Political Theory and the Revolution

THE Stuart kings of England all had far-reaching ideas about the extent of their political authority, and William of Orange, himself a Stuart on his mother’s side, had frequently behaved extremely autocratically in his dealings with the Regents of Holland and of other States of the Dutch Union. But in any case the seventeenth century was becoming an age of absolutism, though less enlightened than in the following century: for examples, the Kings of France and of Sweden alike aimed to restrict the political power and influence of their more important subjects: and the divine right of kings to rule was almost a commonplace. Yet at the same time a social rumbling was to be heard, which burst into a fearful storm in the middle of the century. In greater or lower degrees the whole of Europe was faced with revolution, though it took different forms. In England it resulted in the victory of Parliament over King Charles I; in the United Netherlands it inflicted a setback on the House of Orange. However, the hereditary executives largely recovered their lost ground: in 166o Charles II was restored to the throne of his fathers; in 1672 William became Stadholder as well as Captain-General of the United Netherlands. Both Charles II and William of Orange had learned a lesson from revolution and restoration. James II, coming to the throne in 1685,  had not learned the same lesson or had forgotten it; or perhaps, as some historians argue, he had learned an altogether different lesson: that a tough line of conduct was the best assurance against revolutionaries and to yield to pressure was foolish if a king wished to rule as well as to reign.

The Stuarts, who in three centuries of kingship in Scotland had never been effectively absolute and indeed had frequently been tossed about and humiliated by a turbulent aristocracy, had looked with admiration on the authority and influence of the Tudors in England. Realizing that his position was likely to be much stronger in England, James I when he came south incautiously put forward grandiose claims for the rights of monarchy. Yet before the time of the Tudors the kings of England and indeed of other countries in Europe—were never thought of as absolute monarchs. ‘The subordination of government to a moral standard and to spiritual authority,’ it has recently been observed,’ was probably the outstanding feature of much political thinking: the use of political power was considered to be limited both by the reason implicit in customary law and by God’s will and purpose as embodied in the law of nature.’ It is true that when King Henry VIII repudiated his allegiance to the papacy greater political power came to be concentrated in the hands of the English monarchy, and once the Tudors became Supreme Heads or Supreme Governors of the English Church it was more difficult to insist on spiritual or moral limitations upon the authority of the Crown. But the idea that the sovereign was completely supreme was never admitted without question by the majority of those who thought about politics in seventeenth-century England. Against King James I’s far-reaching claims (which he had the sense not to press too far) Sir Edward Coke, the famous jurist, and his friends, comprising leading members of the House of Commons, lawyers and antiquarians, advocated the doctrine that the King was subject, if not to the moral and natural laws, then certainly to the immemorial laws of the English people, dating back at least to Anglo-Saxon times, and enshrined in such documents as Magna Carta, coronation oaths and other cherished constitutional acts of the middle ages. Coke would never have agreed that the Tudors had destroyed ‘feudalism’ and erected an absolute monarchy responsible solely to the Almighty in its place; for he insisted that the King was subject to laws tested by experience and that he needed regularly to consult his subjects assembled in Parliament.

Up to the outbreak of the civil war in 1642 what most English political thinkers believed in was not royal absolutism but what they called ‘mixed monarchy’. Men as politically opposed as Coke and Francis Bacon would have agreed that, in theory at least, there could be and should be no disharmony between the executive, the legislature and the rule of law. Where the difference was to arise was over the reserve or emergency powers of the monarchy, generally called the King’s prerogative powers, but in fact signifying simply the basic authority which any effective executive expects to exercise. It was only after the civil war broke out that different political ideas were expressed. Yet at first the royalists argued that a constitution consisting of a ‘mixed monarchy’ could not function if the powers of the monarchy were reduced as much as the parliamentarians now claimed they should be, while the parliamentarians argued that Charles I in many of his actions, especially his arrests of Members of Parliament and his imposition of taxes by prerogative means, had violated the whole spirit of the English constitution and ignored the rule of law handed down from generation to generation. Convinced that the King was incorrigible, political writers who sought to justify the civil war then began to suggest that Parliament itself ought to be the sovereign power in the community while the King carried out purely ceremonial or administrative duties under Parliament’s supervision. Philip Hunton, Henry Robinson and William Prynne were among those who argued in such a way. It was not until King Charles I started the second civil war, having been defeated in the first, that even more extreme views were expressed. In his Tenure of Kings and Magistrates written in 1649, John Milton observed that ‘the power of kings and magistrates is nothing else but what is only derivative, transferred and committed to them in trust for the people to do the common good of them all’. The people therefore, he argued, had the right to depose a king at any time, even though he were no tyrant, and to decide, ‘merely by the liberty and right of freeborn men’ to be governed as they thought best.

