. In this way the quantitative and the ‘localist’ approaches could be harmonized. I have no doubt that in the N orth and West o f England, the com m itted Royalists would appear as powerful groups o f leading gentry, including dom inant elements within the ruling elite bound together by a fear o f social revolution from below and the need to preserve hierarchy in C hurch and State allied, with differing degrees o f discom fort to leading recusant families; and that the parliamentarian radicals would be led by one or tw o leading gentry, but otherwise dom inated by gentlemen o f m iddling wealth, often kept just outside the governing circle, often o f recent gentry origin, with very strong com m itm ent not simply to a reversal o f Laudian innovation, but to the radical reform o f the Elizabethan settlement and to the creation o f a society influenced by godly Christian values and integrity. It must be stressed, however, that such an interpretation is, in my view, likely to hold true only of the N orth and W est.55

54. B y this definition com m itted R oyalists and Parliamentarians are not the same as active R oyalists or Parliamentarians. T hose w h o held office or com m issions may w ell have been follow in g a line o f least resistance and obeying orders. 55. In East Anglia, for exam ple, control o f the parliamentarian m ovem ent remained in the hands o f a moderate ‘Puritan’ establishm ent w hich looked initially for little social or econ om ic reform and for a lim ited reform o f the Church.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

VIII These ‘honest radicals’56 were drawn not only from am ong the gentry but also from am ong the yeom en and urban ‘m iddling sorts’. And they call into question an assumption made by all the historians whose w ork has been under review here that it is the gentry alone who determ ine the political alignm ent o f a county in the civil war. Such a view has recently come under attack, m ost notably from D r M anning, but also from D r M alcolm .57 It is obviously the case that the ‘m iddling sort’ were capable o f independent action and that m any o f them did not wait upon the gentry’s decisions. Similarly, the idea that the labourers, cottagers and others blindly followed their landlords’ and m asters’ lead needs im portant qualification. In m y view, D r M anning raises a legitimate question, though he does not provide a satisfying answer. M uch m ore w ork needs to be done on the question o f non-gentry allegiance. M eanwhile, I w ould be surprised if in fact the role o f the ‘m iddling sort’ is decisive. For it seems likely that the ‘m iddling sort’ were as divided as were the gentry. The yeom anry, clothworkers and urban craftsmen certainly included some very highly m otivated and com m itted radicals (particularly on religious questions), perhaps the m ost highly m otivated groups on either side. But equally there is plenty o f evidence that these very social groups contained some o f the m ost com m itted neutral and anti-war sentiment. N o t all grand juries were packed, yet grand juries are frequently to be found initiating neutralist positions and m ovem ents both in 1642 and 1645; the Clubm en risings o f 1645, whether they are treated as crypto-royalist or neutralist were the creation o f the middling sort; there is no evidence that m inor officials (constables, churchwardens, etc.) obstructed royalist adm inistration m ore than they did parliamentarian, and in many counties assemblies o f freeholders agreed to vote extensive contributions to the royalist cause. Nonetheless, while a m ajority o f those below the gentry probably accepted the leadership o f the old elite, and while a majority probably continued to look for the continuance o f know n ways in Church and State, there is clearly m ore w ork to be done on the extent and nature o f popular m ovem ents during and after the war. N one o f 56. The term is David U n derdow n’s in his article, ‘“H onest Radicals” in the Counties, 1642-1649’, in Puritans and Revolutionaries, D .H . Pennington and K .V . Thom as eds. (1978), pp. 186-205. 57. B .S . M anning, The English People and the English Revolution (1976); J. M alcolm , ‘T he English People and the C ro w n ’s Cause, 1642-1646’ (unpub. P hD thesis, Brandeis U n iv. 1977). A crucial part o f her argum ent appears in ‘A K ing in Search o f Soldiers: Charles I in 1642’, H J, X X I (1978), 251-73.


Northern Gentry and the Great Rebellion

the studies o f the northern gentry so far (including my own) faces up to these problem s.58 IX This article has concentrated on the more debatable issues raised by D r B lackw ood’s book. It is clear that I believe that its conclusions are not always convincing, and that care m ust be taken not to treat his conclusions as strictly comparable w ith those in similar studies. But it is only proper that I conclude by stressing that a great deal o f his w ork is unexceptionable, convincing and im portant. In Lancashire, as elsewhere, the old elite lost its control over county governm ent, but only after 1649. As D r Blackwood says, ‘pow er shifted not from one class to another - from the gentry to the middling sort - but within a class: from the greater to the lesser gentry’.59 The parliamentarian m ovem ent in Lancashire was not divided against itself as it was elsewhere. There is no evidence o f ‘w ar’ or ‘peace’ parties, no major divisions over religion - the county was unique in the speed and effectiveness with which a classical presbyterian structure was created after 1646 - and no backlash in 1648 despite (or because of?) the Scots invasion to restore Charles II. Alm ost half the magistrates throughout the 1650s were draw n from the pre-w ar magisterial groups, and m any o f those who disappeared from governm ent in the 1650s did so because they refused to serve. There were no major purges. O nly eight men were nom inated to commissions o f the peace throughout the decade, less than in the comparable period before 1640 and after 1660 and a tiny num ber compared with the 262 nom inated for Yorkshire, for exam ple.60 The exclusion o f old families in Lancashire was o f a lesser order than that o f Cum berland, W estm orland or Cheshire,61 or m any counties in the South. O n the other hand, there was no ‘recovery’ by old governing families in the later 1650s that occurred elsewhere.62

58. This takes up material from M orrill, Revolt o f Provinces and ‘Country Squires and “M iddling Sorts” in the Great R ebellion’, b elow , ch. 15. 59. B lack w ood , Lancs. Gentry, p. 161. 60. G .C .F . Forster, ‘C ou n ty G overnm ent in Yorkshire during the Interregnum ’, N H , XII (1976), 102: Cf. C .B . Phillips, ‘C ou n ty C om m ittees and Local G overnm ent in Cum berland and W estm orland, 1642-1660’, N H , V (1970), 34—66: Everitt, C om m unity o f Kent, pp. 296-7: G .E. A ylm er, ‘W ho Was Ruling Herefordshire from 1645 to 1662?’, Trans, o f the Woolhope Club, XL (1972), 373-87. 61. Phillips, N H , V, 56-60; M orrill, Cheshire 1630-1660, pp. 223-5, 233-4, 256-8, 327-8. 62. See D . U nderdown, ‘Settlement in the Counties’, in The Interregnum, G.E. Aylm er (ed.) pp. 165-82.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

The pattern o f land sales, too, is thoroughly argued and convincingly presented. N ot only did few parliamentarian gentry acquire land in the 1650s, rather more suffered from the high taxation and troubled economy o f those years. The largest single group o f declining gentry in late seventeenth-century Lancashire were those who had held office after the Civil War and been denied it after the Restoration. The Royalists on the other hand are show n to have recovered remarkably quickly from the confiscation and/or sale o f their estates. D r Thirsk showed tw o decades ago that 70 per cent o f the properties sold in the H om e Counties under the C om m onw ealth were regained by the original owners or their heirs before or after the Restoration, and D r Holiday has show n that an even higher proportion was regained in Yorkshire (82 per cent).63 But D r B lackw ood’s figures are particularly im portant since more Lancastrians were included in the Acts o f Sale than were gentry from any other county (ninety-eight gentry and tw o peers). N inety-three o f these were recusants w hom it m ight be thought had less reserves and m ore difficulties in raising mortgages than protestant gentry. Yet 81 per cent o f all pieces o f land (and over 90 per cent by value) were recovered.64 In striking contrast, the earls o f Derby lost forever tw othirds o f their Lancashire holdings, principally because a great deal of it had been bought by their tenants who refused to cooperate with the 8th Earl in the 1660s.65 In his final pages, D r Blackwood examines the prospering and declining gentry o f the late seventeenth century. He finds that the num ber o f gentry was declining both absolutely and as a proportion o f the population and that the turnover o f gentry families was greater than in the early decades o f the century. What seems to have happened is that a very large num ber o f families were extinguished by failure in the male line.66 Furtherm ore there was very little m ovem ent

63. P.G. H oliday, ‘Land Sales and Repurchases in Yorkshire after the C ivil War’, N H , V (1970), 67-92: J. Thirsk, ‘The Sales o f Royalist Lands D uring the Interregnum ’, Economic History Review, 2nd ser V (1953), 188-207. 64. In a large proportion o f cases - 28 per cent o f the pieces o f land, 14 per cent o f the value o f land - it is unclear whether the property was regained before or after 1660 (B lackw ood, Lancs. Gentry, p. 126). 65. Ibid., pp. 130-6. 66. A similar dem ographic catastrophe overtook the gentry o f Glamorganshire, where the proportion o f childless heads o f families rose steeply to over one third and the average num ber o f children per gentry fam ily fell from 5.0 in the decades before 1640 to 2.26 in the years 1640-80 and 2.58 in the years 1681-1729: J.P. Jenkins, ‘A Social and Political H istory o f the Glam organ Gentry, c. 1650-1770’ (unpub. P hD thesis, Cam bridge U n iv. 1978), ch. 2, particularly pp. 67-8.


Northern Gentry and the Great Rebellion

into the gentry from below. M ost o f the manors sold in the later decades were brought by existing gentry. Am ong the rest, pre-w ar indebtedness appears to have been a m ore significant cause o f failure than the burdens o f sequestrations, compositions and sale. Form er royalist and parliamentarian families were extinguished at almost the same rate, but it was the minor, non-aligned families who suffered most. O nly 26 per cent o f the 465 families survived to the end o f the century. O n the other hand, there were plenty o f prosperous gentry. M ost o f the land sold by Lancashire gentry in this period was bought by other gentry, and more efficient estate managem ent was the key to their success. H ow ever this was less a sign o f the introduction o f ‘progressive’ farming techniques than o f the ease with which entry fines could be raised in a period when population was growing. Form er Royalists were at least as successful as form er Parliamentarians in this respect. This is a pioneering study and raises im portant questions about what m ust be considered the dark age o f English social history between 1660 and 1740. It m ust be concluded that while D r B lackw ood’s study offers very little com fort to those who want to see the civil war as being a social revolution in its causes, it offers none at all to those who seek to portray it as one in its consequences.



Provincial Squires and ‘Middling Sorts’ in the Great Rebellion

In the mid-1950s D r M anning completed a much admired and often cited thesis on neutralism in the English civil war. It has influenced the developm ent o f writing on the period in several respects: it has helped to overcom e the old presum ption that there was an essential division between tw o ideologically distinct parties; it drew attention to the existence o f organized anti-war groups like the Clubmen; and, not least, it gave an enorm ous impetus to the study o f individual county communities, since it revealed the strength o f attachments to local institutions. As he wrote, ‘the great im portance o f the county unit and the fact that it com m anded a loyalty which could compete with wider loyalties is shown by the widespread efforts to keep individual counties out o f the w a r.’1 M r Fletcher’s book is very much an heir o f the tradition which D r M anning helped to shape. The English People and the English Revolution (1976) is, however, a total denial o f those themes. O r rather it ignores them. There is no entry in the index o f his book to neutrals or neutralism; none o f the theses or books which have developed the role o f provincialism in the 1640s is cited except for Professor E veritt’s w ork on Kent, from which D r M anning draws inform ation w ithout reference to, or a questioning of, E veritt’s essential argum ents.2 Instead, D r M anning sets out to re-establish the English civil war as a class struggle. The great bulk o f the book consists o f a narrative (punctuated by short analytical statements) o f the rise o f a popular m ovem ent in the years 1640-3. In these

1. B .S . M anning, ‘N eutrals and neutralism in the English Civil War’, O xford D .P hil. thesis 1957, introduction. 2. A .M . Everitt, The Com m unity o f Kent and the Great Rebellion 1640-60 (Leicester, 1970).


Provincial Squires and ‘Middling Sorts'

years, D r M anning believes, the gentry-elite divided against itself and allowed the ‘middling sort’ to seize the initiative and to launch a revolutionary offensive ‘impelled by hostility towards the nobility and gentry and richer classes, and this converted constitutional, political and religious issues into class conflict’. There is no doubt that this book will force historians to look again at the civil war. It demands that they re-examine the cosy assumptions about the gentry’s control o f events in the early stages and that they re-examine the aims and unity o f the yeom anry and craftsmen. It is a book which shows up the unwillingness o f m any civil war historians to ask certain questions. But D r M anning’s answers to these questions are totally unconvincing. He is unconvincing not because there is no validity in what he wants to argue, but because he uses the w rong sources for such a study, because he handles these sources uncritically, and because there are very evident confusions in his conceptual fram ework. The book is based on an impressive range o f printed sources. In particular D r M anning has an unrivalled knowledge o f civil war tracts and newspapers. He could have w ritten a superb book on civil war propaganda, that is, on the convenient half-truths set forth by the polemicists on the tw o extremes. But he cannot establish the actual behaviour o f particular social groups on the basis o f propaganda tracts and the subsequent memoirs o f men all o f w hom looked back on the early 1640s with jaundiced eyes. This is the essential reason for the failure o f this book. By ignoring the local sources, by ignoring the facts and figures about who did what which are plentifully available in local studies, and by relying on what some men wanted other men to believe, and what old men later w rote dow n with the wisdom o f hindsight and to satisfy later objectives, D r M anning has got at cross-purposes with himself. Certainly he has shown, m ore fully than ever before, the extent and vehemence o f popular agitation in London in 1640-2 (this takes up five o f the ten chapters). He has shown that this affected the actions and reactions o f members o f parliament and caused palpitations in many m anor houses. He has shown that there were widespread disturbances in some parts o f the country. It is not certain that there were m ore than at other times, but they were more widely reported and they did cause more alarm. But he has not shown, and on the basis o f printed sources alone cannot show, that the various isolated groups had come together, seized the initiative, and established a revolutionary program m e based on class interests. Similarly, an account o f the depression in the cloth industry, virtually all the references to which are from recent secondary works, is not


The Nature o f the English Revolution

sufficient basis for the assertion that ‘the craftsmen were politicised by their struggles against the merchant oligarchies o f tow n and company and grew accustomed to organisation, agitation and radical notions’ (p. 150). Certainly it is possible that the struggle o f the peasants and craftsmen against the erosion o f traditional rights may have combined with active puritanism to ‘give them status and the ability to express their identity as a separate class’ (p. 162), but D r M anning m ust find precise evidence o f this from the m ouths o f the men themselves. The sources for a study o f popular attitudes in the 1630s and 1640s do exist in abundance in the depositions, examinations and other records o f innum erable cases at quarter sessions, assizes, K ing’s Bench and Star Cham ber. The Thom ason Tracts simply will not yield up answers to the questions D r M anning wants to ask. Similarly, D r M anning frequently cites Baxter, Corbet, Clarendon and other chroniclers w ithout any attem pt to face the harsh historiographical problems involved. Clarendon, in particular, so often dem onstrably w rong in m atters o f fact, and writing his works for a particular purpose and in the light o f experiences which affected what he wanted to believe about the course o f the revolution, simply cannot be used as a spontaneous and shrewd observer o f the events o f 1640-2. Similar problems arise when D r M anning turns to analyse the outbreak o f the civil war which he describes as a conflict between ‘the bigger peasants and richer craftsmen [who] formed an emerging capitalist class’ and the bulk o f the gentry, followed blindly by their dependents. O f course he acknowledges that m any gentlemen did support parliament, but in general he sees them as following behind the real revolutionaries. Thus ‘in Suffolk there was a powerful popular m ovem ent that declared support for parliament, and the prom inent county families, led by Sir Nathaniel Barnardiston, continued in pow er because they also opted for parliament in the civil w ar’ (p. 180).3 He also concedes that ‘not all, nor a m ajority o f the “middle sort o f people” supported the parliamentarian party, but those who did were the ones whose actions and aspirations influenced events’. But he goes on ‘the conflict was precipitated by popular risings against sections o f the nobility and gentry’ (preface). And for the greatest part 3. For an altogether m ore convincing and detailed view o f the em ergence o f the parliamentarian m ovem ent in Suffolk see, C. H olm es, The Eastern Association in the English C ivil War (Cam bridge, 1974), particularly pp. 48-52, 63-8. This book appeared tw elve m onths before the dated preface to D r M anning’s book and had existed as a^ w idely-read thesis since 1969. D avid U n d erd o w n ’s book on Som erset, w hich also necessarily affects things M anning says about the w est country, appeared in spring 1973 and m y o w n book on Cheshire in spring 1974.


Provincial Squires and ‘Middling Sorts’

o f the book he ignores all those o f the middle sort who were not active for parliament. This super-selectivity destroys the value o f his argument. It is im portant that parliamentary pamphleteers claimed the middling sort as their ow n and that, for reasons o f their own, royalist pamphleteers accepted the story. But that does not make it true. O n p. 18 D r M anning says that ‘some gentlemen believed that parliament had been overawed by the mob . . . but it was not ju st propaganda, for these lords and gentlemen became royalists precisely because they believed this’. This does not mean that the propaganda was true; just that it was successful. The pamphlets do not reveal social reality, only what people wanted to believe. M any county studies have examined the allegiance o f the middling sort. They show, certainly, that a m inority in many (but not all) counties were radicals who volunteered for service with parliament. In a few counties they seized the initiative (Somerset is one o f them; and D r M anning’s study o f Lincolnshire certainly suggests that that may be another). But in m ost counties they played, and were content to play, a secondary role. Furtherm ore, the rest o f the middling sort were not apathetic: both in 1642 and again in 1645-8 many o f them took the initiative in dem anding a halt to the war, or at least the neutralization o f their area. C lubm en risings, led by, indeed initiated by, the middling sort were m ore num erous and far m ore im posing than any provincial Leveller organizations. It was the middling sort w ho generally formed the grand juries at quarter sessions and assizes which were far m ore frequently involved in denouncing radical ideas than in prom oting them .4 It seems likely that in m ost counties, the proportion o f royalists, neutrals and parliamentarians am ong the middling sorts is broadly similar to the proportion am ong the gentry. Different methods, m ore sophisticated analysis, may yet vindicate D r M anning’s argum ent that a m inority o f the yeom anry and craftsmen were impelled by class antagonisms. But local studies have not done so as yet. However, there is a little support for his case. There is evidence that the parliamentarians recruited volunteer soldiers more easily in 1642 than did the king.5 Those parliamentarians com m itted to a vision o f a godly Reformation and uncorrupt com m onw ealth were probably the m ost highly m otivated men on either side, and may well have been drawn heavily from the middling sorts, but they were a tiny m inority.

4. Cf. J.S. M orrill, The Revolt o f the Provinces (1976), pp. 81-4, 125-6, and J.S. M orrill, The Cheshire Grand Jury 1625-59 (Leicester, 1976), pp. 33-45, w hich includes com m ent on grand jury activity elsewhere. 5. See, for exam ple, J. M alcolm , Caesar’s D ue (London, 1982), ch. 2.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

D r M anning is particularly anxious to stress the radicalism o f industrial workers, and talks particularly about the clothing areas and the industrial villages o f the midlands. In both cases he is highly selective. For example, although he talks about ‘the m idlands’ for several pages (pp. 199-206) during a section headed ‘the Resistance o f the Industrial D istricts’, he deals almost exclusively w ith B irm ingham and C oventry, relying on pamphlets w ritten to stir the imaginations and conceits o f parliam ent’s supporters. B irm ingham was indeed actively opposed to the king. So were other towns in the industrial west midlands (Walsall, Tipton, Wednesbury). But there were other Black C ountry tow ns also relatively free from guild controls and w ith similar economic and social organizations which were equally vehemently royalist - W olverham pton, H andsw orth, Willenshall and Bilston being clear examples. M ost o f the workers in the nineteen iron foundries o f the area supported the king, and the colliers o f Cannock Chase w ent off to help Rupert to mine the walls o f parliamentarian Lichfield. A m ajority o f the parishes were evenly divided in allegiance (e.g. Cannock, Sedgely, Aldridge and Shenstone). M r John S utton’s painstaking local researches show clearly that in these villages divisions cut across ‘class’ lines, not along them .6 This book will make us question w hether the middling sort meekly followed the lead o f the gentry in 1640-3. It does not convince when it goes to the other extreme. Thus: ‘w hat was happening was the people were choosing between one set o f rules and another . . . and this m eant that pow er lay with the people’ (p. 180). By only looking at those o f the middling sort who supported the parliamentarians, he misrepresents w hat happened. Since in every county the middle sort divided am ong themselves, that power, if it existed, was dissipated. There is a basic conceptual confusion in the author’s social analysis. It is best expressed in his ow n words: there was em erging from am ongst ‘the middle sort o f people’ a new class - a middle class or capitalist class: the bigger farmers (or yeomen) w ho produced prim arily for the m arket rather than for subsistence and em ployed wage labourers; and the greater craftsmen w ho relied m ore on hired labour than on the labour o f themselves and their families, put out w ork to smaller craftsmen. . . . There were inherent conflicts o f interests and open antagonisms between these bigger farmers and the mass o f small peasants, and between the greater craftsmen and the mass

6. I am grateful to M r John Sutton, w h o has for m any years studied allegiance in Staffordshire, for confirm ing m y o w n im pressions, for drawing m y attention to additional references, and for sh ow in g m e the tables and maps w hich conclusively dem onstrate the above pattern.


Provincial Squires and ‘Middling Sorts’ o f small craftsmcn; but the governm ent o f Charles I and the existing social, political and religious regim e antagonised these bigger farmers and larger craftsmen and led them to feel m ore in com m on w ith the main body o f peasants and craftsmen than w ith the governing order and ruling class. They assumed the leadership o f the ‘middle sort o f people’ in opposition to King, lords and bishops (p. 153).

I do not wish to contest here the validity o f a social analysis for the period involving the concept o f class. Rather I want to stress that D r M anning simply does not make sense o f trends in social history in the hundred years prior to 1640. He adduces tw o kinds o f evidence for his view: that the ‘middle class’ opposed the policies o f Charles I in the 1630s (but then so did the gentry), and that ‘m iddling and upper stratas o f the peasantry suffered a reversal o f their expectations in the 1620s and 1630s’ (p. 117). N othing he says supports such a view. He lists a num ber o f factors all o f which had been current since 1500 and which had resulted in continuing differentiation within the peasantry leading to the successful yeom anry and the landless labourer; and he emphasizes the depression o f the 1620s: ‘A succession o f good harvests, which reduced the prices o f corn and profits o f arable farmers, was followed by a succession o f bad harvests, which im poverished all who had to buy grain’ (p. 118). This is having it all ways. In the handling o f evidence, if not in the stating o f conclusions, there is a failure to distinguish between the fate o f the small proprietors who were subject to all kinds o f pressures, who did suffer a catastrophic drop in their standard o f living and who were expropriated, and the substantial peasants producing for the m arket who continued to gain in wealth and status right up to 1640. Local studies do not suggest a slowing dow n o f m obility in the early seventeenth century. O n the contrary, inter-m arriage between yeom anry and gentlemen was probably on the increase. The positions o f yeomen on grand juries and other interm ediary institutions o f local governm ent were probably being consolidated. Certainly the early Stuart period witnessed an assault on custom ary tenures (though the area D r M anning discusses m ost fully, the m ost northern counties, was one in which the tenants remained conspicuously loyal to their landlords in the civil war). Equally there was a great deal o f resistance to the rationalization o f land use by enclosure o f wastes and other marginal lands. But in almost every case resistance was led or passively supported by the local gentry and JPs. Is this, as D r M anning suggests, because they feared the peasants? O r because they shared peasant outrage at the violation o f custom ary procedures and traditional rights? It


The Nature o f the English Revolution

is suggestive that in almost every case that he cites, the encloser is either the C row n or an absentee landlord. D r M anning may be right, but there are at least tw o alternative models which he ignores: Professor M ousnier’s model for French revolts (recently and suggestively applied by D r C.S.L. Davies to the rebellions in T udor England),7 and M r E.P. T hom pson’s conception o f the moral econom y o f the English crowd in the eighteenth century.8 This latter hypothesis had been applied w ith great success by M r Walter and D r W rightson to grain riots in the early seventeenth century.9 To use counter-jargon, D r M anning makes no attem pt to rebut the organic-functionalist approach to English social history which is the conscious or unconscious model behind m ost writing on the period. Indeed, it m ust be said that D r M anning never confronts any o f the problem s which the w ork o f the last thirty years throw s in his path. He ignores them. (A very simple example o f this is the way he ignores the interpretation o f the London crowd in Professor Pearl’s work. There are major interpretative differences for example over leadership, which he simply ignores).10 It is an enorm ous relief to turn to the final chapters o f this book. Here at last D r M anning’s sources and his purpose are compatible. Leaping forw ard from early 1643 and 1647-9, he offers the most stimulating and convincing reinterpretation o f Leveller ideology to appear for a long time. He shows how the w ell-know n Leveller critique o f existing econom ic and social conditions led them to formulate a plan for the total reconstruction o f political institutions. The crucial feature o f these reforms, however, was not the election o f annual parliaments by m anhood suffrage, but a withering away o f the state. The Levellers had a conviction that all pow er corrupted, and they hated all forms o f imposed authority. As he says ‘perhaps the m ost striking thing about the Agreements [of the People] is w hat they omit: the lack o f reference to executive governm ent. The central governm ent is almost elim inated’ (pp. 301-2). Instead, England was to be transform ed into a federation o f self-governing county communities, w ith popular election o f all local officials - justices, sheriffs, juries, etc. All central courts were to be abolished and replaced by hundredal courts under democratic

7. C .S .L . D avies, ‘Peasant R evolt in France and England: A C om parison’, Agricultural History R eview, X X I (1973), 122-34. 8. In Past and Present, no. 50 (1971). 9. In Past and Present, no. 71 (1976). 10. V. Pearl, London and the Outbreak o f the Puritan Revolution (O xford, 1961), passim.


Provincial Squires and ‘Middling Sorts’

control. There would be no standing army and no centralized financial institutions. Parliaments w ould meet regularly, w ith prescribed terms o f reference, to settle matters o f com m on concern, but members w ould be immediately answerable to their constituents who w ould also elect triers to examine the m em bers’ performance. Once again I am left unconvinced how far this constituted a specific attack on the existing elite as such. But certainly D r M anning convincingly portrays the Leveller program m e as a radical extension o f traditional notions o f self-determination and a reinvigoration o f existing institutions o f local governm ent. I am disappointed that D r M anning assumes a continuity with 1640-3, whereas the m ore obvious source o f these ideas lies in the experience o f war: unparallelled taxation, unprecedented centralization, the virtual extinction o f m ost o f the customary, traditional elements o f self-governm ent and arbitration which had continued to m ark the experience o f local communities up to 1642. I am tantalized by the palpable but elusive affinity with C lubmen ideals.11 But he has drawn attention to neglected and crucial elements o f Leveller thought. He is also right, I think, to assert that the Leveller leaders, as a group, did not demand im mediate ‘universal suffrage, since there were unstated exceptions, for men so poor as to have to beg were excepted; rather they were assertions that poverty as such was no ground for exclusion from the franchise . . .’ (pp. 310-11). It remains possible, however, to take this argum ent one stage further, and to see Leveller imprecision as arising from a conviction that once their economic reform s were effected, all men w ould be free to vote. The tem porary exclusion o f those dependent on the will o f other men was necessary to speed up the process whereby they w ould recover their economic freedom and their political birthright. In the Leveller dream, there would have been m anhood suffrage by 1660. This study o f Leveller thought will be essential reading for students o f the period and shows that when D r M anning asks appropriate questions o f his sources, he commands attention. A. Fletcher, A County Community at Peace and War: Sussex 16001660 (1976), is a splendid example o f the local study which D r M anning’s earlier w ork did much to prom ote. Like other county studies (not least m y own) it avoids discussing the questions D r M anning has now shown us that we m ust ask. But it is a subtle, balanced, and readable account o f the problems facing a gentry com m unity in

11. Cf. M orrill, Revolt o f the Provinces, pp. 98-111, 196-200.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

seventeenth-century England. Furtherm ore it examines the administrative, ecclesiastical and political history o f Sussex over a longer period than any o f its rivals. It is less penetrating than some, and it integrates the various themes less successfully, but it is far more eclectic, discussing, filtering and applying the findings o f other historians in their ow n counties. It is a pleasure to handle and to read, and is almost certainly the best introduction that students being introduced to local studies o f the period could have. The book is in five sections. The first, and slightest, analyses the lifestyle o f the Sussex gentry. The second delineates religious groupings in the county: there is a study o f the self-conscious protestant piety which distinguished lay puritanism; a study o f Arm inianism strongest in its description o f clericalist pretension and the resultant gentry anger and bemusement; a clear examination o f the continuing ambiguities o f early Stuart recusancy; and a section on the ecclesiastical chaos o f 1642-60 rather misleadingly entitled ‘achieving the m illenium ’. The third section describes the structure o f local government: separate chapters describe the fram ew ork o f governm ent, the enforcem ent o f order, the Caroline militia reforms, and the fiscal demands o f both local and central government. It is strongest in its dem onstration o f the way the Sussex Bench developed its ow n conventions and practices in defiance o f statute and com m on practice elsewhere. The fourth section examines the rise o f opposition to the early Stuarts, contrasts the urgent parliamentarianism o f east Sussex and the corresponding paralysis and indecision o f the gentry o f the west, chronicles the ebb and flow o f war, and describes the increasingly complex bureaucracy o f the 1640s. Yet M r Fletcher finds Sussex to have been a county m ore marked by continuities than changes and he attests ‘the intense localism o f the Sussex com m unity’. The 1650s are described as a period o f indecision m arked by ‘the contortions o f men prepared to conform to, but not to create, the new regim e’. The fifth section examines ‘the impact o f civil w ar’. It is short and oddly out o f place; an anti-climax. There is nothing at all on the Restoration period, not even a hint on how the conformists o f the Interregnum fared. The broadly topical approach creates problems which are not fully resolved. There are real gains in taking each topic through from 1600 to 1660, as in chapters on the personnel o f local governm ent and on the county’s political history. Indeed the book w ould have gained from greater consistency in this respect. The chapter on ‘the exact m ilitia’ o f Charles I is not matched by anything on the period 1643-60. The whole o f part 5 w ould have been better if it had been 222

Provincial Squires and ‘Middling Sorts’

adapted to fit into part 3. O n the other hand the section on the ecclesiastical changes o f the 1640s and 1650s reads oddly so early in the book. It m ight have been better to have concluded part 2 with a section on the fate o f the Anglicans and Catholics and incorporated the material on the m ore positive proposals for religious change in the ‘Quest for Settlem ent’ chapter in part 4. This is essentially a w ork o f political and administrative history: there is little here for the economic historian, though the increased length which a section on the economy would have involved would have driven the price to unimaginable heights. I was only concerned by the lack o f any m ention o f the effect o f land sales in the 1650s. I was more concerned that in his laudable attem pt to apply the insights o f others in their ow n communities, M r Fletcher may have lost something o f the uniqueness o f the Sussex com m unity. At certain points he misses the full significance o f local developments. The petitions o f the autum n o f 1645 against the activities o f the county com m ittee point to a situation in Sussex only superficially similar to that prevalent elsewhere (p. 272). Similarly, the distinctiveness and im portance o f the Sussex petitions o f the sum m er o f 1648 are missed. At other times, the book is let dow n by an uncritical eclecticism: incompatible definitions o f puritanism are used side by side (pp. 84-5); the notion o f millenarianism is taken up overenthusiastically and made to cover all forms o f quest for a godly com m onwealth; definitions o f C ourt and C ountry inappropriate to local studies are adopted and applied (pp. 239ff.). Yet in the end it is the book’s virtues which linger: it is well written, it displays great sensitivity and subtlety in its portrayal o f the complexities o f life in a local com m unity, and M r Fletcher has a splendid eye for the apt illustration, the precise detail (like the guest lists at Lord Dacre’s dinner parties in the 1640s which reveal the gentry’s ‘reluctance to face the stark fact o f allegiance which the war posed’). The book deserves a wide readership, even if, at this price, the publishers do seem likely to make m ost o f us read it in copyright libraries.



The Ecology o f Allegiance in the English C iv il Wars

I David U nderdow n tells his readers in the preface to Revel, Riot and Rebellion that m y scepticism over a cup o f tea in the Institute o f Historical Research was one o f the things that led him to w rite the b o o k .1 It is, o f course, true that many books have been conceived in that tearoom, but this m ust be one o f the few o f them not to have been stillborn. Alas, he and I have too few occasions to debate such issues over tea; this review is thus in essence an open letter to tell him w hether he has now persuaded me that he is right about patterns of allegiance in the civil war and w hether m y scepticism was misplaced. The answer, I suppose inevitably, is yes and no. II It is necessary to begin by stating the thesis that is the core o f his argument. This is a rich book, remarkable for its eclecticism o f knowledge and approaches. But everything revolves around one central hypothesis: The division in the English body politic which erupted into civil war in 1642 can be traced in part to the earlier emergence o f tw o quite different constellations o f social, political and cultural forces, involving diametrically opposite responses to the problem s o f the time. O n the one side stood those w ho had put their trust in the traditional conception o f the harm onious, vertically-integrated society - a society in which the old bonds o f paternalism, deference, and good-neighborliness were expressed in familiar religious and com m unal rituals - and wished 1. D .E . U n d erd ow n , Revel, Riot, and Rebellion: Popular Politics and Culture in England, 1603-1660 (O xford, 1985). Specific references w ill appear in the text. I am grateful to A nthony Fletcher, Glenn Burgess, John Walter, Keith W righton, and especially, T im Wales for discussions about this book.


Ecology o f Allegiance to strengthen and preserve it. O n the other stood those - m ostly am ong the gentry and m iddling sort o f the new parish elites - w ho wished to emphasize the moral and cultural distinctions w hich marked them off from their poorer, less disciplined neighbours, and to use their pow er to reform society according to their ow n principles o f order and godliness. These tw o socio-cultural constellations can be observed in all parts o f England, but in varied strengths in different geographical areas: the form er m ore conspicuously in arable regions, the latter in the clothmaking w ood-pasturc districts, [p. 40]

This general hypothesis is tested against a mass o f evidence from the counties o f Wiltshire, Dorset, and Somerset. The book falls into three main sections. The first establishes the context: it identifies the two main farming regions and looks for evidence o f a contrast between ‘the “traditional” areas o f open-field, sheep-corn husbandry in the nucleated villages o f the chalk downlands, and the m ore individualistic economies and settlement patterns o f the N orth Somerset and W iltshire cheese and cloth-m aking regions; and the less industrially developed pasture regions in south-east Somerset and Blackmore Vale representing an interm ediate type in respect o f both economic and settlement patterns’ (p. 6). This leads into a discussion o f social relations, patterns o f protestantization, and elements o f order and disorder in each region. The second section examines the evidence for patterns o f popular allegiance in the civil war, relying principally on tw o forms o f evidence - lists o f 1,142 m aimed Royalist soldiers who received pensions in the early years o f the Restoration and lists o f 3,264 ‘suspected persons’ required to give bonds o f good behavior to the major generals in 1655. The final section examines the failure o f puritanism in the 1640s and 1650s in its confrontation w ith ‘popular culture’, the disintegration o f puritanism after the Restoration and the long-term emergence o f dissent, and the pyrrhic victory o f an Anglicanism that sought to assimilate rather than to challenge popular culture. What follows is a critique o f this thesis. I want both to acknowledge m y indebtedness to the book and to challenge some o f its conclusions. I have not set out to offer an alternative hypothesis. M y reasons are simple and twofold: the space I am perm itted is limited; and I want David U nderdow n to defend him self and his book - he m ust not be allowed off the hook by m y setting up nice soft targets for him, which could take up the space he is allowed in reply! Ill

Five features o f the book seem to be major contributions to the ongoing struggle to make sense o f seventeenth-century English history.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

First, this thesis is in every way m ore sophisticated and interesting than the old account o f the patterning o f allegiance that pitched a conservative N orth and West against a progressive South and East, an account time and again discredited by detailed local studies.2 Furtherm ore, such an interpretation was predicated on the assumption that the civil war was a contest between a reactionary C row n (upholding the feudal order, paternalistic economic values, and residual Catholic elements in the Church) and a dynamic Parliament (representing liberal political, religious, and social values). Such assumptions have now been largely discredited. It is now widely accepted that the civil war represented a conservative reaction by sections o f the gentry and others against the innovative policies o f the Stuarts in church and state. In fact, while U nderdow n’s hypothesis can accom m odate such a view, it can also suggest the possibility that both sides represented alternative progressive tendencies, while the mass o f the population was conservative in its reflexes and neutralist in its response to the outbreak o f war. Thus the C row n can be seen as in the forefront o f rationalizing land use, sponsoring capitalintensive developm ent o f fen and forest (which, in consequence, made it possible to feed the pauperized sections o f the com m unity); it can be seen as seeking to reinvigorate the C hurch as an institution and to increase its appeal to those w ho had largely ignored it and its teachings. O n the other hand, the C ro w n ’s leading opponents can be seen as men who felt that their interests were threatened and as men who were obstructed as they sought to challenge in their ow n way the ignorance, superstition, idolatry, and worldliness that kept a m ajority o f the nation from ow ning their Christian duty. It reminds me o f nothing so m uch as Malcolm W anklyn’s unheeded suggestion that the civil w ar was fought not between ‘rising’ gentry on the one side and ‘declining’ gentry on the other side {pace Taw ney, Stone, TrevorRoper, etc.) but between tw o groups o f rising, prosperous, activist gentry, with those who were economically passive or declining tending to be neutralist and inactive and pushed around by events.3 Second, this book is by far the best attem pt yet to examine ‘popular’ allegiance in the civil war. As U nderdow n says, this is a problem usually approached in one o f three ways. The first way is to assert that

2. For the old account, see, e .g ., J.E .C . Hill, T he Century o f Revolution (rev. ed. London, 1968), pp. 111-13. For a review o f several o f the local studies, see, ‘The N orthern Gentry and the Great R eb ellion ,’ above, ch. 9. 3. M .D .G . W anklyn, ‘Landed Society and Allegiance in Cheshire and Shropshire in the First C ivil W ar’ (PhD , thesis, U n iversity o f M anchester, 1976), ch. 4.


Ecology o f Allegiance

mass illiteracy and economic dependency rendered those below the gentry im potent to make autonom ous political choices. The second is to assert that m any were (though in varying degrees) free agents but that their first priority was to protect their homes, families, and communities from the armies o f both sides - the wider issues did not touch them. The third is to assert that ‘m any o f the com m on people did take an active part in the civil war, did have a real preference for one side or the other, and that the side they overwhelm ingly preferred was that o f Parliam ent’ (p. 2.). What this book does is to make it quite clear that the first view is wholly inadequate, that the second is much m ore complicated than it has usually seemed, and that the third is not so m uch too simple as too rigid.4 U nderdow n’s ow n approach is both pioneering and represents o f the m ost sophisticated general discussion o f the problem currently available. It creates a sense o f the contexts w ithin which yeomen, rural and urban craftsmen, husbandm en, and laborers struggled to make choices. It demonstrates how they could express those choices, and it draws on sources not hitherto adequately studied by historians o f allegiance. I shall argue later that we can readily go along neither with much o f U nderdow n’s m ethodology nor with some o f his specific conclusions. But he has changed the agenda o f civil war studies. Third, one particular consequence o f this attem pt to elucidate the problem o f popular allegiance can be recognized and separately applauded; this is the recovery o f popular royalism. Those who have argued for a popular dynam ism in the civil war have stressed not only the existence o f popular puritanism /parliam entarianism but also the disproportionate contribution o f popular parliamentarianism to the defeat o f the king. W ith the peerage and gentry split dow n the middle, it has been asserted, it was m iddling-sort militants who settled the issue.5 It has always seemed to me that this is a distortion that is the result o f certain built-in assumptions and a reliance on particular kinds o f evidence. It rests on giving credence to the convenient halftruths put out by propagandists o f both sides. It rests on misplaced assumptions that the Royalist armies were conscripted at best among

4. The second v iew is probably m ore com plicated than it was made to seem in J.S. M orrill, The Revolt o f the Provinces (London, 1976). U n d erd o w n ’s analysis o f neutralism is close to that presented in such recent w ork as A. Fletcher, The Outbreak o f the English C ivil War (London, 1982), ch. 12, and ‘The C om in g o f War’, in Reactions to the English C ivil War, ed. J.S. M orrill (London, 1982), pp. 29-50. 5. B .S . M anning, The English People and the English Revolution (London, 1976), pp. ix - x and passim.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

the dependent tenantry, at w orst am ong a feudal host. It is predicated on the idea that the C row n was vainly propping up a decayed social, political, and religious order against dynamic and progressive social, economic, and religious forces. It takes no account o f the existence o f popular Anglicanism .6 Despite all these caveats, I will not deny that a case can be made for the view that the people were m ore strongly in favour o f Parliament than o f the king. O ne cannot find much evidence o f popular royalism to match the writings o f Nehem iah W allington or the petition o f William D avenport’s tenants.7 Probably the strongest case, however, is that made by Joyce M alcolm .8 She has claimed that the royalists had, from the outset, greater difficulty than the parliamentarians in raising infantry. This she attributes directly to the king’s unpopularity am ong those beneath the gentry. However, even her argum ent creates m ajor difficulties, both evidential and conceptual.9 If, as the argum ent goes, Parliament had m ore success with the middling sorts (yeomen, skilled craftsmen, etc.), then one w ould expect the king to have had great difficulty in raising junior infantry officers and cavalry troopers. Infantrym en were m ost likely to come from low er in the social scale. Yet the evidence o f Peter N ew m an and Ronald H utton suggests that the Royalist armies were at least as thick with nongentle junior officers as were the Parliamentarian armies; and one thing that no one disagrees with is that the Royalists had no difficulty filling cavalry regim ents.10 The Royalists had problems, it seems, in m ustering those beneath the parish elites to serve as pikemen and musketeers. Fourth, this book addresses one o f the central issues in early m odern historiography and adds significantly to it. H ow protestant was England by the early seventeenth century? The traditional answer has been that it was largely protestant. Either as a result o f the sustained will and authority o f C row n, Parliament, and church, or as a consequence o f the successful campaign o f a grass-roots m ovem ent

6. For a full critique o f M anning’s thesis, see ‘Provincial Squires and “M iddling Sorts” in the Great R ebellion’, above ch. 10. 7. P. Seaver, W allington’s World (London, 1985). See the petition in J.S. Morrill, ‘W illiam D avenport and the “Silent M ajority” o f Early Stuart E ngland’, Journal o f the Chester Archaeological Society, 58 (1975), 128-9. 8. L. M alcolm , Caesar's D ue (London, 1982), and ‘A K ing in Search o f Soldiers: Charles I in 1642’, H J 21, no. 2 (1978), 251-68. 9. For a telling critique o f her empirical study see M . W anklyn and P. Y ou n g, ‘A Rejoinder’, H J 24, no. 1 (1981) 147-54. 10. See P.R. N ew m an , Royalists Officers in England and Wales, 1642-1660: A Biographical Dictionary (N ew York, 1981); R. H utton, The Royalist War Effort, 1642-1646 (O xford, 1982).


