The House of Commons was the bugbear of politics. Reformed or unreformed, no one could manage it. James I fumed, spluttered, and roared at it — all to no avail. He considered its reform very seriously but was too wise to attempt it. Charles I did better by ruling without it for eleven years; but for the crass folly of his Scottish policy, he might have dispensed with it for good. Back at Westminster, Parliament soon showed its mettle; after a brief honeymoon of comparative unanimity, the Members were quickly at loggerheads with each other; within a few years they were quarrelling with the Army as bitterly as they had formerly with the Crown. Purged to the point of ridicule, their intransigence remained. And Cromwell did little better with Parliaments of his own devising. Like their predecessors, they were full of squires, and squires detested governments.1 Naturally, the Restoration brought a short period of harmony, although this is perhaps somewhat illusory. Reports of the Commons’ deliberations at this time are scarce, but we know that in 1660 Lord Wharton had a well-drilled regiment of Presbyterians in opposition; they were organized by counties, each company headed by an experienced Parliamentarian. It would have been surprising if they had held their peace.2


Political Stability Parliamentary Election Legal Cost Large Electorate Privy Council 


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  1. G. F. Trevallyn Jones, ‘The Composition and Leadership of the Presbyterian Party in the Convention’, EHR (1964), lxxix. 307–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Sir Lewis Namier, The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George III (and ed., 1957), 65.Google Scholar
  3. H. Sacret, ‘The Restoration Government and Municipal Corporations’, EHR (1930), xlv. 232–59. For the Corporation Act, see Statutes of the Realm, 23 Car. II, c. i.Google Scholar
  4. B. Cozens-Hardy, Norfolk Lieutenancy yournal,1676–1701, Norfolk Rec. Soc. (1956), LXX. 63–66.Google Scholar
  5. Sir George Duckett, Penal Laws and Test Act in 1687–8 (1882–3), i.194–7.Google Scholar
  6. R. H. George, The Charters Granted to English Parliamentary Corporations in 1688’, EJIR (1940), 1v. 47–56.Google Scholar
  7. G. H. Martin, The Royal Charters of Grantham (Leicester, 1963), 21. The Tories were JohnThorold of Grantham and Thomas Harrington of Boothby.Google Scholar
  8. Kenyon, The Nobility in the Revolution of 1688 (Hull,1963), passim.Google Scholar

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© J. H. Plumb 1967

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  • J. H. Plumb

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