During the ten or eleven years before the Stuarts were restored to their throne many constitutions or schemes of government were tried or came under public discussion. Never in the history of England were republican writings more prolific or varied than they were in 1659. And the greatest political thinkers who wrote during this period, Thomas Hobbes and James Harrington, produced theories which were no comfort to the Stuarts or the advocates of hereditary monarchy and could indeed have been made equally applicable to a republican form of government.

It is usually said by historians that political theories or philosophies when absorbed and disseminated bring about constitutional changes. But the fascinating thing about the history of political thought in seventeenth-century England is that the theorists, for the most part, wrote not to urge changes but in justification of the existing political facts. King James I’s books justified the divine right of the Tudors to govern without restraint; the political pamphleteers who wrote in the sixteen-forties invented a case for the sovereignty of Parliament instead of the system of ‘mixed monarchy’; Milton, Harrington and Henry Vane in their different ways approved a sort of republican oligarchy; men as different as Oliver Cromwell and John Lilburne, the Leveller leader, favoured a widening of the bases of electoral power, though neither of them was in the least a democrat in a modern sense. And republicans who wrote during the reign of King Charles II thought in terms of the rule of an aristocracy of virtuous men—or a ‘chosen people’—which they had seen to exist during the Interregnum.

During the first eighteen years after Charles II was restored to the throne there was comparatively little political writing, though the works of Hobbes were read and refuted. A ‘mixed monarchy’, or what has been called by the greatest authority on this reign a ‘semi-constitutional’ monarchy, was established. Parliament sat, if discontinuously, throughout the whole of the period. Charles II accepted the restrictions on the power of the monarchy to which his father had agreed in 1640 and 1641. No attempt was made to levy taxes without the consent of Parliament or to interfere with parliamentary privileges or deliberately to pervert the law (that was hardly necessary in view of the flexibility of the judges). It was not until the exclusionist crisis blew up in 1679-81 and King Charles II’s first ‘long’ Parliament had been dissolved that men began to apply their minds again seriously to questions of political theory and to examine the constitutional foundations of the existing Government.

When the crisis came the royalists were rather stuck for an apologist. No question arose of their making use of the works of Thomas Hobbes who, though he had a brilliant mind and friends in Court circles, was considered by most of his contemporaries to be a cynic and an atheist; moreover his arguments did not necessarily lead to belief in the value of the kind of monarchy that actually existed. So they turned to the writings of a Kentish country gentleman, Sir Robert Filmer, who had been dead for thirty years, but whose books had been written to support the Stuart cause at the time of the civil war. His Patriarcha, a Defence of the Natural Power of Kings Against the Unnatural Liberly of the People, originally circulated in manuscript before the civil war, was printed in 168o and it excited lively interest. It was ironical that he should have begun his book by stating that the doctrine that mankind was born with freedom from all subjection and at liberty to choose what form of government it pleased was one fostered by ‘Papists and Jesuits’, since the monarchy that he was now being called upon posthumously to sustain was itself becoming unpopular mainly because of its close relationship to the Roman Catholic Church. In 1670 Charles II had promised the French King that he would aim to convert his subjects back to Roman Catholicism; in 1673 James had laid down his public offices rather than admit to the validity of a Test Act requiring public servants to vouch for their Protestantism. If the hereditary monarchy of England was again in danger, as indeed it was in the sixteen-eighties, it was because it was tarred with this papist brush, made manifest to the English public in general by the discovery of the so-called Popish Plot.

Anyhow, Filmer was used to show that the monarchy had been created by God, that the subordination of Adam’s children to their father was ‘the fountain of all regal authority’ and that this authority was handed down through Noah to the Stuarts. Filmer was no defender of ‘mixed monarchy’ as some royalist writers had been. To him ‘mixed monarchy’ was an ‘impossibility’ or ‘contradiction’, for the State then, he said, becomes a democracy, and there is no such thing as a democracy. But while Filmer agreed with Hobbes that mixed monarchy was another name for anarchy, he disagreed with his view that men are naturally equal or with Milton’s view that they are born free. A political State, he argued, is simply an enlarged human family: subjects must obey their king, as children obey their father. That was prescribed by Holy Scripture. Thus Filmer had a clear-cut opinion about the basis of political obligation and he employed historical precedents and commonsense reasoning to expose political arguments deriving from such shadowy concepts as ‘the state of nature’ and ‘the rule of law’.