Ecology o f Allegiance

(itself predicated on lay reaction against priestcraft, hocus-pocus, and depredations o f late medieval Catholicism and allowed to prosper by regimes divided against themselves), the mass o f the population had come in varying degrees to conform to the practices and to embrace the values o f a rather diluted version o f the Continental R eform ation.11 Such views allow for the survival o f a m inority clinging to the old religion (or a refurbished version o f it) and allow for the developm ent o f a hotter sort o f protestantism among those who were zealous for the fullest im plem entation o f the more rigorist practices o f the new religion. For the past decade, the w ork o f Keith Thom as has dem onstrated the fragility o f all such accounts that assume that all Englishmen were members o f some church or other - Catholic, Anglican, Puritan-Anglican, or Separatist.12 Thom as’s insights have now been powerfully challenged by scholars like Jack Scarisbrick and C hristopher Haigh, who have argued for a rather different trajectory o f religious change.13 Although there are significant differences between them, Scarisbrick and Haigh agree that the state was not powerful enough or stubborn enough to do m uch more than inhibit and destroy the old structures, and certainly was not powerful enough to destroy patterns o f belief, and that the teachings, values, and practices o f the established church made little headway am ong the mass o f the people, who may (or may not) have conform ed outw ardly on Sundays but who otherwise found the Jacobean church irrelevant or else a nuisance. For Haigh, this led to a widespread de-christianization o f the population; for Scarisbrick, it led to the survival o f a sort o f folk Catholicism, cut off from the structures o f the church but inoculated against the commands o f Anglicanism. Both see Laud as appealing to widespread surviving conservatism. U nderdow n seems to me to give such interpretations a considerable boost, though he is closer to Haigh than to Scarisbrick (pp. 66-72). M y personal view is that such interpretations make very good sense for the T udor period but that they understate the comfortable conform ism o f the generations

11. C. Haigh, ‘The Recent H istoriography o f the English R eform ation’, H J 25, no. 4 (1982) 995-1008. 12. K .V . T hom as, Religion and the Decline o f Magic (London, 1971), esp. ch. 2, 3, and


13. J.J. Scarisbrick, The Reformation and the English People (O xford, 1982); C. Haigh, ‘The Church o f England, the Catholics and the P eople’, in The Reign o f Elizabeth I, ed. C. H aigh (London, 1984), pp. 195-220. I have also had the benefit o f hearing several papers by H aigh that form part o f his forthcom ing book on religion in England, 1558-1642.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

born and brought up under the 1559 settlement, specifically after 1598. Nonetheless, there is something very satisfying about U nderdow n’s interpretation, which sees Laudianism and Caroline puritanism as rival and conflicting evangelisms, one seeking to assimilate the residual expressions o f a traditional faith and practice and the other to suppress such expressions the better to expose the people to the teachings and values o f the Reformation. I find both this conceptualization o f the problem and the evidence for this trajectory helpful. Fifth, and consequent on this, U nderdow n argues powerfully and effectively that the Restoration was a popular event, especially in the short term, precisely because the puritans, having gained pow er in the later 1640s, failed in their attem pt to impose their values and beliefs. The internal divisions and tensions w ithin puritanism weakened its ability to impose itself, and the depth and strength o f the cultural norm s and practices that puritanism sought to supplant was simply too strong even for a succession o f revolutionary regimes, especially when those regimes could sustain themselves in pow er only by the adoption o f military, fiscal, and institutional structures that violated deeply cherished norm s o f civil liberty. This is so close to what I have m yself argued over the years that I found m yself reading the final chapters o f the book with no intellectual discom fort whatsoever. IV These are the book’s major achievements. They make it an im portant book to read by all those interested in the period. There are, however, major problems with other, and central, features o f the book, including what for David U nderdow n is its central argum ent - the cultural differences beneath the sheep-corn and w ood-pasture regions that underpinned patterns o f allegiance. I wish to challenge a series o f assumptions behind this thesis and aspects o f the m ethodology deployed to dem onstrate it. I need to start w ith recording my agnosticism with the appropriation o f distinctive ‘cultures’ to the sheep-corn and wood-pasture regions. U nderdow n is not, o f course, producing this distinction as a new insight. It was the basis o f the w ork o f Joan Thirsk and Alan Everitt in the 1960s, for example, although its deploym ent is far more circumspect in T hirsk’s recent w o rk .14 M ore im portant, the thesis has 14. J. Thirsk, The Rural Economy o f England (London, 1984), chs. 12 and 13; The Agrarian History o f England and Wales, vol. 4, 1500-1640, ed. J. Thirsk (Cam bridge, 1967), ch. 1, sec. A: A .M . Everitt, Landscape and Com m unity in England (London, 1986), chs. 1-3, and Change in the Provinces (Leicester, 1969). C om pare The Agrarian History o f England and Wales, vol. 5, 1640-1750, pt 1, Regional Farming Systems, ed. J. Thirsk (Cam bridge, 1985), pp. x ix -x x x i.


Ecology o f Allegiance

been m ost effectively worked out for areas o f the M idland Plain and A nglia.15 While some o f the topographical characteristics o f those regions can be found in the West C ountry, m any others cannot be, a fact borne out recently as I travelled from arable (and very flat) East Anglia to arable (and very rolling) Dorset. After all, there are some sheep-corn regions with highly dispersed patterns o f settlem ent.16 I was not persuaded that U nderdow n had here produced sufficient evidence that there were m arkedly different patterns o f landholding between the tw o regions, or that nucleated settlements predominated in the arable regions but did not predom inate throughout the w oodpasture regions, or that gentry settlement was denser and gentry control more effective in the arable regions (scatter maps o f gentry and o f m agistrates’ seats are needed), or that parish churches and resident clergy were m ore concentrated in the arable regions. I have always felt that the contrast is better expressed as arable and non-arable rather than as sheep-corn and w ood-pasture since the latter were so various in structure. In some w ood-pasture regions, especially where there had been dramatic clearance and enclosure, the concentration o f land and wealth was m ore extreme than in sheep-corn regions, whereas in others it was far less concentrated. It is as difficult to find com m on links within w ood-pasture regions as between w ood-pasture and sheep-corn regions. This is not, o f course, to deny that there may have been rough-and-ready distinctions between the cultural patterns o f arable and non-arable regions (or arable and some non-arable regions), but it does call into question the social basis o f many o f the cultural patterns observed. Reading and rereading this book did not in the end persuade me that the full variety o f patterns in the non-arable regions had been sufficiently clarified and applied. All this makes me queasy about building too m uch on these topographical distinctions. Frankly, it seems to me that U nderdow n states all the objections to the topographical survey and then proceeds willy-nilly w ith tem pting and intriguing passages like the following: Put simply, the typical team sport o f the south W iltshire downlands was football; the typical sports o f the N o rth Wiltshire cheese country were variants o f bat-and-ball games, o f which stoolball was in this 15. See, e.g ., W .G . H oskins, The M idland Peasant (London, 1957); M. Spufford, Contrasting Communities (Cam bridge, 1975), pt 1. 16. O ne obvious exam ple is the Chilterns (a sheep-corn area w ith a h ighly dispersed pattern o f settlem ent, irregular field system s, and extensive com m ons). I was em boldened to make this point (not one w ithin m y main areas o f com petence) by hearing a paper by T. W illiam son, ‘The O rigins o f R egions in Lowland Britain’, at a conference o f regional and local historians at the U n iversity o f East Anglia in September 1986.


The Nature o f the English Revolution period by far the m ost popular. . . . Football . . . [was] a m ore or less ritualized com bat between com munities, often represented by almost the entire young male population o f whole parishes. It was an appropriate expression o f parochial loyalty against outsiders, in which the identity o f the individual was totally subm erged in that o f the group. Its disorderly violence made it an inevitable target o f moral reformers; Laudian clergy, by contrast, encouraged it as a harmless reinforcem ent o f feelings o f neighborhood. . . . Football was less popular in the cheese country, but bat-and-ball games were m ore widely played. Stoolball’s popularity m ight be ascribed to the fact that its structure expressed, better than football, the m ore individualistic nature o f the w ood/pasture com m unity (pp. 75-6).

Those willing to accept this will probably also be willing to accept U nderdow n’s account o f distinctive patterns o f disorder in the two farming regions - the concentration o f charivari in wood-pasture regions: ‘In these unstable w ood/pasture villages, economic change and geographical mobility had weakened the ability o f neighbours and kinsfolk to maintain order in the old informal ways. Different social groups had correspondingly different responses; puritanism for the middling sort, skim m ingtons for the low er orders. But though the responses were different, they were provoked by the same problem ’ (p. 103). However, this distinction leaves us with a further problem. W hat do we mean by ‘popular’ allegiance? Clearly, in the model that U nderdow n erects, the harm onious communities o f the sheep-corn regions are likely to be solidly royalist since the elite have the middling and lower orders under control and do not feel especially threatened by the religious policies for which Charles stood (especially in 1642). In the w ood-pasture regions, however, the social imperatives w ould point in different directions. O n the one hand, there w ould presumably be regions where the puritan strivings o f the middling sort alienated the proponents o f ‘popular’ customs such as ‘skim m ingtons’. 17 Such men and w om en would presumably not wish to support a m ovem ent closely associated w ith the puritan cause. Yet in other w ood-pasture regions where puritanism had trium phed and skim m ington had been extinguished, one w ould expect the populace to be parliamentarian. Thus we would have solidly royalist regions (arable), solidly parliamentarian regions (some wood-pasture), and some regions w ith m iddling-sort parliamentarians and low er-sort royalists and neuters. I do not think that this is thoroughly worked

17. It is w orth stressing that charivari (like church-ales) are fairly regionally specific and are not characteristic o f pastoral regions elsew here in the country. This has im plications that I w ou ld suggest are not spelled out.


Ecology o f Allegiance

through in the book. In part this is because we never get the evidence o f how puritans set about confronting popular culture. We really can expect to be given evidence o f a group o f active puritan commissioners o f the peace applying relentless pressure on parish officers, both in and out o f sessions. Even in what looks like a clear example - the cause celebre o f church-ales in Somerset in 1633 - U nderdow n does not contradict T om Barnes’s view that the magistrates were seeking not to suppress church fetes but to keep them within bounds.18 Even m ore vital, o f course, is the need for detailed case studies for particular villages, such as W rightson and Levine have attem pted for T erling.19 Here, M artin Ingram ’s w ork is especially challenging, both in general and insofar as it grows out o f m any years’ study o f Wiltshire, in U nderdow n’s heartland. Ingram has denied the necessary connection between the economic forces at w ork in the period 1540-1640 (and the consequent social differentiation and strain) and a ‘puritan’ cultural response as identified and studied by W rightson and Levine in Terling in Essex. He has, in ‘Religion, C om m unities and M oral Discipline in Late Sixteenth- and Early Seventeenth-Century England’, argued that ‘while the[ir] study proposes tw o main engines o f change, economic and cultural-religious, their relative importance in influencing the various strands o f developm ent remains unclear’ (p. 180). M ore im portant, he has offered a parallel study o f Keevil, on the edge o f the Wiltshire clothing area. There he has found most o f the economic disruptions seen in Terling and most o f the social responses, but he finds no specific ‘puritan’ moral underpinning. ‘C om pared to Terling, the religious life o f Keevil appears less polarized in terms not only o f horizontal social divisions, but also o f the general quality o f religious observance and com m itm ent, and less change is visible over time. The village had its pious members and its profligates: but the m ajority o f the people appear to have been neither’ (p. 189). In relation to the ‘reform ation o f m anners’, Ingram suggests that ‘economic factors were o f greater importance. In the absence o f a strong Puritan religious drive in Keevil, a harsher attitude to those offences nonetheless developed’ (p. 190). This is dynam ite indeed. W hat is more, he has planted other land mines along the track U nderdow n chooses to take. In his detailed study o f Wiltshire

18. T. Barnes, ‘C ou n ty Politics and a Puritan cause celebre: Som erset Churchalcs, 1633,’ T R H S 5th ser, 9 (1959), 103-22. 19. K. W rightson and D . Levine, Poverty and Piety in an English Village: Terling, 1525-1700 (T oronto, 1980).


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charivari, he challenges the notion o f an organized puritan campaign against popular culture. Stressing the consonance o f elite and popular attitudes and the connivance o f m any gentry in popular ‘shame sanctions’ that echoed and were very similar to those prescribed by official agencies, Ingram, in ‘Ridings, Rough Music and the “Reform o f Popular C ulture” in Early M odern England’, characterizes opposition to charivari as ‘infrequent and m uted’. ‘They were at least one form o f popular custom, and an impressive one, which escaped any really serious attem pt at repression’ (pp. 110-11). These are surely challenges that can be m et only by detailed local studies that identify puritan elites and describe their campaigns.20 In the absence both o f knots o f m ilitant magistrates and o f studies revealing the contests between puritans and others in the context o f particular local communities, the case for a puritan crusade cannot be said to have been achieved. At the most, there is some evidence o f cultural conflict but nothing on its dynamics. I was left with one further anxiety. If there are tw o regional cultures (as laid out above in the quotation from U nderdow n (pp. 75-6), can we be sure that we are witnessing ‘Anglican’ and ‘Puritan’ responses? To put it bluntly, what did Anglicans think o f stoolball? Arable regions have a ‘com m unal’ ethic and pastoral regions an ‘individualistic’ ethic. But do Laudian Anglicanism and puritanism not both espouse a nostalgic attachment to the crumbling sense o f com m unity? It is at least arguable that both could engage w ith and seek to exploit aspects o f ‘arable’ culture and that both would wish to challenge the values o f w ood-pasture. Perhaps we are looking not at an arable Anglicanism and a pastoral puritanism but at shared Anglican and puritan responses to contrasting popular cultures. Thus, even if we grant that there are tw o farming regions each w ith a distinctive culture, we are left w ith m any problems about how we proceed to a discussion o f religious allegiances and hence political allegiances. In the end, the whole apparatus o f the arable/pastoral debate seems unnecessary to elucidate such wider questions, for the discussion

20. M . Ingram, ‘R eligion, C om m unities and Moral D iscipline in Late Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth-C entury E ngland’, in Religion and Society in Early Modern Europe, ed. K. von Greertz (London, 1985), and ‘Ridings, R ough M usic and the “Reform o f Popular C ulture” in Early M odern E ngland’, Past and Present, 105 (1984), 79-113. I find the form er m ore telling than M . Spufford, ‘Puritanism and Social C on trol’, in Order and Disorder in Early Modern England, eds. A. Fletcher a n d j. Stevenson (Cam bridge, 1985). The book on w hich Ingram is com m enting is W rightson and Levine.


Ecology o f Allegiance

o f allegiance demonstrates that parliamentarianism is distinctively strong only in the clothing regions and towns. N one o f the statistical evidence supports the broader generalization that the w ood-pasture culture led either to strong parliamentarianism or the kind o f highly polarized m iddling-sort puritanism /low er-order royalism that his cultural argum ent leaves room for. Indeed, the game is largely given away at one point in the book when U nderdow n accepts that m ost o f the non-clothing w ood-pasture regions ‘were as culturally conservative as the dow nlands’ (pp. 103-4). Surely there are simpler ways to explain the concentration o f puritanism in clothing regions than to see it as a particularly intense example o f w ood-pasture culture? Surely the instrinsic appeal o f puritan discipline and biblicism w ithin the context o f cloth working, the greater openness o f clothing regions to wandering evangelists m oving w ith the lines o f trade and even with the line o f the main roads, perhaps simply the greater contact with London, all go a long way to explain the phenom enon w ithout recourse to the broader cultural analysis. V I am, then, unhappy with U nderdow n’s spatial distribution o f royalism and parliamentarianism. I am also w orried by his account o f the social distribution o f puritanism and Anglicanism and therefore o f royalism and parliamentarianism. The notion that puritanism has a particular appeal to the middling sort has, o f course, a strong pedigree. It is central to the w ork o f C hristopher Hill, o f course, and has recently been strongly endorsed by Keith W righton, William H unt, Brian M anning, and others.21 I am drawn to it myself. A religion that is Bible-centred is likely to be a religion o f the literate; a religion o f sheep and goats is likely to appeal to those differentiating themselves from their fellow peasants and assimulating themselves economically and culturally to an established elite. Such a view can be challenged in several ways. Puritanism is certainly characteristic o f the cloth-w orking districts and o f some urban centers, though I have to say that U nderdow n does not provide direct evidence that it consolidated itself am ong the wealthier farmers and craftsmen before disseminating dow nw ard. I cannot say that the book provides m uch evidence that puritanism was generally stronger in w ood-pasture regions than in 21. J.E .C . Hill, Society and Puritanism: Pre-revolutionary England (London, 1964); K. W rightson, English Society, 1580-1680 (London, 1981), ch. 6; W rightson and Levine, chs. 5 and 6; M anning (n. 5 above), esp. ch. 7.


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sheep-corn regions. Certainly, historians o f East Anglian puritanism, such as William H unt, have not suggested that puritanism there is concentrated away from the arable regions.22 M ore im portant, several scholars, including Patrick Collinson, M argaret Spufford, and Eam on Duffy, have recently suggested that puritanism was not as socially specific as U nderdow n assumes and that it did not necessarily disseminate dow nw ard.23 There are some problems o f definition involved, however, especially in the formulations o f Spufford and Duffy, in that they conflate all protestant enthusiasm under the catchall title ‘puritanism ’, citing Anabaptists, Quakers, separating Congregationalists, and other sectaries as if they were merely offshoots o f predestinarian Calvinism. If we see such m ovements as being as m uch reactions against puritanism as extensions o f it, then the dilemma m ight be resolved. Those who had seen little o f ‘prayer book Anglicanism ’ and were confronted by prating puritan divines whose stereotype o f the saint involved Bible reading, w orldly success, and self-conscious charity in measures unattainable by the hum ble and illiterate poor m ight reject Christianity and retreat into paganism, or they m ight turn to those who offered a m ore convincing gospel. This m ight result in a socially specific, semi-Pelagian, radical Arminian, Pentecostal, or Pietistic sectarianism hostile to mainstream Calvinist dogm a and ecclesiology that would help to resolve the apparent contradictions in existing literature. It m ight help U nderdow n’s case. As it is, I fear his rather static account o f a popular culture waiting to be overborne or assimilated takes no account o f it. It is implicit in what I have just said that this book proceeds at times from assum ption to evidence rather than the reverse. M ost o f the exercises for quantifying ‘Anglicanism ’ or ‘puritanism ’ are, o f course, treacherous (presentments in church courts for non-conform ity, petitioning for and against the prayer book and the bishops, etc.), but they are not attem pted here.24 Patterns o f ecclesiastical patronage, perhaps the m ost fruitful avenue o f inquiry, together with patterns o f clerical

22. W. H unt, The Puritan M oment (Cam bridge, M ass., 1983), esp. ch. 6. 23. P. C ollinson, The Religion o f Protestants (O xford, 1982), ch. 5; Spufford, ‘Puritanism and Social C on trol’, ch. 1; E. D u ffy, ‘The G odly and the M ultitude in Stuart England’, Seventeenth Century, 1, no. 1 (1986), 31-55. 24. J. M altby, in an alm ost com pleted Cam bridge P hD thesis, w ill release som e telling figures on the social distribution o f support for episcopacy and the prayer book in a num ber o f Cheshire parishes in rather different farming regions.


Ecology o f Allegiance

persecution in the 1640s, are also ignored.25 Instead, U nderdow n suggests that w orking conditions, the absence o f strong informal controls, the lack o f ‘brokers’, and the rugged individualism o f the w ood-pasture region left those who wished to impose protestantism little option but to fall back on a confrontation with popular culture. H ow ever plausible, I have to record that I felt this was m ore asserted than dem onstrated. The point has to be labored because it threatens U nderdow n’s central thesis about the distribution o f allegiance. The fundamental patterns o f thought that determ ined allegiance are, ultimately, religious. He is well aware o f the impact o f Charles’s secular oppressions and gives weight to elements o f class animus, but neither is seen as being capable o f sparking the conflagration o f the 1640s and creating the distinctive patterns o f allegiance in different farming regions, although a model in which they did so could be constructed. There is, then, some fuzziness in the social and religious analysis, and there are problems with the spatial analysis. For me, the most w orrying aspect o f this book is the lack o f a grid o f elite allegiance for the western shires. U nderdow n shows that m any below the gentry were free agents. But their freedom also included the right to follow the line o f least resistance. Men o f strong preference and conviction m ight still prefer inactivity to suicidal com m itm ent (or m ight not), while men o f little or no conviction m ight find that obeying orders was the simplest line o f conduct. This m ight lead to enlistment or to m inor office holding. In m y view, we will never be able to quantify the num ber o f militants on either side - that is, those who followed personal conviction and com m itm ent whatever cost. But very careful source criticism should allow us to identify some o f the militants on both sides. The militancy o f m any will lie hidden, but we will recover enough individuals to be able to say som ething about its nature. Such an exercise would, however, rest on four exercises not attem pted in this book. First, a painstaking, retrieval o f the recruitm ent o f soldiers, especially at the outbreak o f war, and the m ovem ent o f armies and stationing o f garrisons throughout the war would help us to establish how far the distribution o f know n soldiers follows a purely military logic. We m ust never forget that m any signed up after the harvest 25. I. Green (‘The Persecution o f “Scandalous” and “M alignant” C lergy in the English C ivil War’, E H R , 94 [1979], 507-31), suggests that m ost W iltshire ejections took place in the (puritan) southern deaneries. For remarks on the ejections in Somerset, sec D .E . U n d crd ow n , Somerset in the C ivil Wars and Interregnum (N ew to n A bbott, 1973), pp. 154-5.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

o f 1642 for a war that was to be over by Christmas and before the next dem and for agricultural labor.26 Second, we need maps o f gentry allegiance (royal/parliamentarian seats and manors), with subsets for the m ost active gentry on each side. Third, we need maps o f the residences o f army officers on both sides. Peter N ew m an has identified eighty-six royalist field officers from Wiltshire, Dorset, and Somerset; he has also identified no less than 521 junior officers who claimed to be indigent at the Restoration and who were at that time resident in Wiltshire, Dorset, and Som erset.27 It w ould be possible to produce fairly full and comparable lists for parliamentarian armies. Fourth, we need a full discussion o f clerical allegiance. What was the pattern o f persecution? Who was ejected, and what was the geographic pattern?28 M any ministers appear to have been ‘Anglican conform ists’ in the later 1640s. Were they topographically concentrated?29 H ow many were com m itted to a non-episcopalian state church?30 Such a study m ust have implications for popular allegiance. The aim o f all this w ould be to help to identify those probably outside the elite who swam against the tide, the likely hardliners. What was their background? VI When we come to the detailed analysis o f the distribution o f support, we need to stress (as U nderdow n, o f course, does) that it is onesided. We have lists o f maimed royalist soldiers but only vestigial lists o f m aimed parliamentarian soldiers, and we have lists o f suspects

26. U n d erd ow n , in Somerset in the C ivil Wars and Interregnum, provides the basis o f a narrative for that county; for W iltshire, see G. Harrison, ‘Royalist O rganization in W iltshire, 1642-6’ (PhD thesis, U n iversity o f London, 1963), chs. 1-3; for D orset, see A .R . B ayley, The C ivil Wars in Dorset (Dorchester, 1910). 27. P.R. N ew m an , ‘The Royalist O fficer Corps, 1642-1660’, H J 26, no. 4 (1983), 953, and ‘The 1663 List o f Indigent O fficers Considered as a Primary Source’, H J 30(1987), 885-904. 28. For a general discussion, see Green; for Wiltshire, there is an especially valuable collection o f papers relating to the investigation o f civil war clerical activities in BL, Additional M S 22084. 29. There is m uch useful material in B. W illiams, ‘T he Church o f England and Protestant N on con form ity in Wiltshire, 1645-1665’ (M. Litt. thesis, U niversity o f Bristol, 1963), chs. 3 and 4. A m on g other things he discusses the identity o f those w h o preached the com bination lectures set up by Parliament in 1642 at Warminster. H e also establishes that there w ere five w orking Presbyterian classes in W iltshire by the late 1640s and not just one., as has been w id ely supposed. W illiams also offers a pioneering study o f the relation betw een ecclesiastical patronage and civil war allegiance. 30. U se m ight also have been made o f the eighty-four signatures to the Concurrent Testimony to the Solemn League and Covenant (London, 1648).


Ecology o f Allegiance

rounded up by the major generals in 1655-6 but no comparable list o f parliamentarians. This is what U nderdow n wishes to claim for this analysis: T aken together, the pension lists and the M ajor G enerals’ returns confirm the existence o f w idespread popular royalism , and indicate that it was distinctly regional in character . . . [It was m ost w idespread] in Blackm orc V ale,31 south-east Som erset, the chalk country. In the dow nlands, to be sure, the smaller villages show no im pressive indications o f active royalism . B ut the tow ns in and around the chalk country include som e o f the m ost royalist places. . . . O n the other side, we have found few er royalists in the n o rth Som erset and n o rth w est W iltshire clothing districts (pp. 206-7).

M ight not the lists o f m aimed soldiers tell a different story? M ight it not tell us som ething more about the social and political history o f poor relief? M aimed soldiers could be relieved on the parish poor rate, out o f charity funds, or out o f a county fund. Perhaps some towns were quick to put responsibility off on to a county rate. It may also be that maimed soldiers m oved after the civil war to an area m ore likely to grant them parish relief. What had disabled ex-royalists done in the 1650s when they were specifically excluded from county relief? If there had been a large num ber o f poor royalist soldiers in Dorchester, is it likely they would have returned after the war to face the w rath and the absence o f charity in the hearts o f the ruling puritan clique? M aybe royalist gentry in the sheep-corn areas were better able to offer protection to ex-soldiers. Maybe some JPs in the 1660s were happier to grant disability certificates to the maimed. That there was a strong element o f choice and deliberation about who was to receive relief is suggested by U nderdow n’s study o f the different patterns in Wiltshire and Dorset. Perhaps different patterns exist within counties as w ell.32 N or should we assume that all the maimed soldiers are best described as ‘royalist’. Some may have served in the trained bands; some certainly served in the regiments sent by king and Parliament (really Parliament) to Ireland in 1642. Some are almost certainly draw n from ‘foreign’ regiments who served in the county during the war and chose to settle there afterward. For example, Malcolm W anklyn has suggested to me that m any o f the maimed soldiers around Devizes came from a Denbighshire regim ent garrisoned there during the war. He has also pointed out that some regiments saw 31. Blackm orc Vale is m ore pastoral than arable, m ore royalist than parliamentarian, and, to be blunt, a thorn in the flesh o f the argum ent from first to last. 32. M y thoughts on this subject o w e m uch to T im Wales, w h ose pioneering work on poor relief in N orfolk is full o f kindred points.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

more active service and sustained far higher casualties than others.33 All these factors make the use o f this source far too problem atic to carry the weight im posed on it in this book. Similar doubts assail the use o f the lists o f suspected persons drawn up by and for the major generals. We do not know that the suspects were all or even prim arily ex-royalists. Between 1646 and 1656, a large proportion o f the population had been alienated from its neutralism or conservative parliamentarianism by the Regicide, by m ilitary rule, and by religious liberty run to licence. It is clear, for example, that in the N o rth Midlands M ajor General Worsley bound over all alehouse keepers afresh to ensure that they kept sedition and im m orality at bay. Furtherm ore, the major generals depended on the cooperation o f commissioners who may have been m ore zealous in some areas than others.34 U nderdow n has to admit that returns from some areas were wholly deficient. But that does not mean that we should exclude those and accept the rest as equally reliable. Once one admits that there were likely to have been differences between counties, the value o f the exercise loses its force. VII At the end o f the day, I think these sources are too flawed to dem onstrate that the pattern o f civil war allegiance was determ ined by a clash o f regional cultures. M y scepticism over the teacups has not been overridden. U nderdow n does persuade me that parliamentarians were strongest in cloth regions and clothing towns and that puritanism was m ore characteristic o f that region than others. But that owes little to the argum ent that cloth-w orking took place in w oodpasture regions. It has to do with other factors m entioned above. T hat Anglicans and puritans had different evangelistic strategies in dealing w ith the poor, the illiterate, and the ignorant can be readily granted. But I w ould prefer to see this as the product rather than the source o f other attitudinal differences. I cannot accept that it was cultural strategies that determ ined political responses. Puritans hated Charles I and William Laud only in part because the latter obstructed the puritan attack on church-ales, football, and alehouses. 33. Private com m unication, based on M .D .G . W anklyn, ‘The K in g’s Arm ies in the W est o f England’ (M A thesis, U n iversity o f M anchester, 1965). 34. See the discussion o f these points in J.S. M orrill, Cheshire, 1630-1660 (O xford, 1974), pp. 281-3, and the maps in the thesis on w hich it was based: J.S. M orrill, ‘The G overnm ent o f Cheshire during the C ivil Wars and Interregnum ’ (D. Phil, thesis, U n iversity o f O xford, 1971), map iv follow in g p. 484. Keith W rightson and Derek Hirst pointed out that m any o f W orsley’s sureties in Lancashire were taken from alehouse keepers.


Ecology o f Allegiance

They hated them principally because they represented a com prom ise with popery, a disparagement o f preaching, a com m itm ent to a centralizing theocracy, and ultimately a false account o f the relations o f God and man. These convictions were sufficient unto themselves. I have learned enorm ously from this book. I believe everyone w ho studies the seventeenth century will be wiser for reading it. But it w ould take som ething stronger than the tea at the Institute o f Historical Research to make me accept its central argum ent.35

35. D avid U n d erd ow n replied to this review in J B S , 26 (1987) 468—79.


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The Nature and Consequences o f the English Revolution

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Introduction: Britain’s Revolutions

The third part o f this collection o f essays is m ore varied and diffuse. It consists o f a series o f essays w ritten over tw enty years on aspects o f the period 1640-90. I am not going to try to impose a rationalized unity upon them, beyond saying that I suppose they reveal a concern w ith the law o f unintended consequences, the escalation o f events out o f control once civil war broke out, and the long shadow cast by the events o f the 1640s over the rest o f the century. I have included my review o f C hristopher H ill’s collected essays (chapter 14) because he is read nowadays far less than he was and should be - I am constantly dismayed that my new graduate students are unlikely to have read m ore than one or tw o works by him. For tw enty years his was the interpretation that dom inated the gram m ar school classroom. For those o f us over the age o f 40 he was, during our student days, the historian o f seventeenth-century England. We were not necessarily brought up to accept his view o f the period; but we were expected to define ourselves in relation to his powerful views. He should still be read. Society and Puritanism in Pre-Revolutionary England , The World Turned Upside D ow n , God's Englishmen and innumerable essays are simply the most vital o f his remarkable stream o f publications. Anyone trying to see what created the agenda for many o f the articles that follow should realize how m uch I owe to him and how discovering m y ow n truth in the seventeenth century has caused me to wrestle w ith his ideas. It seems only right therefore to reprint my fullest published appreciation o f his w ork and contribution. It appears as chapter 14. M y main criticism has to do w ith sources; but there is another which is not perhaps sufficiently brought out in that essay. M y centre o f gravity has always been in the 1640s. I have


The Nature o f the English Revolution

been concerned to show how a generalized alarm at m isgovernm ent in 1640 turned into a focussed militarized struggle in 1642 over limited objectives; and how that limited conflict turned into Revolution by 1649. C hristopher H ill’s interests have been fairly broad-brush dow n to the civil war and then an intense focus on the writings o f the post-civil-war years, 1647-60. He has not concerned him self with the nature o f the crisis o f 1642 nor with how we get from there to 1649. But he has (far m ore than I have) throw n a powerful spotlight on the writings made possible by the teeming liberty inaugurated by the overthrow o f those great landmarks, Church, C row n and House o f Lords. I have included another review essay at the head o f this section. C onrad Russell’s eloquent voice has been a distinctive one within the revisionist ensemble o f the 1980s. His ideas and mine have developed very m uch side-by-side, emphasizing the im portance o f central-local relations in the 1970s, religion in the early 1980s, and the British dimension in the later 1980s and early 1990s. I have included this review largely to illustrate how im portant I now think the British dimension to be, and w hy I am rather m ore radical than is Russell about where I w ould want to take the argument. For the past five years Brendan Bradshaw and I have been running a finalyear Cam bridge undergraduate course entitled The British Problem: England, Ireland, Scotland, c.1534-1707. It has led me to see that we have here som ething m ore than three separate histories colliding, and to call for a holistic approach to the history o f the British Isles. Thus I have described Russell’s approach as ‘enriched English H istory’ rather than ‘British H istory’. It will, however, be some time before the full fruits o f this new approach become apparent.1 Rereading that review after a few m onths leads me to one other conclusion. I have just said that m y centre o f gravity has always been the 1640s as against C hristopher H ill’s 1650s. In relation to the outbreak o f the civil war, it seems to me that C onrad Russell’s recent books concentrate on explaining what happens between the spring o f 1640 and the sum m er o f 1641. By then he sees the m om entum to polarization and war as unstoppable. By contrast m y ow n w ork is less concerned with 1. M y prelim inary attem pt to write a British H istory appears above, chapter 5. A m ore developed account was given at a Conference at the U n iversity o f Illinois in April 1990 and as a James Ford Special lecture in O xford in N ovem b er 1991 under the title ‘A British Patriarchy? Ecclesiastical Imperialism under the early Stuarts’, and it is n o w in press in a festschrift. I am currently researching a book w hich w ill explore the interactions o f the Reform ation processes in England, Ireland and Scotland over the period 1559 to 1689.


Introduction: Britain’s Revolutions

that period than w ith the events o f the period N ovem ber 1641 to August 1642. I think I have had an oversimplified view o f the events o f 1641 but can offer a m ore open-ended account o f 1642, w ith neither king nor parliament able to com m and the loyalty o f the mass o f backbenchers or o f the provinces and w ith m any possible outcomes other than a nation by the sword divided. I twice tried to write a book to be called England’s Wars of Religion. The first version (twelve chapters written, four unwritten) was abandoned in 1981. It was ultra-revisionist, and its early chapters were entitled ‘the strength o f early Stuart m onarchy’, ‘the weakness o f early Stuart m onarchy’, ‘the decline o f early Stuart m onarchy’ and ‘the fall o f early Stuart m onarchy’. The second version, w ritten in 1987, was even less complete. But it began w ith four chapters entitled ‘The Social C ontext o f the English Civil W ar’, ‘the political context . . .’, ‘the religious context . . .’ and ‘the British context . . .’ The religious context would have been a revised version o f what appears as chapter 3 above. The ‘political context’ would have been an alternative version o f chapter 15 here. It explores the reticence o f the constitutional rhetoric o f 1641-2, the deafening silences, the inhibition. In an early incarnation the paper was entitled ‘circumspection and circum scription’ and it was an attem pt to show that not only was there reticence in the rhetoric; there was an ensuing reticence o f action. The purpose, o f course, was to strengthen the claim that only the heady language and the imperative call to action contained in puritan rhetoric could break dow n ‘resistance to resistance theory’ in 1641-2. There were secular constitutional reasons for preferring the parliamentarian to the royalist cause; but only an additional injection o f zeal turned armchair preferences into a determ ination to use force to press them home. With the caveats mentioned in ch. 2, pp. 36-8, in mind, I w ould still feel that that was a case w orth arguing. M y views on the war years themselves are still very much as laid out in The Revolt o f the Provinces, chapters 2 and 3.2 I have not found any reason to change my mind on the major points made in that book, although historians like Ann Hughes and David U nderdow n have taught me to qualify some o f the balder claims - about the nature o f ‘parliamentary tyranny’, for example, or about the high-

2. But see also m y introductions to Reactions to the English C ivil War (1982) and to The Impact o f the English C ivil War (1991).


The Nature o f the English Revolution

minded neutralism o f the C lubm en.3 As far as this volum e is concerned, the next them e is that o f army radicalism in the later 1640s. Chapter 16, my first publication, is an article which grew out o f a paper given to Keith T hom as’s seminar in O xford at about the time I completed my D .Phil., with shavings from it and some o f the preparatory research for what turned into The Revolt o f the Provinces. It was, I suppose, revisionism avant la lettre, w ith its attem pt to put the A rm y Revolts o f 1647 into perspective and to contextualize them so as to emphasize bread-and-butter complaints at the expense o f Leveller constitutionalism. This was taken a stage further by chapter 17, a piece which began life as a conference paper in 1976 and which sought to analyze the debates within the N ew M odel A rm y in the sum m er and autum n o f 1647. Once again I was exploring and challenging the view that the radicalization o f the N ew M odel was the product o f Leveller infiltration and o f tensions between the Grandees and the rank-and-file. The first essay (‘M utiny and Discontent in English Provincial A rm ies’) still seems to me a sound piece o f empirical research. The second (‘The A rm y Revolt o f 1647’) is a piece I have mixed feelings about. The deep ambivalence am ong the Leveller leaders about the arm y and the ambivalences w ithin the army (among rank-and-filers as well as officers) about the Leveller program m e needed exposing; as did the im portance o f the papers o f the C om m ittee o f Indemnity, hitherto little used.4 It is an essay that has never quite convinced me. I felt the themes needed airing, and I cannot fault the logic. But som ehow m y historical intuition tells me I did not get it quite right. One day someone will spot the flaw. Meanwhile, it remains a piece that does present a challenge to traditional views about the radicalization o f the arm y.5 M eanwhile I w ould like to float an idea I had in 1976 and was 3. In general support o f what I argued see the chapters by Pennington and A shton in M orrill, (ed.) Reactions; and for telling qualifications see A. H ughes, ‘Parliamentary Tyranny? Indemnity Proceedings and the Impact o f the Civil War: a case study from W arwickshire’, M idland History, XI (1986), 49-78; A. H ughes, ‘T he K ing, the Parliament and the Localities during the English C ivil War’, Jnl. B rit. Studs., 24 (1985), 236-63; D .E . U n d erd ow n , ‘The Chalk and the Cheese: Contrasts am ong the English C lu b m en ’, Past and Present, 85 (1979), 25-48. 4. I was assisted in m y w ork on these papers (class SP24 in the Public Records O ffice) by reading an unpublished paper on indem nity by Gerald A ylm er. Since then several historians have explored them , n o-on e m ore successfully than Ann H ughes, ‘Parliamentary Tyranny?’. 5. Since I w rote that article there has been much written on the army and the Levellers, notably by Mark Kishlansky, The Rise o f the N ew Model A rm y (Cambridge, 1979), esp. chs. 7-8; A. W oolrych, Soldiers and Statesmen: The General Council o f the Arm y and its Debates 1647-1648 (Oxford, 1987), passim; I. Gentles, The N ew Model A rm y in England, Ireland and Scotland 1645-1653 (Oxford, 1991), chs. 6-8.

2 48

Introduction: Britain's Revolutions

too timid to advance then, although its plausibility was reinforced for me by reading Austin W oolrych’s Soldiers and Statesmen ten years later. What do we take to be the significance o f the term ‘agitator’, used o f those who represented the rank-and-file o f the army on the General Council? And in what sense were they ‘elected’? According to the Oxford English Dictionary , the linkage between agitator and agitation or political plotting is a late eighteenth-century usage. With respect to 1647, the Dictionary rightly sees it as ‘varied w ith adjutator, a corruption influenced] by adjutant or adjutor. Indeed, in a sample I made o f thirty newsletters and pamphlets from 1647, 17 used ‘adjutator’ and 13 had ‘agitator’. The definition o f ‘adjutator’ is ‘helper’ or ‘assistant’. It leads me to speculate that the ‘adjutators’ chosen in the spring o f 1647 were not ‘elected’ by their fellow soldiers but coopted by the officers. What evidence is there for either view? Which is the m ore likely to have traces in the political record? Perhaps I should also add that although these essays (and chapter 18 - ‘O rder and Disorder in the English R evolution’) play down the significance o f Leveller ideas as the basis o f popular politics in the later 1640s, I take the Levellers very seriously. It has been a long-term private com m itm ent on my part to write at length about Leveller ideas and what they tell us about the later 1640s.6 Tw o essays, by Colin Davis and Brian M anning,7 w ould be my starting point. But I would want to examine how Leveller pamphlets and petitions combined deeply regressive economic and social ideas with a core com m itm ent to religious liberty and to a political doctrine born o f experience in Independent churches, all bound together in an innovative natural rights fram ework. C hapter 18 (‘O rder and Disorder in the English R evolution’) is also about the limits o f the radical challenge. It was w ritten jointly with John Walter and was very much m ore than the sum o f our parts. U nlike chapter 17, I always felt that this essay did hit the nail on the head, and I have been surprised and disappointed that it has not received m ore attention than it has. I think it is certainly a better and truer piece o f history than chapters 2 or 3, for example. The argum ent about the trajectory o f violence, with a peak in 1641, or the argum ent about the threat o f disorder being more im portant than the reality, 6. The nearest I ever got was in a very revisionist (3,000-w ord) essay on John Lilburne in R. Greaves and R. Zaller, (eds.) Dictionary o f British Radicals: the Seventeenth Century (3 v ols., 1982), II, 185-90. 7. J.C . D avis, ‘The Levellers and Christianity’ in B. M anning (ed.), Politics, Religion and the English C ivil War (1972), pp. £25-50; B. M anning, The English People and the English Revolution (1976), ch. 10.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

did need saying. We were m ore speculative about the 1650s, but in general I w ould not wish to change much in this article, although Bill Cliftlands, in a rather unstructured but intellectually powerful PhD on the m iddling-sort activists o f Essex and Cheshire in the 1640s certainly taught me a lot about the dynamics o f protest.8 The last tw o chapters are fairly recent, and they stand here as examples o f m y thinking about the consequences o f the Revolution o f 1649. Chapter 19 (‘A Glorious Resolution?’) began as a paper to a conference in Los Angeles in 1988. A heavily truncated and revised version was published in History Today. I hesitated about which version to publish. The longer version is certainly flawed: I am far from clear that what I say about Locke is fair to Locke or even to Locke scholarship; and at the Conference in Los Angeles John Pocock certainly showed that the links I had tried to make between Locke’s prescriptions and the actual ills o f the English polity in the 1680s could not take the strain I had placed upon them. This version therefore incorporates some changes to deal w ith that problem and it draws on the wise advice o f N orm a Landau, the com m entator, who concentrated on m y argum ent about the weakening ties o f the centre over the provinces. It remains flawed, but I prefer it to the shorter version because it attem pts m ore o f an overview than the History Today version does. The final essay in the volume (‘The Sensible R evolution’) has a clear message: that G.M . Trevelyan’s analysis o f the significance o f 1688, however little he researched it, still has m uch to teach us. But there is a clear subtext which I became aware o f as I was w riting it. It was m y liberation from some o f the failings o f revisionism. Faced by a revisionist historiography o f 1688 in which I had no investm ent, I could see its limitations: I recognized the force o f the historical law o f unintended consequences; I recognized how certain kinds o f narrative foreclosed any recognition o f underlying causes; I applied to the Revolution o f 1688 the distinction between ‘w eak’ and ‘strong’ teleology which Glenn Burgess has so fruitfully explored for the early seventeenth century. Burgess has argued that all history m ust be w ritten with an end (telos) in view, an end determ ined by historians before they complete their writing in order that they can structure and convey their thoughts to their readers (weak teleology); but they do not have to believe that such an end is inevitable and

8. W. Cliftlands, ‘The W ell-A ffected and the C ou n try’, R eligion and Politics in English Provincial Society, C.1640-C.1654, U n iv . o f Essex PhD thesis (1988), esp. chs. 3-4.


Introduction: Britain’s Revolutions

predeterm ined (strong teleology). Revisionism, he suggests, rejects strong teleology, and w ith it anachronism, the use o f present-day standards and concepts to organize our study o f the past or to judge the past; and it rejects the idea that one can deduce the m otivation o f historical actors by looking at the consequences o f their actions. Revisionists, he suggests, have confused their antipathy towards anachronism with an unrealistic rejection o f all forms o f teleology9 I plead guilty to having suffered from that confusion and hope chapter 20 represents a healthier reinstatement o f ‘w eak’ teleology into my writing. This final essay allowed me to see m ore clearly some aspects o f the earlier crisis. Discovering so m any resonances o f the 1640s in the 1680s helped me to get the continuities o f the century into focus whether about parliamentary history or the nature o f anti-catholicism. M ost im portant was the recognition o f a key difference between 1642 and 1689: in both there was a vast middle ground o f men who disagreed on a range o f issues which mattered deeply to them but who wanted to believe that these differences were negotiable, and in both there were activist minorities ready and willing to resolve the differences by force. The difference between 1642 and 1689 is that in 1689 the centre held. The implications o f this statem ent for the 1690s and beyond are spelt out in chapter 20. The implications for our understanding o f the 1640s o f the centre not holding will be found in my forthcom ing w ork on the civil war. But it put a lot o f m y earlier thinking into perspective. It remains to be seen whether I can apply the lessons I learnt from this therapeutic exploration o f the events o f 1688-90 to m y future w riting about the nearly-parallel events o f 1640-2.

9. G. Burgess, ‘O n Revisionism : an A nalysis o f Early Stuart H istoriography in the 1970s and 1980s’, HJ, 33 (1990), 614-16.


The Causes o f Britain’s C iv il Wars1

I Three books from Conrad Russell in a six-m onth period is a feast indeed.2 Russell combines a keen intelligence with an out-of-theordinary ability to ask startling and challenging questions and to approach issues from new and refreshing angles. His eye for the apt and telling quotation is second to none. As Unrevolutionary England ,3 a collection o f his essays, makes clear, Russell’s principal research interests have been in the 1620s (and especially in the parliamentary history o f that decade4 and in the years 1637-42.5 Several o f the essays have acquired classic status, including ‘Parliamentary H istory in Perpective, 1604-1629’ (first published in History , 1976), the clarion call to revisionism and the precursor o f Parliaments and English Politics 1621-1629 (Oxford, 1979), which set the agenda on the 1620s for the 1980s. A nother essay reprinted in Unrevolutionary England , his inaugural lecture as Astor Professor, ‘The British Problem and the English Civil W ar’, is an equally im portant harbinger o f his tw o brand-new books.6 Both o f these argue that in order to understand the collapse o f Charles’s pow er in England, we 1. I am grateful to C olin D avis, Jonathan Scott and D avid Sm ith for their helpful com m ents on drafts o f this essay a shortened version o f w hich appeared in Jnl. Eccl. H ist., 43 (1992). 2. The Causes o f the English C ivil Wars. The Ford Lectures delivered in the University o f Oxford, 1987-1988 (O xford: Clarendon Press, 1990), pp. xv + 236; The Fall o f the British Monarchies 1637-1642. (O xford: Clarendon Press, 1991), pp. xx + 550; Unrevolutionary England, 1603-1642. (London: H am bledon Press, 1990), pp. xii + 286. 3. This reprints sixteen essays published over the past 25 years. 4. Five o f the sixteen essays are on this subject. 5. Eight o f the sixteen essays are on this subject. 6. First published in History, LXX II (1987).


