The Growth of Oligarchy
It proved easier to win a revolution than secure it. Within twelve months the country party registered a number of defeats, and by February 1690 the King had decided to see whether a fresh general election would bring him a more amenable Parliament, or, rather, one with a less intransigent core, for the Convention Parliament, in full session, was moderately rather than violently Whiggish. The Bill of Rights, which in the first flush of the Revolution promised to be a comprehensive constitutional document, had been quickly watered down to a string of condemnations of James II’s actions, followed by a number of hopeful generalizations about the way in which executive power should be used in the future. The ultra-Whigs protested at such flabbiness; as William Sacheverell urged the Commons, ‘Since God hath put this opportunity into our hands, all the world will laugh at us if we make half a settlement…. Secure the right of elections and the legislative power’.1 What was worse, from a Whig point of view, was that little punishment was meted out to those who had been responsible for the destruction of their party after 1681. To their chagrin they failed to obtain their cherished Corporation Act by which those responsible for surrendering charters, or acting under the new ones issued by Charles II and James II, would have been incapacitated for seven years from playing any part in corporation affairs — an essential step if the world was to be made safe for the Whigs.
KeywordsEighteenth Century Political Stability Town Hall Large Electorate County Seat
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