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have to recognize the effect on English politics o f the prior collapse o f his pow er in Scotland and Ireland and the interaction between the events in all three kingdom s. The tw o works are intimately connected. As Russell puts it: M y order o f researching, and o f w riting, has been to compose a threekingdom narrative o f events, T he Fall o f the B ritish Monarchies 1 6 3 7 1642 , and only then, w hen I decided w hat I needed to explain, to consider T h e Causes o f the English C iv il War. . . . I hope the tw o books will be taken as a single corpus o f w ork, and judged as a w hole.7

Each book - and not just The Fall o f the British Monarchies - is certainly fully comprehensible on its own. Readers o f The Causes o f the English C ivil War who want to see the evidence rather than follow the argum ent will, however, frequently need to cross-refer to the much larger w ork, The Fall o f the British Monarchies, 1637-1642. II

The Causes o f the English Civil War has not been well served by the

publicity departm ent o f O xford U niversity Press. It is a published version o f his Ford Lectures at O xford in 1988, and it has the scintillation and challenge appropriate to such a series o f lectures. It is not, however, a vade mecum for undergraduates or sixth-form ers coming to grips w ith this period for the first time. It presumes a great deal o f background knowledge, and it offers only occasional and limited com m entary on the vast corpus o f m odern writing on the issues w ith which it is concerned.8 O ne chapter does engage in an argum ent with the writings o f Johann Som m erville,9 but m uch o f the best and m ost influential writing on the period goes unm entioned.10 This w ould not m atter if O .U .P . had not attem pted to prom ote this book as though it was the replacement for Lawrence Stone’s Causes o f the English Revolution. It isn’t, although it is a great deal more. As an introduction to the period and its problems, the book by Ann Hughes, which shares its title with Russell’s Ford Lectures, has to be preferred. By contrast, Russell’s Causes is an advanced and very

7. Causes, p. ix. cf. Causes, p. 2. 8. See, for exam ple, the statem ent that ‘it is unnecessary to dw ell on the changes produced in the Church o f England by the triumph o f the Arm inians after York H ouse. What this b ook w ou ld say on that subject w ou ld fo llo w D r Tyacke very closely, and perhaps w e m ay take that as read’ (Cause, p. 109). 9. J.P. Som m erville, Politics and Ideology in England, 1603-1640 (1986). 10. N o n e o f the w ork o f A nthony Fletcher, Brian M anning, D avid U n d erd ow n or m y self is referred to in Causes, and it is hardly ever referred to in the text or footnotes o f The Fall.


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powerful presentation o f a particular vision o f a subject at the heart o f English and o f British History. Ill

The Causes o f the English Civil War consists o f eight chapters and a

brief conclusion. The first chapter (‘The C orpus Delicti’) identifies various unhelpful approaches to the problem (arguing that it was not a ‘clash o f clearly differentiated social groups or classes’ [p. 2]; that it was not ‘a conflict between a court and a country, or a governm ent and an opposition’ [p. 4]; and that ‘there is little evidence to suggest that the m ore extrem e radical ideas originated before the crisis o f 1637-42, rather than as a response to it’ [p. 8]. Russell then develops his thesis that the English civil war was only made possible by the prior revolts in Scotland and Ireland: ‘what we should be explaining is not why revolutionary propensities in England were so strong, but w hy [in comparison to those in the outlying kingdoms] they were so w eak’ (p. 11). The ensuing discussion identifies seven effects o f this reorientation, and the problem o f their conjunction. These are not “‘causes o f the civil w ar”; but . . . causes o f the events which led to civil w ar’. They were: ‘the Bishops’ Wars, England’s defeat in the Bishops’ Wars, the failure to reach a settlement [between N ovem ber 1640 and M ay 1641], the failure to dissolve or prorogue the Parliament, the choice o f sides, the failure to negotiate, and the problem o f the K ing’s diminished M ajesty’ (p. 24). Collectively, these were ‘causes o f the events which led to civil war . . . the removal o f any one o f [which] could have prevented the Civil War as we know it’. These seven ‘causes o f the events’ act as leitmotifs running through the whole book. Readers need to dwell on this chapter. For if Russell’s characterization o f what it is that needs explaining does not convince, the rest o f the book loses much o f its potency. M y ow n view is that these are - within limits to be discussed below 11 very helpful ways into an analysis o f the crisis o f 1640-2. I find little to disagree w ith in Russell’s characterization o f these points, and his use o f them to prise open the politics o f 1638-42 is fruitful. I have to say that, as Blair W orden has pointed out, they cannot logically be the seven indispensable ‘causes o f the events’. 12 M any other things caused events w ithout which there could not have been civil war or 11. See pp. 271-2. 12. Blair W orden’s review based on a careful reading o f the tw o books lays d ow n a pow erful challenge to the self-sufficiency o f these seven ‘causes o f the even ts’ and to the illogicality o f R ussell’s reliance upon them (Blair W orden, ‘Conrad R ussell’s C ivil W ar’, London Review o f Books, 29 A ug. 1991, pp. 13-14).


The Causes o f Britain’s Civil Wars that civil war. Furtherm ore, while Russell’s general thesis underlies the narrative o f The Fall o f the British Monarchies, these seven are not

really any m ore evident than a host o f other ‘causes o f events’. Chapters 2 (‘The Problem o f Multiple Kingdom s, c. 1580-1630’) and 5 (‘Religious U nity in Three Kingdom s . . . 1625-1642’) develop the thesis that the English civil war was the culmination o f a crisis o f m ultiple kingship, o f the constant ‘billiard-ball effect o f each o f the kingdom s on the affairs o f the others’ (p. 27). Emphasis throughout both chapters is on the tensions between the Reformations in England, Ireland and Scotland, and on the contrast between James VI and I’s skill in m anaging those tensions, and the folly o f Charles I in exacerbating th em .13 Between these chapters come tw o discussing the developing religious crisis in England. Chapter 3 (‘The Church, Religion and Politics: the Problem o f the Definite Article’) analyzes why and how religion proved the greatest divider o f the English nation in the years 1640-2. Distinguishing those who were to take sides ‘because o f religion’ from those who took sides ‘for religion’ (p. 62), Russell places great emphasis on the fact that the civil war began ‘not as an uprising in the provinces but with breakdow n in the centre’; and he argues that religion is crucial in explaining not only the origins and outcom e o f the Bishops’ Wars but in creating the pro- and anti-Scottish factions in 1640-1 which he believes were to form the kernels o f the royalist and parliamentarian parties in 1642. He also suggests that it was the pursuit o f root-and-branch and other religious issues (the price English politicians paid for maintaining the military pressure o f the Scots) that was to make settlement with the king impossible, and that was to generate epidemics o f distrust on both sides. In the three remaining chapters, Russell moves on from his twin and intertwined themes o f the collapse o f British monarchies and the derailing o f the Jacobethan religious settlement. In chapter 6, he examines the limited contribution that rival conceptions o f sovereignty played in causing the breakdown. In a rebuttal o f the w ork o f Johann Sommerville (pp. 144-50)14 and in a careful discussion o f the failure o f the parliamentarians to develop resistance theory in the 13. Cf. A. M acinnes, Charles I and the M aking o f the Covenanting M ovement 1625-1640 (Edinburgh, 1991), and essays by M acinnes, E.J. C ow an, and others in J.S. M orrill (ed.), The Scottish National Covenant in its British Context 1638-1651 (Edinburgh, 1991). Perhaps I should add that I m y self am sym pathetic to R ussell’s em phasis on religious factors if not w h olly to his characterization o f them (see J.S. M orrill, ‘A British Patriarchy? Ecclesiastical Im perialism under the early Stuarts’, forthcom ing). 14. Som m erville, Politics and Ideology.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

years and months before the king raised his standard (pp. 132-5, 150)15 Russell narrows dow n the secular constitutional issues that compelled men to take sides, although he does offer an elegant discussion o f the drift by Charles’s opponents into arguments from necessity and into a widespread perception o f a grow ing parliamentary tyranny, and he shows how ‘during 1642 argum ent came to concentrate on how far the authority o f the C row n could be separated from the K ing’s person’ (p. 159). He also takes up the argum ent that the events o f 1640-2 should be seen largely as a failed baronial coup in a tradition stretching back to the fourteenth century and beyond.16 In chapter 7 (‘The Poverty o f the C row n and the Weakness o f the K ing’), Russell looks at the crisis o f royal finances over the half century before 1641 (‘the painful death o f [a] system the Stuarts inherited [from] the fourteenth century’ [p. 166]) and at the particular problems that the reforms o f 1641 created for those involved in finding a new basis for settled governm ent. He concludes that ‘the links which lead from financial breakdow n to civil war are in all cases indirect’, and that although we should not suppose ‘that financial breakdow n by itself was ever likely to lead to civil war, it did make it very much m ore likely that the upheaval precipitated by the Scottish invasion o f 1640 w ould do so’ (pp. 183-4). The final chapter looks at ‘the M an Charles Stuart’. It is a finelynuanced portrait, recognizing Charles’s unfitness for governm ent (as shown in his personal responsibility for initiating and largely for defeat in the Bishops’ Wars, his major contribution to the failure to find a settlement in 1641, and inability to shake him self loose from the Long Parliament). Russell also stresses C harles’s ‘tunnel vision’ albeit one which was m irrored by that o f Pym; his incomprehension o f views different from those o f his own; and his utter inflexibility in ‘the area where religion and his authority’ met. But he also praises Charles’s ability to form and to nurture a party in 1641; and he is m ore sympathetic than m ost recent com m entators in identifying the intolerable demands o f Charles’s opponents: O ne reason for the intransigence o f Charles and H enrietta M aria w hich is not generally appreciated, and w hich makes their position appear less irrational . . . is the resolute refusal o f P ym and his fellow -Parliam entarians to allow H enrietta M aria her Mass, or the services o f any priest w hatsoever (p. 193). 15. For a fuller discussion o f this point, see J.S. M orrill, ‘Charles I, T yranny and the English C ivil W ar’, b elow , ch. 15. 16. J.S. A. A dam son, ‘The Baronial C on text o f the English C ivil War’, T R H S , 5th ser., v o l. 40 (1990). The influence is even stronger and m ore pervasive in The Fall o f the British Monarchies, as at pp. 151-2, 274—7, 365-6.


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This concluding chapter is one o f the m ost persuasive, and it ends w ith a pleasing paradox: ‘perhaps the real lesson o f 1641 was that Charles was incom petent, but not quite incom petent enough to leave the kingdom free from civil w ar’. 17 IV I have dwelt at length on the argum ent o f the Causes because it gives coherence to the great body o f w ork Russell has published over the past decade, as represented in the essays in Unrevolutionary England and as the underpinning o f the Fall o f the British Monarchies. What those books add is a mass o f illuminating detail, and an endless succession o f fresh epigrams and startling connections. Right at the beginning o f The Fall o f the British Monarchies, there is a succession o f thum bnail sketches showing how those who were offended by what Charles and his ministers were doing were preoccupied with finding ways o f bringing about changes o f policy, ways which fell short o f a resort to violence. Throughout the discussion o f the events o f 1640-2 there is a vivid recreation o f the web o f connection among the parliamentary ‘m anagers’ and between them and the Scots. For this reviewer, the analysis o f the projected settlement o f 1641 (chapter 6) was the high point o f the book, equally im portant in its analysis o f religion, finance and the storm ing o f the closet. Arising from this chapter, but powerfully followed through later, is Russell’s analysis o f the fading prospects o f a moderate church settlement (cf. The Fall, pp. 249-51 and 342-5). In just the same way as Russell was the first historian to unravel and make sense o f the complexities o f the First A rm y P lo t,18 so now he is the first to explain convincingly the Incident, the Scottish dress rehearsal for the A ttem pt on the Five Members (The Fall , pp. 322-8). However, the book is less fertile in new ideas as we move beyond the sum m er recess o f 1641. It is striking that Russell devotes 250 pages to the first ten m onths o f the Long Parliament (up to the autum n recess) and only 120 pages to the 10 m onths after it (down to the raising o f the royal standard). However, what I am saying is that while the big book is intended as the narrative that demonstrates in practice the concepts o f the pithier

17. There are m any further insights into the m ind and personality o f Charles in The Fall, including a striking section at pp. 50-4, and an illum inating discussion o f h o w Charles and P ym came to misread the sam e situations in p sychologically similar w ays at pp. 444-6. 18. Reprinted in Unrevolutionary England, pp. 281-302, and see n o w The Fall, pp. 291-4.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

book, there is in it m uch to deepen our understanding o f the why questions as well as the how questions. Cum ulatively, these books will set an agenda for debate among historians in the 1990s. Russell has achieved m any things which will surely become norm ative. It is unlikely that anyone will henceforth see the crisis in England as other than part o f a crisis throughout the British Isles, or will fail to recognize the force o f Russell’s billiardball conceit. A m ong the arguments likely to carry m any but not all w ith Russell, I w ould include: his characterization o f the Laudian challenge; his picture o f a country badly governed after 1625 and as less governable than it had been though certainly not ungovernable; and his insistence on much greater precision about what it is that needs to be explained and (even m ore im portant) his insistence on a very precise sense o f the chronology o f crisis. M any readers, furtherm ore, will be at least as much instructed by the brilliant aphorism s,19 the wonderful eye (or is it ear?) for the apt quotation,20 the ability to make vivid a particular incident or person,21 the startling counterfactual speculation,22 the ability to take in the broad sweep o f English history.23 V I was left w ith three main areas o f dissatisfaction. I will discuss first the way in which he treats the problem o f multiple kingdom s. I will argue both that he does not go far enough in seeking to develop a holistic approach to British H istory and that he overstates the im portance o f Scottish pressure in explaining religious polarization in England. I will seek to dem onstrate that this allows him to concentrate too much on the high political intrigues o f the king and Juntos in all three kingdom s, and that he fails to give sufficient weight to what is happening in the English provinces. And I will conclude that he 19. E .g ., o f the m em orandum o f Lord Herbert o f Cherbury at the tim e o f the m aking o f the Scottish canons, a m em orandum resting on scripture rather than statute: ‘it is a claim to suprem acy iure divino’ (Causes, p. 114). 20. Im possible to docum ent out o f context. For som e favourites o f m ine, see Causes, p. 115 (Robert Baillie on Charles’s ecclesiastical authoritarianism in Scotland); or the French am bassador’s characterization o f Charles’s unrealistic search for ‘parlement a sa mode’. 21. For exam ple, nothing has brought h om e to m e so clearly the dilem m as o f the elite in the 1630s as the case studies o f 1637 in Fall, pp. 2-8. 22. For exam ple, the speculations about what w ou ld have happened ifja m es had been succeeded by his daughter and not his son; or if it had been Charles not Bedford w h o had died in M ay 1641 (Causes, p. 212). 23. E .g ., that the war o f 1639 was ‘the first war to be fought w ithou t a Parliament since 1323’ (Causes, p. 12).


The Causes o f Britain's Civil Wars

understates the explosive pow er o f English puritanism to generate a national m ovem ent ready to fight the king, and, in direct response to puritan militancy, a national m ovem ent ready to join a discredited king. VI There is a tension between the titles o f Russell’s tw o books: The Causes o f the E n g lis h C ivil War, The Fall o f the B r itis h Monarchies.

In fact in both cases his concern is to explain the course o f E n g lis h history. Russell argues that to understand what happens in England in 1642 we need to see what happened first in Scotland and Ireland, so that we can see how that allows us to understand English history. Thus we do not hear about the non-religious background to the Scottish revolt. We are not invited to consider the causes o f the events that led to the 1638 rebellion, that wider alienation o f the greater part o f the Scottish elite. N either book discusses or evaluates the Act o f Revocation or the reorganization o f Scottish governm ent, for example. The Fall o f the Irish M onarchy in 1641 is treated as even m ore o f a diabolus ex machina, a bolt out o f the blue that matters because it destroyed lingering hopes o f a settlement. Even though Strafford’s fall on charges connected with Ireland revealed a reconfiguration o f Irish politics as a result o f his adamantine authoritarianism in Ireland, there is no analysis o f events in Ireland in The Fall o f the British Monarchies until page 373. This matters. Russell is interested in explaining England’s collapse into civil war. He says that it could not have happened (at least as it did) w ithout the prior collapse o f royal authority in Scotland and Ireland. He offers three main reasons for this. Firstly, he suggests that whatever the financial and m ilitary frailties o f the English state, the elite was sufficiently in control and the vested interest o f the elite too tied into the existing structures for any successful rebellion to be feasible. There may have been combustible material around, but spontaneous com bustion was impossible. Secondly, the violence in Scotland created conditions for the recall o f the English Parliament in circumstances in which uniquely the king lost the initiative; and the violence in Ireland created an issue (control o f the army o f reconquest) that forced a politically divided elite to arms. Thirdly, the Scottish rebellion caused leading members o f the English political elite to com m it treason. Ever thereafter they were compelled by fear for their ow n survival to make demands o f the king which he simply could not be expected to concede. All this is true. But w hy did Scotland and Ireland rebel? Here


The Nature o f the English Revolution

Russell is in difficulties. For by not examining the ‘causes o f the events that led to ’ those rebellions he leaves open the possibility that there are com m on causes o f all three rebellions. The causes o f the events may have been local and specific. But it is equally possible that they were interconnected. Russell’s billiard-ball effect requires an equal and equally full analysis o f the preconditions o f the collapse o f the Scottish, Irish and English monarchies. What we are offered in these books is not a holistic approach to British history but an enriched English history. What we do not get, and yet what the logic o f Russell’s argum ent and the detail o f his researches demand, is a study o f The Causes o f the B r itis h Civil Wars. We need to know the causes o f the events that led to a British civil war rather than an account o f how events in tw o became causes o f the event in a third kingdom . Allied to this is a second concern: Russell’s characterization o f royal ecclesiastical policy in Scotland. He writes: Charles and Laud [sought] to construct a new program m e o f British uniform ity. Since their major com m itm ent was to those features o f the English church which were conspicuously absent in Ireland and Scotland, this program m e for British uniform ity inevitably turned into one for English hegemony. (Causes , p. I l l )

But was it a program m e o f ‘British uniform ity’? It is striking that despite the widespread discussion in intellectual circles in the 1630s about the Patriarchies o f the ancient Church, and o f the Patriarchy o f Britain in particular, Laud never resurrected the claims o f Canterbury to jurisdiction over the C hurch in Ireland, nor o f C anterbury and York to jurisdiction over Scotland. N or did Charles seek to transform the nature o f episcopal authority in Scotland into that held by English bishops, and even if he could not bring him self to enshrine presbyterian forms in the Scottish canons, the polity o f the Church o f Scotland remained episcopacy-in-presbytery. When Charles came to provide a liturgy for Scotland, he did not impose the English Prayer Book, but one which both respected many Scottish customs and imposed ceremonies which were not perm itted by the English Prayer Book. The Scots case in 1637-8 was not that they were being anglicanized, but that they were being subjected to som ething worse than the English Prayer Book. The Churches o f Scotland and Ireland were not being subordinated to the jurisdiction o f the C hurch o f England nor was there a straightforw ard English acculturation o f Scotland. What Scotland and Ireland experienced was nothing as straightforw ard as a drive for uniform ity; rather each was subject to a naked royal authoritarianism that followed overlapping but distinct


The Causes o f Britain's Civil Wars

objectives in each kingdom .24 This was, indeed, in Russell’s evocative phrase, royal supremacy iure divino , but it was constrained in each kingdom only by the limits o f the king’s ignorance o f local law and custom. I would suggest, then, that we need to distinguish between a policy common to all kingdom s and a policy fo r all three kingdom s. Furtherm ore, Russell surely does not get the nature o f the Scottish response quite right. He characterizes this as a Scottish Imperial policy,25 a determ ination to safeguard true religion in Scotland by im posing their ow n ecclesiology on England (and on Ireland) and (since Charles could not be trusted to honour concessions extorted from him) this had to be secured ‘by constitutional arrangements which deprived him o f the power to reverse them ’ - a triple emasculation to be effected by the Parliaments o f England, Scotland and Ireland. N ow I have to say I think his notion o f a ‘Scottish imperial vision’ has serious distorting effects. It is true that from at least the time o f the second Bishops’ War, the Scottish Junto (to coin a phrase) headed by Argyll and W ariston were determ ined to redefine the religious and constitutional relationship between the three kingdom s. But that was to be by a federal structure not by institutional uniform ity, let alone integration. And there is nothing the English Junto were less interested in than in federal union.26 A full discussion o f AngloScottish relations in this period would require an analysis o f the deteriorating relations between English and Scottish Juntos as the indifference o f the form er to the political vision o f the latter became painfully obvious. This o f course explains why the Scots are so uninterested in m aking com m on cause w ith the Junto in the sum m er o f 1642 or again until Charles’s dealings w ith the Irish Confederates in 1643 drove them to it. But these themes are not explored. Russell needs the Scottish Imperial vision to explain the rapid radicalization o f the Long Parliament in matters o f religion. His account o f the English Reform ation process as one o f continuous tension plays dow n puritan militancy in the period 1625-41 while stressing the offensiveness and the dynam ism o f Laudianism. Russell does not accept that there is sufficient puritan militancy around in the 1630s to explain the polarization in 1641 and 1642. Here the Scots are indeed a diabolus ex machina and time and again in The Fall o f the British

24. See J.S. M orrill, ‘A British Patriarchy? Ecclesiastical Imperialism under the early Stuarts’, forthcom ing. 25. B. Levack, The Formation o f the British State (O xford, 1987), pp. 108-11, 128-9. 26. As in P. Donald, A n Uncounselled King (Cam bridge, 1990), chs. 5-7.


The Nature o f the English Revolution Monarchies, Scots ministerial pressure is seen as the engine behind the Ju n to ’s religious policy. The Scots (or at least many o f them) did indeed come to believe that the Scottish revolution o f 1639-41 w ould need to be secured by constitutional arrangements that deprived Charles o f the pow er to reverse them. But they had no desire for an integration o f the English and Scottish states. In 1641 the Scots wanted tw o o f everything: tw o Parliaments, tw o Councils, tw o legal systems, tw o Churches; and they wanted means to coordinate them - joint commissions o f parliamentarians, conservatores pads , etc. In religion they wanted an end to episcopacy throughout the British Isles, but not a mega-kirk. N othing interested the English Junto less than a federal union w ith Scotland. The U nion o f 1603 had suited the interests o f the English well enough and the only alternative w orth considering by English politicians in 1641 as in 1606 was incorporative union. Their indifference to Scottish federal unionism is dem onstrated by the Long Parliam ent’s refusal to negotiate seriously over it in 1641, their failure to develop the institutional arrangements which the Scots assumed to be part o f the package negotiated as the Solemn League and Covenant, and the hash English politicians made o f Anglo-Scottish relations in 1648-50. In fact their relations w ith the Scots were always m ore ambivalent than Russell allows. The English wanted to use the Scots rebellion to cantilever themselves into pow er in 1640. It is not clear that they w ould not have been willing to pay for the conquest o f Scotland in the sum m er o f 1640 if they could thereby wring the concessions they m ost needed out o f Charles. Sympathy for the plight o f the Scots did not create a blood bond between Saye and Argyll or between Pym and Wariston. The Scots ministers in London were certainly active in 1641, prom oting the cause o f godly reform ation and presbyterian discipline. Russell demonstrates that the pace and tim ing o f the progress o f ecclesiastical activity in the Long Parliament was shaped in response to that Scottish pressure. But at times Russell seems to let the Scottish tail wag the English dog. This is m ost obvious when he says that ‘the 1707 solution, allowing tw o churches within one united kingdom , was not one that was conceptually possible in the middle o f the seventeenth century’ (Fall, p. 170). But surely it did prove conceptually possible for anyone who saw forms o f church governm ent as adiaphoristic (most o f the constitutional royalists and those w ho refused to take sides in the ensuing war); it proved possible for the prim itive episcopacy party am ong the future parliamentarians and for those who were draw n to the N ew England way as a


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blueprint for England w ithout considering it necessary to impose it on Scotland. It is equally true for the little Scotlander groups am ong the Scottish peerage who were increasingly im patient w ith A rgyll’s will to determ ine the outcom e o f the crisis in England. O ther examples o f what may be exaggerations o f the Scottish dynamic o f religious policy include the statem ent that ‘the [etcetera] oath and the canons [of 1640] generally were probably intended to isolate and reveal the pro-Scots’ (Fall, p. 139) and the account o f Scottish pressure behind the root and branch petitions (Fall, pp. 180-1).27 Although Russell has strengthened our awareness o f the nature and extent o f Scottish ministerial pressure, it has been at the expense o f other pressures. As I have suggested elsewhere, those seeking to marshall the voices o f protest against recent m isgovernm ent o f church and state in 1641 were visibly shaken by the scale and virulence o f the demands for reform ation and renewal coming up from the provinces (almost all o f it unorchestrated from the centre). Just as im portant were the alternative intellectual pressures on the Junto. For 1641 saw not just the arrival o f a handful o f Scottish ministers but the return o f many o f the exiles from N ew England and the Netherlands; and the voices o f such men - such as Jerem iah Burroughs, Samuel Eaton, H ugh Peter - were (as events amply proved) far more influential in shaping the plans o f those who determ ined to w ithstand Charles by force than were Scottish voices. Finally, while the presence o f the Scots helped to shape the course o f events during the first session o f the Long Parliament, the w ithdraw al o f the Scottish army in the sum m er o f 1641 and the signing o f the Treaty o f London removed that influence. The drift to war after the sum m er recess, and the drift towards an ever-harder com m itm ent to the abolition o f episcopacy, has to be explained in other terms. Russell believes that by the sum m er o f 1641 the Junto was so deeply com prom ised by their actions that unless Charles I remained manacled to the wall he would seek to destroy them, and he believes that the 27. I w ou ld like to add a caveat about another potentially m isleading statement on a matter o f som e im portance. In Fall, p. 189, Russell w rites that ‘w e are given a rare glim pse o f the advance planning behind these petitions and also o f the irritation Scottish pressure could cause for their English friends, in a letter written by Lord H ow ard o f E scrick.’ But the follow in g discussion does not dem onstrate the form er point (and even the latter is not straightforward). H is subsequent gloss, that ‘central prom pting [of which there is no evidence adduced in this case] was not a sufficient condition for the presentation o f this p etition ’ is nearer the mark. See n o w J .D . M altby, ‘Approaches to the Study o f religious conform ity in late Elizabethan and early Stuart E ngland’, U n iversity o f Cam bridge P hD thesis (1991), chs. 3 and 4.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

treasonous correspondence with the Scots in 1639 and 1640 was a principal reason for the great gulf o f trust between king and Junto. This is fair enough. As a result, the events o f the period from the first Bishops’ War to the recess are exhaustively treated (the one startling, even deafening, silence being the m ysterious episode o f the letters between Lord Savile and the Scots in the sum m er o f 1640).28 In contrast we whizz through some o f the major turning-points in the second session: the concessions that had to be made to get the Grand Remonstrance through; the narrow majorities achieved by Pym in a shrinking House o f C om m ons (if only Charles had ordered his supporters to remain at their post after he had deserted his . . .); a very abbreviated account o f the struggle to determ ine the precise content o f the Nineteen Propositions; a failure to examine the possibility that the peace party, com bined w ith neutralist sentim ent among anxious backbenchers, m ight have stopped the Junto in their tracks. Let me give one example o f how, just occasionally and mainly after the sum m er recess o f 1641, Russell does not follow through his ow n arguments as far as he might. O ne o f his seven ‘causes o f the events’ is ‘the failure to dissolve or prorogue the Parliam ent’ (Causes , pp. 16-17, 187). Yet any attem pt on Charles’s part to be rid o f Parliament w ould both come up against the limiting Act o f M ay 1641 and leave him in a hopeless financial position. W hat Charles needed, then, was a Parliament in which a m ajority had looked into the abyss and was reacting against what they had seen. Such a situation was 28. See S.R. Gardiner, History o f England 1603-1642 (10 v ols., 1884), IX, 179-81. H is lengthy footn ote discusses the correspondence o f leading English peers and the Scots allegedly culm inating in Lord Savile’s forgery o f the signatures o f six other peers alongside his o w n to a letter inviting the Scots to invade England and prom ising them m ilitary aid i f they do so. Gardiner believed on the basis o f the later m em oirs o f (he supposes) the 2nd earl o f M anchester both that such a letter was sent and that it was Savilc’s forgery. (Clarendon tells substantially the same story in his History, in his b ook II, para. 107.) Peter D onald, A n Uncounselled King (Cam bridge, 1990), pp. 246-7, has cast doubts on the reliability o f these m em oirs. The behaviour o f those im plicated in treason by Savile in rem aining his friends helping him to fulfil his am bitions for high office (Russell, Fall, p. 263), and even m eeting at his house to coordinate w ith the Scots the drawing up o f the R ootand-Branch petition (Donald, op. cit., p. 281) deepens the m ystery. It is possible both that the letter was sent but was not a forgery so that M anchester, fearful the Scots m ight reveal earlier treasons, sought to lay blame on Savile; or that he made up the w h ole episode. It is possible that the author o f the m em oirs was not M anchester but Falkland (or som eon e else). Less controversial is the status o f the earlier correspondence betw een Savile and his fellow peers and the Scots (as published in O ld m ixon , History o f England during the Reigns o f the Royal House o f Stuart [1730], pp. 142-4). The episode ought to be central to R ussell’s them e, yet it is com pletely bypassed.


The Causes o f Britain's Civil Wars

developing in the late sum m er o f 1641. It is w orth considering what would have happened if Charles had sent an order from Edinburgh in early O ctober 1641 asking his Parliament to reconvene at York, away from the plague (he would have said), and where he could complete the deferred parts o f Scottish treaty m ore easily (he would have said); and where (in fact) he could have removed the threat o f mass picketing and the consequent intim idation o f MPs. This would have put the Junto into a terrible quandary. Can it seriously be doubted but that m uch the greater part o f the members would have accepted such a summons? If he had been lucky, many Junto leaders would have sulked and stayed away. Alternatively, w hat if Charles had instructed loyalist MPs to remain at W estminster in the spring o f 1642? O ne o f the striking things about parliamentary divisions in the m onths after the A ttem pt on the Five M embers and the (surely a critical error?)29 royal retreat from London is the way P ym ’s m ajority remained constant in a rapidly dwindling House. If half o f those who had voted against the Grand Remonstrance and who subsequently abandoned London with the king had stayed put, it is unlikely that any o f the major escalations towards war could have been put through the House o f C om m ons.30 Russell’s account thus becomes deterministic from the sum m er o f 1641 on, when he falls victim to the belief that because the Junto could not afford to make peace, the Houses could not make peace. In explaining how they gained control o f the Lords by the expulsion o f the bishops, he fails to consider how easily they could have have lost control o f the Com m ons. It may be that having so effectively argued against the teleological assumptions o f earlier historians who treated the events o f 1603-42 as leading naturally to the civil war o f 1642, Russell has fallen into a high political teleology for the years 1641-2. Charles and the Junto were locked into a situation on which neither could avoid a head-on collision. But they were not the only players, and where king and Junto led others were not bound to follow. VII By asking much m ore sharply focussed questions about the dynamics o f politics at W estminster and even more at Whitehall, and with the help o f his ‘causes o f the events that led to civil w ar’, Russell has aided 29. Were Charles and his fam ily in real personal danger if he stayed? If the king had sent Henrietta Maria away (in case o f her im peachm ent), was there any real chance Essex w ou ld have failed to defend the k in g’s person from m ob violence, assum ing that that violence was not itself controllable by Junto leaders? 30. For an inkling o f this point, sec Causes, p. 124.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

our understanding o f how the king blundered away the initiative, and o f how a powerful and supple Junto surprised and dismayed themselves into turning to an extra-constitutional form o f redress: rebellion. For he has reinforced (especially in the early pages o f The Fall o f the British Monarchies) the view that the early seventeenthcentury English political system and English political culture was a m ature and highly sophisticated one in which political dissent and passionate debate were natural and inevitable, in which debate and dissent were both perm itted within clearly recognized limits, and was a system and a culture in which various means o f redress (in C ourt, Council and Parliament, by lobbying, petitioning, by acts o f passive disobedience and so on) were both widely recognized and at least until 1641 - assumed by almost everyone to be sufficient unto the task o f bringing an end to m isgovernm ent. Russell both captures the essence o f this middle ground between revisionism and post-revisionism, and offers a persuasive account o f how and in what stages that com forting belief that the political system contained the remedies to its ow n diseases collapsed and how the hundred or less men who took the initiatives at W estminster came reluctantly but grim ly to call the nation to arms in defence o f its liberties. But in reaching that grim conclusion, that constitutionally-validated modes o f redress were insufficient to secure religious and civil liberties, Russell may have distorted the story in tw o ways. The first is that he underestimates the pressure the Junto was under from what was happening in provincial England, and the second is that it does not fully explain the behaviour o f that great m ajority o f MPs who were independent o f the clusters o f peers and their com m oner allies who set the agendas and dom inated the procedure o f the two Houses. If the likes o f Bedford, Warwick, Essex, Pym, Ham pden, and St John felt under pressure from the Scots in 1641 and (supposedly) in 1642, how much more, surely, were they under pressure from the evidence o f polarization, especially over religious issues in the provinces? The piling o f horror story upon horror story o f Laudian excesses,31 the unmanageable press o f writs o f error from several hundred individuals claiming miscarriages o f justice (many o f them grotesque) in Caroline law courts,32 the huge and geographically widespread petitions dem anding the abolition o f bishops and the 31. J.S. M orrill, ‘The Attack on the Church o f England in the Long Parliam ent’, above, ch. 4. 32. J.S. Hart, Justice upon Petition (1991), pp. 64-105.


The Causes o f Britain's C ivil Wars

Prayer Book, the renewed iconoclasm (the first popular explosion o f religious violence in living m em ory), the m ushroom ing o f gathered churches. All this has been painstakingly chronicled by historians, especially by A nthony Fletcher,33 and it is very hard not to believe that this was a cause o f the events that led to civil war. The civil war may not have begun as a collapse o f governm ent in the provinces, but I would argue that fear o f and belief in an im m inent collapse into anarchy was a far m ore im portant conditioner o f the Ju n to ’s responses to developments in high politics than was looking kindly on Scottish demands, certainly after the parliamentary recess o f 1641. A great m ajority o f all members o f the House o f C om m ons were middling gentry and urban patricians who were unconnected with any great Lord and his political retinue. They rarely spoke, they rarely took initiatives, and yet they were not lobby fodder. They had minds, consciences, voices and votes when the House divided. M any o f them were impressionable, liable to be swayed by what the weight o f opinion revealed in the hundreds o f petitions laid before the House, subject to intensive lobbying by their constituents and friends back home. Their story needs to be told to o .34 Thus Russell’s preoccupation with the breakdow n at the centre represents the concern o f an investigator who concentrates on understanding the detonator that caused an explosion and not on the form and am ount o f explosive material. For it does not explain how the king and the Junto mobilized cross-sections o f the nation. Were Russell’s ‘causes o f events that led to civil w ar’ directly relevant to the decisions tens o f thousands o f individuals took about how to respond to the calls to arms coming (often within days o f one another) from king and Parliament? Here Russell’s brushing aside o f the political sociology o f early Stuart England is unfortunate. The war may not have been ‘the clash o f tw o clearly differentiated social

33. A. Fletcher, The Outbreak o f the English C ivil War (1981); J.S. M orrill, The Revolt o f the Provinces (1980); above, chs. 3 and 4. But see The Fall o f the British Monarchies, p. 455 n. 3, w here Russell writes that ‘the absence o f a full discussion o f the petitions is because I have very little to add to P rof Fletcher’s account’. This is does not absolve him from an obligation to discuss the im plications for his very different thesis o f this m assive external pressure. 34. In Parliaments and English Politics (O xford, 1979) Professor Russell is above all concerned to see parliamentary history in the perspective o f provincial realities: ‘the difficulties o f the early Stuarts were not, in the first instance, difficulties w ith their parliaments; they w ere difficulties w hich w ere reflected in their Parliam ents’ (p. 417). It is a great pity that he has com pletely bypassed this perspective in his n ew books.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

groups or classes’ (Causes, p. 2) but that does not mean that we have no need o f a social history o f its origins.35 As has been widely dem onstrated, the descent into civil war in the provinces was neither straightforw ard nor inevitable once there had been a breakdown at the centre.36 At the centre, the ancient nobility may well have been replaying the constitutional games o f past centuries, and the king may well have been willing to play those games, but once that game led to fighting one should not assume that it was a war fought between baronial retinues. M any hundreds o f officers and many thousands o f com m on soldiers were volunteers m aking choices that were free political choices (even if that freedom o f choice often caused individuals to follow the line o f least resistance and join their local social leaders). Those political choices include active and passive resistance to the build up o f armed force and they could have prevented a war. The creation o f a parliamentarian m ovem ent and even m ore the phoenix phenom enon,37 the ability of the king to get an army o f volunteers together - som ething surely unthinkable in 1640 - rested upon events that had separate causes from those considered in this book. In other words, a crisis in the centre formed a detonator, but the political sociology o f England in 1642 represented a quantifiable am ount o f semtex, and an analysis o f both is necessary to any full understanding o f the nature o f the explosion. It is o f little value to explain how England came to have a civil war unless we can also explain w hy it had a particular kind o f civil war, o f a type that could not have happened fifty, one hundred or three hundred years before. O n several occasions, Russell fails to allow for the dynamic changes in English society and political structures which explain what was happening in 1642. Thus he writes that following the battle o f N ew burn: a new political settlement, w ith scapegoats and an afforced Council, was

a normal result o f such political crises, and the belief that one was in

the offing accounts for much o f the belief that N ovem ber 1640 was the beginning o f a ‘golden age’. It was notoriously difficult to make such

35. It is particularly unfortunate that Russell fails anywhere to address the im plications o f D avid U n d erd o w n ’s Revel, Riot and Rebellion (O xford, 1985), w hich posits by far the m ost suggestive and challenging account w e have o f the so ciology and eco lo g y o f civil-w ar allegiance. 36. R. H utton, The Royalist War Effort 1642-1646 (1982), chs. 1-3; Fletcher, Outbreak, chs. 9-12; J.S. M orrill (ed.), Reactions to the English C ivil War (1982), chs. 1-2; and in m any local studies such as those o f C. H olm es, The Eastern Association in the English C ivil War (Cam bridge, 1974), ch. 3, and A. H ughes, Politics, Society and C ivil War in Warwickshire 1620-1660 (Cam bridge 1987), ch. 4. 37. I o w e this phrase to C olin D avis.


The Causes o f Britain’s Civil Wars settlements stick, as in the cases o f 1216, 1261, and 1397 showed very clearly, but the failure in 1641 to conclude one at all was highly unusual . (Causes , pp. 13-14)38

What had been the norm al result in the fourteenth century was no longer appropriate to the socio-political conditions o f seventeenthcentury England. There is nothing unusual about the failure o f aristocratic constitutionalism to provide a solution to a political crisis affecting the political culture in the years 1641 and 1642.39 VIII M any o f these points come together in one other point: the failure to come to terms with puritan dynamism. In chapter 4 o f The Causes of the English Civil War, Professor Russell offers an account o f English Church History from 1559 to 1640 which is overwhelm ingly (and m ost persuasively) concerned to dem onstrate the dynam ism o f the reforms introduced by Charles I and Laud. It is true that he speaks o f the Church as having been always divided between ‘rival criteria o f orthodoxy’ (Causes, p. 84), but the thrust o f the chapter is to stress the dynam ism o f Laudianism and to im ply the static or regressive nature o f early Stuart puritanism. In chapter 3, Russell makes useful, helpful distinctions about how men chose to fight because o f religion as well as for religion, and his discussion o f the negative religious reasons and antipathies driving men like George D igby is especially valuable. He also attem pts to capture w hat he terms the ‘philosophical underpinnings’ o f seventeenth-century intolerance and to measure the passions that the trappings o f worship could arouse. This certainly allows him to dem onstrate that ‘many people, and very many o f the first activists, did fight for religion’ (Causes, p. 62). But he remains convinced that since religious division was long-standing it will not explain the tim ing o f the civil war. He could have done m ore to dem onstrate the psychological underpinnings o f puritanism, and the way that parallel to (and in some measure responding to)

38. M y italics. 39. Russell h im self clears the w ay for this argum ent by sh ow in g that in 1640, the peerage needed Scottish arms to be able to im pose their constitutionalism ; they were no longer in a position to raise private armies to intim idate the C row n. N o w onder their program m e was not sufficient to solve the crisis they had created. This is an argum ent he develops further in his inaugural lecture to the Chair o f H istory at K in g’s C ollege London, published late in 1991 under the title The Scottish Party in English Parliaments 1640-1642 or The M yth o f the English Revolution. This was published after the com pletion o f this review.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

Laudian dynam ism we need to understand an equally dramatic puritan dynamism. Gone by 1640 were com forting thoughts o f a Laodicean compromise; and gone was the willingness to tarry for the magistrate. Whereas for the godly James had been m oving the English C hurch all too slowly in the right direction, Charles was frogmarching it away from reform ation. Arm ageddon on the C ontinent, and a reinvigorated notion o f Antichrist no longer manifesting him self as Pope, foreign prince and domestic fifth column, but as a hideous and largely concealed conspiracy at the very heart o f governm ent,40 created a new urgency and a new set o f imperatives. There was in the 1630s, I w ould suggest, a bitterness, anger, willingness to contem plate fundamental change in the English C hurch which had not been seen since the 1580s and perhaps not even then. There was by 1640 a ‘coiled spring’ o f godly zeal. Evidence for it can be found in William H u n t’s study o f ‘the Puritan M om ent’ in Essex;41 Ann H ughes’s study o f Thom as Dugard, closing ranks with his fellow godly ministers and w ithdraw ing from the com pany o f the wider brotherhood o f W arwickshire ministers;42 John Fielding’s study o f R obert W oodford, a man w ithout patrons to look after him, a godly man forced to bow the knee to Laudian ritual to protect his family and livelihood, pouring out into a diary his bile against his ow n weakness and the wickedness o f those who forced his conscience;43 Peter Salt’s study o f Edw ard Dering, re-examining the scriptures and the Fathers in the late 1630s in order to gain greater understanding o f his own acute anxiety at what he term ed w ith bitter irony ‘the piety o f the tim es’; and many others. From the opening o f the Long Parliament, a grow ing num ber o f MPs were convinced that rem oving the Laudian bishops and getting back to ‘the pure religion o f Elizabeth and James I’ was not enough. Zion was not to be built on to the structures o f the Elizabethan Church, but on a site levelled and flattened. And this was not just desirable; it was G od’s will. If the opportunity was not taken, then God would punish the English as He had punished the Israelites when they had disobeyed, by a Babylonian or Egyptian slavery. ‘W hen John D od spoke o f Jeroboam setting up “infectious idols” he was not speaking m etaphorically’ (Causes, p. 78). Indeed,

40. See n o w Peter Lake, ‘Anti-popery: the structure o f a prejudice’, in R. Cust and A. H ughes (eds.), Conflict in Early Stuart England (1989), pp. 72-106. 41. W. H unt, The Puritan M oment (Cam bridge, M ass., 1983), part 3. 42. A. H ughes, ‘Thom as Dugard and his C ircle’, H J, X X IX (1986), 771-94. 43. J. Fielding, ‘Puritan O p p osition to Charles I: the diary o f Robert W oodford, 1637-1641’, H J, X X X I (1988), 769-88.


The Causes o f Britain’s Civil Wars

And in the same way, preachers too who prom ised a new subjection under the Babylonian yoke if the corruptions o f religion were not utterly purged out were not speaking m etaphorically.44 Russell relies heavily, and rightly so, on the w ork o f Nicholas Tyacke in his reconstruction o f the dynamics o f Laudianism. Ironically, at the very m om ent that The Causes o f the English Civil War appeared, Tyacke delivered a m ost impressive lecture on The Fortunes o f English Puritanism, 1603-1640.45 He has dem onstrated the continuing and vital history o f ‘a radical puritan continuum ’ (Fortunes, p. 20); he has examined the networks o f patronage and connection; he has traced the im portant shifts and changes in the financing, organization and ideology o f early Stuart puritanism. He has concluded that ‘the religious opponents o f Charles in both kingdom s [i.e. England and Scotland] made com m on cause, but the English were never less than equal partners’ (p. 20). Scottish arms allowed mem bers o f the Long Parliament to dictate terms to Charles for ten m onths; but it did not need Scottish zeal to put the governm ent, discipline and worship o f the English C hurch near the top o f the political agenda or to make such issues the m ost divisive and explosive o f all. IX These books will henceforth be indispensible reading for anyone undertaking advanced study o f the civil war. The Fall o f the British Monarchies provides a narrative fram ew ork for the tw enty-four m onths dow n to Septem ber 1641 w hich is richer and carries m ore narrative conviction even than G ardiner.46 For the period from Septem ber 1641 to A ugust 1642 it is less effective than, and certainly needs to be read alongside, other narratives, as subsidiary to A nthony Fletcher’s The Outbreak o f the English C ivil War , for example. M eanw hile The Causes o f the English C ivil War offers a series o f challenging and rew arding contextualizations o f the background to the events o f 1637-42. R ussell’s seven ‘causes o f the events that led to civil w a r’ are all im portant but, as I said earlier, they cannot logically be the seven indispensable ‘causes o f the events’. I w ould suggest that at least as im portant as som e o f 44. S.P. Salt, ‘The O rigins o f Sir Edward D erin g’s Attack on the Ecclesiastical H ierarchy’, H J X X X (1987), 21-52. 45. N icholas Tyackc, ‘The Fortunes o f English Puritanism 1603-1640’, Friends o f D r Williams Library, 44th A nnual Lecture (1990). 46. S.R. Gardiner, The History o f England . . . 1603-1642 (10 vols., 1892), vols. 9 and



The Nature o f the English Revolution

them are an understanding o f the changed political sociology o f early Stuart E ngland w hich shaped the way that the collapse o f the centre led to a particular sort o f civil war: the way the perceptions o f M Ps w ere changed by patterns o f political protest and unrest in the provinces (cum ulatively m ore im portant in determ ining the behaviour o f M Ps than the furtive pressure applied by the Scots to particular groups); and an understanding o f the im peratives to reform ation w hich was particular to the godly o f the early 1640s. Russell defends his seven causes by saying that ‘the rem oval o f any one o f these seven things could have prevented the Civil W ar as we know it’. I w ould suggest that exactly the same applies to these three additions. Reading C onrad R ussell’s new books has, then, stim ulated me to think thoughts I w ould not have thought w ithout engaging w ith his w ork. I am w iser as well as better inform ed than I was. B ut I am not persuaded that we have here discovered the early m odernists’ H oly Grail - the efficient cause o f E ngland’s (though actually B ritain’s) civil wars.



Christopher H ill’s Revolution

M y love o f seventeenth-century history was nurtured by a particularly gifted schoolmaster and a brilliant O xford tutor. But am ong those books I was given to read, none had m ore influence on me as a student, and none deepened my passion for that century o f revolution m ore than those o f C hristopher Hill. When I w ent away from O xford for five days o f peace and rest immediately before my H onours School in 1967, I took one history book with me for com pany and last-m inute inspiration: Society and Puritanism in Pre-Revolutionary England. It is difficult now to recall the impact o f the magisterial series o f books which Hill produced between the late 1950s and the early 1970s that fired a generation o f budding scholars and broke down so many barriers in the way seventeenth-century history was done: above all the interpenetration o f religious, constitutional, social and scientific ideas; the social context o f religious radicalism; the im portance o f ‘literary’ sources as historical documents; the vitality o f the English revolutionary decades. Hill never convinced everyone o f his view o f the Oliver Crom wellian Revolution any m ore than Geoffrey Elton ever convinced everyone o f his view o f the Thom as Crom wellian Revolution. But each achieved an astonishing dominance o f his field; each produced an account o f his century that everyone else had to define themselves in terms of; each set the agenda o f study; and each inspired an army o f research students who went out in the days o f the Robbins Revolution to spread the message. N either produced a team o f yes-men and yes-wom en (as the Festschriften o f their graduate pupils show). But each had a dominance o f his field that is unusual and unlikely to be repeated. The appearance o f a convenient paperback edition in three volumes o f H ill’s essays, and o f a volum e which seeks to ‘reaffirm the interest and im portance o f C hristopher Hill’s


The Nature o f the English Revolution

ow n body o f w o rk ’ is an excellent m om ent to reassess the continuing im portance o f his w o rk .1 I I have fifteen books by C hristopher Hill on my shelves. T w o o f them collect his m ost im portant articles, one from the period down to the early 1960s and the other from the early 1960s to the late 1970s. N ow come three m ore volumes containing no less than 44 essays, mainly items first published within the last fifteen years, a few longer ago. Some o f the essays began life as lectures, some as reviews o f the w ork o f others, some as journal articles. Some are thoroughly reworked, some tidied, some left as they were. The first volum e is the m ost compact: twelve items considering the ideas of individual wrriters - the cavalier journalism o f Sir John Berkenhead, the polemic o f Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, eight poets from M ilton to Rochester, via Marvell, Quarles and Traherne, tw o diarists (Evelyn and Pepys), and more; set between new essays on the hermeneutics o f censorship and a conclusion on the ‘literary revolution’ which Hill sees as part and parcel o f the English Revolution. The second volum e looks at the relationship o f religious and social change over the period from the Henrician Reform ation to the Puritan Revolution. Once again the familiar (‘From Lollards to Levellers’, ‘God and the English R evolution’) mingles with the recycled (one good example is a 24-page article w rought from four separate reviews o f the major books o f Patrick Collinson), and w ith hitherto unpublished (including four general essays under the head ‘The First C entury o f the C hurch o f England’ first given as a course o f lectures). Am ongst items previously published in difficult-to-get-hold-of places is a study o f a pre-civil war ‘A ntinom ian’ (no Ranter he) Tobias Crisp, a study o f the roots o f occasional conform ity and a short piece on the perils o f name-calling in religious history. The third volum e is much m ore o f a miscellany, w ith some rather slighter pieces alongside some o f H ill’s m ost provocative recent reform ulations o f m ajor themes: ‘Parliament

1. The Collected Essays o f Christopher H ill: Volume One: Writing and Revolution in 17th Century England (Brighton, Harvester Press, 1985), xi 4- 340 pp., £28.50. Volume Two: Religion and Politics in 17th Century England (Brighton, Harvester Press, 1986), xi 4- 356 pp., £28.50. Volume Three: People and Ideas in 17th Century England (Brighton, H arvester Press), xi -1- 340 pp., £28.50. A ll three volum es reprinted 1988 in paperback, £15.95 per volum e. R eviving the English Revolution. B y G eo ff Eley and W illiam H unt (London, Verso, 1988), viii + 356 pp., £24.95.


Christopher HilVs Revolution

and People in 17th-century England’ and ‘A Bourgeois Revolution?’ prom inent am ongst them. I will explore some o f the major themes o f these three volumes after considering the argum ent o f a book about Hill rather than by him. II

Reviving the English Revolution is a disappointing book w ith some

redeeming things in it. It falls into four parts. The first, to be discussed in the next paragraph, consists o f essays reviewing aspects o f H ill’s method. The second consists o f ‘further explanations’ o f the relationship o f society and puritanism that Hill has so fruitfully explored over the years (a fifth chapter in this section, a reprint o f the unw orthy review o f Colin D avis’s book on the Ranters by Edw ard Thom pson, should certainly have been om itted, especially as another essay in the book, by Barry Reay, engages m ore intelligently with Davis and makes a case that it is w orth Davis’s while to answer). O nly Buchanan Sharp’s essay is o f real substance. The third section o f three essays examining themes in American History on Hillite themes is hardly germane to the editors’ expressed aims. The fourth section on ‘the future o f the English R evolution’ consists o f tw o essays by Lawrence Stone and C ynthia H errup easily available elsewhere, both slight and unrepresentative o f their authors’ powerful intellects; a piece by William H unt on ‘legitim ation crisis in early Stuart England’ which is the pilot for what looks like an interesting project but which is still at too early a stage to w arrant publication; and an excellent piece by David U nderdow n which belonged in part I. In that first section C .H . George reviews H ill’s career and major writings; M ary Fulbrook examines his historical sociology; Barry Reay considers the lasting m erit o f ‘The W orld Turned Upside D o w n ’; and M argot Heinemann considers H ill’s contribution to literary studies - his role in com batting elitism in the selection and evaluation o f ‘texts’. David U nderdow n’s essay offers a typically shrewd and courteous critique o f H ill’s conceptualization o f the English Revolution. George, Fulbrook, Reay and U nderdow n all offer firm criticism within broadly sympathetic essays. George identifies difficulties in H ill’s account o f puritanism, Fulbrook in his analysis o f social structure. B oth w ould argue that they have identified the stress points in a massive and heroic intellectual structure. Stress points need not cause collapse; but they need reinforcement. I will examine their points later. Despite the interest o f these essays, it has to be said that the volume does less for H ill’s reputation than the Festschrift presented to him in


The Nature o f the English Revolution

1982. That collection, by his pupils, addressed the agenda he had created. If m any o f the essays in it reached conclusions different from his, they addressed the issues he had highlighted, they examined the connections he had posited, they endorsed the concept o f the English Revolution. Reviving the English Revolution lacks the vibrancy of Puritans and Revolutionaries ; for the m ost part it lacks the freshness and precision and adventure o f Hill’s ow n scholarship and o f the Festschrift. Far worse, it does him a disservice by exaggerating the collapse o f his reputation. Eley’s introduction to the new volume is in fact a grossly unfair and unjust one. His characterization o f ‘revisionism ’ ought to become a case study o f how to misrepresent those you wish to criticize. It is true that revisionists have challenged the inevitability o f the collapse o f the political system in the m idcentury: for them England is not so much ungovernable as badly governed. It is also true that they have sought to set the ideological conflicts and the social conflicts into perspective: since every mature political culture will be characterized by debate and argum ent about the locus o f pow er and the legitimation o f authority, it is im portant to look at continuing areas o f agreement and consensus as well as at areas o f contention. If at times revisionists have seen the war as a squabble am ongst the nobility and gentry about access to the honeypot, it m ust be remem bered that revisionists were reacting against the body o f w ork which treated ideology in a crudely positivist fashion. If revisionism was provoked by any particular w ork, it was not one o f H ill’s so much as Lawrence Stone’s Causes o f the English Revolution. At times revisionists’ wilful refusal to set their explanations into broad social and intellectual contexts has been blinkered and unsophisticated. But to say, as Eley does, that ‘the connections which Hill explores among the social, the political and the ideological have been placed beyond the boundaries o f most present discussion’ is m onstrous (Reviving p. 4). It is the nature o f the connections which have been argued for in the w ork o f Kevin Sharpe, A nthony Fletcher or C onrad Russell that have challenged H ill’s interpretation, rather than any unwillingness on the part o f such scholars to consider the connections. M y ow n w ork suffers particularly harshly at Eley’s hands. He sees The Revolt o f the Provinces as ‘the reduction o f the m id-century crisis to a narrow ly circumscribed process o f political manoeuvre, from which H ill’s distinctive concerns - the social, cultural and ideological determ ination o f political conflict, in all their m ultiform complexity - have been systematically left o u t’ (Reviving, p. 4). The one thing my book is not about is processes o f political maneouvre. It is about a political and religious culture that 276

Christopher H ill's Revolution

spawned not only m ilitant puritan-parliam entarianism and militant cavalierism, but various forms o f popular neutralism and anti-war sentiment. M y book is a guarded com pliment to C hristopher Hill. It says in effect, ‘we have good w ork on puritan militancy and need not explore it afresh. So let’s look at that great mass o f people - gentry and com m ons - who did not want war, did what they could to stop it and to end it, who rose up in 1648 in a revolt o f the provinces against centralism and religious zealotry, and who lost. Theirs is a vital part o f the story to o .’ Then there is Eley’s com m ent about m y recent w ork and Blair W orden’s that it comes as ‘something o f a surprise to find tw o o f the most inveterate revisionists . . . rediscovering the centrality o f religion . . . the irony is w orth savouring’ (Reviving , p. 9). It is inconceivable to me that anyone who has read any o f the early w ork o f Blair W orden could say that. As for myself, I have to confess that I m ust have been less clear than I intended, for others have made similar jibes. M y early w ork was about the uncom m itted and about the victims. But I hoped I had explained in my w ork on Cheshire that I saw the conflict in that county as centred around a royalist party which grew out o f a defence o f episcopacy and a parliamentarian m ovem ent led by a devout puritan who reached across social barriers to assemble a coalition o f the godly. And The Revolt o f the Provinces (1976) states categorically (p. 47) that ‘What emerges quite clearly from a study o f the activists in the sum m er o f 1642 . . . is that, for them religion was the crucial issue.’ C hristopher Hill has never, and w ould never, mistake the extent to which revisionism sets his w ork in context with a charge that it ignored or rejected it. Indeed, I would argue that no-one who has read H ill’s w ork could write the kind o f im poverished history Eley writes about. O ther contributors to Reviving the English Revolution and H ill’s three volumes o f essays allow us to reassess his importance. First, he has played a fundamental role in breaking ‘religious’ history and especially the history o f religious ideas free from ‘denom inational’ history. (Just look at the Ecclesiastical H istory chapter in G. Davies and M. Keeler, Bibliography o f British History: Stuart Period for the state o f play as late as 1960. O nly Geoffrey N uttall had really done w ork which prefigured Hill’s subtle interplay o f ideas and contexts.) Hill has written: ‘environm ent is m ore im portant than heredity in the evolution o f ideas’ (Essays , II, 4—51). He has posited a subtle and convincing account o f the


The Nature o f the English Revolution social reasons for w hich men could hold many o f the traditional puritan beliefs. . . . T o understand Puritanism we m ust understand the needs, hopes, fears and aspirations o f the godly artisans, merchants, yeomen, gentlemen, ministers and their wives, w ho gave their support to its doctrines. . . . Puritanism was valid for them only when they felt it in their pulses. It seemed to point the way to heaven because it helped them to live on earth.

As M ary Fulbrook says: such an approach does not try to ‘reduce’ the reality o f the religious ideas, but does try to render them intelligible to later obscrvors in terms o f their relationships w ith other aspects o f social experience. W hether consciously aware o f it or not, people found that certain religious ideas ‘made sense’ (or, in the Q uaker expression, ‘spoke to their condition’) because they related to real, material experiences o f life, in the context o f a particular social environm ent’ (Reviving, pp. 39-40).

Secondly, who has done m ore than C hristopher Hill to make us aware o f ‘literary’ texts as historical documents, to see M ilton, Bunyan and a host o f other poets and writers as sources for understanding the anxieties, aspirations and self-delusions o f the epoch? We do not have to agree with Hill that ‘there was a revolution in English literature as well as science’, politics, economics and society (Essays , I, 3), to agree w ith him that developments in the form and content o f fictional writing are part o f the warp and w o o f o f our subject and our understanding o f that age. Kevin Sharpe’s Criticism and Compliment (1988) or Politics o f Discourse (1987) or Blair W orden’s brilliant exegesis o f M arvell’s H oration O de are part o f an intellectual endeavour made possible by H ill’s pioneering studies that have placed us light years beyond the flatulent ‘Arts and C ulture’ chapters o f the older textbooks. In these three volumes o f essays, Hill again and again stresses the uniqueness o f individual responses to the pressured world o f the 1620s and 1630s, and the post-diluvian w orld o f the Restoration. Volume I in particular is a cave o f delights: Francis Q uarles’ Collinsonian protestantism , Thom as T raherne’s low-church arminianism, Samuel Pepys’s residual puritanism, Rochester’s railing against his ow n and his age’s puritan past. H ill’s third and m ost problem atic achievement has been to set the nature o f the English revolution at the heart o f the historical agenda. This contribution is the crucial one to which I shall devote the rest o f this article. In doing so, I will dwell on what I see as the main weaknesses o f m ethodology and argument. So let me state clearly w hat I see as his enduring achievement. He, together with Lawrence Stone, has established the paradigms with which we work, but his ow n w ork on the interplay o f societal developm ent and the


Christopher H ill’s Revolution

history o f ideas is far subtler. He has done m ore than anyone else to evoke the pain and striving and to recreate the mental w orld o f the revolutionary decades. His later w ork on the restoration leaves us in no doubt that the mid seventeenth century is a climacteric, after which everything was different. If we can be sure that the seventeenth century changed England and Englishmen m ore than any century bar the present one, we owe that recognition to him m ore than to any other scholar. Ill For all that Eley m ight think, my major criticism o f Hill is not that he is w rong about the nature o f puritanism, the extraordinary excitement o f the freeing o f minds and pens in the 1640s and 1650s, or even about the extent to which the convulsions o f those decades transform ed the ways that Englishmen and w om en viewed their world; but rather that the dynamics o f that process require a m ore balanced assessment o f other groups, a less sentimental attachment to some victims and a less harsh view o f others, and the kind o f awareness o f nuance in social history that he has developed in religious history. But above all, my critique w ould be methodological. It w ould have to do with sources. At the beginning o f the first volum e o f his collected essays, Christopher Hill rightly castigates those who concentrate on parliamentary debates, state papers and the correspondence o f the gentry to the exclusion o f other sources. Indeed, I once heard a colleague say o f a PhD thesis on the Exchequer that the candidate had ‘pulled Petty Bag firmly dow n over both ears and subjected the contents to intense scrutiny from w ithin’. A certain perspective was missing. M y D. Phil, thesis, subsequently my first book, Cheshire 1630-1660 is o f a type with that (though myopic books are not valueless books and county studies, when undertaken with the help o f corrective spectacles, as by Ann Hughes in her recent study o f civil war W arwickshire, remain a vital part o f our understanding o f the nature o f the English Revolution). But H ill’s ow n w ork suffers from a defect as great in its way: the reliance, indeed the total reliance, on printed sources. T hroughout his career, Hill has built up a massive knowledge o f printed material. The overwhelm ing majority o f his references are to works printed in the seventeenth century. There are no references in any o f these three volumes nor, I think, in any o f his previous books, to m anuscript sources. This has to be a significant handicap the m ore general and ambitious his w ork becomes. At its simplest, this leads to such serious lapses as ‘censorship made it difficult for lower class viewpoints to come across. The nearest we can get to


The Nature o f the English Revolution

these is through literature . . . [as in] the city comedies by Dekker and M iddleton’ (Essays , I, 14). In the wake o f much recent w ork being done w ith a variety o f m anuscript sources - depositions in church courts, for example - this is a serious m is-statem ent and betrays a m yopia as great as that o f county-com m unity truffle-pigs. Hill wants to look at the social history and intellectual history o f early m odern England, and at their interconnections. I would suggest that the limitations that his concentration on certain types o f evidence has placed on the ‘social history’ side o f his w ork have become m ore evident as m ore and m ore sophisticated w ork has been attem pted with new and unprinted sources. His social history has not m atured and deepened at the same rate as his intellectual history. M ore generally, concentration on printed sources has led to a comparative weakness in his understanding o f political and legal process. He has, for example, consistently maintained that the severity and ubiquity o f censorship in seventeenth-century England both drove ‘subversive’ ideas underground and caused the courageous few to encode and disguise their protest. Yet he has never described the nature o f the censorship laws; how they were enforced; in what circumstances they were enforced; how often they were enforced. A list o f books w ritten but not printed in the decades before the civil war (Essays , I, 39-40) is no substitute for a systematic study o f this problem . Sheila Lambert has recently throw n dow n a fundamental challenge (‘The Printers and the Governm ent, 1604—1640’ in Aspects o f Printing since 1600 , eds. R. Myers and M. Harris, [Oxford, 1987], pp. 1-29). There were virtually no prosecutions under the Star C ham ber Decree o f 1638 (which was, in any case, issued to suit the business interests o f the printers not the security concerns o f the state). Blair W orden has also recently suggested (in an essay in Censorship and the Press in Britain and the Netherlands , eds. A. Duke and C. Tamse [1988]), that ‘the governm ent’s principal concern in the exercise o f censorship . . . was evidently to forestall not criticism but disorder’. These works, together with that o f Annabel Patterson (especially Censorship and Interpretation [1984]) have shown that the state was not efficient enough, determ ined enough, worried enough to punish m ore than a tiny m inority o f the unlicensed items or to rem ove every potentially subversive statement from the items subm itted for licensing. I am not saying that there was freedom o f expression in Stuart England, still less that we should take all pamphlets or parliamentary speeches at face value; but I am suggesting that we cannot so readily treat the almost complete absence o f calls for resistance to Charles I or the absence o f evidence


Christopher H ill’s Revolution

for widespread popular heresy as the result o f ubiquitous and effective state censorship. At the end o f the day, no account o f any major event in w orld history will be convincing unless all types o f evidence have been explored. I do not consider it rom antic but commonsense to say that unless one has dirtied one’s hands w ith the grim e o f the C om m onw ealth Exchequer Papers, and unless one has ploughed through a cross-section o f the surviving Assize Files and county com m ittee papers, the nature o f the revolutionary experience will remain elusive. At the heart o f the revolution is a desperation bred o f seeing an orderly search for liberty turning into som ething vicious, w ithout an obvious end, a m onster devouring its young. Christopher Hill has w ritten m ovingly o f the victims o f the Revolution and o f those who constituted its epiphenomena. Their story needed to be told. The World Turned Upside Down is about the sparks that fly when the chisel strikes the turning grindstone. He has never really explained those who held the chisel, who sought to control the forces unleashed by the descent into total war. His w ork, so strong on the period up to 1642 and after 1649, is notably thinner on the years 1642-9. In my view the sects o f the 1650s make m ore sense in the context o f ‘real, material experiences o f life’ in the 1640s than as creatures rising from a subterranean deep where they had lurked, out o f scholarly sight, for generations. Environm ent is m ore im portant than heredity in the evolution o f ideas. Hill knows this. M y point is that he cannot and has not fully ‘felt the pulse’ o f his sectaries because he has not fully shared their sense o f w hat it was to live through the civil war. IV David U nderdow n puts his finger on what, for me, is H ill’s other major methodological weakness. O n picking up the latter’s review o f his book on civil-war Somerset, U nderdow n tells us that he expected to find (Reviving , pp. 338-9): some com m ents on the chapters dealing w ith the risings o f the Clubmen. . . . Here were men living their ow n history, plebeians who could not be w ritten off as obedient pawns o f the elite, because they were in fact revolting against the authority o f the leading gentry o f their shires. . . . Alas, the review . . . did not m ention the Clubm en, who, like the middling and lower-class people w ho made up the rank and file o f the K ing’s arm y (and w ho were by no means all recruited under compulsion), arc difficult to fit into H ill’s general conception o f the Revolution. For him, Puritanism and the Parliament were the causes o f the middling and industrious sorts, and w hen we find great masses o f people from these groups espousing a different ideology o f conservative localism they create a problem . W hat can we make o f


The Nature o f the English Revolution a popular leader like H um phrey Willis, spokesman for the Somerset Clubm en, w ho supported Parliament but used the ‘w orld turned upside d ow n’ image only to deplore the fact that it had happened. So while H ill’s w ork casts plenty o f light on the social and intellectual formations prom oting change in seventeenth-century England, that light leaves the conform ing majority still largely in the shadows. Yet we need to understand these people if we are to realize the limits as well as the achievements o f the English Revolution, the reasons for its failure (to the extent that it failed), and w hy it was possible for so m uch o f the old society to survive the years o f upheaval.

I agree w ith this diagnosis. Ultim ately, for me, H ill’s account o f the revolution is one-sided: the royalists remain in the shadows. He can certainly be illuminating on individual royalists (his study o f Francis Quarles is a case in point). But on his large canvasses, the civil war remains a struggle between the forces o f progress and the forces o f reaction. Although, throughout the continent, monarchical centralism, absolutism, the dilution o f particularist and prescriptive rights represent the dynamic forces o f the century, Hill insists that the early Stuart state was engaged in propping up a decayed political order: ‘by 1640 the social forces let loose by or accompanying the rise o f capitalism, especially in agriculture, could no longer be contained w ithin the old political fram ework except by means o f a violent repression o f which Charles’ governm ent proved incapable’ (Essays, III, 96). The weight o f recent scholarship - both from those who believe in the civil war as the culmination o f a long draw n-out structural crisis, and those who see it as a strong but vulnerable political system badly managed by a perverse m onarch - is either to see the civil war as a struggle between tw o dynamic and rival authoritarianisms, or else as a Caroline social, political, religious, cultural dynam ism confronting a conservative puritan/particularist aristocratic parliamentarianism. Hill has never given the royalist mentalite the close and sympathetic investigation it needs if he is to sustain his argument. Furtherm ore, in constantly com m ending the thesis o f Brian M anning in his English People and the English Revolution (1976), Hill has still to confront the claims o f M anning’s critics, m uch strengthened by David U nderdow n (especially in Revel, Riot and Rebellion [1985]) that (a) there is no evidence that the middling sort were m ore parliamentarian than royalist, or (b) that the gentry lost control in 1642 and that the parliamentarian m ovem ent was a popular revolt led by an intim idated nobility and gentry. The limited social revolution o f 1646-60 and the greater freedom o f expression for all social groups in those years can be explained as the product o f war and its multiplex demands and tyrannies.


Christopher H ill’s Revolution

The century 1540-1640 witnessed massive changes in the economic, social and cultural structures, and the consequences for England o f a breakdow n o f order in the 1640s were very different from those that would have resulted from a breakdow n o f order in the 1540s. But that does not make collapse probable, let alone necessary. The Stuarts in my view were, with difficulty, riding and taming the tiger o f social and cultural change, and could have prom oted the ‘m odernization’ o f the economy. They did so in fact after 1660 and not just and not prim arily because o f their m em ory o f 1649. I will make one final point. Who were the bourgeoisie? Hill has long retreated from the view that the civil war was a clash between feudal and bourgeois forces, w ith proto-capitalists pushing their way past an im potent and reactionary m onarchy in a carefully and longplanned push for political dominance and economic liberalism. In his m ost recent formulation, the English Revolution was caused by ‘the breakdow n o f the old society; it was brought about neither by wishes o f the bourgeoisie, nor by the leaders o f the Long Parliament. But its outcome was the establishment o f conditions far m ore favourable to the developm ent o f capitalism than those which prevailed before 1640’ (Essays III, 95). His heroes are the ‘middling sorts, the yeom enry and m arket-oriented craftsmen and traders’. They were the groups who had kept faith with radical values in the days o f oppression, they were the victims o f Tudor and early Stuart persecution and harassment, which forced them into but silent witness. W hen their chance came in 1642, Hill argues, with the elite fatally divided and m utually hostile, the middling sort were able to demand and to impose as a condition o f selling their labour in arms, that their interests were taken up alongside those o f the elite who turned to them. As the war dragged on, their determ ination gave them ever-greater say, as the m any vacillating and fearful nobles and gentry fell away. It was the middling sort w ho came to see the need for revolution. I have problems w ith the logic o f this. Was this the bourgeoisie (let alone was it the members o f the ‘third culture’ o f radical sectaries), who were the beneficaries o f the revolution? By 1700 the yeom anry were in terminal decline; the bigger the landholding, the greater the prosperity; it was rentiers not smallholders who led the agrarian revolution. The collapse o f guild regulation helped not the independent small producer but the m erchant and distributor, subordinating the producer to his will and reducing him wherever possible to a wage-earner or dependent. The bourgeoisie who benefitted were not the bourgeoisie to w hom Hill has devoted his life. All too m any o f them had been cavaliers.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

In m y view, three things transform ed England in the seventeenth century. O ne owed nothing to the revolution: the dem ographic turnaround in m id-century which changed the whole economic, social and political context. A second was the recognition by governors that they could solve their financial problem s by encouraging and then by taxing progress rather than by inhibiting it. The early Stuarts were halfway there (realizing that there was m oney to be made from encouraging progressive economic activity and rationalization such as fen drainage, woodland clearance, new draperies etc. as well as from propping up vested interests and from the inhibitory aspects o f fiscal feudalism). Indeed the early Stuarts were m ore the champions o f capitalist enterprise than they were obstructors o f it. It did not take a civil w ar to turn ambivalent attitudes into positive ones, especially when the dem ographic turnaround made state intervention in the food market, internal trade, etc. in the interests o f public order largely unnecessary. The third factor was the creation in the late seventeenth century o f a new cultural climate, rationalistic, empirical, pragmatic. Religious issues dom inated politics, but religious values were far less pervasive, and economic, scientific, even social discourse was increasingly secularized. The M illenium vanished, Antichrist faded, Zeal cooled. The new climate was a reaction against Puritanism at least as much as it was a perm anent consequence o f the check the Revolution gave to state assertiveness and belief in its right and duty to impose belief. But it is undeniably tied up to the upheavals o f the mid-century. It was a revolution in the consciousness o f those who lived through it, and it was transm itted to their children and their children’s children. C hristopher Hill has dwelt on the way some vital groups w orked out their destiny in those desperate days. He may have illuminated part o f the picture and left other parts in the shade. But as we all struggle to make sense o f the English Revolution, we will for a long time yet owe him a massive debt. Because o f him, I know m any vital things about the English Revolution; but for him I m ight never have wanted to know anything about it.



Charles I, Tyranny and the English C iv il War

This is a paper about intellectual reticence and circumspection. It is about the way the critics o f Charles I perceived his governm ent, or rather, it is about the way in which they chose to articulate their perceptions about his m isgovernm ent during the paper war o f 1641 and 1642. It attem pts to set into co n tex t the account which the members o f the tw o Houses gave o f their im provised actions and longer-term settlement proposals as the country lurched towards civil war. At its core is a discussion o f the forty-three formal declarations, remonstrances, and open letters which passed between the king and the tw o Houses from the introduction o f the Grand Remonstrance to the outbreak o f hostilities between the field armies com manded by the king and the earl o f Essex.1 The evidence o f this material is com plemented by an analysis o f the semi-official pamphlets licensed to be printed by the H ouses,2 and a reading o f printed and unprinted

1. [Edward Husbands], A n Exact Collection o f all Remonstrances, Declarations, Votes, Orders, Ordinances and Proclamations, Petitions, Messages and Answers . . . between the King's M ost Excellent Majesty, and his High Court o f Parliament from his Return from Scotland, Being in December 1641 and Continued until March . . . 1643 (1643). I have found this a far m ore satisfactory source than the m ore usual John R ushw orth, Historical Collections (7 v o ls., 1659-1701) because it is m ore com plete and m ore accurate in its texts and prints things chronologically rather than in ‘subject clusters’, such as the defence o f Hull or the N ineteen Propositions. But I have not relied entirely upon Husbands. I have checked the texts in Husbands against copies in the Cam bridge U n iversity Library or on the m icrofilm s o f the British Library, T h om ason Tracts. 2. S. Lambert, ‘Printing for Parliament, 1641-1700’, List and Index Society, special series, no. 20 (1984). This is a remarkable and invaluable aid to scholars. It was vital for this paper since I w ished to distinguish material put out w ith the k n ow led ge and consent o f the tw o H ouses (or at least o f the C om m on s) from w hat every crank and those w ith an eye solely to the market m anaged to put out.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

parliamentary diaries for the period.3 But I have tried to set this material into the general context o f the political history o f the reign as a whole and to make com parison w ith the largely uninhibited and uncircumspect religious rhetoric o f the same period. The argum ent will be that there are some very surprising and startling silences, omissions, and confusions in the case the Houses presented in their attem pt to persuade the English people to defend themselves against the m isgovernm ent o f Charles I. In an earlier paper, I claimed that: A reading o f the pamphlets and debates, at least up to the battle o f Edgehill, tells not o f a radical group leading a quailing m ajority onw ard, but o f a leadership picking its way through a minefield, full o f selfdoubt, seeing the hazards o f turning back as worse than the perils o f pursuing their passage,

a view which I defended by arguing that the logic o f events forced the Houses to make claims and then to justify them [and that] the constitutional issues o f 1642 were means to an end, not ends in themselves. They were a controversial means to protect the uncontroversial settlement o f 1641 and to deal w ith a king no longer trusted to keep his w o rd .4

In turn I argued that that lack o f trust grew out o f religious perceptions. To sustain this thesis, I will pay especial attention to the avoidance o f all charges in official parliamentary statements in the twelve m onths up to the raising o f the royal standard in m id-A ugust 1642 that Charles I was a tyrant. The air was thick in 1640 and 1641 with allegations o f royal tyranny and arbitrary governm ent, although the w ord ‘tyrant’ itself was little used. But as the prospect o f civil war came closer, m ore and m ore care was taken to avoid the use o f the term. W hat makes this startling is that by all contem porary understanding o f the term , the prima facie case against Charles was very strong. So strong, in fact, that Charles came very close to confessing it both at the time and, m ore particularly, on the eve o f his execution. 3. W. N otestein , The Journal o f Sir Simonds d’Ewes from the Beginning o f the Long Parliament to the Opening o f the Trial o f the Earl o f Strafford (1923); W .H . Coates, The Journal o f Sir Simonds d’Ewes from the First Recess o f the Long Parliament to the Withdrawal o f the King from London (1942); W .H . Coates, et. al., The Private Journals o f the Long Parliament, 1 March 1642-1 June 1642 (1987). I have read the journals o f Sir Sim onds d ’E w es (BL, Harl. M SS. 162-64) for the periods not covered by the above, and Christopher T h om p son ’s transcript o f the diary o f Walter Y on ge for the period after 1 Septem ber 1642. 4. J.S. M orrill, ‘T he R eligious C on text o f the English C ivil W ar’, above pp. 59-60.


Charles I and Tyranny

The charge o f tyranny was the one on which Charles was eventually to be tried and executed. The indictm ent drawn up in January 1649 was uncom prom ising: T hat the said Charles Stuart . . . out o f a wicked design to erect and uphold in him self an unlim ited and tyrannical pow er to rule according to his will, and to overthrow the rights and liberties o f the people, yea, to take away and make void the foundations th e re o f. . . hath traiterously and maliciously levied war against the present Parliament, and the people therein represented . . .5

For reasons which w ould require a separate paper, it is striking that the examples o f tyranny contained in the charge dated from after 1642.6 Charles I, o f course, contem ptuously dismissed the charges as the malicious inventions o f unprincipled adventurers - ‘private m en’s covetous and ambitious designs’7 he called them - but the letter that he w rote to the Prince o f Wales on the eve o f his execution does contain an interesting confession. The letter itself is little m ore than a sequence o f poignant platitudes, but it can also be read as a covert confession, a plea to his son to govern in the ways he wished he him self had ruled. For the m ost part he accused him self o f weakness, o f surrendering in 1641 the powers with which he was entrusted by God, o f betraying his servants, above all the earl o f Strafford, and o f com prom ising his com m itm ent to uphold the C hurch o f England, ‘as com ing’, he said, ‘as close [as any] to G od’s w ord for doctrine, and to the prim itive examples for governm ent’, by his various concessions throughout the 1640s, above all in his unw orthy compact with the Scots in 1648. But then he made a very startling statement. He wrote ‘your prerogative is best showed and exercised in rem itting rather than in exacting the rigour o f the laws; there being nothing worse than legal tyranny’.8 What m ight he have had in mind?

5. S.R. Gardiner, Constitutional Documents o f the Puritan Revolution (3rd ed., 1906), p. 372. 6. The charges actually begin w ith the raising o f the standard at N ottin gh am in A ugust 1642 and the battle o f Edgehill in O ctober 1642 and dw ell on the events o f 1648. M y o w n view is that the case for executing Charles arose from what his opponents in the army came to sec as his sacrilege in seeking - in the second civil war - to overturn the jud gem en t o f G od in giving the Parliament victory in the first civil war. I shall be arguing this case at length elsewhere. M eanw hile, see Sarah Barber, ‘The M oral Case against Charles I: Regicidal and Republican T h ought, 1647-1651’ (PhD thesis, Trinity C ollege, U n iversity o f D ublin, 1988). 7. Ed. C. Petrie, The Letters o f King Charles I (1935), p. 262. 8. Ibid., pp. 263, 265.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

The concept o f tyranny was one widely used and understood and yet fuzzily defined in the early seventeenth century.9 B oth in its classical usage by Aristotle and in its medieval adaptations, it represented a corruption o f monarchy. Tyrants were typically divided into those who usurped their thrones and those who acquired their titles legitimately but w ho used their pow er arbitrarily. M ost o f the time, the term ‘tyranny’ was used as a rather loose term o f condem nation - im m oral governm ent. When it was m ore tightly defined to describe unjust forms o f governm ent, the emphasis tended to be on the ends to which pow er was used rather than the means by which it was exercised. A tyrant was a ruler who put self-interest above national interest, whose actions benefitted him self and the clique w ith which he surrounded him self at the expense o f the interests o f his subjects, whose liberties and property he tram pled underfoot. M ost o f the exegeses o f the careers o f classical tyrants - Caligula and N ero - or biblical tyrants - Saul and Rehoboam - stressed a corruption o f the will, an indifference to legality, an arbitrariness o f behaviour which suggested that tyranny infected the means as well as corrupting the ends o f government; and for m any authors the terms ‘tyranny’ and ‘arbitrary governm ent’, are interchangeable. But there is no necessary connection. Attentive readers o f Bodin were aware that ‘the true greatness o f a ruler was to behave justly even when it was not illegal to behave unjustly.’10 Perhaps that is w hat Charles had in mind when he told his son that he w ould rather be rem em bered as Charles le bon than as Charles le grand.11 And certainly it is w hat Sir John Eliot had in m ind when in 1631 he w rote in De lure Majestatis that the difference between a lawful king and a tyrant was that a lawful king ‘will not do what he may do’. As Bill H inton argued thirty years ago, ‘when Charles I did only what the law allowed, this does not mean that he acted correctly’. 12 W hen Charles governed pro bono suo and not pro bono publico his subjects were justified in calling him a tyrant. 9. For what follow s there is a host o f familiar authorities on early m odern thought. G ood introductions to early m odern discussions o f tyranny against their classical and m edieval background include O . Jaszi and J.D . Lewis, Against the Tyrant (1957), pt. 1; R. M ousnier, T he Assassination o f Henrie I V (1973), pp. 63-105; W .A . A rm strong, ‘T h e Elizabethan C onception o f the T yran t,’ Rev. Eng. Studs., 22 (1946). T h ose look in g for som ething fresh and stim ulating on the subject should not overlook G lenn Burgess, ‘Theories o f Tyranny in England, 1603-60’ (M A Thesis Victoria U n iversity o f W ellington, 1982). 10. R .W .K . H inton, ‘Charles I and T yranny’, Review o f Politics, XVIII (1956), 70-2. 11. Petrie, Charles I, p. 262. 12. H inton, ‘Charles I’, 87.

2 88

Charles I and Tyranny

Eliot’s rueful gloss on Bodin was w ritten while he languished in the Tow er. M ost o f those im prisoned w ith him for participation in the angry scuffles at the end o f the third parliament o f the reign secured release by making tacit acknowledgem ent o f their w rongdoing; but Eliot, along w ith Strode and Valentine, refused to do so. For Eliot, surely, the lesson o f the previous six years had been precisely that Charles had sought to do all that which he m ight do: he had used emergency powers w ith which he was entrusted by custom and law to preserve the com m onw ealth from external threat and internal subversion in what m ost o f his subjects believed to be a non-em ergency situation or to get his own way where the public interest required him to seek consent and where that consent was not forthcom ing. Three recent studies by Richard Cust, John Guy, and John Reeve all dem onstrate Charles’s legal tyranny in the years 1626-9. Let me give five examples draw n from their work. The first is the personal order from Charles to Attorney-General Heath to change the ruling entered by the officers o f the C ourt o f K ing’s Bench on the face o f the w rit o f habeas corpus brought by the five knights. Charles was determ ined not to have the judges adjudicate his right to im prison for refusal to pay the forced loan and was equally determ ined to secure a full and binding precedent for his claim to im prison at will where he alleged reason o f state. The hedged interim order o f the court did not give him that binding precedent. B uckingham ’s unequivocal statem ent in the House o f Lords that Heath was carrying out express orders when he had sought to alter the ruling entered on the w rit was a stunning exposure o f the king’s authoritarianism .13 The second example comes from the beginning o f the 1629 Parliament, when the House o f C om m ons set out to investigate why the printed form o f the Petition o f Right differed from the one approved by the tw o Houses. The Petition o f Right had originally been assigned a statute num ber by the king’s printer, but this had been effaced by a pumice stone so as to make its statutory force less certain, and its status had been further complicated by the insertion o f the unsatisfactory first royal answer into the body o f the text. It became clear that both changes had been personally authorized by the kin g .14 Thirdly, during the 1629 session the House o f C om m ons investigated the action o f customs officers in seizing the goods o f Rolle 13. J. G uy, ‘T he O rigins o f the Petition o f R igh t’, H J, 25 (1982), 289-312. 14. E x info. John Guy.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

for refusing to pay tonnage and poundage. They claimed that the customs officers had exceeded their authority. But Charles stepped in and stated that everything they had done was by his express authority.15 Fourthly and following the dissolution o f the third Parliament, several MPs were im prisoned for their parts in the incidents that took place on 2 M arch 1629. The king, not wishing to repeat the furore that followed his use o f prerogative im prisonm ent in 1627, accepted H eath’s advice that they show some cause o f their im prisonm ent. H ow ever the king did not wish to show the full nature o f their offence (and specifically where it took place) lest they plead parliamentary privilege. The attorney general therefore returned ‘sedition’ as the cause, but w ithout stating the precise nature o f the sedition. The prisoners then sought bail on the ground that sedition was a misdemeanor and not a felony, and the judges on the eve o f the vacation privately inform ed the king that they w ould grant bail the next day unless further grounds for the detention o f the prisoners were given. To give him self time to meet this challenge, Charles personally ordered the prisoners to be m oved overnight to a different prison and ordered them not to be brought to court. This gave the law officers the vacation to find new arguments for keeping the prisoners locked up. This they succeeded in doing. The prisoners were offered bail under letters patent but on hum iliating and self-incriminating conditions which they had little option but to reject; but that rejection was used to persuade the judges that the prisoners’ plea to them for bail was bothersom e and unnecessary, since bail was available already.16 Fifthly and m ore generally, there w ere constant leaks about C harles’s general highhandedness o f m anner. For example, w hen he first heard o f the w idespread refusal to pay forced loans in 1627, he personally authorized the draw ing up o f letters from the council to the lords lieutenant and their deputies instructing them to im press loan refusers into the royal arm y and to quarter royal troops on the hom es o f b etter-o ff refusers. He was talked out o f these m anoeuvres by the m ajority o f the privy council but not before his proposals had been leaked by the earl o f Pem broke

15. J. R eeve, Charles I and the M aking o f the Personal Rule (Cam bridge, 1989), 32-3. 16. J. R eeve, ‘A rgum ents in K in g’s Bench in 1629 C oncerning the Im prisonm ent o f M em bers o f the H ouse o f C o m m o n s’ Jn l. Brit. Stud. 25 (1986).


Charles I and Tyranny

to foreign am bassadors and by them to the new sm en o f St P aul’s C h u rch y a rd .17 Such behavior surely constituted a formidable prima facie case o f legal tyranny; and some o f Charles’s subjects agreed. An anonym ous tract from the Midlands in 1627 likened Charles to Rehoboam , the Canaanite king who levied arbitrary taxation upon the tribes o f Israel,18 and the paranoiac Thom as Scott, alderman and M P for Canterbury, likened Charles to Saul and Buckingham to Agag, w hom Saul had protected after he com m itted atrocities against Saul’s people and w hom Samuel, acting as a lesser magistrate, slew in defiance o f Saul’s orders.19 The revival o f plays concerned with classical tyrants, while never crudely adapted to make parallels with Charles’s governm ent, surely also represents an implicit com m ent on contem porary preoccupations with the rights and the tribulations o f a people experiencing a mild form o f tyranny. If the plays did not provide easy answers, they at least heightened awareness o f difficult choices.20 The 1630s sustained if they did not intensify levels o f anxiety. A study o f ship-m oney collection reinforces the points I have already made. Charles maintained that he could raise m oney w ithout formal consent for naval defence in a national emergency, that he was sole judge o f what constituted an emergency, and that there was in fact a sustained state o f emergency. Counsel for Ham pden maintained that there was no emergency, that even if there was it would only validate the initial writ, since in subsequent years the king had ample time to gain relief from Parliament, and the king’s use o f his discretionary powers was subject to judicial review. The judges by a large majority, if with varying degrees o f enthusiasm, ruled for the king. In the perception o f m ost o f his subjects, the king was misusing his emergency powers. The consequence was

17. R. Cust, The Forced Loan and English Politics (1988), pp. 39-82; for an exam ple o f Charles’s vindictiveness, see PR O , SP16/89 no. 4., printed in C. Daniels and J.S. M orrill, Charles I (1988), p. 25. 18. PR O , SP16/54 no. 821, in Daniels and M orrill, Charles /, p. 23. 19. Ibid. 20. This is a them e at the centre o f m uch discussion in a variety o f works: M . H einem ann, Puritanism and Theatre (1980), ch. 12; M . Butler, Theatre and Crisis (1984), ch. 4; and K. Sharpe, Criticism and Compliment (1987), ch. 1, give a good cross-section o f view s.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

widespread distrust.21 By 1639 the instinctive response o f m any o f Charles’s subjects to his policy initiatives was one o f suspicion and alarm. His actions thereafter confirmed their w orst fears: the levying o f coat and conduct money; the welcoming o f loans from English papists; the m odifying o f the O ath o f Allegiance tendered to Catholic officers in the English army; the negotiations for military support from Highland and Irish Catholics to ram religious change dow n the throats o f Scottish Protestants; the negotiations for loans from Philip IV and the pope; the precipitous dissolution o f the Short Parliament and the provocative arrest o f members o f both Houses and ransacking o f their studies;22 followed, in the course o f the Long Parliament, by all-too-plausible suspicions o f the king’s personal complicity in the arm y plots, the Irish rebellion and the Incident in Scotland, and the all-too-palpable responsibility for the attem pt on the five members and the m ilitary provocations and escalations from January to August 1642.23 The evidence for labelling Charles I a tyrant was very palpable, and one tract in September 1642 made that case emphatically and ruthlessly. Entitled King James his judgment o f a king and a tyrant, it used the distinction in James I’s speech o f M arch 1610 between the unlimited nature o f royal pow er in the abstract and the limited nature o f royal pow er in settled kingdom s to indict Jam es’s son o f tyranny. At the end o f his discussion o f Jam es’s speech, the author lists ‘28 questions, w orthy due consideration.’ They rehearse the major misuses o f pow er by Charles since his accession - ship money, forest fine, the book o f sports, the ?rmy plots, etc - and culminate and fulminate w ith ‘whether the setting up the king’s standard against the Parliament, and the best subjects

21. I have been criticized by, am ongst others (but m ost directly), m y old friend Johann S om m erville (‘Ideology, Property and the C on stitu tion ,’ in R. Cust and A. H ughes (eds.), Conflict in Early Stuart England [1969], pp. 63-4) for concentrating on the them e o f the m isuse o f agreed pow ers. I am afraid I am unrepentant. John C ooper taught m e long ago that a close reading o f the legal jud gem en ts sh ow ed that the frustrating thing for the critics o f the C row n in all the big set-piece argum ents was precisely that: h o w to control the k in g’s use o f discretionary pow ers, not to deploy pro bono suo pow ers he ought to enjoy pro bono. S om m erville’s position (in this matter) seem s to m e over-logical. 22. T hese are all points discussed in C. Hibbard, Charles I and the Popish Plot (1983), ch. 5-9. 23. R. A shton, The English C ivil War (1978), ch. 6, and D . Hirst, Authority and Conflict (1986), ch. 7, are the best introductory accounts; A. Fletcher, The Outbreak o f the English C ivil War (1981) is the best recent analysis o f the politics o f the Parliament. Conrad Russell, ‘The First A rm y Plot o f 1641’, T R H S (1988), pp. 85-107, is im portant and a foretaste o f his im portant forthcom ing study o f the parliamentary background to the outbreak o f civil war.


Charles I and Tyranny

o f the kingdom , be not an actual unkinging o f him . . . to set up tyrannical governm ent over his land’.24 Significantly, the author o f the pam phlet proclaims him self to be a Scot, and internal evidence confirms that he was one.25 M uch more significant is that this pamphlet has no parallel in the first eight m onths o f 1642. I w ant to suggest that the m ost deafening in a series o f deafening silences in the twelve m onths up to the raising o f the royal standard is the absence o f accusations o f tyranny against Charles I. To call him a tyrant would have unlocked the principal arguments for resistance in early m odern Europe; not to call him a tyrant made justification o f resistance far m ore difficult. The air was thick with anticipation o f the charge, but it never came. It was clearly a charge which the royalists anticipated, as in a tract published in September 1642 entitled The Definition o f a King with the Cure o f a king Willfully Mad and the Way to Prevent Tyranny.26 This was a defence o f passive resistance and a reassurance that what the reforms o f 1641 had not accomplished, prayer could perfect. This royalist tract does not deny that the king may be seen as mad or tyrannical, and the im plication m ust be that it was seeking to foreclose the options o f those who had persuaded themselves that he was one or the other. If we move back to the first twelve m onths o f the Long Parliament, we find that charges o f arbitrary governm ent were being levied against the king’s ministers and especially against the bishops. Typical early examples were the speeches o f Sir Francis Seym our and John Pym in the early days o f the Long Parliament. Sir Francis Seymour asserted that ‘N one can say he is a freeborne subject, things inforced o f will m ore then o f our lawes, noe: by no law e’; and Pym, m ore explicitly, spoke o f ‘arbitrary proceeding o f Courts o f Justice: lawe and presidents were nothing.’27 Such statements went unreproved, and similar sentiments can be found echoing through the impeachm ent o f Strafford and the debates on the protestation oath in May 1641.28 As far as I can see, however, the w ord tyranny is reserved 24. 25. 26. 27.

BL, T h om ason Tract E l 11 (20), query 28. Ibid., query 12, ‘w e poor harmless Scots are proclaim ed rebels’. BL, T h om ason Tract E l 18 (18). Ed. N otestein , d ’Ewes, p. 7; R ushw orth, Historical Collections, p. 4. See also d ’E w e s’s note o f the ‘petition against the archbishops, bishops, deans etc and their tyrannical govern m en t’, in N otestein , d’Ewes, p. 138 (for 11 D ec. 1640). For the w illingness o f those in the 1610s and 1620s to bandy around notions o f tyranny, see T .K . Rabb, ‘R evisionism Revised: the Place o f the C o m m o n s’, PP, 92 (1981), pp. 69-70; Cust, Forced Loan, pp. 151-86. 28. C. Russell, ‘The T heory o f Treason in the Trial o f Strafford’, E H R , 80 (1965); J.H . T im m is, Thine Is the Kingdom (1977), passim.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

exclusively to describe the bishops in their governm ent o f the church and in their usurpation o f the king’s authority. We will examine this shortly. All such accusations, however, remain unsystematic and are more part o f an abusive rhetoric than o f a developed charge. They do, however, make the m ore dramatic the abandonment o f all such usage, focussed or unfocussed, after the sum m er o f 1641. The m ore MPs and others sensed the proxim ity o f civil war, the m ore careful they were w ith their words. And tyranny was a term to be avoided. This can be clearly seen from the debates on the Grand Remonstrance, that great catalogue o f royal misdeeds, in which not only are the words ‘tyrannical’ and ‘arbitrary’ absent; we know that they were cut out from the drafts drawn up before the recess.29 Thus the clause which had originally described the judgem ents o f named conciliar courts as ‘arbitrary and unjust in their proceedings’ was changed to read that ‘they have been grievous in exceeding their jurisdiction’.30 This leads us to a neat irony: in 1642 almost the only Englishman publicly to refer to the governm ent o f the 1630s as ‘arbitrary’ or ‘tyrannical’ was Charles himself. In His M ajesty’s Declaration to all his loving subjects, published on 12 August 1642, Charles acknowledged the charge in order to highlight the benefits that his subjects had derived from the reforms o f 1641. He, or his ghost writers, spoke o f the king as having taken a full clear prospect o f the inconveniences and mischiefs w hich had grow n by the long intermission o f Parliaments, and by departing too m uch from the know n rule o f law, to an arbitrary p ow er.31

Later in the same docum ent, the king acknowledged that there had been ‘the exercise o f an arbitrary pow er’ by the courts o f Star C ham ber and High C om m ission.32 H ow can we explain the reticence o f those who took up arms against the king? The task o f the draftsmen o f the official and semiofficial declarations, remonstrances, and other tracts o f 1642 had, after all, to justify resistance to an anointed king. They had to justify the removal from the king o f the authority to appoint lords lieutenant and to deploy the militia; to justify Parliam ent’s representatives’ refusal

29. The m ost recent full discussion is in J.S. Hart, ‘The O rigins o f the Grand R em onstrance’ (M A thesis, Portland State U n iversity, 1979), a good study o f the ob viou s sources only. 30. Coates, d’Ewes, pp. 185-6 and nn. 31. H usbands, Exact Collection, p. 515. 32. Ibid., p. 518.


Charles I and Tyranny

to admit the king to the city o f Hull and access to the supply o f ordnance and armam ents stockpiled there for his army during the second Bishops’ War; they had to justify the making o f ordinances w ithout royal assent; they had to justify the Nineteen Propositions which denied the king freedom to choose his ow n councillors and ministers; and they had to justify the appointm ent o f the earl o f Essex to raise an army to defend the Parliament and people from the pow er o f the king and indeed to call the nation to arms against him. What I want to suggest is that they chose not to use what must seem the m ost obvious arguments. I will show that they did not use history as their justification; nor Charles’s record dow n to 1641; nor did they adopt the m ost straighforward and highly developed justification for resistance, the right o f the subject to w ithstand a tyrant. In the event, I will suggest, it was a religious case for resistance, not the case from secular tyranny, which mobilized men against Charles I. W hy the reticence and the deafening silences? We do not have direct evidence. We cannot even be certain w hether those who organized the paper war believed their ow n arguments. Did their public rhetoric mask their private perceptions? Did many MPs privately believe that Charles I was a tyrant? I suspect - though I cannot prove it - that some did and would suggest that the likeliest candidates are Viscount Saye and Sir H arry Vane. But I also suspect that many more did not - perhaps dared not - think through the implication o f that charge. I cannot find a great gap in m ost o f the private papers I have seen between the public and private language o f key figures in the debates o f 1642. O f course even if there were such a gap, we m ust conclude that it is highly instructive that there was such overt reticence. Clearly those in charge o f parliamentary propaganda in 1642 used the arguments they believed w ould rally support. They w ould not use arguments they believed would be counter-productive. Their circumspection and circumscription may be grounded, then, less on the way MPs viewed Charles I than on their perception o f how the people at large viewed him. But I suspect there are other factors at work. I do not m yself think their caution resulted from a desire to bring him to the conference table. Their actions and ferocity o f their language and behavior in relation to religious reform suggest otherwise. But there are at least three other reasons w hy a m ajority o f those who were to fight for the Parliament could not bring themselves to take up the argument. The first relates to the history o f the argum ent in English thought. While the Calvinist tradition which had played so prom inent a part in


The Nature o f the English Revolution

European and Scottish history in the sixteenth century had, o f course, its English antecedents in G oodm an and Ponet, English Protestantism had been for the fifty years up to 1640 staunchly upholding the rights o f the English C row n in the face o f radical Catholic theories o f resistance to heretical and tyrannical rulers. Furtherm ore, the debates on resistance, like popular chess openings, were so fully explored that the counter-argum ents were know n in advance. MPs in the early 1640s did not relish having their faces rubbed in the very arguments that they had been ram m ing dow n popish throats for half a century. Secondly, to label the king a tyrant was to invite remedies which w ent far beyond what they were willing to contemplate, and here I do mean privately as well as publicly. The precedents for restraining tyrants were not encouraging, whether in scripture, in classical times, or in English history. Attem pts to restrain the wilfulness o f Edward II and Richard II in 1310, 1322, 1388, and 1397 had all failed, and those m onarchs had been deposed and killed. The example o f King John, who was restrained by w hat Stuart legal theorists took to be statute, was available; but m ost other precedents were too gloom y to contemplate. For those who wished only to compel the king to honour his promises and abide by the reforms o f 1641, then, the argum ent that Charles was a tyrant was a remedy likely to be more terminal than the disease. Such arguments could only alienate those very people they wanted to attract: sober, god-fearing, conservative gentlemen. The third reason for the failure o f parliamentary publicists to accuse the king o f tyranny was that they had com m itted themselves to the view that archbishop Laud and the papalists for w hom he was interchangeably the agent and the dupe had usurped royal pow er and exercised it tyrannically. This was the essential message o f the Grand Remonstrance, for example. The C om m ons expunged references to arbitrary actions by the secular arm in order to pin it on the bishops. Thus the convocation o f 1640 was said to have ‘im posed a new oath upon divers o f His Majesties subjects, both ecclesiastical and lay, for maintenance o f their ow n tyranny ’. It also spoke o f ‘the inordinate power, vexation and usurpation o f the Bishops’. The whole frame o f the remonstrance was to docum ent ‘the roote o f all mischiefs . . . a malignant and pernicious designe o f subverting the fundamentall laws and principle o f governm ent’.33 The charge was made w ith ever greater precision as the w inter w ore on. O ne o f the m ost dramatic

33. Gardiner, Const. Docs., pp. 218-19, 206.


Charles I and Tyranny

charges was contained in a speech by Oliver St John in January 1642 in which he claimed that so high and proud were these prelates grow n that they dare adventure to abridge and abrogate the king’s royall prerogative in issuing forth w arrants and proces in their sevcrall courts which ever was used to read Carolus D ei Gratia R e x now m ust read G ulielm us divina providentia dei archiepiscopus. In their names m ust writs and process run, and not in the kings.34

This was a charge taken up and developed by other pam phleteers, notably by H enry Parker in The True Grounds o f Ecclesiastical Regim ent.35

By the w inter o f 1641-2, therefore, the Houses were saddled w ith an interpretation o f the causes o f political instability which they could not, or did not, jettison. They had set out a program o f constitutional reform intended to amend or abate those powers which had been abused and to truncate those institutions which had upheld abuses, and they had come increasingly to account for those abuses not by accusing the king o f tyranny but o f abdication and weakness. This central perception was, o f course, very closely bound up in 1642 w ith the fear o f popery and belief in popish plot to subvert m onarchy and the protestant religion. I see no reason - especially in the wake o f recent w ork by Caroline Hibbard, A nthony Fletcher, Paul Christianson, William Lamont, and others,36 to doubt that men like John Pym were genuinely convinced both o f the reality o f the plot and o f the need to take up arms to defend the nation from it. In their account o f the plot, the radicals around Pym saw Charles as a man whose m ind had been so poisoned by the lies and deceptions o f the papists and their fellow-travellers that he was no longer capable o f defending his office or his realm. He was guilty not o f tyranny but o f abdication, not o f over-m ightiness but o f supineness. It is a them e o f P ym ’s speeches from 26 January 1642 on, o f several other MPs, m ost notably Peter W entw orth in the autum n o f 1642, and is one o f the charges against which the anonym ous royalist pamphleteer o f September 1642 set out to defend the king.37 34. Master S t John His Speech in Parliament on M onday, the 17th o f January, Concerning the Charge o f Treason Exhibited against the Bishops (1642), p. 3. 35. H. Parker, The True Grounds o f Ecclesiastical Regiment (1641), p. 12. 36. Hibbard, Popish Plot; Fletcher, Outbreak; P. Christianson, Reformers and Babylon (1978), ch. 5; W. Lam ont, Godly Rule (1970), ch. 1-2. 37. LJ, 4, 540-3, 5 p. 201-2; C. T h om p son (ed.), Walter Yonge’s Diary o f Proceedings in the House o f Commons (1986), p. 34. J.S. A. A dam son, ‘P ym as Draftsman: an U npublished Declaration o f March 1643’, Parliamentary History 6 (1987), 137, for P y m ’s w illingness to make use o f the charge w ell into the war.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

The argum ent from incapacity and abdication provided the Houses w ith an alternative justification for taking up arms in 1642: the argum ent from necessity. If the king failed in the essential task o f protecting the people from antichrist, then the people m ust look to their ow n defence. Such arguments perm itted a limited program o f constitutional change and avoided the risk o f either contem plating the deposition or execution o f the king. It involved putting him in a decontam ination chamber surrounded by soothing protestantnationalist noises until he was detoxified, which m ight take tw enty years. Let us draw together the threads. The reforms o f 1641 - the removal o f evil counsellors, the abolition o f conciliar jurisdictions and prerogative revenues - were essentially negative acts. O nly the Triennial Bill was a constructive reform. Furtherm ore, the bulk o f the ‘remedial’ measures were traditional in form - i.e., king-in-parliam ent using the om nicom petence o f statute to remedy grievance - and they were agreed with little dissent.38 The Grand Rem onstrance was certainly m ore aggressive in nature and content, but thereafter the H ouses’ defence o f their constitutional demands can only be described as reactive, a series o f ad hoc responses to royal escalations.39 Charles was portrayed as the aggressor, seeking to overturn the settlement arrived at by consent or by traditional means in 1641; necessity and the irreducible rights o f every free man to protect his life and liberties from the collapse o f governm ent were the grounds o f taking up arm s.40 If the king failed to mobilize his people against the threat o f popery at hom e and abroad, the people m ust be instructed by their representatives in Parliament to take the necessary steps to protect themselves. But the rhetoric remained reactive and was unfolded reluctantly as new aggressions were added to existing ones. C onstitutional demands were arrived at hesitantly piecemeal, and justifications, often half-hearted ones, were found after the event.41 Lois Schwoerer has shown this in her case study o f the making o f 38. The major acts are listed in Gardiner, Constit. Docs, nos. 27-31, 3 3-8. Let me stress: these are not ‘revolutionary’ or innovative in fo rm : they are enacted by king-in-parliam ent. For the com parison betw een this constitutional propriety and the w illingness to appropriate pow ers not hitherto claim ed in order to bring Laudianism crashing d ow n , see J.S. M orrill, ‘The Attack on the Church o f England in the Long Parlim ent’, above ch. 4. 39. Cf. M orrill, ‘R eligious C on text’, pp. 58-60. 40. E .g ., Husbands, Exact Collection, passim, though for good exam ples see the undated declaration (2 A ugust 1642?), pp. 461-4, and the Declaration o f 8 A ugust 1642, pp. 491-9. 41. M orrill, ‘R eligious C on text’, above, pp. 58-61.


Charles I and Tyranny

the Militia O rdinance,42 and I have suggested elsewhere that what is remarkable about the ordinances Parliament issued in the m onths before the outbreak o f the civil war is the fact that they were noncoercive.43 H ow ever desperate Parliam ent’s desire, in the face o f royal aggression, to gain control o f the militia and o f the purse-strings, they could not bring themselves to give their ordinances the force o f law: they were morally but not legally binding. Before I draw my conclusions, I want to develop tw o final and broad points about constitutional reticence. I w ant to discuss the striking failure o f the Houses to draw on precedent and on English history in their defence o f their actions in 1642, and I w ant to relate that to the kind o f peace that their waging o f war was intended to make possible. It is a commonplace o f T udor and early Stuart scholarship that lawyers and antiquarians felt no inhibition about exploring and applying precedents o f innum erable kinds; and that this was a grow th industry in the 1620s. The extraordinary absence o f such references from the polemic o f 1642 is thus all the m ore remarkable. O n reflection, perhaps absence is too strong a term; perhaps it w ould be m ore accurate to speak o f the presence o f only muffled and opaque references. Let us take the case or the Nineteen Propositions.44 At one level, they seem little more than an attem pt to appropriate for Englishmen what the king had already conceded to his Scottish subjects.45 Yet there are some tantalizing glimpses o f fourteenth century parliamentary docum ents contain within it, perhaps m ost notably the ordinances o f 1311 and the Modus Tenendi Parliamentum o f 1322.46 I am puzzled by the particular list o f royal officials w hom the Houses were to approve. N ote the prom inence o f the constable, the lord high steward and the earl marshall, the three officers em powered within the Modus to establish a commission o f estates in the event o f an irreconcilable dispute between the king and the m agnates.47 The

42. L. Schwoerer, ‘“The Fittest Subject for a K in g’s Quarrel:” an Essay in the M ilitia C on troversy’, 11 (1971). 43. See the im portant speech by d ’Ew es, BL, Harl. M .S ., 163 fol. 427. 44. See above, pp. 10-13. 45. A p oin t m ade by D avid S teven son , T he Scottish Revolution (1973), ch. 7; P. D on ald , ‘Charles I’s S cottish P o lic y ’ (PhD thesis, U n iv ersity o f C am bridge 1987), chs. 5-6; C. R ussell, ‘T h e British P roblem and the E nglish C ivil W ar’, H istory, 72 (1987), 39 5 -4 1 5 . 46. N . Pronay and J. T aylor, Parliamentary T exts o f the Later M iddle Ages (1980), pp. 13—117; M .V . Clarke, M edieval Representation and Consent (1936), esp. pp. 188-93. 47. Pronay and Taylor, p. 87.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

presence o f the constable is especially remarkable, both because the constable was held by m any antiquaries to have the authority, in extremis , to arrest the king and because the office had been in effect vacant since 1521 or even earlier48 The connection remains elusive and was never spelled out, perhaps deliberately so. A further tantalizing resonance in the Nineteen Propositions is w ith the fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century debate on the nature o f counsel, recently discussed by John G uy.49 The tension between an ‘aristocratic’ and a ‘bureaucratic’ council, that is, w hether the king should be advised by representatives o f the estates who could inform him o f the needs and grievances o f the com m onw ealth or by his ow n chosen servants, was one o f the central themes o f the later middle ages; and the case for the form er was pressed not only by baronial interests, but by loyalist writers such as Fortescue, St German, Elyot, and Starkey, all o f w hom believed that king and realm w ould benefit from a scheme in which the royal council was appointed or at least approved by representatives o f the estates.50 Despite these comfortable precedents, let alone the many uncom fortable ones, however, the Parliamentarians o f 1642 argued for their right to veto councillors on grounds o f necessity and not o f history, as guards against popery and the king’s blindness to the evils o f the counsellors around him in on the eve o f the w ar.51 M ore interesting is what m ust have been a conscious decision not to argue the case for the constitutional reforms envisaged by the leaders o f the tw o Houses in 1642. For all the populist agitation o f 1641, the extraordinary thing about the constitutional deadlock in 1642 was that it concerned issues not o f parliamentary sovereignty, still less o f popular liberties; it was concerned w ith the restoration o f the ancient peerage to its dom inant role around the C row n. The civil war began as an aristocratic coup.52 Parliam ent’s war aims were set forth in tw o documents: the Militia Ordinance and the Nineteen Propositions. The Militia Ordinance certainly appropriates to the tw o Houses the right to nom inate lords

48. T. Hearne, A Collection o f Curious Discourses, 2 vols. (1771), 2, 65-9, 265-7. 49. J. Guy, ‘The K in g’s C ouncil and Political Participation’, in. A. Fox and J. G uy, Reassessing the Henrician A ge (1986), 121-51. 50. Important authors in this connection include Fortescue, see C. Plum m er (ed.), The Governance o f England (1886), app. B, pp. 348-53; and K .M . Burton (ed.), A Dialogue between Reginald Pole and Sir Thomas Lupset (1948), pp. 155-66. 51. E .g ., Husbands, Exact Collection, pp. 92, 96-103, 195-214, 491-9. 52. This w ill shortly be the subject o f a major study by John A dam son, w h o w ill develop and dem onstrate this point at length.


Charles I and Tyranny

lieutenant - but it merely names the men who were to control local defence forces throughout England. In almost every case the lord, lieutenant was to be a peer o f the realm .53 Those newly appointed included twice as many men whose titles had been created before 1558 as there were in the group they replaced.54 Alm ost no men w ith post-1603 titles were newly appointed. It was these peers, not Parliament, who were to choose the deputy lieutenants, and together they were given greater freedom and responsibility for the training and deploym ent o f the militia than existed before 1640.55 The Nineteen Propositions laid out terms for ensuring that Charles stayed within the fram ew ork agreed in 1641. It claimed for the two Houses the right to veto all royal appointm ents to his council and to named senior offices; it made ministers accountable for the advice they gave; it allowed parliamentary vetting o f those appointed to educate the king’s children; it strengthened the laws against Catholics; and it com m itted the king to accept whatever reform o f the C hurch was proposed by an assembly o f puritan ministers and laymen to be established by Parliam ent.56 N o attem pt was made to formalize Parliam ent’s role in the adm inistration o f the country: to make perm anent that range o f duties which they had assumed on an ad hoc basis during the crisis o f 1641 - supervising the levying and disbursem ent o f taxes, direct involvem ent in the negotiation o f treaties and alliances - or to institutionalize the standing com m ittee o f estates between parliamentary sessions and so on.57 Instead, the Houses sought the right to approve appointm ents principally to major offices. This has norm ally been seen as aiming to enhance the authority o f Parliament. In so far as it did so, it was simply the lever by which an aristocratic coup could be completed. These proposals were not designed disingenuously, in a void. Those w ho proposed them knew

53. The List is in LJ, 4. 587. 54. For royal appointees hitherto, seeJ.L . Sainty, Lords Lieutenants o f English Counties 1559-1642 (List and Index Society, 1970). 55. Gardiner, Const. Docs., pp. 245-7, gives the text but not the names. This is sym ptom atic o f all editors o f ‘constitutional d ocum ents’ from the nineteenth century on. T he sam e thing happens w ith the O xford, U xb rid ge, and N ew castle Propositions and the Heads o f the Proposals. We w ill never understand the political responses to peace proposals unless w e realize that Charles had to decide not on (and som etim es, as in 1647, between) sets o f proposals but at the sam e tim e on a slate o f names o f those he w ou ld have to be counselled by. 56. Gardiner, Const. Docs., pp. 249-54. 57. For w hich sec D .H . P ennington, ‘The M aking o f War’, in D .H . P ennington and K .V . T hom as (eds.), Puritans and Revolutionaries (1979). S. Lambert, ‘The O pening o f the Long Parliam ent’, HJ, 27 (1974), is also im portant.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

just who they wished to see placed in each o f the major offices. It is notew orthy that the first nine offices named in the propositions were those traditionally held by the peerage. Furtherm ore, as we have already seen, the Nineteen Propositions attem pted to reestablish a medieval doctrine o f council and the primacy o f the ancient nobility. While a m ajority o f all peers supported the king, a clear m ajority o f the peers whose titles were pre-Elizabethan supported Parliament. Yet at no point did the Houses, in any o f their ‘official’ defences o f the Militia Ordinance or Nineteen Propositions, make the connection w ith the precedents that they m ust have had in mind. These unsystematic evocations apart, the exchanges between king and Parliament in 1642 addressed specific historical precedents on only three occasions, and on tw o o f those it was the king’s side that took the initiative. The first occasion was when the king applied the Treason Act o f 25 Edw ard III and the De Facto Act o f 11 H enry VII to prove his case against Sir John Hotham , a case which the Houses only partially addressed in their reply.58 The second was the king’s reliance on 5 H enry IV to justify the issuing o f the C om m ission o f Array, a use which was fully and quite effectively challenged by the H ouses,59 and the third was the H ouse’s ow n citation o f the preamble to the Statute o f Provisors, by which they claimed ‘the obligation that lyeth upon the kings o f this realm to pass such bills as are offered unto them by both Houses o f Parliam ent’.60 The king gave a reply which the Houses found it impossible to counter, and he added salt to the w ound by offering a translation o f the relevant section o f the preamble together with the observation that the Houses had published it only in Latin which ‘they knew many o f our good subjects could not and many o f them do not understand’.61 The paucity, and shallowness o f such exchanges contrast with the detailed and assured way that the debate on episcopacy and on the tem poral authority o f ministers was fought out in the House and in print with relation to scripture, to the prim itive Church and with relation to statute. Perhaps they were deterred by the fact that even generally sympathetic antiquarians like Selden and d ’Ewes were always likely to denounce specious use o f precedents, as Selden did during the attainder o f Strafford and during the passage o f the Militia

58. 59. 60. 61.


Husbands, Exact Collection, pp. 154—5. Ibid., pp. 372-5, 386-95. Ibid., p. 268. Ibid., p. 291.

Charles I and Tyranny

O rdinance.62 At any rate, their failure to dem onstrate that they were acting within established constitutional procedures created m ounting problems for them. They had campaigned fiercely in 1641 to represent Charles’s governm ent as innovative. They held all innovations to be wrong. Yet by the sum m er o f 1642 they stood accused o f precisely the same practices themselves and they found themselves asserting that if wc have made any precedents this Parliament, we have made them for posterity, upon the same or better grounds o f reason and Law then those were upon, w hich our predecessors first made for us, and some presidents ought not to be rules for us to follow; so none can be limits to bound our proceedings and m ust vary according to the different conditions o f times. . . . If there were never any example . . . it is because there were never any such M onsters before, that ever attem pted to disaffect the people from their Parliam ent.63

Ill-considered and undefended statements like this gave the king his greatest propaganda coup. W ith the Houses too inhibited to pin the label o f tyrant on the king, they were all too vulnerable to having him pin the label o f tyranny on them. In August 1642 he alleged that the faction which had mystified and manipulated the House o f C om m ons had set out to create conditions o f anarchy the better to secure themselves as tyrants.64 The title o f m y lecture was, then, profoundly ironic. Although in January 1649, Charles I may, ruefully, have looked back on his shipwrecked fortunes and recognized that he had perhaps contributed to his undoing by misuse o f power, a limited legal tyranny, and although by the conventions o f the day, he could certainly have stood accused o f that charge, it is Charles w ho began the civil war very precisely sticking the label on his enemies and gaining support throughout the country as a result. I have been arguing for several years that the best title for the crisis in m id-seventeenth century England is ‘England’s Wars o f Religion’. This title locates the civil wars in an early m odern context rather than as the precursor o f the revolutions o f the m odern world; it reminds us that England’s wars in the 1640s and 1650s were wars w ith Scotland and Ireland as well as with itself. It does not mean that the crisis in England, any m ore than the earlier religious wars in France, the Netherlands, and Germany were only about religion. The

62. C .V . W ed gw ood , Thomas Wentworth, First Earl o f Strafford (1961), p. 366; BL, Harl. M .S . 163, fol. 254v. 63. Husbands, Exact Collection, p. 265. 64. Ibid., pp. 514-15, 528-62.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

swirling cross-currents o f social change and the structural problems associated w ith the grow th o f the state both contributed to the nature and outcom e o f the wars o f religion. Yet m ost historians w ould see confessional polarities as exercising the single m ost powerful pull and I would claim no m ore for England in the 1640s and 1650s. Once the will to defy the king and take up arms against him had been formed, m any other considerations determ ined how individuals decided to respond. M any followed the line o f least resistance, or followed material self-interest; many m ore tried to opt out; many ju st did what they were told. Those who com m itted themselves to one side or the other often allowed their assessment o f the king’s record o f secular m isgovernm ent or parliam ent’s usurpation o f his hitherto unquestioned prerogative to sway them. But in m y view, very few men opted for war, made war happen, determ ined that there should be a war, if their preoccupations were prim arily secular and constitutional. If there were constitutional radicals w ho were religious moderates, I have not discovered them. Those who, on the parliamentary side, made things happen, were those who, whatever their views on the best way to preserve a balanced constitution, felt passionately about religion. Fearful o f a popish takeover, persuaded by the preachers that God was offering them a stark choice between on the one hand a greater obedience to H im and on the other hand the erection o f a church m ore congruent w ith His commands or subjection to popery and superstition, the religious hard-liners sought not conservation but reform ation, not checks and balances but dynam ism and experiment. W hat I am trying to suggest is that the constitutional case for Parliament was m uddled and avoided the m ost obvious and potent traditions o f argum ent, while the religious case was argued powerfully and divisively. From the m om ent the House o f C om m ons agreed to consider the Root and Branch petition, they were on the offensive w ith regard to religion; the suspension and deprivation o f ministers, the im peachment o f bishops, the licensing o f iconoclasm, the appointm ent o f ministers, the vetting o f religious treatises, all by the Houses and their committees, all backed up the determ ination to change things, while the popish plot created a belief that if no reform ation was completed, then God w ould perm it the subjugation o f his disobedient people to the yoke o f antichrist.65 M ore than 75 per

65. Morrill, ‘Attack on the Church’, above, ch. 4.


Charles I and Tyranny

cent o f all published parliamentary speeches and m ore than 75 per cent o f all tracts on public affairs in the years 1640-2 were concerned with the matters o f church governm ent and liturgy - the percentage would be higher if sermons are included. This literature served to polarize opinion and not to create consensus. In contrast virtually no MP published his speech or speeches on the Grand Remonstrance, the Militia Ordinance, the Nineteen Propositions.66 A nthony Fletcher’s w ork on county petitioning would suggest that after the sum m er o f 1641, petitions on religion tended to polarize opinion, petitions on constitutional issues tended to reinforce peace and consensus. Where are the mass petitions for the Nineteen Propositions to compare with the mass petitions for and against bishops?67 Thus m y analysis o f the political polemics o f the Long Parliament does not shift me from seeing religious issues as being those which made civil war happen. Political issues help to explain w hat many men do once a state o f war exists. But the political crisis o f 1641 led on to a particular kind o f war because a m inority o f zealots believed there w ould be no resolution o f the political impasse which would safeguard true religion unless they took up arms to bring it about. In January 1642, Francis White, MP, accused the bishops o f being the prim e authors o f all the troubles we are now encumbered withall . . . by innovating religion, joyning w ith the Church o f Rome, approving as well o f the doctrines as the ceremonies t h e r e o f . . . to raise divisions between the king and his subjects, king and Parliament, between Lords and C om m ons and between the C om m ons themselves; to raise mutinies, insurrection, rebellions am ong his M ajesty’s kingdoms, one against another, and all under pretence o f religion.68

Seven m onths later, on 12 August 1642, the Lords and C om m ons declared that: by the concurrence and assistance o f the papists, an ambitious and discontented clergy, delinquents obnoxious to the Parliament, and some ill-affected persons o f the nobility and gentry; w ho out o f their desire o f a dissolute liberty, apprehend and w ould keep o ff the reform ation intended by the Parliament . . . [their aim was] that so m en’s minds made poor and base, and their Liberties lost and gone, they m ight be ready to let goc their religion, w hensoever it should be resolved to alter

66. The w h ole subject o f the printing o f parliamentary speeches in the years 1640-2 is dealt w ith by A. C rom atie, ‘The Printing o f Parlimcntary Speeches, N ovem b er 1640 to July 1642’, HJ, X X X III (1990), pp. 23-44. 67. Fletcher, Origins, chs. 6, 8, 10-12. 68. M r W hite’s speech in Parliament on Monday the 17th o f January, Concerning the Triall o f the X I I Bishops, pp. 4-5.


The Nature o f the English Revolution it, which was, and still is, the great designe, and all else made use of, but as instrum entary and subservient to it.69

M any things weakened Charles I’s hold on the affections o f his subjects. But it was that perception and belief which made civil war necessary and which was ultim ately to bring him to the scaffold.

69. Husbands, Exact Collection, p. 492.



The A rm y R evolt o f 1647

I In order to win the civil war, Parliament had to tram ple on those very susceptibilities and conventional political wisdom s which it went to war to protect. The parliamentarian propaganda o f 1642 is drenched in the language o f civil liberties: o f freedom from arbitrary taxation; from arbitrary im prisonm ent; from misguided paternalism; and from the centralizing tendencies o f early Stuart monarchy. The dream world o f many Parliamentarians, particularly in the provinces, was o f a well-ordered state comprising sem i-autonom ous local communities meeting com m on problems, and seeking powers to answer local needs, through free parliaments under the general regulation o f a m onarch whose role was that o f chief justiciar and arbiter. Instead, more and more as the years passed, Parliament was forced to break with all the cherished nostrums conjured up by their propaganda. They fought to protect a herd o f sacred cows each o f which was slaughtered to propitiate the god o f war. Unprecedented fiscal demands were met by a massive invasion o f property rights; rights o f habeas corpus and trial by ju ry were swept aside by a massive introduction o f droit administratif:; billeting o f troops, free quarter, martial law were soon widely in force. Unlike the king, Parliament abandoned all pretence o f respecting the traditional modes o f consultation with and delegation to the particular institutional bodies which had evolved in each county and borough. Indeed, every article o f the Petition o f Right, the m ost cherished statement o f the rights o f the subject drawn up in the early seventeenth century, was broken by Parliament in the course o f the war. And I have argued that, as a result, there was a great revulsion against the wars in 1645 and 1646 which took tw o forms: the m ilitant neutralism evident in such m ovem ents as the


The Nature o f the English Revolution

Clubmen, w ho demanded a return to the old institutions and ways, and an end to centralization and governm ent unresponsive to local needs and sensibilities, and the radicalism o f the Levellers, again dem anding an end to the powers assumed by Parliament, but seeking a massive democratization as well as a massive decentralization o f pow er and justice. They are closely related m ovements, both earthed in the m ythology o f local com m unity consensus governm ent, and both created by the harsh facts o f war. N either could ultimately cope w ith the continuing existence o f the N ew M odel A rm y .1 In 1647 the Houses o f Parliament were trapped between incom patible objectives. They were com m itted to a settlement with a king w ho was com m itted not to agree to a settlement; they were conscious that the continuing fiscal and administrative burdens threatened a further outbreak o f provincial rebellions; they were also conscious o f the continuing existence o f an army owed £3m in arrears - this in the context o f a kingdom whose royal revenues before the civil war had never approached £ lm p .a.2 The apparent folly o f the Parliament in attem pting to disband the A rm y w ithout settlement o f its grievances m ust be weighed in that context. The struggle between Parliament and A rm y in 1647 is the history o f tw o groups who ultimately needed one another but who long failed to recognize the fact.3 Recent w ork has made the policies o f the Presbyterian alliance in Parliament m ore comprehensible. It has also emphasized that the Leveller ideas penetrated the A rm y rather later than had been thought.4 M y task here is to examine those bread-and-butter grievances o f the A rm y w ith which they were exclusively concerned until the end o f M ay 1647, and to see how far those grievances were subsequently redressed. Historians have too often presumed that once the A rm y was politicized, made aware o f its political destiny and constitutional responsibilities by the Levellers, its material grievances became unim portant. Far from it. I w ant to argue that from early June onwards Parliament was providing remedies to those grievances, but that those remedies required an extension o f the very administrative

1. J.S. M orrill, The Revolt o f the Provinces (London, 1976), sections 2 and 3. 2. I. Gentles, ‘The Arrears o f Pay o f the Parliamentary A rm y at the End o f First C ivil W ar’, Bulletin o f the Institute o f Historical Research, XLVIII (1975), 52-63. 3. V. Pearl, ‘L ondon’s C ou n ter-R evolu tion ’ in The Interregnum (ed. G .E. A ylm er, London, 1972), pp. 29-56; I. G entles, ‘Arrears o f Pay and Id eology in the A rm y R evolt o f 1647’, in War and Society (eds. B. B ond and I. R oy, London, 1975), pp. 44-66. 4. Gentles, ibid.; J.S. M orrill, ‘M utiny and D iscontent in English Provincial A rm ies’, b elow , ch. 17.


The A rm y Revolt o f 1647

and legal abuses against which the Levellers railed. By the end o f 1647, the Leveller program m e looked in many respects unsatisfactory to the rank and file, and this helped the Grandees to re-establish their control and put a brake on arm y radicalism. II In February 1647 the Scots arm y was paid off and returned home. The way was now clear for the Presbyterian leaders at W estminster to win the support o f the many backbenchers eager to see an end to the burdens, fiscal and administrative, imposed by the civil war. It was this motive, rather than a prescient fear o f army radicalism, which led the Presbyterians to call for the reduction o f the A rm y to 5,400 men in England; the remainder were to be disbanded or sent to Ireland.5 Between the end o f February and the end o f May, the increasingly sour exchanges o f views between the Houses and the officers o f the N ew M odel A rm y centred around the arrangements for the Irish expedition and around the safeguards o f the rights o f soldiers which should be enacted before the disbandm ent.6 The demands o f the A rm y which gradually emerged during these m onths related almost entirely to the soldiers’ rights as soldiers. There is little evidence that Leveller ideas, or any conception o f the A rm y’s responsibilities to prom ote broader political objectives, had emerged at this stage. O n 20 May, for example, the agitators w rote to the N orthern regim ents7 counselling them to do ‘nothing but what is relating to them as soldiers’.8 But the best and m ost comprehensive evidence o f this comes from the A rm y’s debates at Saffron Walden in the middle o f May. At these, the Council o f Officers asked every regim ent to draw up a list o f its ow n grievances. The Council o f Officers then made a digest o f the demands o f the soldiers, and presented it to Parliament under the title the Declaration o f the Arm y. An analysis o f the original

5. S.R. Gardiner, History o f the Great C ivil War (4 vols, London, 1894), III, 212-30; M .P . M ahony, The Presbyterian Party in the Long Parliament, 2 J u ly 1644 to 3 June 1647 (O xford D . Phil, thesis, 1972), chs. v ii-ix . 6. The N e w M odel was all too w ell aware that prom ises, subsequently ignored, had been made to other units w hich Parliament had disbanded (e.g. M assey’s Western Brigade in the sum m er and autum n o f 1646). 7. The N orthern regim ents contributed a separate force o f 12,000 m en under the com m and o f the (Presbyterian) Major-General P oyntz until he was overthrow n in a m utiny in July 1647. T hey w ere then m erged w ith the N e w M odel; Morrill, M utiny, pp. 69-71. 8. The Clarke Papers. Selections from the Papers o f William Clarke (ed. C .H . Firth for the Cam den Society, 4 vols, 1891-1901), I, 91.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

papers presented by eleven o f the regiments is given in appendix II, below .9 These petitions show that while the language and the precise problems o f every regim ent were quite distinct,10 there was a general consensus about w hat were the main concerns, and a very clear agreement on priorities. Alm ost all the petitions begin with, and devote m ost space to, problems relating to arrears and indemnity. These are the tw o major problems to which we shall turn in a m om ent. But it is also im portant to emphasize that the Declaration o f the A rm y is a very fair reflection o f the demands o f the rank-andfile. As the officers said, some o f the regiments were ‘confused and full o f tautologies, impertinences or weaknesses answerable to the Soldiers’ dialects’11 but it is the language, not the specific demands, which they sm oothed out. The only substantial issues referred to in m ore than tw o petitions to be om itted by the officers were enforced service in Ireland and the charges o f corruption wildly brought against committees o f the Houses and in the counties. O n the form er issue, at least, the views o f the officers had often been heard at W estm inster.12 T w o issues, however, stand out above the rest: arrears and indem nity. While Professor Gentles has done m uch to elucidate the nature o f the form er,13 the latter has received little attention, and it is with this m atter that I propose to begin. M any o f the principal military and fiscal ordinances passed by Parliament since 1643 had contained clauses freeing the agents o f Parliament from any legal liability for actions undertaken on parliam entary authority. There were, however, tw o main problems: the ordinances did not extend to protect officers and soldiers who

9. The originals are in the library o f W orcester C ollege, O xford, Clarke M S. 41, fos. 105-25. I am grateful to the Provost and Fellow s for their perm ission to consult and cite these papers, and to M iss L. M on tgom ery, custodian o f the M SS, for her kindness and help. The eleven regim ents included are those o f Rich, D isb row e, Ireton, W halley, Boteler, Fairfax (foot), H ew son , (Hardrcss) Waller, (Robert) Lilburne, H arley and Lambert. 10. T he exception to this is that Fairfax’s foot regim ent and H ew so n ’s regim ent presented identical petitions. 11. Cited in Gentles, ‘Arrears o f Pay and Id eology’, p. 49. 12. Professor Gentles claims that ‘a comparison between the Declaration o f the Arm y and the individual regimental papers bears out the officers’ claim to have exercised a m oderating influence’; G entles, ibid., 50. H e gives four exam ples. T w o o f them w ere matters raised only by one regim ent, one by tw o regim ents. The fourth com plaint was taken up by the officers using m ore m oderate language. The O fficers’ Declaration was not intended to include every item included by every regim ent, but to reflect fairly general issues. The real difference is one o f tone. 13. Gentles, ‘The Arrears o f Pay o f the Parliamentary A rm y’, passim.


The Arm y Revolt o f 1647

had assumed emergency powers in prosecuting the war, and the enforcement o f the indem nity clauses was in the hands o f men determ ined to ignore them. Colonel Rich’s regim ent described ‘the sad complaints & the miserable sufferings o f many o f our fellow soldiers who now suffer, and the recalling to our serious meditations the miserable im prisonm ent and ignom inious death o f m any who were real and faithful to the service, all which they have undergone for acting things which the exigency o f war constrained them to do’. 14 Thus, several regiments demanded an extension o f indem nity to cover ‘all things done as soldiers in relation to the w ar’, or ‘that which they have done in time and place o f w ar’. 15 The fact remained for others, however, that ‘we conceive, that upon every trespass, or other thing done in the war (which we may be questioned for) it will be very chargeable and difficult either to derive a clear authority for the same from the Ordinances o f Parliament, or to bring proofs sufficient to make up such a constructive conclusion’. 16 This also led on to a second and m ore far-reaching demand. The end o f the civil war and the restoration o f the norm al processes o f law (quarter sessions, assizes, borough courts) had led very many civilians to bring actions against soldiers alleging civil damage or criminal acts. Juries and justices were totally disregarding even existing indem nity rights, and were convicting soldiers or awarding damages against them. Thus Colonel H arley’s regim ent demanded that Parliament ‘preserve us from the com m on law ’. 17 It is also clear that m any county committees, in pursuing local interests, had arbitrarily im prisoned m any men, and the regimental petitions are bitterly hostile to county com m ittees.18 The soldiers demanded institutional protection from existing committees and courts. From late April onwards, Parliament was prepared to make concessions over indem nity. O n 30 April, even before the regimental petitions were drawn up at Saffron Walden, but in response to an earlier army petition, the C om m ons resolved to press ahead with a Bill o f Indemnity. By 21 May, this Bill had passed both Houses and had been published.19 Its central provision, however, was ambiguous,

14. Clarke MS. 41, fos. 113-14. 15. Ibid., fos. 105, 119. 16. J. R ushw orth, Historical Collections (8 vols., London, 1659-1701), VII, 508; cited in M orrill, Revolt, pp. 175-6. 17. Clarke MS. 41, fos. 120-3. 18. Ibid., fos. 108, 119; see also British Library (hereafter BL), T hom ason Tracts E 392(9) and Rushw orth, Historical Collections, VII, 505-10. 19. CJ, V, 158, 166, 174, 181; LJ, IX, 201.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

and certainly did not go as far as the soldiers wanted: ‘that no person or persons whatsoever, w ho have since the beginning o f this present Parliament, acted or done, or com m anded to be acted any act or thing whatsoever, by authority o f this present Parliament, or for the service or benefit thereof by Sea or by Land, ought to be sued, indicted, prosecuted or molested for the sam e’. U nfortunately the precise meaning o f the phrase ‘for the service or benefit’ o f Parliament was left unexplained. Did it include the many acts o f m ilitary requisition, often in the grey area between distraint and plunder, sanctioned not by a warrant derived from an ordinance but by the exigencies o f war? The m uch m ore radical claims o f the 21 May ordinance came in the second half, and showed the extent to which, even at this stage, Parliament was willing to accommodate the Arm y. Any soldiers or civilians who believed themselves protected by the ordinance, and who were ‘not able to defend a suit at com m on law, or may find themselves aggrieved in the proceedings thereof were granted the right o f appeal to a new standing com m ittee o f Parliament (comprising fifty-tw o members o f the C om m ons and tw enty-six o f the Lords) who were given swingeing powers (a) to stay proceedings before all courts and commissioners, (b) to im prison plaintiffs who continued actions against those under the protection o f the Indemnity commissioners, (c) ‘to receive, hear and determ ine such aforesaid complaints, and to that end to examine witnesses upon oath’, (d) to annul any verdict, sentence or judgem ent made elsewhere and to award triple damages to the complainant, (e) to inhibit all lawyers from acting on behalf o f plaintiffs continuing their actions at com m on law or initiating collateral actions, including the pow er to com m it any lawyer w ho took instructions ‘to safe custody’. The ordinance clearly conceded that judges and juries, especially in the boroughs, were not honouring, and were not expected to begin honouring, rights o f indem nity.20 This ordinance did not satisfy the soldiers who demanded, in a petition o f 4 June, a clarification o f the indem nity clauses; indeed, a blanket protection for all things done in time and place o f war, sufficient ‘to meet all the evasions and elusions o f a subtle lawyer or to convince the senses o f a C ountry Ju ry ’.21 W ithin three days the soldiers’ demand was satisfied by a new ordinance that distinguished their indem nity ‘for all such acts as the exigency o f war hath 20. C .H . Firth and R .S. Rait, Acts and Ordinances o f the Interregnum (3 vols, London, 1911), I, 936-8. 21. Rushw orth, Historical Collections, VII, 508.


The Arm y Revolt o f 1647

necessitated them un to ’ from that o f civilian officials, only indem nified for actions clearly derived from parliamentary ordinance.22 O n 4 June the A rm y did indeed express regret that their indem nity should be ‘the occasion o f setting up m ore arbitrary courts than there be already’ but the actual operation o f the com m ittee soon w on them over and by December, the A rm y actually demanded an extension o f the system with the creation o f county committees o f indem nity chosen jointly by the A rm y and Parliament under the control o f the central com m ittee.23 In December the A rm y also asked that these new indem nity committees should be made responsible for the raising and disbursing o f local rates for the relief o f maimed soldiers and widows - powers which had always resided with the Justices o f the Peace. At first sight this is a surprising request. What was the connection with indemnity? In fact it w ould have been only one o f several radical extensions o f the jurisdiction o f the indem nity commissioners which were assumed by the com m ittee in the course o f 1647 and 1648. One o f the demands made by several regiments in May was that royalists and neuters should be excluded from office. As Hardress W aller’s men put it: faithful, cordially, godly men some w hereof related to this arm y . . . are discountenanced, distrusted, and put out o f office and places o f authority and others am bidexters and neuters &c, are preferred to places o f trust, yea some [who] were apparent malignants are made tryers and judges o f those w ho have been and still are faithful and cordial in the behalf o f the kingdom ’s good.24

The problem was greatest in the boroughs over whose governors Parliament often had restricted control. O n 9 September Parliament passed an ordinance disabling from office all those who had ever been sequestered as enemies o f the Parliament. Those who had wriggled back to pow er were also to be heavily fined. A second ordinance on 4 O ctober extended the prohibition to all borough electors. B oth these ordinances were to be enforced by the Indem nity Commissioners. W ithin a few weeks, they received complaints about the tow n governm ents o f M aidstone, Stamford, Carlisle, Wigan, and elsewhere, and had launched investigations which led to heavy purges.25

22. 23. 24. 25.

Firth and Rait, Acts, I, 953—4. LJ, IX, 556-63. Clarke MS. 41, fos. 117-18. Firth and Rait, A cts, I, 1009, 1023; Public Record O ffice (hereafter PRO ) SP 24/1, passim.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

Several regim ents had also asked that apprentices who had enlisted for Parliament during the war should, upon disbandment, be made free o f their trades or crafts as though they had completed their apprenticeships.26 Legislation already existed to protect them in this respect,27 but enforcement lay with the local courts and it is clear that local governors were simply refusing to im plem ent it. Parliament soon granted pow er to enforce these ordinances to the C om m ittee o f Indem nity.28 The papers o f the Indem nity C om m ittee confirm the extent to which the soldiers’ demands had been gratified by 1647. The com mittee, meeting on three or four days each week, soon came under the control o f a small num ber o f men. N one o f the peers and only a m inority o f the C om m ons attended the committee. Alm ost all the m ost active members in 1647-8 were future Rumpers, and several o f the m ost assiduous were am ong those who w ithdrew to the A rm y during the counter-revolution in July. O nly tw o men associated with the Presbyterian leadership (John Birch and John Swinfen) were at all active on the committee. M ore characteristic o f the leadership in 1647 were men like Miles C orbett, H um phrey Edwards, Michael Livesey, William Purefoy, John Weaver and John Lisle. It was not so much the Independent leaders as their second-ranking supporters who led the w ay.29 The total num ber o f cases heard by the com m ittee is difficult to determine, since many were heard on several dispersed occasions. But Professor Aylm er has estimated that more than 1,000 were begun by the end o f 1648, about a third o f which were brought by soldiers.30 The great m ajority o f these were quite straightforw ard. Quarterm asters who had taken up quantities o f military supplies

26. 27. 28. 29.

Clarke M S. 41, fos. 108-10, 112-15. Firth and Rait, Acts, I, 37. Firth and Rait, ibid, I, 1054. The C om m ittee o f Indem nity Papers (PRO SP 24) fall naturally into tw o main groups. The first scries o f sixteen volum es com prises the fair copy order books arranged in chronological order from 1647 to 1655. The main scries (m ore than fifty volum es) com prises the original petitions presented to the C om m issioners. T hese are arranged in alphabetical order. For the purposes o f this paper I exam ined the first three order books, covering the period up to the m iddle o f 1649, and a random sam ple o f tw elve boxes o f petitions. I am m ost grateful to Professor G .E. A im er for allow ing m e to read and use his unpublished paper, ‘Indem nity and O b livion , 1647-1659’. I consulted the petitions in the PR O , but the order b ooks form part o f the collection o f m icrofilm s recently issued by Harvester Press, under the title ‘Unpublished State Papers o f the English C ivil War and Interregnum ’, and it is in this form that I consulted them. 30. A ylm er, unpublished article.


The A rm y Revolt o f 1647

(food, clothing, colours, carts, boats) sought protection from actions for paym ent brought by their suppliers.31 Soldiers sought protection from men requiring paym ent for board and lodging;32 and from those suing them for having distrained goods or seized arm s.33 M any other soldiers had become involved in brawls or skirmishes with civilians while executing warrants or while simply on the m arch.34 Perhaps the com m onest petitions o f all relate to the seizure o f horses. But in m any o f these latter cases, no authority derived from an ordinance was alleged. They had simply com m andeered horses when the old ones had died, gone lame, or were about to foal.35 In some cases the situation became even m ore deeply confused. Thom as Smallwood, a com m on soldier, commandeered a horse at the battle o f R ow ton M oor, and subsequently sold it to an Elizabeth Kent. The latter was later sued at com m on law by the original owner, w ho was awarded £8 damages and £5 costs. But the ordinance was held to protect not only the soldier who seized the mare, but the person who subsequently acquired it, and Mistress Kent got her m oney back on appeal to the C om m issioners.36 John Carpenter o f Culham , Oxfordshire, was another beneficiary o f this loose interpretation o f the ordinance. He was taken prisoner by the royal garrison at O xford, and only released on paym ent o f a ransom o f £60. M ajor-General Browne, parliamentarian governor o f Abingdon, responded by taking prisoner an O xford man, from w hom he similarly demanded a £60 ransom which, with the consent o f his council o f war, he handed over to Carpenter. H ow ever the O xonian ‘hath since sued your petitioner for the said 60H & at O xford Assizes last obtained a verdict for the same against your petitioner’. C arpenter was rescued by the C om m issioners.37 Readers o f Professor H olm es’ study o f the truculent, uninhibited Lincolnshire parliamentarian, Colonel Edw ard K ing,38 will be unsurprised to learn that he appears in the papers o f the Indemnity C om missioners both as petitioner and as defendant. In July 1647 he sought redress against the action o f Nehemiah Rawson who had sued him in the courts for seizing and selling wool valued at £440 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38.

E .g. PRO SP 24/1 fos. 5 ^ 5 , 131. E .g. PRO SP 24/1 fos. 6, 13; SP 24/70 unfoliated petition o f Richard Price. E .g. PR O SP 24/1 fos. 20, 143; SP 24/31, petition o f Richard A ylesw orth. E .g. PR O SP 24/1 fos. 77, 133. E .g. PRO SP 24/1 fos. 18, 32. PRO SP 24/1 fo. 9. PRO SP 24/38, petition o f John Carpenter. C. Holm es, ‘C olonel Edward King and Lincolnshire Politics’, HJ, X V I (1973), 451-84.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

from the Parliamentarian garrison at Tattershall castle (part o f his feud w ith parts o f the local Parliamentarian establishment?). Since he had deployed the m oney ‘for the good o f the state’ he was indemnified, but the county com m ittee was ordered to repay Rawson out o f county funds. Yet at the same time King was him self being brought before the same com m ittee by Thom as Wallett, high constable o f Elloe hundred, who claimed that King had fined him £100 for failing to call a general meeting o f all the inhabitants o f his hundred. Four m onths later, King was vindicated in a report from Lincolnshire M embers o f Parliament Sir A nthony Irby and Sir Edw ard Aiscough. Yet Wallett ‘hath been faithful to the Parliament & constantly perform ed his duty to them for their service’, and the county com m ittee was again ordered to reim burse him. The commissioners trod carefully in the shark-infested waters o f Lincolnshire politics.39 M any o f the petitions reveal that the soldiers had pleaded the Ordinance o f Indemnity in the com m on law courts, but that the judges or juries had ignored it. In one case at York assizes, for example, both counsel for Sir Edw ard Rhodes, an officer in Lord Fairfax’s army, and the Justice o f Assize had argued for an acquittal on the ordinance, but the ju ry had convicted.40 Furtherm ore many cases surely fell outside the scope o f the ordinance. O ne soldier w ho was being sued for a pre-w ar debt owed to a royalist was protected by the com m issioners.41 But perhaps the m ost im portant creative extension o f the ordinance came with the willingness o f the commissioners to act on behalf o f parliamentary soldiers who found on their return to their tenancies that their landlords were determ ined to evict them or convert their copyholds to rack rents.42 Several im portant points can be made about the w orking o f the indem nity ordinances as they affected soldiers: (1) They were very broadly and generously interpreted by the commissioners. (2) They were willing to extend its scope to give protection to soldiers in their non-m ilitary problems. (3) In the years 1647-8 they almost invariably protected soldiers. The only exceptions involved soldiers who refused to subm it themselves to the committees for taking accounts. The ordinances had specifically excluded such actions from the jurisdiction o f the Indem nity commission. O ther groups o f 39. 40. 41. 42.


P R O SP 24/1 fos. 21, 71. PRO SP 24/71, petition o f 30 N ovem b er 1647. PR O SP 24/5 fo. 137. E .g. PR O SP 24/38, petition o f Richard Caswall.

The A rm y Revolt o f 1647

petitioners (notably excisemen) were quite often refused protection from the courts. (4) The tough action o f the commissioners in awarding triple damages against those harassing soldiers may have greatly reduced the num ber o f soldiers taken to court and may have strengthened the resolve o f judges to im plem ent the ordinances in the courts. (5) The petitions do confirm the deep hostility felt towards the A rm y by large sections o f the civilian population. It underscores all the other evidence recently presented that there was a very real threat o f the collapse o f order in the sum m er o f 1647. But the greatest threats came not from the Levellers but from the clashes o f soldiers and civilians in many garrison towns, in the fresh wave o f Clubm en or neutralist risings, in the activities o f mysterious brigand groups like the Dalesmen and the M osstroopers o f the Scots Border Counties or the M oorlanders o f north Staffordshire.43 This also gives credibility to the desperate attem pts o f the moderate m ajority in Parliament in the sum m er to cut the Gordian knot by disbanding. the A rm y as the probable prelude to a sell-out to the king. (6) And finally, the evidence powerfully suggests that only strong, effective executive action by a centralized, bureaucratic body exercising droit administratif could protect soldiers and civilians from a backlash in the provinces. Indemnity had not only to be pronounced but effected, and it could only be effected by action at the centre. Ill Parliam ent’s response to the A rm y’s other major concern, the question o f arrears, may have taught the soldiers the same lesson. For from the outset the A rm y’s demands were moderate and realizable. The problem was not so m uch one o f principle as o f enforcement. The total volum e o f arrears was in the region o f £2.8m; arrears for service in the N ew M odel were about £1.2m .44 As late as early June, Fairfax’s foot regim ent, one o f the most militant, declared that it would accept four m onths’ arrears in cash and the rest in debentures. Four m onths’ pay for the whole arm y would have cost less than the am ount Parliament borrow ed in order to raise a force to get rid o f the N ew M odel.45 In the Saffron Walden petitions, the regiments

43. M orrill Revolt, pp. 125-6; D .E . U n d erd ow n , Pride’s Purge (London, 1970), pp. 38-44, 90-5. 44. Gentles, ‘Arrears o f Pay o f the Parliamentary A rm y’, pp. 54—55. 45. Bodleian Library, Tanner MS. 58 fo. 129. See Gentles, ‘Arrears o f Pay and Ideology’, p. 50. At the end o f May Parliament increased its cash offer from six to eight weeks.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

concentrated on tw o other points. Firstly, they demanded a far more effective m ethod o f establishing the arrears o f each soldier. At that time each soldier’s claim had to be established by his presentation o f pro o f o f his length o f service in each o f several armies (perhaps those o f Lord Grey, Lord Manchester and the N ew Model). And he had to certify the extent o f his obligations to civilians for free quarter during his service. M ost regiments demanded revised, speedier procedures and a guarantee that no soldier was to be disbanded until his accounts had been audited and arrears certified. Secondly, the regimental papers demanded that Parliament should specify and secure future sources o f revenue adequate to pay off the remaining bulk o f their arrears.46 In the event, the problem for Parliament was not to specify which revenues should be attached; it was to collect any revenue at all. N othing could be done to reduce the volum e o f arrears. If anything they were greater in Decem ber 1647 than in M ay.47 Yet by December Fairfax was asking for a reduction o f 18,000 men, and nearly half the army did subm it to disbandm ent uncom plainingly.48 It is crucial to rem em ber that in the Saffron Walden petitions, the soldiers asked not for full paym ent, but for speedy and effective statem ent o f accounts, and for guarantees o f future payment. Parliament concentrated on meeting these conditions. Ordinances in June and December 1647 radically changed and simplified accounting procedures as they affected the A rm y.49 In particular, the slow and cum bersome methods whereby every soldier received a debenture only after proving the precise extent o f his obligations for free quarter was abandoned in favour o f standard reductions from the arrears o f everyone (e.g. three shillings per week for foot soldiers, or six shillings and eight pence in the pound for all cavalry officers).50 In an attem pt to create resources to pay the Arm y, the m onthly assessment was extended, reformed, and attached firmly for the pay o f the A rm y (23 June), both the excise and customs machinery was overhauled, action was taken against royalists who had not paid the

46. T w o clear statements o f these points com e from the regim ents o f C olonels W halley and Boteler; Clarke M S. 41, fos. 112, 115. 47. Gentles, ‘Arrears o f Pay o f the Parliamentary A rm y’, pp. 56-7. 48. I am grateful to Professor Gentles for drawing m y attention to this point and for allow ing m e to read his unpublished paper ‘The A rm y and the C ity o f London, 1645-8’, in w hich it is discussed. 49. Firth and Rait, Acts, I, 940-8, 9 5 ^ 7 , 1051-2. 50. Firth and Rait, ibid., I, 940-8.


The Arm y Revolt o f 1647

second half o f the fines which they were required to pay once their lands had been restored, and the A rm y was voted money from the sale o f episcopal lands.51 O n paper, Parliament had made adequate provision for the Arm y. What went w rong was simply the refusal or inability o f the county committees to raise the m oney voted or at least to hand it over. The City o f London in particular collected during 1647 none o f the m oney voted on the m onthly assessments.52 As a desperate measure to meet this crisis, Parliament created on 23 September a new C om m ittee o f the Arm y, consisting o f m ost o f the N ew M odel’s friends in the Houses. This com m ittee was given unprecedented powers to oversee the action o f the county committees with respect to assessments. In particular they were given direct powers to fine and im prison defaulting assessors and collectors. An ordinance o f 12 O ctober extended to this com m ittee power to collect arrears from tw o wartim e assessment ordinances.53 The qualified success o f these measures may well account for the quiescence o f the A rm y in the face o f the disbandments o f February 1648. Alm ost all the other grievances included in the regimental petitions in M ay resolved themselves. The soldiers’ right o f petitioning was vindicated and the ‘Declaration o f Dislike’, Parliam ent’s denunciation o f that right, was expunged from the Journals;54 following the collapse o f the counter-revolution, eleven leading opponents o f the A rm y were expelled from the C om m ons.55 M ajor new ordinances secured the position o f ex-apprentices who had served in the A rm y,56 extended Elizabethan legislation to give succour to war invalids, widows and orphans,57 and restricted the freedom o f boroughs to elect or coopt into office form er royalists or neutrals.58 Above all, the problem o f the relief o f Ireland was completely shelved until 1649, and (except for money voted in December 1647 at the A rm y’s request), nothing was done to help the depleted and demoralized forces which had already served there for years. At no time between July 1647 and the execution o f the king did Parliament authorize impressm ent, and even in 1649 there was no return to the general powers o f im pressm ent exercised between 1643 and 1646.

51. 52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58.

Firth and Rait, ibid., I, 958-84, 1004-7, 1025-6, 1032-42, 1049-51. Gentles, unpublished article. Firth and Rait, Acts, I, 1025-6. CJ, V, 202; LJ, IX, 247-8. Gardiner, History, III, 334-52. Firth and Rait, Acts, I, 1054; LJ, IX, 610. Firth and Rait, ibid., I, 938-40, 997-8, 1055-6; (based on 43 Eliz. c. 3). Firth and Rait, ibid., I, 1009, 1023-4.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

Thus between June and Decem ber 1647 a program m e o f action was worked out which went a long way towards meeting the demands o f the soldiers as expressed in all their petitions up to early June 1647, when parliamentary action precluded a partnership o f the two. At no time did Parliament refuse to meet the soldiers’ demands. But in M ay and June they did insist on an im mediate disbandm ent before the details o f the program m e had been settled. Nonetheless a series o f concessions in those very m onths (above all in the setting up o f the Indemnity Com m ittee) prepared the way for the main series o f reforms introduced in August-Septem ber and then Decem ber 1647. The central feature o f this program m e was a recognition o f the hostility o f the provincial communities both to the A rm y and to existing fiscal burdens. Yet the consequent centralization and extended executive action was totally incompatible with Leveller demands and preconceptions. By the time o f the Putney debates both officers and rank and file had to make a painful choice. IV Colonel H ew son’s regim ent sum m ed up its grievances thus: that unless we be relieved in these our grievances and answered in our ju st desires before we are disbanded, we fear that we should be hanged like dogs for the good service that we have done this kingdom as many o f our fellow soldiers have been already since they were disbanded even for that w hich they have done in time and place o f war and in obedience to the Parliam ent’s com m ands.59

The A rm y was hated by the local communities. Even the radical county bosses were opposed to a standing army which drained local resources. Petitions against free quarter, against the burden o f taxation, against religious libertinism in the Arm y, poured into Parliament in the early m onths o f 1647. For example, a petition from the previously very Parliamentarian county o f Essex expressed the fear o f being ‘eaten up, enslaved, and destroyed by an arm y raised for their defence’.60 Above all, the A rm y was faced by the bitter hostility o f the authorities in the City o f London, w ho several times demanded its im mediate disbandment, m ost notably in the C om m on Council’s Humble Representation o f Decem ber 1646.61 A 59. Clarke M S.41, fos. 119-20. 60. Gardiner, History, III, 220. 61. Gentles, unpublished paper, emphasizes the religious motivation behind the Corporation’s opposition to the Arm y. H e cites C ity o f London, Guildhall M SS Journal o f C om m on Council 40, fos. 199-200. See also the Remonstrance o f M ay 1646 (ibid. fo. 168) and a contemporary com m ent on its aims, ‘in plain terms the disbandment o f the arm y’ (BL Thom ason Tracts E 340 (20)).


The Arm y Revolt o f 1647

wave o f fresh mutinies across the provinces both heightened antimilitary feelings and reflected the existing poor relations between soldiers and civilians.62 The army leaders had no illusions. If they were to receive their arrears, gain effective indem nity, return to their trades or to husbandry, the soldiers had to rely on a strong central authority and upon determ ined executive action. This is precisely w hat the Levellers could not provide. Leveller pamphlets in late 1646 and early 1647 were implicitly anti-arm y. They railed against the inherent evils o f the new, corrupt, centralizing bureaucracy which had broken the old legal restraints provided by the ju ry system and by com m unity involvem ent in the dispensation o f justice. The Levellers emphasized the enormous costs o f the war: overtaxation, arbitrary methods o f taxation and collection, etc. The Arm y, if not the cause o f the oppression o f the artisans, craftsmen and tenant-farmers who formed the Levellers’ principal constituency, was the main occasion o f it. The A rm y m ight have experienced the same spiritual liberation as the Levellers, but it was seen as part o f the bloated, usurping, centralized pow er which fed on the lifeblood o f the people. The Large Petition o f M arch 1647, rightly seen as the m ost im portant sum m ary o f Leveller objectives up to that time, completely ignored the A rm y.63 Indeed the thrust o f Leveller thought was incompatible w ith the attainm ent o f the A rm y’s material ends. Here I am saved from false emphasis by the w ork o f D r Manning, whose excellent recent account o f Leveller ideas, devised to argue a very different case, makes my point for m e.64 He shows how the w ell-know n Leveller critique o f existing economic and social conditions led them to formulate a plan for the total reconstruction o f political institutions. The crucial feature o f these reforms, however, was not the election o f annual parliaments by m anhood suffrage, but a withering away o f the state. As he says, ‘perhaps the m ost striking thing about the Agreements [of the People] is what they omit: the lack o f reference to executive governm ent. The central governm ent is almost elim inated.’ Instead, England was to be transform ed into a federation o f self-governing county communities, w ith popular elections o f all local officials - justices, sheriffs, jurors etc. All central courts were to be abolished and replaced by hundredal courts under democratic control. There would be no standing army

62. Morrill, M utiny, pp. 53-68; U nderdow n, Pride’s Purge, pp. 38-44. 63. D .M . Wolfe, Leveller Manifestoes o f the Puritan Revolution (N ew York, 1944), pp. 138-41. 64. B.S. Manning, The English People and the English Revolution (London, 1976), chs. ix and x.


The Nature of the English Revolution

and no centralized financial institutions. Parliaments would meet regularly, with prescribed terms o f reference, to settle matters o f com m on concern, but members would be immediately answerable to their constituents w ho w ould also elect triers to examine the m em bers’ performance. It is true that this radical program m e o f decentralization was played dow n in the Case o f the A rm y Truly Stated , the central text o f the Army-Leveller dialogue, but then the whole docum ent is extremely evasive about how the A rm y’s needs could be met. A great deal o f the docum ent consists o f a confused rhetoric about arrears, and it does concentrate on describing how corruption in the central organs o f pow er was responsible for the A rm y’s plight. Yet it dem anded the abolition or curtailm ent o f precisely those sources o f revenue m ost likely to meet the im mediate financial needs o f the Arm y. It called for an end both to excise and sequestrations, and for a m oderation o f com position fines, for example. The Levellers’ main solution to the intractable problem o f arrears was the sale o f bishops’ lands (the profits from which had already been fully allocated) and a fresh sale o f dean and chapter lands. In addition, the receivers o f customs and excise were to be made to disgorge ‘their excessive fees and profits’, and the London companies to hand over sums tied up in ‘dead stocks in . . . the halls and com panies’. Even m ore impracticably, there was to be an im m utable Act o f Indem nity and Oblivion but no central com m ittee to enforce it.65 As we have seen, the problem was not to enact indem nity, but to force local courts to acknowledge it. The m ost direct and im posing Leveller program m e for solving the A rm y’s problems, however, was not the Case o f the A rm y , but Richard O verton’s Appeal From the Degenerate Representative Body o f the Commons o f England . . . to his Excellency Sir Thomas Fairfax and A ll the Officers and Soldiers under his Command (July 1647). This contained a pungent attack on droit administratif and demanded the

abolition o f all central courts and offices. In particular,

T hat all C ourts w hich are not established by the ju st old Law o f the Land: and all illegal offices, and Officers, belonging to the same, and all other vexatious and unnecessary C ourts, be abolished by act o f Parliament. And that provision be made that for tim e to come, no C ourts or Offices w hatsoever may be obtruded upon the free com m oners o f England, either by Royal Grant, Patent, Act o f Parliament, or otherw ise contrary to the O ld Law o f the Land. T hat according to the old Law and custom o f the Land, long before, or som etim e after the Conquest, there may be C ourts o f Judicature for the speedy trial

65. Wolfe, Leveller Manifestoes, pp. 198-222.


The Arm y Revolt o f 1647 and determ ination o f all causes, w hether Crim inal or Civil, erected and established in every H undred . . . to be holden once or twice every m onth . . . [and] that all such officers . . . to be chosen by the Free C om m ons, as M ayors, Sheriffs, Justices o f Peace etc. may be left to the free election o f the . . .

N o institution or person, not even Parliament itself could imprison w ithout cause shown and speedy recourse to trial by ju ry .66 N othing could have been further from the minds o f those who formulated the demands for indem nity in the regimental petitions in May. This is not to deny that Leveller influence had penetrated deeply into the A rm y in May, June and July. But let us recall the context. U ntil 25 May, the soldiers were only concerned w ith their grievances as soldiers. Their regimental petitions at Saffron Walden were almost exclusively concerned with pay, conditions o f service and guarantees o f security for disbanded men. There was little difference in the demands o f the regiments and o f the controlling group o f officers. It is true that a large m inority o f ‘m oderate’junior officers at Saffron Walden were opposed to the articulation even o f those demands, but these officers were hopelessly out o f touch w ith rank-and-file feeling and quickly deserted their regiments, or were dismissed, at Saffron Walden or in the following weeks. Perhaps one hundred and sixty ‘Presbyterian’ officers were replaced in the next four weeks. The result was an arm y in late May united behind Fairfax, Crom well and Lambert. When C rom w ell reported to the C om m ons that the Arm y was firmly under the officers’ control, and would peacefully disband if the grievances expressed in the Declaration were satisfied, he was being perfectly truthful.67 As we have seen, these demands were in fact met in the following months: they were not unattainable. It was Parliam ent’s decision to confront rather than to conciliate which transform ed the situation. That decision clearly involved a calculated risk o f an arm y revolt. But it was not totally unreasonable. Politically, the Presbyterian leadership was bidding for the support o f the great many ‘backbench’ M embers o f Parliament (including a m ajority o f the recruiters) whose prim ary interest lay in a reduction o f the tensions and conflicts in the provinces, exacerbated as they were by the continuing fiscal burdens and continued existence o f quartered troops. The disbandm ent o f the N ew M odel w ould consolidate the support o f such M em bers o f Parliament behind the Presbyterians

66. Printed in G.E. Aylmer, The Levellers in the English Revolution (London, 1975), pp. 83-4. 67. Gardiner, History, III, 257-8.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

and isolate the Independent caucus further. Subsequently this would aid the Presbyterians in their attem pt to reach agreement with the king on their terms. Beyond this, the Presbyterians were themselves genuinely fearful o f a counter-revolution in London and the provinces and believed that to give in to the A rm y would be m ore likely to produce such a revolt.68 Furtherm ore their success in disbanding other parliamentarian armies in 1646 suggested that the N ew M odel m ight be peacefully reduced.69 Finally they were not wholly vindictive in their behaviour towards the Arm y. In late May and early June they did make some concessions to the Army: they increased the am ount o f m oney payable on disbandment; they went some way to modify the m ethods for auditing soldiers’ accounts; they made major concessions over indem nity; and on 21 M ay they made promises that no man w ho had volunteered should be forced to serve abroad, they prom ised additional help for m aimed soldiers, widows and orphans, and they re-emphasized that soldiers could count time spent in the A rm y towards their period o f apprenticeship. But they insisted on immediate disbandm ent before these concessions had been embodied in ordinances; they declined to meet the other grievances; and they made it clear that they were prepared to use force to dissolve the N ew M odel if necessary. For the time being, the option o f an alliance w ith the legislature and central executive was denied to the Army. N ot surprisingly, the N ew M odel turned w ith far greater attention and sym pathy to the Levellers, who offered a friendly hand, a rhetoric o f support (we understand your problem , we are all the victims o f the same corrupt power) and a doctrine o f popular sovereignty which justified the A rm y’s defiance o f Parliament. It explained how the existing legislature had become as corrupt and tyrannical as the king had been, and it suggested that pow er had to be taken away from all future governments, to prevent both kingly or parliamentary tyranny. It was not only the rank and file who were taken up with Leveller ideas. The officers’ ow n ideas, as reflected in the petition o f 14 June or in the terms which they offered to the king, the Heads o f the Proposals, represent a diluted but recognizable Leveller inspiration. The demands for Parliaments o f fixed duration, and for the decentralization o f local and judicial offices come straight from earlier Leveller tracts. In particular, the statem ent in the Declaration o f 14 June that ‘all authority is fundamentally seated in the office and but 68. M ahony, thesis, chs viii and ix; U nderdow n, Pride’s Purge, pp. 76-81. 69. Morrill, M utiny, passim.


The Arm y Revolt o f 1647

ministerially in the persons’ is related to the crucial Leveller claim that all representatives were directly answerable to a sovereign people.70 Thus in the ensuing weeks, there was no prospect o f a compliant Parliament, and both officers and men were obsessed with the need to destroy the pow er o f the existing body. The Levellers had not split the Grandees from the rank and file. The resolution o f the crisis by the m ilitary coup d'etat in early August transform ed the situation. Alm ost immediately, Parliament resumed redressing the original grievances o f the Arm y, particularly by the creation o f the new C om m ittee o f the Arm y. The Indemnity Commissioners were beginning to gain a reputation for their resolute protection o f soldiers hounded by civilian enemies. N ow the am biguities o f the Leveller program m e began to appear. N either the Grandees nor the agitators were pressing on with the demands for political reform. They looked increasingly content w ith the activities o f the purged and chastened Parliament. In m id-O ctober, the civilian Levellers returned to the offensive by issuing the Case o f the Arm y Truly Stated. H ow was it issued? N o t by the existing agitators, who never subscribed it, but by agitators newly elected for just five regiments. This raises a question which has never been answered. These new agitators acted alongside the old ones, and there were allegations that they were unrepresentative even o f the regiments they served.71 It is far from clear w hether the other regiments and the older agitators ever wholeheartedly supported or subscribed to the Case o f the Arm y. The officers agreed to a series o f debates on the gist o f this docum ent (the Agreement o f the People ), but it is w orth speculating w hether their agreement to do so was based not so m uch on a fear o f the Levellers as on a belief that they could regain m ajority support. Certainly their decisive and successful actions after the Putney debates reveal few signs o f weakness or lack o f confidence. It may be that they simply allowed themselves, briefly, to be out-m anoeuvred tactically. I am not suggesting that Leveller support had entirely evaporated among the rank and file, simply that the officers had other reasons for fearing the im plem entation o f the Leveller program m e beyond their genuine aversion to particular aspects o f its constitutional provisions. That is, they could see that the im plementation o f the Agreement o f the People 70. BL, Thom ason Tracts E 409(25) 39. 71. Gardiner, History, III, 378. I am grateful to Blair Worden for pointing out to me h ow little is know n about the activities o f the different groups o f agitators w h o seem to have coexisted for som e months.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

would destroy all the achievements o f the previous six m onths in reducing the material problems o f the Arm y. Thus they sought on the first day o f the debates to counter Sexby’s demand for an end to the ‘rotten studs - I mean the Parliam ent’ by ponderous talk o f the A rm y’s com m itm ent to honour existing engagem ents.72 O n this interpretation, their great error o f judgem ent was to allow the debates on the second day to centre around the question o f the franchise, possibly because they hoped to exploit the divisions on this question within the Leveller-inclined members o f the Council. They had misread the situation, for this proved to be an emotive issue on which they could not retain the initiative. But note what happened: in Ivan R oots’ words, ‘the debates w ent on . . . and discussion went into side issues and dead ends. O ne senses som ething o f Crom w ell and Ireton’s satisfaction at this’.73 The debates fizzled out. Furtherm ore, the Grandees’ subsequent actions reveal little evidence o f anxiety. They ordered a series o f separate rendezvous to sound out rank-and-file opinion (a repeat o f the Saffron Walden procedures). When tw o regiments attem pted to join a rendezvous to which they had not been sum m oned (carrying Leveller emblems and papers in their caps) Crom w ell dispersed them w ith ease and subsequently had one leader shot. But note several points norm ally overlooked. The several rendezvous o f the A rm y were held and did accept the officers’ proposals for a new petition to be presented to Parliament; there were no m ore mutinies and no protest after the execution o f Arnold, the mutineer; the perm anent exclusion o f the agitators from the C ouncil'of Officers was barely questioned; and within eight weeks 18,000 men quietly disbanded, many o f them (those who volunteered during the July crisis) receiving no paym ent beforehand.74 I find it hard to believe but that the rank and file were reluctantly behind their officers throughout the crisis: that at the Putney debates the Levellers were trying to regain lost ground am ong soldiers who as individuals both felt the force o f Leveller ideology, and yet were aware that their essential interests were now being safeguarded by the existing institutions. O f course there was a clash o f ideals at Putney; o f course the debates witnessed some o f the m ost invigorating and m oving m om ents in the course o f the whole Revolution; o f course the Levellers were proposing a massive redistribution o f power, were

72. A .S.P. W oodhouse, Puritanism and Liberty (London, 1938), pp. 2ff. 73. I. A. Roots, The Great Rebellion (London, 1965), pp. 119—20. 74. The decision to merge the N e w M odel with other regional forces had swollen the number o f men under Fairfax’s com m and to at least 36,000 men.


The Arm y Revolt o f 1647

dem anding the establishment o f civil rights and economic freedoms which struck sympathetic chords in the hearts o f many soldiers. But their minds and pockets were telling them, day in, day out, that the existing system was now benefiting them; that the urgent needs and requirements discussed earlier in the year had not gone away, but were now being met by strenuous legislative effort and determined executive action. By the time that Fairfax presented the Humble Representation to Parliament on 8 December, I w ould suggest that it reflected the agreed interests o f the whole o f the A rm y as surely as did the officers’ petition after Saffron Walden. The Humble Representation, longest o f all the army declarations, was exclusively concerned with bread-and-butter questions. The great bulk o f it is concerned with arrears. It accepts the need for a reduction in the size o f the Arm y, but insists that the grievances o f the soldiery be met before the disbandment. A lthough it complains about ‘the difficulty and delay o f getting things passed in Parliam ent’, it is m ore critical o f ‘the neglect or slowness o f C ounty committees, assessors, or collectors . . . and through the general backwardness o f all (especially in the city o f London)’. It next proposed an extension o f the powers o f several existing committees. Above all, it ‘propounded a way whereby all the soldiery o f the kingdom may be instantly put in a condition o f constant pay . . . all free quarter (with the abuses, exactions, annoyances and unequal pressure that accompany it) im mediately taken off, no further debts o f arrears incurred upon the kingdom and that which is already incurred put in a way to be recovered and overcome in tim e’. These measures included a tem porary increase in the m onthly assessment from £60,000 to £100,000, and an increase in the pow er o f the C om m ittee o f the A rm y to supervise collection, with additional local commissioners to be nom inated by the Lord General and the army council. Every regim ent was to be allocated the revenues o f stated counties with pow er to ‘assist’ in the collection. Recently introduced procedures for stating accounts were to be continued and extended. For the securing o f future paym ent o f arrears, m ore m oney should be allocated from the com position fines (they ask for tw o-thirds o f all receipts), and dean and chapter lands should be sold. The petition acknowledged that the only secure form o f indem nity was for soldiers to ‘fly to some com m ittee or commissioners for re lie f: and they asked for an extension o f the system which had been in operation since June. Local committees were to be created under the control o f the Grand C om m ittee, the new commissioners to ‘be such as ordinarily reside in the respective counties and mixed o f such as have been military


The Nature o f the English Revolution

officers o f Parliament together with such as have appeared active and faithful for the Parliament in the late War, for which purpose we shall (if admitted) offer nam es’. The petition also seeks the transfer o f responsibility for the relief o f maimed soldiers, widows and orphans from the Justices o f the Peace to the commissioners for indemnity; tougher action to secure the rights o f apprentices who had served in the Arm y, and fresh guarantees against the future im pressm ent o f men who had served in the first war. The rights o f ex-soldiers were clearly distinguished in this clause from the rights o f others.75 By early December, the A rm y was asking for m ore o f w hat it had already been given. This program m e is totally incompatible w ith Leveller objectives. Furtherm ore, Parliament passed a series o f measures on 24 Decem ber which w ent a long way towards m eeting these demands. It launched a fresh and largely successful incentive scheme to bring in arrears o f assessment; the A rm y was voted additional m oney from the excise (the tax m ost hated by the Levellers); the dem and for tw o-thirds o f all com position fines was conceded; m ore m oney was allocated from the sale o f episcopal lands (though no move was yet made to sell the capitular lands); the A rm y’s desire for the auditing o f soldiers’ accounts to be undertaken by the C om m ittee o f A rm y was gratified, and the rates o f deduction for free quarter lowered; a fresh ordinance for the relief o f war victims was passed (though it did not go so far as the petitioners had asked) and the Indem nity C om m ittee was em powered to enforce the ordinances regarding form er apprentices. Parliament accepted the A rm y’s suggestion as to the reduction in the num ber o f soldiers.76 W ithin tw o m onths 18,000 men had quietly disbanded - some o f them 77 receiving no arrears, others precisely the am ount parliament had offered at the end o f May 1647. There were no mutinies. Throughout the spring and sum m er o f 1648 the A rm y was quiescent. Yet succeeding events w ent some way to vindicate the fears o f the Presbyterian caucus in the spring o f 1647. The alliance o f Parliament and A rm y required an extension o f fiscal demands and further extensions o f centralized institutions running roughshod over custom ary local institutions and practices. They helped to provoke the counter-revolution which Presbyterians had always feared. The aims o f m ost o f those groups whose revolts are given the collective title ‘the

75. LJ, IX, 556-63. 76. Firth and Rait, Acts, I, 1048-62. 77. Gentles, unpublished paper, citing BL, Thom ason Tracts E 419(17), E 420(2), E 421(13), E 429(10), E 520(11 and 14).


The A rm y Revolt o f 1647

second civil w ar’ had m uch less to do with the restoration o f the king than w ith the reassertion o f provincial independence and a shedding o f the burdens and bureaucracy o f war. The second civil war came closer to expressing the C lubm en philosophy than the royalist one. O r so I have asserted elsewhere.78 Parliament received little active support except from the Arm y. Passivity and reluctant collaboration were m ore characteristic o f the response o f local communities than was resolute enthusiasm. Everywhere we are forced back to the problem s o f the relationship between the centre and localities. Everywhere we find evidence that this tension provides a context w ithin which historians m ust examine the A rm y revolt o f 1647. By separating out the particular problems posed by this context I have doubtless distorted the over-all picture. For too little has been said about the king; parliamentary politics and groupings within the A rm y have been over-simplified; the appeal o f the Levellers to the economic interests, even perhaps (though I doubt it) to the ‘class’ interests o f the com m on soldier, has been ignored. Yet I hope that in addition to drawing attention to a neglected aspect o f the A rm y’s history in 1647, I have shaken a few assumptions. Above all, I have sought to challenge the assumption o f a self-evident identity o f interest between civilian Leveller and soldier. Parliament, with its newly developed structure o f centralized, executive committees with paralegal powers and unchecked jurisdictions was offering the Arm y its bread and butter. The Levellers offered them ideological jam . The A rm y could not have both. It had to choose. W ould it be surprising if the great m ajority chose bread and butter? Soldiers may not live by jam alone.

78. Morrill, Revolt, pp. 125-31, 206-8. See also A .M . Everitt, The Community o f Kent and the Great Rebellion (Leicester, 1966), pp. 231-70.

The Nature o f the English Revolution A P P E N D IX I T H E A R M Y R E V O L T OF 1647


Scots paid off and go home. Initial parliamentary decision to reduce arm y to 5,400.


Parliament plans to send part o f arm y to Ireland, part to be disbanded. Declaration o f Dislike passed (ban on arm y petitions).

A p ril:

London militia remodelled as start o f counter-revolution. A rm y agitators elected.

M ay:

Leveller interest in the A rm y begins in earnest. A rm y Debates at Saffron Walden lead to full statement o f material grievances. Officers report A rm y under control and willing to disband if concessions are made. (25) H ouse o f C om m ons vote imm ediate disbandment.


(4) A rm y seizes the king. (14-23) Leveller-influenced general political demands by the A rm y. (23-7) Conciliatory moves by Parliament forestall confrontation.

J u ly :

Counter-revolution in London forces Parliam ent’s hand. A rm y debates at Reading again postpone confrontation. Radicals in Parliament flee to the Arm y.

A ugust:

A rm y occupies London.


A rm y and Parliament cooperate to resolve original military grievances.


Levellers denounce backsliding by the Grandees (Case o f the A rm y T ru ly Stated , and a digest o f its constitutional provisions, A greem ent o f the People).

N ovem ber:

A rm y debates on the Leveller Proposals (The Putney Debates). Agitators subsequently silenced. A rm y council reconstituted w ithout them. M utiny by tw o regim ents easily suppressed.


Grandees present fresh Remonstrance restating the original material grievances o f the Arm y. Parliament acquiesces.

February: 1648:


18,000 soldiers peacefully disband.

The A rm y Revolt o f 1647 APPENDIX II A R M Y G R IE V A N C E S A T S A FF R O N W A L D E N , M ID -M A Y


Based on the returns o f eleven regiments. The num ber o f regiments including each item is given in the right-hand column. Each item taken up in the Report o f the Council o f Officers is indicated by the [email protected] . N ature o f Grievance


N um ber o f Regiments

Arrears. Demands for new accounts procedures/for

12-16 weeks cash/for guaranteed future paym ent o f residue.

10 @


Ireland. Resistance to conscription for service there/and to serving under officers nominated by Parliament.



Indem nity. From prosecution in the courts for actions done ‘in time and place o f w ar’

9 @


The particular case o f Ensign Nicholls.

7 @


Impressment. Freedom from, for men w ho had freely enlisted in the past.

6 @



Vindication o f the soldiers’ rights to/ denunciation o f the parliamentary ‘Declaration o f D islike’ and censure o f particular officers.

11 @


Purge. O f all ex-royalists and neutrals still in office, particularly in the towns.

7 @


Free Quarter. Clearer regulation of.

7 @


Corruption. D em and for investigations o f misuse o f public funds by civilian com m issioners. General hostility to county com m ittees.



Pensions. For maimed soldiers, w idow s and orphans


Apprenticeships. Ex-apprentices w ho have served in

o f parliamentarian soldiers.

4 @

the A rm y to be granted full freedom o f their trades or crafts.

5 @

Religion. Demand for freedom o f worship/denunciation o f the Covenant/attack on the w orks o f Thom as Edwards and other vituperative Presbyterians.

3 @


L a w Reform.








M utiny and Discontent in English Provincial Armies, 1 6 4 5 -1 6 4 7

In the spring o f 1647, Parliament faced up to the enorm ous problem o f how to pay off an idle, discontented army, whose arrears were continuing to grow despite the fact that the civil war had been effectively over for twelve months. A recent estimate o f the arrears o f the A rm y in M arch 1647 is tw o and a half million pounds,1 which w ould be several times the annual sum which Parliament had allocated to it. O ther revenues were already attached for the repaym ent o f massive loans to the City o f London and other creditors. Since the m onthly assessment ordinance had expired in September 1646, and the House o f Lords was obstructing its renewal, and since collection o f the Excise had virtually ceased, the situation was deteriorating rapidly. Furtherm ore the Parliamentarian cause was losing ground in Ireland. A partial solution to these problems was to persuade large sections o f the N ew M odel to cross the Irish Sea, but, according to m ost authorities, this part o f Parliam ent’s program m e, like the rest, was mishandled and only served to exacerbate relations between C om m ons and Arm y. The story o f the breakdow n o f tw o sections o f the Parliamentarian m ovem ent into open hostility is well enough know n in outline, although there remain m any outstanding problems o f interpretation.2 But virtually nothing has been written about the I am grateful for the helpful advice and criticism offered by Mr J.P. C ooper, Mr D .H . Pennington and D r M. M ahony on an earlier draft o f this article. 1. I.J. G entles, ‘The Debentures Market and M ilitary Purchases o f C row n Land 1649—6 0 ’ (U n iv. o f L ondon PhD thesis, 1969), pp. 16—46. This gives a clear discussion o f the crisis over arrears in 1647-8, though the author confines h im self to the N e w M odel. 2. N otab ly the extent to w hich the officers led, or w ere led by, the agitators and com m on soldiers, or the exact stages by w hich sim ple army grievances led to an irrevocable com m itm en t to a wider program m e o f political and constitutional reform.


M utiny and Discontent in Provincial Armies

crisis in m any parts o f the country during 1645-7 in which m utinous troops confronted their officers or civilian committees. As a result the struggle between A rm y and Parliament in the m onths February to N ovem ber 1647 has been largely m isunderstood. To begin with, it is im portant to realize that probably as late as September 1647 there were m ore men in arms outside Fairfax’s com m and than there were under him. M ost o f these were scattered am ong num erous garrisons, but until the sum m er o f 1647 the N o rth ern arm y under Poyntz was maintained at tw o-thirds the strength o f the N ew Model, while Massie’s Western arm y was only disbanded in O ctober 1646. Between them Poyntz and Massie (both o f w hom were closely linked to the ‘Presbyterian’ leadership in July 1647) led forces numerically much stronger than the N ew Model. Furtherm ore, it is extremely likely that arrears in these other armies and in the other garrisoned towns were greater than those o f the N ew Model; but this is impossible to determ ine w ith any certainty.3 For example, the Cheshire forces under Sir William Brereton were £80,000 in arrears in M arch 1646, while the m onthly assessment to maintain them was well below £1,000 per m onth at that stage.4 The corrected accounts o f several o f B rereton’s officers show that their regiments and troops were owed up to or m ore than half the total owing to them since their enlistm ent.5 O ne result was the wave o f mutinies taking the different forms defined below in at least thirtyfour English counties and in m ost o f Wales. The extent o f these mutinies, and their degree o f organization, cast shadows over some o f the statements frequently made about the nature o f the N ew Model protests in 1647, and in particular about the im portance o f the Levellers as the directors o f army unrest into constructive modes o f protest. But just as im portant is the evidence that the continued existence o f provincial armies created extreme tensions within local communities 3. In March 1647, the arrears o f the N e w M odel w ere reckoned at forty-three w eeks for the horse, eighteen w eeks for the foot. But these figures include neither deductions for free quarter (in m any cases substantial) nor arrears still ow ed for service before the creation o f the N e w M odel. Similar difficulties apply in w orking on the accounts o f provincial armies. 4. See J.S. M orrill, Cheshire 1630-1660: Government and Society during the English Revolution (O xford, 1974), ch. 3. 5. E .g. C olonel D uckenfield’s regim ent received a total o f on ly £5,444 by the sum m er o f 1647; £3,557 remained outstanding. C olonel B rom hall’s regim ent, had, in the sum m er o f 1645, had only £909 out o f a total o f £6,880, and C olonel V enables’s on ly £560 out o f £2,113 up to January 1647. PR O , SP 28 (C om m on w ealth Exchequer Papers), vol. 128 unfoliated; B M , Harl. M S. 2128 (Randle H olm e M SS.), fos. 20-33; ibid., 1999, fos. 62-3.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

and threatened to produce extensive conflict between troops and the rural population. It is a pity that this phenom enon has not been noted in recent local studies. Thus Professor Everitt ignores several references to unrest in Kent in mid-1647, such as the report o f the C ounty C om m ittee in June that the effects o f quartering troops in Kent was leading to a backlash in the countryside which ‘may be means to make this county the seat o f a new w arre’.6 He also ignores evidence that the C anterbury riots o f January 1648 were caused not only by the C om m ittee’s religious policy but also by fresh violence in the garrison there.7 T hroughout 1646-7 there was very real fear that the C lubm an mentality - the determ ination o f local communities to drive out predatory forces o f both sides - m ight return m ore virulently than before. D uring 1645-7 at least twenty-five counties petitioned that they were unable to bear the burden o f maintaining their forces at their current strength. These petitions can be dismissed as unnecessarily alarmist and exaggerated, but frequently their claims are substantiated by independent evidence.8 The report o f William BalJ in M arch 1646 is typical in its description o f the situation in the provinces, but more objective than m ost - as the w ork o f an agent sent dow n specially from parliament to Berkshire to investigate one such complaint. T hat w ch exceedingly afflicts mee is the continuall clam our o f the soldiers o f N ew bery & countrie people thereabouts, the soldiers having almost starved the people w here they quarter & are half starved them selves, & for w ant o f pay are become very desperate, raunging about the country & breaking and robbing houses and passengers & driving away sheepe & other cattell before the O w ners faces.9

Professor Everitt has also recently attem pted to minimize the economic effects o f the civil w ars.10 But this appears to be based on the m isconception that the taxation records for the civil war years give a full impression o f the financial burdens borne by the countryside, since physical damage during the wars was limited to a few areas and was no m ore disastrous than the periodic ravages o f plague and fire 6. A .M . Everitt, The Com m unity o f Kent and the Great Rebellion (Leicester, 1966), pp. 219-40, and B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 58 (Lenthall Papers), fos. 181, 211. 7. Ibid., fos. 645, 653, 657. 8. For som e good exam ples, see B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 60, fo. Ill; ibid., M S. 59, fos. 195, 392; LJ, VIII, 135, IX , 72 (Lancashire, D orset, Yorkshire, Cum berland, Essex). 9. B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 60, fo. 491. This general point is substantiated by detailed discussion and exam ples. 10. A .M . Everitt, ‘T h e Local C om m u n ity and the Great R ebellion’, Historical Assoc. Pamphlet (London, 1969), pp. 24-6.


M utiny and Discontent in Provincial Armies

experienced by many towns and villages. Thus he has calculated that the weekly and m onthly assessments - mainstay o f Parliamentarian war finance - was only equivalent to an income tax o f tw o shillings and sixpence in the pound for Kent, and D r Johnson has suggested a similar figure for B uckingham shire.11 This ignores the question o f free quarter and other substantial financial side-effects o f war. Thus in Buckinghamshire, where the total am ount levied in war taxation up to the end o f 1646 was about £65-70,000, returns from thirty-eight o f the tw o hundred and ten townships in the county for the same period show that £17,636 was provided in free quarter. It seems probable that over the county as a whole, the cost o f quarter w ould exceed the am ount levied in taxation.12 In this context, it should be stressed that the civil war was the first occasion in English history that troops had been kept at nominal full strength for years on end. Indeed with the exception o f the campaigns in the Netherlands at the end o f the sixteenth century, this feature is new to European warfare as a whole in the seventeenth century. Previously armies were disbanded during the winter months. Certainly Professor Everitt has failed to learn the lesson o f historians o f the Thirty Years’ War who agree that the major economic cost o f that war came from billeting and free quarter.13 Similar figures are available for other counties. In Cheshire, several villages kept complete accounts o f all expenditure during the war, and it is again clear that even in areas remote from the fighting, as much again was paid out in quarter and in the forcible distraint o f provisions by soldiers on the march, as was paid in taxation.14 O nly occasionally did an enterprising local C om m ittee find a way round the impasse. The Lancashire C om m ittee short-circuited the sequestration machinery by leasing royalists’ estates to leading officers - thus providing supplies for their men, in return for a nom inal rent which was to be rem itted against arrears, a plan whose legality was queried by both the local and the central accounts com m ittees.15 It is 11. Everitt, The Com m unity o f Kent . . ., p. 159; A .M . Johnson, ‘Buckingham shire 1640-60’ (U n iv. C oll. o f Swansea M A thesis, 1963), pp. 117ff. 12. Johnson, ‘Buckingham shire’, pp. 142-5. Dr Johnson does not break d ow n his figures year by year. I have tried to form estim ates on the basis o f his totals for 1643-8. 13. E .g. J.H . Elliott, The Revolt o f the Catalans (Cam bridge, 1963), pp. 387-417; R. M ousnier, Fureurs Paysannes (Paris, 1967), passim, particularly pp. 309-12; V.J. Polisensky, The Thirty Years War (London, 1971), passim. 14. See m y thesis, loc. cit. pp. 142-6. Som e figures for other counties are given in C. H olm es, ‘The Eastern A ssociation 1642-6’ (U n iv. o f Cam bridge PhD thesis, 1969), ch. 5. For som e exam ples, see P R O , SP 28 vol. 23, fo. 149; vol. 24, fos. 85-8, 96, 569; vols. 148-51, 171-3, 219-21, passim. 15. Cal. State Papers D om ., 1645-7, p. 553.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

not, therefore, altogether surprising that the crisis over pay should be a national issue rather than the straightforw ard conflict between N ew M odel and Parliament which it has usually been represented to be, and makes it correspondingly strange that it has been ignored by m odern historians, despite the copious evidence available.16 As we shall see later, discontent took several distinguishable forms. In fact there are signs o f increasing organization and control as time w ent by. From the systematic looting and desertion endemic to seventeenth-century warfare and widespread throughout the early years o f the w a r,17 there developed effective strike action by the troops, threats o f mass disbandm ent unless grievances were met, and later the seizure and ransoming o f officers and civilian officials. Superimposed on these developments was a further pattern. Mutinies were concentrated into tw o periods. The first was in the m onths M ay to September 1646, the second in the m onths April to August 1647. The first coincided with the return o f peace. The troops had no fighting or danger to preoccupy them and became increasingly listless. Yet w ithout settlement o f their arrears there was little prospect o f disbandment, and the financial exhaustion o f the countryside prevented an early solution. Indeed, arrears were m ounting rather than falling. By the late sum m er o f 1646, Parliament was faced w ith reports o f mutinies in at least tw enty-tw o English counties and several Welsh counties.18 Hitherto, neither o f the Houses had found any convincing solution to the problem. They had coped piecemeal w ith each crisis, sending off small sums from their depleted treasuries to ease the immediate situation. But from the beginning o f July, they began to rationalize the chaotic spread o f idle garrisons and quartered troops across the country. M oney was diverted from Goldsmiths Hall (from royalists’ compositions) and from the Excise

16. A recent exception to this stricture is Professor U n d erd ow n ’s Pride's Purge (O xford, 1971), pp. 39-40, 76-8. But he does not go far beyond listing (far from exhaustively) the areas o f unrest, w ithou t analysing its nature or bringing out its full significance. 17. This is o f course true for both sides in the civil wars: see, for exam ple, J. Adair, Roundhead General: a M ilitary Biography o f Sir William Waller, (London, 1969), passim, where the point is stressed in explaining successive failures by both sides. Sir W illiam Brereton, the Cheshire com m ander, claim ed that Parliamentarian success in the north-w est was largely the result o f greater discipline on their side w h ich had w o n over the country people: B M , Add. M S. 11331, fo. 25. 18. Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Dorset, Essex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, M onm outhshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Somerset, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Yorkshire.


M utiny and Discontent in Provincial Armies

(locally collected) for partial settlement o f arrears, early provision o f the rest being promised. The House o f C om m ons then set to w ork to decide which garrisons were to be maintained, and undertook to make regular provision for th em .19 These measures led to an immediate reduction o f tension, but the ensuing failure to honour their promises to the reduced troops was to lead to fresh violence in 1647. Even m ore serious was that, having made tem porary arrangements for the remaining garrisons, parliament never provided adequate machinery to ensure that its orders were implemented. Thus the gentry o f Yorkshire petitioned that the failure to renew the N orthern Association Ordinance had resulted in the collapse o f local governm ent. In this intcrvall o f pow er to order the affaires both M ilitarie and Civile, wee doe plainely foresee very daungerous Inconveniences like to ensue, wch perhapps may not soe easelie be apprehended in such multiplicitie o f weightie affaires at such a distance. The countrie wee observe takinge notice o f the cessation o f A uthoritye refuse, or at leaste are extremely backward to paye the Arrears o f Assessments and civil officers there not forw ard to collect eyther those or any other monies that should helpe tow ards a meane subsistence for the souldiers, while they were continewed in paye. . . . The souldier wee finde grow e discontented, and high in their deportm ent tow ards those from w hom they were w onte to receive enterteinement. A little time wee much feare will produce those sadd and mischievous effects wch a greate deale o f care and time will not probablie redresse.20

Similarly at Plym outh fresh trouble broke out in the sum m er o f 1647 when the ordinance providing the garrison with pay out o f the local Excise lapsed and Parliament om itted to renew it.21 A major m utiny in Cheshire resulted from Parliam ent’s failure to send dow n m oney for four m onths after taking over direct responsibility for paying the garrison from the county com m ittee.22 These administrative blunders - no doubt partly caused by preoccupation with the N ew M odel - contributed greatly to serious mutinies in at least seventeen counties in the sum m er o f 1647.23 Nonetheless, the short-term benefits o f Parliam ent’s actions in the

19. These debates can be follow ed in CJ, IV and V, particularly IV, 6 33-4 and V, 96-104. 20. B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 59, fo. 399. 21. For the P lym outh m utiny, see b elow , pp. 352-3 and notes 93, 97 and 98. 22. See b elow , pp. 346-7. 23. Cheshire, D evon , D orset, Essex, Ham pshire, Herefordshire, Kent, Lancashire, Leicestershire, N orfolk , Northum berland, O xfordshire, Som erset, Sussex, W estm orland, Wiltshire, Yorkshire.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

autum n o f 1646 are clear, and can be exemplified by the disbandm ent o f Massie’s brigade in the West C ountry. The complaints against these forces which had poured in from Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset and Gloucestershire throughout the spring and early sum m er o f 1646 made its disbandm ent essential,24 though the religious (and increasingly the political) views o f its com m ander made its retention attractive to the ‘Presbyterian’ party in the C om m ons. But their attem pts in mid-June to make the N ew M odel the main recruiting ground for fresh Irish regiments were deflected by the ‘Independents’, and attention centred on Massie’s forces.25 As late as early August, the Irish C om m ittee were asked to decide how many o f his men were to be sent there.26 The initial terms - £20,000 cash and the discharge w ithout arrears o f all those enlisted since 1 January 1646 - were highly unfavourable to his troops,27 whose behaviour had deteriorated yet further.28 But with the central political issue settled,29 the C om m ons now settled dow n to solve the problem m ore fairly, and the aid o f Sir Thom as Fairfax was enlisted. At the end o f September, he went dow n to the West C ountry with additional cash (which averaged out at six w eek’s pay per man) and assurances about the rapid provision o f the rest. M ost im portantly, he divided the troops and regiments into separate bodies30 and disbanded each separately, his ow n horse standing by in case o f trouble. Douceurs notw ithstanding, few would enlist for Ireland (not enough to make up one troop, according to Fairfax), but the C om m ons wisely decided not to press the matter, and the immediate crisis was resolved.31 U nfortunately, once it became clear that Parliament could not honour its promise to pay off remaining arrears, the disbanded soldiers crowded to London and protested about their betrayal. 24. A few exam ples: CJ, IV, 581, 615, 649; B M , T h om ason Tracts, E 511(12), Perfect Occurrences, 13-19 June 1646; JE511 (13), Perfect Diurnall, 15-22 June 1646; E341 (18), Mercurius Civicus, 18-25 June 1646; B. W hitelocke, Memorials o f English Affairs, 4 vols. (O xford, 1853), II, 33, 58; B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 59, fos. 247, 330, 353, 392. 25. CJ, IV, 631; The Memoirs o f Edmund Ludlow, ed. C .H . Firth, 2 vols. (O xford, 1894), I, 141-2. 26. CJ, IV, 638. 27. Ibid., p. 615. 28. B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 59, fo. 444. 29. Except for a futile attem pt by the H ouse o f Lords to prevent Fairfax from taking the initiative on the instructions o f the C om m ons: LJ, VIII, 531. 30. A device used successfully elsewhere, and soon made a regular feature o f C om m on s orders: e.g. Derbyshire, CJ, IV, 656-7. 31. See the letters o f Fairfax, B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 59, fo. 573, and J. Sprigge, Anglia Redidiva (O xford, 1854), p. 314; and o f L udlow and Allen (w ho assisted Fairfax), in L udlow , Memoirs . . ., i, 480-1.


M utiny and Discontent in Provincial Armies

This was in February 1647, ju st as the N ew M odel was about to be disbanded on similar term s.32 The pattern o f unrest can be m ost clearly shown by means o f a case study. Although there is ample evidence from several counties (e.g. Yorkshire, Leicestershire, M ontgom eryshire), I shall take Cheshire as my example both because o f m y closer acquaintance with the sources, and because o f its particularly clear dem onstration o f the main trends observable elsewhere. Available funds there had always fallen far short o f com m itm ents, o f course, and this had contributed to a continuous problem o f pilfering and theft from villages in which troops had quartered or through which they had passed. However, the emptiness o f their bellies was not the only need o f the soldiers satisfied by these means. O ne inhabitant o f the tow nship o f O ver reported that troops had seized ‘clothes, [a] byble and other necessaries’, and his complaint could be m ultiplied hundreds o f times over from the sources.33 Sometimes these thefts were com m itted by individual soldiers, but frequently a whole unit w ould systematically plunder a village o f its provisions, while the officers stood by hopelessly, or even joined in, preferring to ensure orderly pillage than face a m utiny from their hungry, ill-clad troops.34 At times, plundering expeditions from friend and foe alike covered a wide area. One such, when Cheshire forces stationed beyond the Dee went on an extended raid into Wales (April 1645), led to retaliatory action from Brereton, after protests from parliament, alerted about the raid by Sir John Trevor, Parliamentarian MP, whose house had been among those sacked. Brereton said o f the activities o f his forces, There is nothing accompanieing this service hath m ore afflicted mee then to see those insolencics that are som etym e com m itted by the soldiers and not have pow er w holy to restraine them.

He announced stringent measures to ensure the return o f or com pensation for goods taken from Welsh Parliamentarians, and sought out those involved for punishm ent. For example, all com m on soldiers sleeping on new sheepskins were im mediately suspect.35 Indiscriminate raids on friends and foes alike were periodically reported within Cheshire, particularly during 1644 and 1645; only occasionally were junior officers associated with them .36 32. 33. 34. 35. 36.

E .g. C J, V, 75, 82. B M , Harl. M S. 2126, fo. 16. See m y thesis (cited note 4), pp. 227-9, 252-5. B M , Add. M S. 11331, fos. 20, 25, 26, 30, 63-4, etc. E .g. B M , Harl. M S. 1999, fo. 70; Harl. M S. 2018, fo. 69.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

After the fall o f Chester in February 1646, the C om m ittee o f Both Kingdom s was quick to realize the dangers o f indiscipline among troops whose task was accomplished, and w ho were beginning to brood about their arrears. They desired the House [of Com m ons] that money may be provided for the Paym ent o f those Forces, both in regard o f the Poverty o f their C ountry, and that the Soldiers, through w ant o f Pay, may not disaffect the Inhabitants; and thereby hinder their submission to the Parliam ent.37

N othing was done. At the tim e o f the final negotiations for the surrender o f the City, Brereton revealingly told Parliament that the large num ber o f negotiators was proposed by them, and was the rather assented to by us, to the end, better satisfaccon m ight bee given to ye com m on Soldyers, when some o f their ow ne officers were intrusted and imployed in Treating & makeing com positions for them, that they m ight thereby bee alsoe obliged to restraine their soldyers from plunder and vyolation o f w hat is concluded and agreed u pon.38

O n the whole Brereton refused to act in a repressive manner. He sought to control excesses, but, faced by the im possibility o f solving the problem while county finances remained so inadequate, he undoubtedly turned a blind eye to many incidents. Seizure o f food and clothing m ight be the only answer when men have not w herw thall to cover their nackedness nor a penny m ony in their pockets; truely I confess, if I had not bin an eye witness I should hardly have believed it. . . ,39

O rganized plunder was the m ost elementary form o f unrest. M ore direct were the concerted efforts o f bodies o f men to exact their arrears. Thus on several occasions troops refused to march to fresh quarters or into action until grievances had been redressed. The m ost serious m utiny o f this kind occurred when Yorkshire troops refused to advance to the siege o f Chester from Macclesfield hundred (where their m ilitary value was negligible) in the spring o f 1645.40 But the Cheshire forces themselves refused to serve on several occasions, notably during B rereton’s absence in London following the SelfDenying O rdinance.41 It was this which persuaded parliament to grant him a commission o f martial law - a right they were always 37. 38. 39. 40. 41.


C J, IV, 443. B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 60, fo. 393. B M , Add. M S. 11332, fo. 107. B M , Add. M S. 11331, passim, e.g. fos. 32, 56, 75, 95. E .g. B M , Add. M S. 11332, fos. 14, 15, 23-4, 30.

M utiny and Discontent in Provincial Armies

m ost reluctant to grant - on his return to the county.42 In fact one general feature o f the increase in the seriousness o f arm y unrest across the country in 1646-7 was the marked rise in the num ber o f these commissions granted to provincial commanders. Distinct from these mutinies were threats by whole regiments to disband themselves. A steady trickle o f deserters was inevitable, but the decision o f a whole body o f troops to desert was a m ore serious m atter. The clearest example is that o f Colonel Duckenfield’s men, who on several occasions threatened to disband themselves, and on at least one occasion did so. In their case arrears were secondary. As Duckenfield told Sir Thom as Fairfax in 1644, I have endeavoured (since I knew your pleasure) to get my soldiers into order fit for service, to advance to N antw ich, but they have disbanded themselves, and are following the plough, and from thence they will not be drawn. Yet upon the receipt o f your letter yesterday, I sent to the captains to join w ith mee presently, to call their companies together, to march w ith them and mee to N antw ich; but they refuse to stir yet. They pretend that the dragoons are so uncivil, that they plunder the country extremely, and they dare not leave their houses for fear o f them .43

The same complaint is recorded during their later mutinies. Henry Bradshaw, a M ajor in the regiment, stated that ‘whilst they themselves are upon dutie here [at Chester] and have notheing: that straingers haveing pay and doeing no service devour that wch should sustaine both them and theirs at w hom e’44, and one o f the arguments put to the Yorkshire commanders to induce them to force their men up to the siege was that ‘if yor Regiment would draw m ore this way it would prevent ye disbandeing o f coll Duckenfeild’s Regim ent o f foote’.45 T w o petitions from the com m on soldiers to their officers have survived from the last m onths o f the war. The first, from Duckenfield’s men, dealt with this last grievance and with arrears. The other, addressed to Colonel Michael Jones, is m arked w ith bitterness at the trail o f broken promises made by the C ounty Com m ittee. The soldiers called upon Jones to intervene on their behalf, they ‘haveing long waited with patience the perform ance o f the Gents Engadgem ents (which wee now see are not to be confided in)’. They

42. B M , Add. M S. 11332, fo. 29. 43. B M , Add. M S. 18979 (Fairfax M S.), fo. 147: printed in R. Bell, Memorials o f the C ivil War, Comprising the Correspondence o f the Fairfax Family, 2 vols. (London, 1849), I, 79-80. 44. B M , Add. M S. 11331, fo. 70. The ‘straingers’ w ere the Yorkshire horse. 45. Ibid., fo. 75.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

warned him that necessity m ight ‘constraine us to dispose otherwayes o f ourselves’.46 B oth the refusal to perform duties and organized desertion lost their effectiveness once the king had been defeated. As a means o f exacting arrears, the latter in particular was actually self-defeating. As a result affairs reached a climax in the sum m er o f 1646, when officials were seized by troops and held to ransom. Even this had been foreshadowed. Reluctant to mulct the countryside further, infuriated by the delays and false hopes created by vain promises, the troops began to threaten and extort money from any official reputed to be holding cash. In the sequestrators’ accounts there were about thirty reports o f the following kind: ‘pd to quiett soldiers when they came tum ultuously to the sitting o f the com m ittee for sequestr’ twice . . .’; or ‘spent when Colonel B ooth souldiers came for the first time for monies to M oberley and toke me with them to bow den and kept mee there tw o daies a prisoner’.47 The sums involved were usually very small. For m ost o f 1646, leading gentlemen in the country were aware that a major crisis was loom ing.48 Tensions were heightened by the return o f forces from service in Staffordshire and Wales, and by a fresh attem pt to settle the Excise on the county - earlier attempts during the war having been abandoned. The proceeds o f the Excise were intended for the soldiers, but it was hated by them as much as by the townspeople o f Chester and N antw ich. Several writers agree that it was one o f the major sources o f the ensuing m utinies.49 In a letter to three Cheshire gentlemen in London, the rest o f the Com m ittee pitch the case very high. . . . the Souldiery take great dislike at the Excise, the C itty and C ounty almost gennerally distaste it, the gentlem en that are im ployed have carryed themselves very well in it and endeavour by all fayre means to effect the same but our feare is that will not perfect the businesse but some constraint m ust be used, otherw ise little will bee made o f it to prevent present evill, Wee have tould the souldiers, that they arc to bee payd forth o f it, and if that take not there is noe way left to satisfye them. . . . Wee extreamely feare, if the souldiery joyne not in ye T um ult yet all or m ost o f them will stand apart and will not assist thcirc 46. Ibid., fo. 94; B M , Add. M S. 11332, fo. 103. 47. B M , Harl. M S. 2018, fo. 106; Harl. M S. 2126, fo. 103. 48. B M , T h om ason Tracts E511(17), Perfect Occurrences, 27 Ju n e-3 July, 1646; Bodl. Lib., Tanner M S. 59, fos. 230, 232, 426. 49. B M , T h om ason Tracts E511(24), Perfect Occurrences, 1 8 -2 4 July 1646; B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 59, fo. 442; Hist. M S S . C om m ., Portland M S S ., i, p. 390. As far as I can determ ine, the C om m ittee had m ade this prom ise w ithou t consulting the central governm ent.


M utiny and Discontent in Provincial Armies officers and w hat greater evill will come thereof m ore then the damage in the excise in this cittye which hath cost much blood wee know not, but leave to your serious consideracon.50

There was a preliminary crisis at the end o f June among the newly returned forces at Chester. According to a newsletter o f the 29th: Sir William Brereton, Coll George Booth, H enry Brooke esq H ighshreiffe; and the rest o f the D eputy Lieutenants o f the C ounty, and other Gentl o f quallity, were forsed to ingage themselves for 18,00c)1 at the lc[a]st (under their handw riting) about the businesse o f Chester (besides other ingagements since) which som m e was expected out o f Delinquents Estates but now fayles by reason o f Com positions, so that the souldiery have but a small part o f w hat they expected, and was promised, and being sencible o f the fayling therein; they are in a way to fall into the Estates o f the G entry.51

Significantly the Sequestrators and Excise men were also attacked.52 The m utiny was, however, quietened dow n by extensive borrow ings and the prom ise o f £2,000 from L ondon.53 M ore serious was the m utiny in N antw ich on 14 July, when about five hundred o f the garrison, defying their officers, seized the Nantw ich sequestration com m ittee and held them prisoner for tw o days. The victims later reported that ffyve Com panyes o f our Garrison Soldyers o f N am ptw ich, being about ffive hundred unreasonable men w ithout either Captyns or Com anders, in a m ost outragious maner fell upon us and w ith great fury (wherefore wee know not) did throw e us into the C om on prison am ongst prisoners, Cavaliers and Horstealers, neither sufferinge any to relieve us w ith meate drinke or any necessaryes but w hat the parsons or some weom en did privatlie convaye unto us, where wee (being Ancyent men) did lye upon the boards, not sufferinge our friends to bring us Q uyssions nor any C om forde the[y] cold hinder us from for the space o f 54 howers, neither w ould they be perswaded to gyve us better Q uarter although the Heughe Sherryff M r Brooke and m ost o f the D eputie Lieftenants and Justices a peace o f the Countie were then in T ow ne sitting in Q uarter Sessiones did there best and moved for us and the G overnor o f the T ow ne and his man they w ounded and abused m ost cruelly. Soe that the shereff, G overnor and all the Justices w ent fro the T ow ne not able to suppresse that greate m ultitude beinge all men and armed, and leftc us in prison to the mercy o f those wicked and unreasonable men, wee gyving them noe occasion att all.54 50. 51. 52. 53. 54.

B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 59, fo. 442. B M , T h om ason Tracts, E511(17), Perfect Occurrences, 27 Ju n e-3 July 1646. Ibid., E349(7), Scottish D ove, 29 Ju ly-5 A ugust 1646. Ibid.; also E349(4), Kingdome’s Weekly Intelligencer, 28 Ju ly -4 A ugust 1646. Transcribed from the com p osition papers o f Sir T hom as Sm yth and published in F. Sanders and W. Fergusson Irvine (eds.), Cheshire Sheaf, 3rd ser., (1896), 91-2.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

O ther contem porary accounts bear out their story,55 emphasizing that the officers were not involved, that Thom as C roxton (the tow n Governor) was attacked and wounded when he tried to intervene, and that the Justices were forced to flee from the town. Again the question o f Excise appears. O ne report speaks o f the collectors being beaten out o f the to w n .56 It is in fact surprising that they and the sequestrators should again be singled out. As M albon said they knew that the theim or noe other from the Treasurer o f theim said, they

same Com m ittee for Sequestrations never paid soldyers . . . for they receyved their paye alwayes by w arrant o f the deputie lieutenants. But as some w olde beate Jacke for Gill57

A m ore startling feature was that, at the height o f the m utiny, the soldiers, still acting independently o f their officers, sent representatives to put their case before the C ounty Com m ittee. The report o f their meeting shows that their demands were moderate, but they ended w ith a veiled threat. They hoped to ‘bee prevented o f takeing any unusuall course to supply our wants, but may bee enabled to behave themselves’.58 However, according to one London report, the soldiers were forced to capitulate w ithout achieving their demands because troops from Lichfield had been despatched against them. They had to rest content w ith a prom ise from the C om m ittee and Governor not to prosecute them , and the contents o f a chest o f m oney - rum oured to contain £500 - which they had seized.59 The gentry’s problems were not yet over. At the end o f the m onth tw o troops o f horse marched over to Peover and Alderley and quartered themselves on the homes o f tw o o f the leading deputy lieutenants, Philip M ainwaring and Thom as Stanley; when no money was immediately forthcom ing they broke dow n the doors o f the houses and forced each o f the gentlemen to pay them £50-60.60 Philip M ainwaring hurriedly sent off warnings to his fellows telling them that troops stationed at Congleton and Chester intended to falle upon theire howses in the like kind & this they profes to act in imitacon o f the N am pw chians their brave exployte the last quarter 55. E .g . T . M albon, M emorials o f the C iv il Wars in Cheshire (Lancashire and C heshire Rec. S o c., 1889), pp. 208-11; B M , T h om ason Tracts, E 511(24), Perfect Occurrences, 1 8-24 July 1646. 56. Ibid. 57. M albon, Memorials, p. 210. 58. B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 59, fo. 412. 59. B M , T h om ason Tracts, E511(24), Perfect Occurrences, 18-24 July 1646. 60. B M , T hom ason Tracts, E513(3), Perfect Occurrences, 8 -1 4 A ugust 1646.


M utiny and Discontent in Provincial Armies sessions if some very speedy course be not taken to prevent theis thinges & from above, by hastning dow n moneys (the onely way to do it).61

Parliament reacted slowly, but in the short term successfully. N antw ich was disgarrisoned, and all the forces in the county disbanded except for a residual garrison o f six hundred at Chester. £12,000 was eventually provided from London towards arrears, and a com prom ise agreement on the scale o f paym ent at disbandm ent reached at a meeting o f the officers and C om m ittee on 2 Novem ber. By February 1647 the situation appeared under control.62 But unfortunately the C om m ons had taken upon itself the responsibility o f paying the remaining garrison and, although some pay arrived on 25 March, no m ore was seen until a fresh and even m ore alarming m utiny in July 1647.63 The immediate cause was a rum our that there was £3,000 in the city intended for the troops in Ireland. But by the time the troops acted it had already been despatched.64 They now adopted a fresh course, m arching to N antw ich where they seized a group o f deputy lieutenants at a meeting there, while others arrested several gentlemen in their homes about the county, driving them to Chester ‘like rogues and theeves in a base and disgraceful m anner’. According to Sir George Booth, elder statesman o f county politics, those arrested included deputy lieutenants ‘together w ith Colonell Massey the G overnor o f the city and a captaine with some o f the com m ittee and sequestrators and Com missioners o f Excise’. Nine o f the prisoners w rote a long plaintive account o f their predicam ent on 3 July, m entioning that fifteen o f them had been locked in a single room .65 Plague was rife in the city, yet they were left there w ithout food, drink or ‘accomodacon for nature but publiquely like beasts am ongst ourselves’. As in 1646, the officers had been powerless to prevent the arrests, and stood by during the first days o f the mutiny. Eventually they prevailed upon the troops to m ove the prisoners ‘into a house where wee have tw o or three roomes & necessary 61. 62. 63. 64.

Bodl. Lib., Tanner M S. 59, fo. 448; see also, ibid., fos. 426, 436. For details, see m y thesis, loc. c it., pp. 263-6. B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 58, fo. 323. This account is based on four letters: B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 58, fos. 323, 326, 429 and P R O , SP. 28, vol. 208 (blue packet marked ‘Chester 208’), unfoliated letter dated 25 June 1649. W illiam M assey, the G overnor, was the brother o f Edward M assie, com m ander o f the Western A rm y w hich had caused so m uch trouble in 1646. 65. This letter was addressed to Parliament and begged the H ouses to speed up the flow o f m oney. The names o f those arrested, and their significance in local politics, are given in m y thesis, loc. cit., p. 267.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

accomodation to preserve our lives’. This time the soldiers were determ ined not to let their prisoners go until they had their arrears in their hands. Their demands were simple. Four thousand pounds in cash and an engagement from the prisoners ‘that the citizens w ould be satisfied for the quarter o f the souldiers’. With parliament dithering, the im prisoned gentry managed to raise the m oney by extensive loans - from ‘our friends and welw ishers’ who still exacted ‘strikkt bondds for the repaym ent o f it’.66 The letter announcing their release was dated 30 July, and in the absence o f other evidence, it seems likely that the im prisonm ents had lasted for over four weeks. Parliament, preoccupied w ith other problems, sent neither m oney nor troops to restore order, and postponed giving advice four times before setting up a com m ittee which failed to report back to the Com m ons. The only subsequent action taken by W estminster was a halving o f the garrison to three hundred m en.67 As in 1646, the soldiers had shown themselves capable o f quite complicated operations in defiance o f their officers. A lthough there is no evidence that on this occasion elected representatives had argued the soldiers’ case before the C ounty C om m ittee as in 1646 (eight m onths before the election o f agitators in the N ew Model), the 1647 m utiny involved coordinated marches over considerable distances by separate bodies o f troops. But the m utineers’ aims remain local and personal: there is no evidence o f Leveller involvem ent in the planning or execution o f any o f the unrest in Cheshire. O ne or m ore o f the organized patterns o f unrest can be found in counties across the country. There is evidence o f systematic plundering for thirty counties, o f refusal to obey orders until grievances had been redressed for eighteen counties, threats o f mass disbandm ent for ten, and the seizure o f officials or officers for fourteen. Thirty-six o f the forty English counties were involved, and for tw enty-eight o f them there is evidence o f tw o or m ore o f these forms o f protest. The whole o f north-east and parts o f south Wales were also affected.68 66. These loans w ere a source o f persistent rancour and bickering in the county for the next four years. 67. See m y thesis, loc. c it., p. 268 and n. 1 for details. 68. Furthermore this article is not exhaustive. It is based on the main printed and som e general M S sources, but, except for the north m idlands, hardly at all on local sources. A b ove all, painstaking exam ination o f the vast and uncalendared C om m on w ealth Exchequer Papers (PRO , SP. 28) w ou ld probably yield plentiful additional inform ation. H ow ever, the aim o f this article is sim ply to draw attention to the need to take the problem s raised by the continuing existence o f provincial armies into consideration for the years 1645-7, and I believe it fulfils this aim.


M utiny and Discontent in Provincial Armies

Since in m ost respects there was a com m on pattern to these mutinies, I shall simply draw attention to the m ost im portant distinctions and similarities between Cheshire and the rest o f the country. It is clear that the demands o f the soldiers were almost invariably about arrears. This m ight take a m ore complex form than a simple cash demand (for example, it m ight result from the unfair distribution o f available resources between different regiments, or a protest against inadequate quartering),69 or it m ight extend to cover other personal grievances (just as Colonel Duckenfield’s regim ent m utinied over the presence o f ‘foreign’ forces in East Cheshire, so Yorkshire troops mutinied over the Scottish quartering on their ow n hom es),70 but there is no evidence that any provincial army questioned the political structures which were in part responsible for the deteriorating financial position. It is not, o f course, as though provincial armies, rem ote from London, were unaware o f the factional struggles that bitterly divided local Parliamentarian Com m ittees. Troops were frequently employed in the course o f these disputes. Thus, late in 1645, Sir William B rereton’s forces were em ployed to seize control o f the tow n o f Stafford and to arrest several members o f the C ounty C om m ittee who had consistently supported the earl o f Denbigh in the bitter feuding within the Parliamentarian m ovem ent in Staffordshire.71 M r Pennington, in his brilliant unravelling o f the records o f the C om m ittee for Taking the Accounts o f the Kingdom , has shown how troops were frequently em ployed by local subcommissioners o f accounts or by their opponents in the struggle for control o f county finances.72 In the m ost spectacular case, M ontgom eryshire in the last m onths o f 1646, both sides enlisted the aid o f different regiments to arrest or harass their opponents.73 Although these are certainly not mutinies in the clear sense o f the Cheshire troubles, they are im portant in that they revealed to the soldiers both the political disunity o f their leaders, and the effectiveness o f violence. In discussing the general types o f unrest, there is little to add to

69. M .A .E . Green (ed.), Cal. Comm, fo r the Advance o f M oney, 3 vols. (London, 1888), I, 48 (Lancashire); B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 60, fos. 127—8 (Wiltshire). 70. Ibid., fo. 216. 71. D .H . Pennington and I. A. R oots, The Committee at Stafford 1643-5, (Manchester, 1957), pp. lx x iv -lx x x iii and references there given. 72. D .H . Pennington, ‘The A ccounts o f the K in gd om ’, in F.J. Fisher (ed.), Essays in the Economic and Social History o f Tudor and Stuart England in Honour o f R .H . Taw ney (London, 1961), pp. 182-203. 73. Cal. State Pap. D om ., 1645-7, pp. 441, 458-9; P R O , SP. 28, vol. 256, passim.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

what I have said about Cheshire. But, as the history o f the C lubm an m ovem ent showed, civilian resistance to plundering could be highly organized and lead to an extension o f violence. Unlike the forces in Cheshire, soldiers in many counties were accused, even after the end o f the war itself, o f m urder, violence and destruction as well as o f seizing goods, though this was frequently occasioned by civilian resistance. A good example o f this was the fight at M idbourne in Leicestershire between villagers and troopers o f M ajor B abbington’s troop (apparently w ithout an officer in charge) in April 1646 which resulted in ‘divers M urders, Maims and other violent outrages com m itted by divers soldiers . . . upon the M inister and other honest men . . . \ 74 Similarly in June 1647, a commission o f oyer and term iner was granted in Kent to try soldiers charged w ith ‘divers m urders and other outrages’ while forcibly quartering themselves near Maidstone. As elsewhere the Kentish gentry saw this not only as a short-term threat to persons and property but as a challenge to the whole basis o f settled government. Here are Blows struck, here is Bloodshed; the Lord Direct the Parliament, and the city, and the A rm y, to study how to compose these fresh Divisions lest poor England be overw helm ed in the Red Sea o f Subdivisions.75

The m ost remarkable series o f complaints were against Massie’s W estern arm y in the spring and sum m er o f 1646. Com plaints and pleas to halt the violence poured in from Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset and Gloucestershire.76 As in Cheshire, mass desertion lost its attractiveness once the fighting was completed. It became self-defeating, since the authorities w ould then have even less reason to find extra money. But it was fairly com m on during the last m onths o f the fighting. O ne example also serves to indicate the different financial situation in neighbouring counties. Massie complained in April 1645 that O ur troupers dayly leave me & now they see the Warwicke troupes so well cloathed, horsed & armed, & soe well payed I feare I shall not keepe one quarter part o f those I have if a very speedy course be not taken for us.77

The m ost frequent form o f m utiny in the years 1646-7 was for the 74. L J VIII, 265-6; CJ, IV, 504. 75. J. R ushw orth, Historical Collections (London, 1701), VIII, 741; see also ibid., VII, 575; CJ, V, 215; B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 58, fos. 181, 211 etc. 76. See p. 338, n. 24. 77. B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 60, fos. 127-8.


M utiny and Discontent in Provincial Armies

troops to refuse to obey the orders o f their officers. This m ight take the form o f a refusal to move from their quarters, or a deliberate march to fresh quarters against orders. Thus the Wiltshire horse rode over the Devon border in M arch 1647 and settled dow n there, refusing to heed the pleas o f the D evon C om m ittee that they remove themselves. The D evon C om m ittee sought unavailingly for Parliam ent’s assistance, since ‘wee are not able to force them hence’.78 When the Gloucestershire C om m ittee ignored a parliamentary order allocating the assessment from six hundreds for the pay o f Bristol garrison, several regiments marched into the area, quartered them selves and refused to return to the city.79 In Newcastle, the garrison rescued some o f their comrades from prison and marched from the tow n in defiance o f the Governor. Four days later they returned on receipt o f the fourteen days’ pay they had dem anded.80 The gravest o f these mutinies took place in D ublin in July 1647, when Colonel Kinaston’s com pany mutinied, ‘beat and abused their field officers’, and occupied the College Green for several hours, while Michael Jones, the Governor, parleyed with them (fearful to use his other troops lest they should join the mutineers). Once again, serious consequences were avoided by the capitulation o f the officers (this time enemy forces were nearby).81 At the same time, Thom as Hogan was returning from London to Lyme Regis w ith an order to pay the garrison £500 from the Custom s House there. Which imm ediately at m y com m inge hom e I sent for, but could not receive it, beinge disbursed by him [the H igh Collector], and m uch m ore upon form er orders. The Soldjers in the Guarrison havinge intim ation o f it, ranne into a m utiny on Friday last sayinge they w ould have all their pay to a day, declaringe they w ould goe to the A rm y .82

As a result Hogan and the mayor had to raise the money by personal loans. The mayor o f another town, King’s Lynn, wrote to Lenthall at the same time, revealing a further local response to the troubles. The miserie o f our T ow ne is grow ne unto such a highet, and our 78. 79. 80. 81.

Ibid., 59, fo. 805. Ibid., fo. 247. B M , T hom ason Tracts, E396(2), Mercurius Britanicus, 24 June-1 July 1647. Ibid., E398(13), Moderate Intelligencer, 8-15 July 1647; E518(6), Perfect Diurnall, 12-19 July 1647; H ist. M S S . C om m ., Portland M S S ., I, 429-30; Hist. M S S . C om m ., E gm on t M S S ., I, part ii, 425. Even the N e w M odel was not free from such unrest. Several regim ents deserted their quarters in July 1646 and m et at a rendezvous at St Albans, but the situations was saved by the sw ift action o f their officers as Parliament dithered: CJ, IV, 625; W hitlocke, Memorials, II, 53. 82. B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 58, fo. 335.


The Nature o f the English Revolution souldiers for w ant o f pay are grow ne so m utinous as here wilbe noe livinge for us. . . . Sr I am confident y f the H ouse w ould be pleased to order their disbandinge, the T ow ne wilbe kept closer to ye Parlam ent by the T ow nsm en themselves then by the Souldiers, for the T ow nsemen have heretofore ingaged themselves & their w hole estates by a form er peticon to keepe that T ow ne for kinge and parliament against all opposers. . . ,83

From this it was but a small step to the ultim ate outrage, the arrest o f prom inent com m itteem en or officers. M ajor-General Poyntz was arrested at York by dissident members o f his army and removed to Pontefract, his wife telling the C om m ons that he was ‘carried away in his slippers, not suffered to Express any congugall com efort or courtesie to me his wife at his departing, & what wilbe ye doom e they will passe on him I cannot tell. . . .’84 Also in July 1647 several members o f the Leicestershire C om m ittee were arrested at a meeting in Leicester and locked up at Lubenham. The soldiers demanded ‘five shillings sixpence weekely m ore than the Twelve shillings a weeke alreadie paid unto them ’ - an inflationary wage claim by any standards.85 Officials were also seized in Westmorland, Lancashire and Dorset that m onth.86 Three m onths earlier, it had been reported that the M utiny o f the Souldiers in N o rth Wales for Arreares continues; they still hold in Prison several com m itteem en in Richam (Wrexham) church, Colonel M itton is gone for Shrewsbury, Colonel Alderson is come to this T ow n; other chief men in the country, not in their hands, have taken refuge in Conw ay Castle, which they threaten to Besiege, and say they will have money before D isbanding.87

An earlier series o f similar arrests in July 1646 is m entioned in the weekly papers as having occured in Suffolk, M ontgom eryshire, Radnorshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire, Cheshire and Staffordshire. As Perfect Occurrences commented: ‘The like is in divers other places, and they are set on by malignants to set us into new Com bustion, some m ust be made examples, or else we shall be in danger o f a new w arre’.88 83. 84. 85. 86.

Ibid., fo. 343. Ibid., fo. 363; see b elow , pp. 353-6. Ibid., fo. 329. U n d erd ow n , Pride’s Purge p. 77; B M , T hom ason Tracts, E518(17), Perfect Occurrences, 6 -1 3 A ugust 1647. 87. R ushw orth, Historical Collections, VII, 455, 496-7. See also the reports in BM , T h om ason Tracts, E384(15), Kingdome’s W eekly Intelligencer, 13—20 April 1647; E388(6), ibid., 11-18 M ay 1647; E387(5), Perfect Occurrences, 7 -1 4 M ay 1647; and W hitlocke, Memorials II, 131. 88. B M , T hom ason Tracts, E511(24), Perfect Occurrences, 18-24 July, 1646.


M utiny and Discontent in Provincial Armies

M any o f these mutinies involved large num bers o f men and coordinated, or at least well-organized, marches. They also involved conferences between officials and the soldiers concerned. It is therefore obviously o f great im portance to discover the extent to which these mutinies were organized or carried through independently o f the officers. In one o f the cases I have quoted above, the refusal o f the Wiltshire force to return out o f Devon, some officers were clearly involved at a later stage, and probably from the beginning, and there is evidence that elsewhere officers were helping to fom ent discontent. According to Edw ard Harley, Captain M ilward (of Thom as B irch’s regim ent in the garrison o f Hereford) u se d sp e e c h e s te n d in g to th e p reju d ic e o f th e C o m m it t e e w it h th e s o ld ie r y , s a y in g th at th e y w o u ld n o t lo o k u p o n s o ld ie r y an d th at h e w o u ld e n d e a v o u r to b e a c o m m it t e e m a n an d to e x a m in e th e ir a c tio n s. T h e sa m e n ig h t th e se sp e e c h e s w e r e u se d th e re w a s a m u t in y in th e g a r r iso n , th e so ld ie r s c r y in g o u t ‘m o n e y , m o n e y ’. 89

Similarly in February 1645 Colonel M ontagu reported ‘a M utiny that was am ongst some companies o f his, upon their drawing out to be mustered at Henley, occasioned, as is conceived, by Captain Taylor and Lieutenant R ow se’.90 But against this, there is strong evidence, as I have shown, that almost all the major mutinies were controlled and organized from w ithin the ranks. Often, as in the Welsh m utiny o f April 1647,91 the Hull m utiny o f June,92 or the Plym outh m utiny o f August, the case for arguing from silence or from the tone o f the description is a strong one. Thus the G overnor o f Plym outh, Ralph Weldon, while not speaking about the leadership o f the m utiny there, said S o u ld ie r s w h o w e r e to r e lie v e th e gu a rd s c a m e to th e P arad e o n S a tterd a y m o r n in g last b u t a b s o lu te ly r e fu se d to g o e u p p o n d u ty an d w o u ld a lso fo r c ib ly h a v e ca rry ed a w a y th e ir c o lo r s . A m o n g e w h o m e I r e s o lv e d to m a k e s o m e E x a m p le s , b u t w e ll v e in in g th e m , F a m in e s e e m e d to ap p care in m o s t o f th e ir faces . . . u p p o n w e h g r o u n d s I fo r b o r e to p r o c e e d a g a in st th e m an d to allay th is m u t in y I w a s in fo r c e d to tak e fiv e

89. Hist. M S S . C om m ., Portland M SS, III, 145 (the incident took place in Feb. 1646). 90. CJ, IV, 60. Here the issues w ere clouded by the general political crisis o f early 1645. The tw o captains had been cashiered from the army o f the Eastern A ssociation, but later reinstated by M anchester. M ontagu, on the other hand, was a noted opponent o f the Earl, having given evidence to the C om m on s about M anchester’s deportm ent at the siege o f D on n in gton Castle. I am indebted to M r M . M ahony for this point. 91. See above, p. 339. 92. B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 58, fo. 261.


The Nature o f the English Revolution hundred pounds out o f the Custom e howse for their present supply w ith bread.93

In any case the Cheshire example in itself demonstrates what could be achieved. The exact role o f the Levellers in fom enting and organizing the N ew M odel unrest in M arch to N ovem ber 1647 has yet to be fully analysed. Clearly, in view o f what has been said above, the old view that, w ithout Leveller organizational ideas, discontent w ould have remained ineffective, spasmodic and inchoately violent, must be modified. Elaborate m ovem ents o f troops to back up specific objectives had been possible in many provincial armies - not famed like the N ew M odel for their professionalism and discipline - as early as the sum m er o f 1646, and were to follow parallel but distinct courses to the N ew M odel throughout 1647. O n the other hand, only in the N ew M odel did personal, immediate objectives become underpinned by an ideology which saw that grievances were the inevitable result o f a corrupt and unconstitutional political system and lead to a fundamental attack on the governm ent. As one w riter said in April 1647, ‘Lilburne’s bookes are quoted by them as statute law . . . though the army differ in judgem ent about religion, yet they all agree in ther discontented speeches agaynst the parliam ent.’94 The role o f the Levellers in provincial unrest was both delayed and limited in importance. I have already pointed out that there is absolutely no evidence o f outside influence in the Cheshire mutinies o f 1646-7. N o r is there any suggestion o f it in any other area before July 1647. Thus the m ajor m utiny in N orth Wales took place three m onths before the agitators o f the N ew M odel w rote to the regiments there calling for their support and clearly introducing themselves and their proceedings.95 M ore suggestive was the circular sent out in early August, in which the agitators called upon every county which had petitioned the A rm y to elect tw o or m ore agitators to represent them at Arm y H ead-Q uarters.96 It seems that at the end o f June and in early July, the Levellers, having w on their immediate aims within the N ew Model, were seeking to extend their pressure on Parliament to the

93. Ibid., fo. 439. 94. Hist. M S S . C om m ., Portland M SS, III, 155-6. 95. C .H . Forth (ed.) The Clarke Papers, I (Cam den Soc., n ew ser., 1891), 158-60. See also the approach m ade to the Lancashire forces reported in B M T hom ason Tracts, E518(17), Perfect Occurrences, 6 -1 3 A ug. 1647, and ibid., E397(24), A Copie o f a Letter out o f Lancashire, 12 July 1647. 96. H ist. M SS. C om m ., Portland M SS, I, 432-3.


M utiny and Discontent in Provincial Armies

whole country. Since this coincided w ith Parliam ent’s attem pts to purge the London militia and the clear intention o f the Presbyterians to discover their ow n military strength, this became fused w ith the dem and for the whole army, including Poyntz’s Yorkshire forces and all remaining garrisons, to acknowledge the authority and com m and o f Sir Thom as Fairfax. Since Parliament could not be relied upon to give way, active steps were taken to ensure that commanders hostile to the N ew M odel were removed. At the height o f the Plym outh m utiny,97 the harassed Governor, Ralph Weldon, arrested an agent o f the army, Daniel Lewes, who had made approaches to a Lieutenant in neighbouring Saltcombe and offered him a C aptain’s place in the N ew M odel and his arrears to a farthing if he w ould deliver the fort into Lewes’s hands in the name o f the Arm y. When arrested he was engaged in subverting the Plym outh garrison.98 Furtherm ore, Lewes had come from Lyme, where a few days earlier the m utiny had occurred during which the soldiers had said ‘they would have all their pay to a day, declaringe they would goe to the arm y’.99 At the same time The Kingdome’s Weekly Intelligencer reported that in South Wales, six m utinous companies had stated their intention ‘to be readm itted into his Excellencyes arm y’. 100 The Venetian ambassador w rote hom e about Fairfax’s demand for absolute control over all garrisons and ports in the country and noted that ‘the fortress o f D over and the county o f Kent refuse to obey the army, and other governors o f fortresses claim to be neutral, and to look after them selves’. 101 This evidence is not by itself particularly convincing. Events in Yorkshire, however, reveal the pattern far m ore clearly. Yorkshire forces had always been am ong the m ost restive and m utinous in the kingdom . Perhaps their needs were greater than most; certainly the complaints o f the Yorkshire C om m ittee about the im poverishm ent o f their county were m ore eloquent than those from elsewhere. There were constant reports o f systematic plundering throughout 1646, and by June 1647 there had already been three major mutinies. The first, in August 1645, centred in Doncaster, saw the arrest o f the commander, threats to the C om m ittee and demands for a full m onth’s pay;102 the 97. For the in volved m utiny at P lym outh, see B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 58, fos. 380, 382, 427, 439, 444, 448, 476, 482, 507. 98. Ibid., fo. 382. 99. Ibid., fo. 335. 100. B M , T h om ason Tracts, E394(13), Kinqdome’s Weekly Intelligencer, 22—9 June 1647. 101. Cat. State Pap. Ven., 1647-52, pp. 9, 16. 102. H ist. M S S . C om m ., Portland M SS, I 252.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

second, in N ovem ber 1646, saw the arrests o f Poyntz and the m ayor o f Y ork by separate companies, both being dragged from their beds and threatened w ith cocked muskets and lighted matches (a situation saved, according to Whitlocke, by P oyntz’s conspicuous courage);103 and the third, in May 1647, when the sequestrators were seized and only ransomed after handing over all the m oney in their hands.104 It was soon after this that the first letter from the N ew Model agitators arrived in Yorkshire, explaining their proceedings ‘to the end you may have right apprehensions o f our candid intentions and actions’. 105 A week later representatives from the N ew M odel were at Y ork headed by M ajor H enry Lilburne, newly returned from Ireland. According to a newsletter, they were soon ‘engaging souldiers heere’. 106 Hearing o f this, Parliament ordered Poyntz to arrest those involved.107 But Poyntz, though ‘according to the rule and discipline o f warre, if any comes into another’s Quarters to inveagle or perswade Souldiers from their Superiours hee is to be punnished w ith death’, did not feel strong enough to take any action w ithout further parliamentary su p p o rt.108 While he dithered, the agitators seized the initiative. A surgeon in Colonel C opley’s regim ent marched the C olonel’s ow n com pany to a rendezvous near Leeds where others were gathered and read out letters from the South which called on them to join with the N ew M odel and demand their just arrears and a proper indem nity. They returned in greater strength the next day; after further discussions some returned to their quarters wearing blue and white emblems in their hats, while others marched to Pontefract, recently disgarrisoned, and installed themselves there. In the following days they were joined by other dissidents.109 Poyntz m eanwhile had been desperately trying to get Parliament to help him undo Leveller propaganda (for example by sending dow n copies o f the Indemnity Bill), but Fairfax’s letter approving the activities o f the Pontefract m utineers further underm ined his position.110 He now made a fresh bid to seize the initiative, sending a safe-conduct to Pontefract requesting H enry Lilburne and agitators 103. 104. 105. 106. 107. 108. 109. 110.


CJ, IV, 723; W hitlocke, ii, 85-6. Ed. Bell, Memorials . . ., I, 335-6; B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 58, fol 113. Clarke Papers, I, 89-92. Ibid., pp. 121-2. CJ, V, 219. Clarke Papers, I, 142-4. B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 58, fo 188. Clarke Papers, I, 46-7.

M utiny and Discontent in Provincial Armies

o f the five regiments now gathered there to come to a conference in York, and taking steps to remove unreliable officers (notably one o f Fairfax’s relatives who had been in charge o f C lifford’s Tow er in Y ork).111 At the conference, Poyntz felt it best not to reject the agitators demands outright but to play for time, as he told Lenthall: Thcirc mainc desire is to associate these forces w ith his Ex[cellen]cies’ army, resolving to stand or fall w ith them in their ju st request, as they say. To this purpose they have selected tw o out o f every assenting T roope & Com panie, w ho reside at Pontefract, advisinge & actinge (with some come from the Southern Army) w hat they think fitt in pursuance o f the aforesaid aim .112

Poyntz’s ow n view is made clear in a letter to Colonel Copley, I w ould faine know c w hy they should make their grievances know ne to Sir Thom as m ore then they have done formerly. And w hy to Sir Thomas? they all know ing these forces arc a distinct A rm y and not under the com m and o f Sir Thom as. . . . 113

The failure o f Poyntz to com m it him self to the N ew Model, his dismissal o f Captain Fairfax, his continued attem pt to prevent further desertions to Pontefract, and his correspondence with Parliament during the crisis over the Eleven Members, led to his arrest and im prisonm ent at Pontefract. There is no evidence that any part o f his army tried to prevent his seizure or later tried to rescue h im .114 After a few days he was escorted south to the Arm y Headquarters, where Fairfax secured his release. He made his way to London and played a leading part in the Presbyterian bid to prevent the A rm y’s reinstatement o f the MPs forced to w ithdraw in late July. In the north, his arm y declared its conjunction w ith the N ew M odel.115 By O ctober, C rom w ell and Fairfax were corresponding about the disposition o f troops and the appointm ent o f new garrison commanders in the area.116 111. Ibid., pp. 167-9. 112. B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 58, fo. 311; see also P oyn tz’sletter o f 2 July in BM , Add. M S. 18979, fo. 242. 113. Clarke Papers, I, 144. Poyntz goes on to claim that he believes Farifax w ill denounce the m utiny. Ironically Sir T h om as’s letter approving the actions o f the Pontefract forces was signed that very day at W indsor. 114. See above, p. 350, and Bodl. Lib., Tanner MS. 58, fos. 363, 366; H Cary, Memorials o f the C ivil War, 2 vols (O xford, 1842), I, 293; Clarke Papers, I, 163-4; CJ, V, 245. For the charges made against him by the northern agitators, see Clarke Papers, I, 167-9. 115. B M , T h om ason Tracts E398(II), Perfect Weekly Account, 7 -1 4 July 1647; ibid., E398(6), Kingdome’s Weekly Intellingencer, 6-13 July 1647. 116. E .g. C ro m w ell’s letter to Fairfax about the garrison at H ull, 22 O ct. 1647; BM , Sloane M S. 1519 (Fairfax Correspondence), fo. 164.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

The scope o f this article has not perm itted me to examine the effect o f this pattern o f unrest on the course o f the struggle between Parliament and the Arm y. But perhaps in conclusion I m ight go beyond sum marizing the above argum ent and suggest some o f the ways in which the existence o f provincial armies was im portant in determ ining the course o f events at W estminster. Traditional explanations o f the crisis have laid emphasis on the tensions and conflicts between the ‘Presbyterian’ and ‘Independent’ parties; these are largely seen in terms o f the religious question and the problem o f the guarantees necessary for any settlement with the king, though the existence o f disputes over the sale o f or com position for C row n, C hurch and Delinquents’ lands, relations w ith the City o f London and the priority repaym ent o f loans has also been noted. But the w ork o f historians undertaking local studies has not been absorbed into the thinking o f historians o f events at W estminster. That the logic and dynamics o f political affiliations were bound up w ith the tensions and pre-existent conditions in each county com m unity has now been widely accepted. But that local developments could in turn affect politics at W estm inster has not been properly acknow ledged.117 The parties in 1646-7 were not merely concerned with the narrow range o f issues m entioned above, how ever im portant these may have been. Thus, the course o f disbandm ent in the autum n and w inter o f 1646, although an essential response to the mutinies of the sum m er, became a clearcut and divisive party issue within the house o f com m ons, since decisions over which garrisons to retain and the choice o f commanders vitally affected the balance o f pow er in the localities. Behind this struggle remained a much deeper one. What was to become o f the structures o f local governm ent constructed to win the war? H ow much o f this was to remain, and how far should the central governm ent exercise control in local affairs? The dispute was sharpened, but not created, by the knowledge that in m ost parts o f the country, pow er had been seized from the hands o f the traditional, moderate county leaders and now lay with m ore radical men o f lesser b irth .118

117. A n exception m ust be made in favour o f Professor U n d erd ow n . 118. U n d erd ow n , Pride Purge pp. 29-39, 76-8. Excellent local studies are provided by Everitt, The Com m unity o f Kent . . ., ch. 5, and Johnson, ‘B uskingham shire’ (for Buckingham shire). But the linkage betw een the localities and W estm inster has yet to be exhaustively exam ined. T he outline o f the struggle to suppress county com m ittees can be found in the Journals o f the tw o H ouses, and the w eekly newspaper, The Scottish Dove, led a prolonged attack w hich can be follow ed in its num bers for 1646-7.


M utiny and Discontent in Provincial Armies

Just as im portant, Parliament in February 1647 was not merely faced w ith the specific question o f how and when to disband the N ew Model (with the allied question o f Ireland). It was faced by the much wider question o f how to prevent the country dissolving into a second civil war. O ne lesson taught by all local studies is that the fear o f a collapse o f civil order was ever-present throughout the civil war and was particularly acute in 1641, 1645 and 1647. In 1646 it was probably exaggerated, though understandable; in 1645 the Clubm an m ovem ent, though posing a political threat to the parliamentarian cause, had, in m ost areas, fallen safely into the controlling hands o f neutralist or crypto-royalist gentry. But the unrest in 1646-7, which developed in the face o f the continuing existence o f restive troops across the country, aggravated by a food crisis and massive rise in prices and leavened by extremist propaganda from the Levellers and other sectarian groups, seemed likely to go further. In several counties - as far apart as Leicestershire and N orthum berland, Yorkshire and Ham pshire - fighting broke out between soldiers and armed civilian bands. From m any other parts o f the country, Radnorshire, N ortham ptonshire, Cheshire, Kent, pleas poured in to Parliament speaking o f the im minence o f a new and m ore terrible war. C ounty C om m ittees were m ore divided than ever; in Buckingham shire tw o C om m ittees claimed authority, one issuing warrants for the maintennace o f a garrison at Aylesbury, the other cancelling the warrants and ordering the troops to disband.119 All this vitally reduced Parliam ent’s room for manoeuvre. Fighting to solve the question o f how to pay off bodies o f troops whose arrears were ever growing, considerable headway had been made by the beginning o f 1647. M any o f the recalcitrant provincial armies and garrisons had been disbanded; the royalists seemed resigned, were flooding in to com pound, and were settling dow n to restore their shattered fortunes; the Scots had been paid off and were disbanding. The case for a large m ilitary establishment was not strong. Partypolitical issues were integrally involved, but were not all-embracing. Furtherm ore the dangers o f a major political stance being adopted by the A rm y was unthinkable in February, and only clearly emerged in May and June. In the circumstances, the C om m ons set out to dissolve the N ew M odel using extremely similar means to those that had been tardily but effectively employed elsewhere, notably against Massie’s brigade. Indeed, over the question o f indem nity, Parliam ent’s 119. E .g. B odl. Lib., Tanner M S. 59, fo. 406.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

policy, though fatally vacillating, constituted an astonishing reversal o f thought for a party which had gone to war in defence o f the absolute supremacy o f the com m on law. By a process parallelling that o f the royal dispensing power, the Presbyterians were prepared to remove a wide range o f issues from the competence o f the courts, and to deprive the population o f redress for w rongs which were unquestionably mala in se.uo If the grow th o f political consciousness w ithin the N ew Model made it unique, it has been one o f the aims o f this article to suggest that the developm ent o f organised and effective resistance to the orders o f officers and civilian officials was not in itself remarkable or startling. The existence o f provincial armies in 1646-7 both broadened the problems facing parliament, forced it into prem ature - though not vindictive - attem pts to settle the question o f the N ew Model, and finally afforded the radicals an opportunity to extend their campaign against Parliament and the A rm y moderates to a national level. But above all their im portance m ust lie in the extent to which they were responsible for the widespread conviction am ong the gentry and M embers o f parliament that A s affairs n o w sta n d , I a m su re it w ill c o n c e r n b o th p a r lia m e n t an d th e a r m y to m a k e a s p e e d y c lo s u r e , b o th o f th e d iffe r e n c e s b e t w ix t th e m , an d lik e w is e o f th e s e ttle m e n t an d p e a ce o f th e k in g d o m ; fo r o t h e r w is e c lu b s an d c lo u te d s h o e s w ill in th e e n d b e t o o h ard fo r th e m b o t h . 121

120. See above, ch. 16. 121. Cary, Memorials, I, 293: Sir H enry C h olm on d ely to Lenthall, 8 July 1647.


Order and Disorder in the English Revolution

Despite the hopes o f a few (like the Somerset man who declared that there was now no law in force) and the fears o f many more, Charles I’s execution was not to be the signal for the collapse o f that social order whose keystone he had claimed to be. Previous ‘interregnum s’ had seen an outbreak o f rioting prom pted by the belief that the law died with the monarch, but the ‘year o f intended parity’ saw no popular rising emerge to take advantage o f such beliefs; the intention remained unrealized.1 Indeed, an examination o f disorder in the 1640s and 50s m ight suggest that the possibilities o f an ‘intended parity’ were greater in the fantasies projected by the fears o f the propertied classes than in the reality o f popular disorder in the period. There exists a notable discrepancy between both the character and level o f disorder generated by the ‘moral panic’ that gripped propertied contemporaries and the evidence recoverable in the historical record. While the Revolution imposed new sources o f conflict on pre-existing social and economic tensions, it failed to produce that popular explosion, fear o f which ran like a red thread through the political history o f the period. M easuring disorder is at the best o f times a difficult (and even questionable) exercise. To the fam iliar problem s o f the underreporting o f riot and patchy record survival, the R evolution added its ow n obstacles. T hat w hat the people said and did continued to be less often w itnessed to by them selves, than reported by m en o f property w ho ‘talked o f the danger o f a popular uprising in This essay was co-w ritten w ith John Walter, w ith w h ose kind perm ission it is reprinted here. 1. Somerset RO Q /S R 81/47; The Souldiers Demand Shewing the Present Misery, A nd Prescribing a Perfect Remedy, Printed at Bristoil in the yeare o f intended Parity, BL, Thom ason Tract E555(29), a reference w e ow e to the kindness o f Margaret Sampson.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

order to discourage each other from taking up arm s’,2 makes even harder the Solom on-like task o f disentangling reality from rum our and the paranoia o f the propertied. The cessation o f judicial activity for a time in some areas, and at the centre the collapse o f those prerogative courts preoccupied w ith the punishm ent o f riot com pounds the pro b lem .3 W hile this m ight have had the effect o f understating the level o f disorder, the sw itch to other courts, and notably Parliam ent, probably had the opposite effect. B oth as the focus o f contem porary concern w ith civil conflict and as an institution that has left full docum entation, P arliam ent’s assum ption o f the prosecution o f various form s o f riot m ay have served to inflate both contem porary and historical perceptions o f the scale o f disorder in the R evolution.4 At the same time, the collapse o f censorship and the em ergence o f unprecedented form s o f com m unication reporting riot - pam phlet, broadsheet and new spaper - w ould have had the same effect.5 The im m ediacy o f this reporting was in stark contrast to the muffled, delayed and confused reports by w hich one region had heard o f disturbances in other regions in preceding decades. F urtherm ore, there was an extensive correspondence betw een M Ps and others in London and their families and friends in the provinces in w hich reports and rum ours o f disorder featured pro m in en tly .6 Even if there had not 2. L. Stone, The Causes o f the English Revolution 1529-1642 (London, R outledge, 1972), p. 77. 3. J. Mather, ‘Parliamentary C om m ittees and the Justices o f the Peace, 1642-60’, American Journal o f Legal History, XX III (1979), 122-3, 133n. 4. That the H ouse o f Lords assumed the judicial business o f Star Cham ber (w hose records exist m ainly in m anuscript and are largely m issing, reports excepted, for the reign o f Charles I) not on ly assured that evidence o f disorder w ou ld be easier to recover by historians, but also that M Ps w ou ld be made continuously aware o f riots in the provinces and reflect this awareness in letters to friends and family. 5. J. Frank, The Beginnings o f the English Newspaper (Cam bridge, M ass., Harvard U n iversity Press, 1961), pp. 19-31. For general com m ents on the astonishing grow th o f publications at this time, see P. Zagorin, The Court and the Country (London, Routledge, 1969), pp. 203-5; G .K . Fortescue, Catalogue o f the Pamphlets o f George Thomason (2 v o ls., London, 1908), I, x x -x x iv . The total num ber o f k n ow n publications betw een 1640 and 1660 exceeded the total num ber from 1485 to 1640. T hom ason collected 721 item s in 1641 and 2104 in 1642. S. Lambert, ‘The B eginnings o f Printing for the H ouse o f C o m m o n s’, The Library, 6th scr., Ill (1981), 45n., suggests that in these years, T h om ason m ay have collected less than half the item s actually published. W e k n ow that these publications were distributed very w id ely and passed from hand to hand: R. Cust, ‘N e w s and Politics in early seventeenth-century England’, Past and Present, CXII (1986), 60-90; M orrill, Cheshire 1630-1660 (O U P , 1974), pp. 39-42. 6. For som e exam ples, see D . Hirst, ‘The D efection o f Sir Edward D ering 1640-41’, H J X V (1972), 193-208; D . Gardiner (ed.), The O xinden Letters, 1607-1642 (London, C onstable, 1933).


Order and Disorder

been an actual increase in the incidence o f disorder, these changes in the m anner o f reporting and recording riot w ould have inflated contem poraries’ perceptions. All this, we would wish to argue, has contributed to a tendency by some historians to misread the trajectory o f disorder in the 1640s and 1650s. While this period witnessed an undoubted increase in disorder, it also registered im portant discontinuities w ith an earlier pattern o f disorder and in the forms and levels o f riot w ithin the Revolution itself. The potential for some im portant forms o f popular disorder (enclosure and grain riots) had been removed from some areas before 1640; within the Revolution there were tw o separate peaks o f disorder, the early and late 1640s, w ith little continuity, and some surprising breaks, in the forms o f riot. These discontinuities challenge the accepted w isdom o f an interpretation that sees popular disorder grow ing throughout the period. Disturbances were undoubtedly at their greatest in the first peak o f disorder in the early 1640s. Enclosures were throw n down, altar rails torn out. Elections, both municipal and parliamentary, had seen the unwelcome and sometimes tum ultuous intrusion o f ‘fellowes w ithout shirts’. In the provinces, crowds attacked and pillaged the houses o f recusants and malignants; in London, they pressed round Parliament. And all this took place against a clamour o f unem ployed clothworkers and m ultiplying evidence o f a breakdown o f the traditional bulwarks o f church and state.7 Aggregating the various disturbances thus catches contem poraries’ uneasy perception o f w hat seemed to them a social order in dissolution. But to disaggregate these various disturbances is to question the accuracy o f that contem porary perception upon which historians have sometimes placed overm uch reliance as evidence o f the actuality o f disorder. As MPs nervously debated and argued, it could indeed appear that their disagreement w ith the king m ight let loose a popular m ovem ent for ‘Lex Graria’, the confiscation and redistribution o f their estates.8 There was a notable increase in the num ber o f agrarian riots in the early 1640s. To see these as the culmination o f a rising trend o f agrarian protest is to ignore the contradictory evidence o f the changing geography o f disorder. The classic locus o f earlier enclosure riot and rebellion, the fielden Midlands, remained remarkably still. For the m ost part, enclosure riots were restricted to areas where the 7. B. M anning, The English People and the English Revolution 1640-1649 (London, H eincm ann, 1976) gives a vivid sense o f these years. 8. M anning, English People, p. 58.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

radical challenge o f enclosure to local economies prom pted, and local social and economic structures perm itted, the persistence o f active, collective resistance. It was in the western forests and eastern fens and the larger estates whose royal, aristocratic and episcopal owners were associated with a discredited regime that m ost riots were to be found.9 In the charged political atm osphere o f the 1640s, the tendency to equate the levelling o f enclosures w ith the threat o f levelling in society became m ore pronounced. As a description o f the politics o f agrarian disorder this reveals m ore about the propertied classes’ fears than the rioters’ intent. While recent assessments o f agrarian disorder as non-ideological or apolitical are too cut and dried (it is possible to reconstruct the politics o f enclosure rioters in contexts other than those o f class or party allegiance),10 it remains the case that agrarian crowds were intent on a recovery o f rights that involved the righting, not the transform ation, o f a w orld turned upside-down. The not unsurprising decision o f the House o f C om m ons (whose earlier attack on enclosure in the Grand Remonstrance had raised popular hopes) to throw their w eight behind enclosers after 1643 ensured that enclosure rioters did not form a radical agrarian wing o f the parliamentarian cause. Land and liberty was not to be the cry o f the English Revolution. But this failure to meet popular expectations did not lead to a radicalization o f agrarian disorder. At its greatest in the early 1640s, agrarian disorder became progressively restricted. It remained a problem in forest and fen or flared up when new owners o f confiscated estates attem pted to enclose. There was, however, to be no revolution in the countryside. The passivity o f the Midlands (outside o f its forests) suggests that the possibilities o f a revolt o f the fields may already have been underm ined by the very changes in social 9. The discussion o f agrarian disorder is based on system atic research on a w ide variety o f sources, including State Papers; Journals o f the Lords and Commons; M ain Papers, H ou se o f Lords RO; P R O , K in g’s Bench; Historical Manuscripts Commission and Quarter Sessions Record for a large num ber o f counties. Further discussion of, and further references for, the points raised in the follow in g discussion w ill be found in J. Walter, ‘T he P oor M an’s Friend and the G entlem an’s Plague: Agrarian Disorder in Early M odern E ngland’ (forthcom ing paper). A. Charles w orth (ed.), A n Atlas o f Rural Protest in Britain, 1548-1900 (London, C room H elm , 1983), pp. 16-22, 39-42, provides a good , concise discussion. See also B. Sharp, In Contempt o f all Authority: Rural Artisans and Riot in the West o f England, 1580-1660 (Berkeley, U n iversity o f California, 1980); K. Lindley, Fenland Riots in the English Revolution (1982). 10. Som e prelim inary com m ents on the politics o f riot in early m odern England are to be found in J. Walter, ‘Reconstructing Popular Political Culture in Early M odern England’ (forthcom ing).


Order and Disorder

and economic relationships which provoked popular discontent, an im portant point to which we later return. W hat made agrarian disorder m ore threatening was the simultaneous occurrence o f other disturbances. Popular iconoclasm was probably m ore com m on than the destruction o f hedges; in Essex, for example, the authorities needed to hold a special court to deal w ith those who broke dow n altar rails.11 A reaction to Laud’s ‘beauty o f holiness’, such riots nevertheless could seem to presage a m ore general toppling o f traditional structures. Some contemporaries saw iconoclasm as ‘abolishing superstition w ith sedition’. 12 It m ight involve the riotous destruction o f altar rails and images, but iconoclasm had its ow n sources o f legitimacy (parliamentary declarations and preaching) and discipline. N ot infrequently, it involved the tacit cooperation o f local elites.13 Events like those at Chelm sford in which the royalist clergyman and polemicist, Bruno Ryves, drew a direct link between religious and social radicalism were, if true, an exception.14 Popular iconoclasm was at its height in the early 1640s; after 1643 it became the prerogative o f reform ing parliamentary troops at whose hands m any cathedrals suffered.15 M ore alarming were the attacks on recusants and malignants. Here could be seen more direct evidence o f the people taking advantage o f the times to challenge their ‘betters’. According to Clarendon, m alignants’ goods were seized ‘by the fury and license o f the com m on people, who were in all places grow n to that barbarity and rage against the nobility and gentry (under the style o f Cavaliers) that it was not safe for any to live at their houses who were taken notice o f as no votaries to the parliam ent’. 16 The focus on the riots in the 11. J.R. Phillips, The Reformation o f Images (Berkeley, U n iversity o f California, 1973); J.S. M orrill, ‘The Church in England, 1642-9’ above, ch. 7; M orrill, Cheshire, pp. 36-7; D . U n d erd ow n , Somerset in the C ivil War and Interregnum (N ew to n A bbot, D avid and Charles, 1973), pp. 27, 38, 44, 78; W. H unt, The Puritan Moment: The Coming o f Revolution in an English County (Cam bridge, M ass., Harvard U n iversity Press, 1983), pp. 285-6; J. Sharpe, Crime in Early Modern England (1984), pp. 84-6; [Bruno R yves], Mercurius Rusticus, or the Countries Complaint o f the Sacriledges Prophanations and Plunderings. 12. M anning, English People, pp. 32-45. 13. See, for exam ple, J.T . Evans, Seventeenth-Century Norwich: Politics, Religion, and Government, 1620-1690 (O U P , 1979), pp. 128-9; H ouse o f Lords R O , Main Papers, 30 June 1641; H M C Buccleuch M ss., Ill, 415-16; P R O , SP 16/460/31. 14. [B. R yves], Mercurius Rusticus no. 3, pp. 17-21. 15. A b ove, pp. 154—5. I. Gentles, ‘Conflict betw een Soldiers and Civilians in the English R evolution, 1640-1655’. W e are grateful to Professor Gentles for allow ing m e to read this valuable unpublished paper. 16. Clarendon, The History o f the Rebellion and C ivil Wars in England, W .D . M acray (ed.) (6 v ols., O U P , 1888), II, 318-19.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

Stour Valley in 1642 (on whose example Clarendon drew) in which crowds looted gentry households has, however, obscured the m ore general point that only a tiny m inority o f recusants were attacked. Even in the Stour Valley riots local evidence suggests that some victims owed their selection to a previous history o f conflict w ith their local com m unity; at Colchester, Sir John Lucas was in conflict w ith the corporation and popularly detested for his enclosures.17 Attacks were concentrated in the period before the onset o f armed conflict when official licence, rather than the collapse o f political authority, made Catholic and ‘m alignant’ gentry legitimate targets. W ith the exception o f those Catholic officers m urdered by troops raised to fight the Scots, violence when it did occur was directed against property and not persons. The outbreak o f war saw a decline in this form o f disorder which coincided with an end to the panics and alarums over supposed ‘Popish plots’. 18 Where such attacks persisted it was the w ork o f parliamentary troops w ho had been often at the heart o f earlier crowds. But the English Revolution was not to be stained by the bloody violence that m arked religious conflict on the continent. W hat gave these generally distinct forms o f disorder in the early 1640s their menace was the political context in which they took place. In London, sullen crowds jostled m embers o f both Houses and prevented them from taking their seats in Parliament, while the lord m ayor found his authority flouted.19 The w orst actual violence occurred in May 1640 when rioters swarm ed around the archbishop’s palace at Lambeth but they failed to carry out their threat to burn it down. When some o f the leaders were seized and im prisoned, rioters broke open the gaol and delivered the prisoners, for which they were tried for treason.20 Thereafter the London crowd dem onstrated 17. C. H olm es, The Eastern Association in the English C ivil War (C U P , 1974), pp. 35-6, 43-4; C U L , Add. M S 33, fols. 19-21; H M C Braye M ss., pp. 147-8; PR O , SP 16/458/12 and 13; H ouse o f Lords R O M ain Papers, 5 A ugust 1641; R. C lifton, ‘T he Popular Fear o f Catholics during the English R evolu tion ’, Past and Present, LII (1971), 23-55, reprinted in P. Slack (ed.), Rebellion, Popular Protest and the Social Order in Early Modern England, (C U P , 1984), pp. 129-61. 18. C lifton, Past and Present, LII (1971), 32ff. A. H ughes, ‘Politics, Society and Civil War in W arwickshire 1620-50’, unpublished PhD thesis (U n iversity o f Liverpool, 1979), p. 265; M anning, English People, pp. 165-6; P R O , SP 16/491/119, 133, 138; 492/2, 11; LJ, V, 294-5; N .Z . D avies, ‘The Rites o f Violence: R eligious R iot in Sixteenth-C entury France’, Past and Present, LIX (1973), 51-91. 19. V. Pearl, London and the Outbreak o f the Puritan Revolution (O U P , 1962), pp. 212-16 and passim. 20. S.R. Gardiner, History o f England from the Accession o f King James I to the Outbreak o f the C ivil War (10 v ols., London, 1884), IX, 133-5.


Order and Disorder

against and intim idated churchmen, politicians and the royal fam ily.21 These examples in the capital o f crowds who showed scant regard for established authority and o f the coercive petitioning o f Parliament gave provincial disorders a threatening and unfolding unity they perhaps did not merit seen in isolation and in their local context. In the provinces, exaggerated reports o f events in London had the same effect. In reality, however, there was a failure to link radical ideas with popular grievances in the collective action o f the early 1640s. Even in London the crowds often embraced substantial citizens and were well disciplined; there were few attacks on property or persons. As Valerie Pearl has w ritten o f events in the capital, here was a str ik in g p h e n o m e n o n . . . u n k n o w n in th e rest o f E u ro p e: th e rise o f m a ss p o litic a l a c tiv ity o f a n e w k in d , a c c o m p a n ie d b y d e m o n s tr a tio n s in th e stree ts an d p e titio n s . . . th e a b se n c e o f attack s o n p r iv a te p r o p e r ty c o n tr a sts sh a r p ly w it h th e b e h a v io u r o f e ig h t e e n th - c e n t u r y c ity m o b s . . . . L o n d o n r e m a in e d w it h o u t a p o p u la r u p r isin g , e v e n w it h o u t s ig n if ican t b lo o d s h e d , d u r in g s o m e o f th e m o s t d istu r b e d y ea rs in E n g lis h h is to r y . . . . T h e p o in t w a s n o t lo s t o n th e F ren ch a m b a ssa d o r: b lo o d w o u ld ce r ta in ly h a v e f lo w e d in th e stree ts o f P aris, h e w r o t e in 1 642, i f sim ila r e v e n ts h ad h a p p e n e d th e r e .22

A third, popular force did not emerge from the widespread disorders o f the early 1640s. There was, in fact, discontinuity in the patterns o f disorder carried into the civil war. M uch o f the force o f this earlier popular political initiative had been dissipated. It had been alienated by the failure o f Parliament, a body o f landowners, to respond to their appeals, sublimated in the wider m ilitary conflict between C row n and Parliament or ultimately turned against both by the costs o f the war. It was the strains o f the civil war and the politico-religious conflicts accompanying it that explain the second peak o f disturbances in the later 1640s. The armies became the major direct and indirect source o f disorder. Plundering troops prom pted conflicts between civilians and the m ilitary that culminated in the Club risings in south and south-w est England.23 Ill-paid troops became themselves a source 21. M anning, English People, pp. 71-98. 22. V. Pearl, ‘Change and Stability in Seventeenth Century L ondon’, London Journal, IV (1979), 5. 23. J.S. M orrill, The Revolt o f the Provinces: Conservatives and Radicals in the English C ivil War 1630-1650 (London, Allen and U n w in , 1976), pp. 98-111; J.S. M orrill, ‘M utiny and D iscontent in English Provincial A rm ies 1645-1647’, above, pp. 356-8; D . U n d erd ow n , ‘The Chalk and the Cheese: Contrasts am ong the English C lu b m en ’, Past and Present, L X X X V (1979), 25—48; R. H utton, ‘T he W orcestershire C lubm en in the English C ivil W ar’, Midland History, V (1979-80), 39-49.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

o f disorder, staging mutinies in at least thirty-four English counties and in m ost o f Wales in the years 1645 to 1647.24 The excise, a new form o f indirect taxation introduced to meet the costs o f the war, occasioned riots in both the larger cities (London, N orw ich) and smaller communities. T hough we lack a full study o f excise riots, this form o f disorder seems to have been at its height when the harvest failures o f the later 1640s made the collection o f a tax imposed on the consum ption o f basic commodities (but not bread) especially resented. While some areas may have been relatively untroubled by such riots, others m ight experience considerable disorder.25 In 1647 there was a further outbreak o f religious disorder, but this time associated with counter-revolution. In the Revolt o f the Prayer Book, large crowds reinstated ejected ministers or compelled the use o f the Book o f C om m on Prayer. These disturbances, spontaneously occurring in different regions, were linked to rum ours that the army was negotiating w ith the king for the restoration o f the old C hurch.26 But while the pressures o f civil war conflict produced a second peak o f disorders in the later 1640s, these riots against specific grievances did not become the occasion for rebellion. Conflict over the tithe resulted in some riots for example (but how many precisely we have yet to discover) and m ore tithe-strikes probably, but the politics o f the tithe never initiated disorder on the scale that it did in continental E urope.27 And if the riots o f the later 1640s challenged the exercise o f authority, they did not automatically signal popular support for a radical attack on the social bases o f authority. The largest popular m ovem ent o f these years, the Clubm en, did not seek to threaten that social order whose hierarchies were seemingly well observed within its ranks. Ironically the discontinuities between the tw o peaks o f disorder in the early and late 1640s suggest that the emergence o f m ore organized 24. A b ove, pp. 333-43, 346. 25. C .H . Firth and R .S. Rait (eds.), Acts and Ordinances o f the Interregnum 1642-1600 (3 vo ls., London, 1911), I, 916-19, 1004-6; D . U n d erd ow n , Pride’s Purge: Politics in the Puritan Revolution (O U P , 1971), pp. 90, 298; Evans, Norwich, pp. 170-1; M orrill, Cheshire, pp. 195-6. T he geography o f the excise riots awaits system atic study. W hile a large num ber o f counties experienced disorder and opposition could be a particular problem in an area like the W est C ountry, som e counties seem to have been largely untroubled: J.S. Cockburn (ed.), Western Circuit A ssize Orders, 1629-1648: A Calendar (Cam den Society, 4th series, XV II, 1976), 254, 276, 280; P R O SP 25/169, fols. 5-6; W iltshire R O , Q /S Gt. Roll, M ichaelm as 1659, 10 M ay 1659; Sharpe, p. 79. 26. A b ove, ch. 17, p. 346. 27. M orrill in Reactions to the English C ivil War, p. 110; cf. H. Kam en, The Iron Century (London, W eidenfeld, 1971), ch. 10.


Order and Disorder

radical groupings, like the Levellers and Diggers, coincided with a decline in those forms o f disorder which should have provided them w ith potentially their best opportunities for proselytizing. By the later 1640s agrarian disorder had become even m ore confined to specific areas. The earlier attacks on recusants and malignants had not developed into the feared attack on ‘Protestants as well as Papists’. There are isolated examples o f attacks by tenants on m anor houses and detailed local research may provide more, but the frequency w ith which a few familiar examples are cited raises doubts as to how com m on these w ere.28 Sequestration and confiscation may have tilted the balance o f pow er in favour o f tenants (as incomplete evidence on rent-strikes and arrears suggests) and afforded the odd opportunity for riot, but they did not provide the legitim ation or pretext for wholesale popular plunder.29 In the English Revolution (some) manorial records were burnt, but not chateaux. For reasons that we look at m ore fully later, this period did not witness an English rising against seigneurialism. In the towns, economic discontent provoked tax riots and prompted some to support the radical groups, but harvest failure and popular chafing at the attempted puritan ‘reformation o f manners’ persuaded others to join in the counter-revolutionary political demonstrations that took place in London and other cities.30 As Peter Clark and Paul Slack note, political upheaval at the centre, popular opposition to high taxation and extreme religious radicalism in many towns meant that the new civic rulers, often differing but in degree from the social composition

28. See, for exam ple, I. R oy, ‘The English C ivil War and English S ociety’, B. B ond and I. R oy (eds.), A Yearbook o f M ilitary History, 1 (1977), 34-5. This is a subject crying out for system atic study. M ost o f the k n ow n attacks on m unim ent room s seem to have occurred just after a fortified m anor house was taken over by besieging parliamentary troops. 29. Charlesworth (ed.), A tlas o f Rural Protest, p. 41; L. Stone, Family and Fortune: Studies in Aristocratic Finance in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (O U P , 1973), p. 151; A.L. H ughes, ‘Politics, Society and C ivil War in W arwickshire, 1620-1650’, unpublished PhD thesis (Liverpool U niversity, 1980), pp. 220, 421-2; M anning, English People, p. 194; Gardiner (ed.), O xinden Letters, pp. 67-8; B. Schofield (ed.), The K nyvett Letters, 1620-1644 (N orfolk Record Society, xx, 1949), 134, 137; H M C 5th Report, M SS E. Field, p. 388. 30. P. Clark and P. Slack, English Towns in Transition 1500-1700 (O U P , 1976), pp. 99, 135-6; V. Pearl, ‘L ondon’s C ou n ter-R evolu tion ’ in G .E. A ylm er (ed.), The Interregnum: The Quest fo r Settlement 1646-1660 (London, M acm illan, 1972); U n d erd ow n , Pride’s Purge, pp. 323-4; M anning, English People, ch. 10; Gentles, ‘Conflict betw een Soldiers and C ivilians’; A. Everitt, The Com m unity o f Kent and the Great Rebellion 1640-1660 (Leicester U n iversity Press, 1966), pp. 231-59; V C H Suffolk, II, 192.


The Nature o f the English Revolution

o f their predecessors, were as anxious as their predecessors to exert their authority over the ‘meaner sort’.31 And despite the tensions and sufferings caused by successive poor harvests in the later 1640s, the urban poor were not brought to the barricades by the demand for Bread and Justice. In fact, grain riots were not only noticeable by their continued absence from the capital; sensitive and previously much troubled areas, like Kent and Essex, also escaped the food riot. While the clothing districts o f the West C ountry continued to experience grain riots, there seems to have been a contraction in the geography o f the food riot.32 Famine, even in the conditions o f the later 1640s, never became the spur to popular risings. After the king’s execution, social hierarchies trembled but ultimately held firm. Charles’s execution had coincided with a third year o f harvest failure. Wildman, for the Levellers, had tried to draw on the evidence o f food riots in Wiltsh