At the same time that Patriarcha appeared, another book of Filmer’s, The Freeholder’s Grand-Inquest Touching Our Sovereign Lord the King and His Parliament (1648), was reprinted: in this Filmer argued from a study of medieval statutes that Parliament’s privileges were derived from and governed by the King. Parliament was no court but was subject to the monarchy. Filmer’s arguments were taken seriously in spite of their dependence on Old Testament stories and dubious constitutional history. Though a modern historian has written that the immediate and enduring success of Patriarcha was ‘a pathetic reflection of the absence of any truly critical element in the conservative thinking of the time’, yet there was more substance to Filmer’s arguments than vague assertions of indisputable right and the theories of conquest which had previously been employed to promote royal absolutism.

At this time, largely by accident, the power of the Government to impose a censorship on books temporarily came to an end, and thus it was legal for pamphlets to be published in support of views that could be condemned as subversive, though the authors might be had up for seditious libel. Three writers sat down to tackle the doctrine of the inviolability of hereditary monarchy put forward by Filmer: the authors were Sir James Tyrrell, a man of Filmer’s own class, Algernon Sidney, the brother of Prince William’s friend Henry Sidney, who was prominent among the exciusionists, and John Locke, an Oxford don who was the personal friend and servant of the Earl of Shaftesbury, the exclusionist leader in Parliament. As it happened, Sidney’s book was not published until after he was dead—he was executed for the part he was alleged to have taken in the imaginary Rye House assassination plot—and the manuscript of his book was used in evidence against him at his trial, while John Locke’s work did not appear until after the revolution of 1688 succeeded. But all three books illustrate the kind of arguments that were being put forward at that time to refute such notions as the divine right of kings and the obligation of subjects not even to resist a tyrant.

Tyrrell’s book, Patriarcha Non Monarcha (1681), was attributed to ‘a Lover of Truth and of his Country’, bearing the name of Philolethes. Tyrrell argued that he was only defending the existing state of affairs against an advocate of tyranny. The Government of England, as it was established, he asserted, was the best of its kind. Tyrrell was not prepared to go all the way with Philip Hunton, whom Filmer had attacked. ‘I have nowhere maintained with Mr. H. in his treatise which our author writes against [he wrote] that ours is a mixed monarchy, though limited by law, and therefore shall not maintain, as he does, the King to be one of the Three Estates.’ But Tyrrell pointed out that mixed monarchies did exist elsewhere in the world (thus refuting Filmer’s view that they were impossibilities) and he quoted the writings of Puffendorf, the Dutch jurist, in support of them. Tyrrell insisted that supreme power must be limited by some law; all sovereignty was ultimately dependent upon consent; and the past history of England showed that the King had always coil-suited Parliaments and acknowledged the rule of law. When King John conceded Magna Carta to his subjects, the assertion of their ancient rights by the nobility and people of England was never condemned or declared to be a rebellion, except of course by the Pope.

Sidney’s arguments were more far-reaching than those of Tyrrell, though they have never been considered to be particularly subtle. In fact he reverted to old doctrines of ‘natural law’. Government, he said, with Milton, is derived from the consent of the people: ‘the liberty of the people is the gift of God and Nature’. Government is carried out by magistrates appointed by the people and the magistrates are not necessarily a hereditary dynasty. As with Milton, Sidney believed that what the people had once granted they might take away again at any time. The general revolt of a nation against a tyrant could therefore never be called a rebellion. Sidney expounded his views not only in the manuscript that shocked the judge at his trial but also in a speech delivered on the scaffold, which was afterwards published. These views were summarized in a pamphlet entitled Sidneji Redivivas, which appeared in 1689. Sidney believed, this pamphlet explained, that ‘the power of kings is founded on the consent of the people who have a right to call them to account for maladministration and to restore themselves to their native liberty’. This original power of the people was delegated to Parliament; the rights and powers of magistrates in every country was that which the laws made them to be. The King is as much accountable to the people as he is to God. The trouble with Filmer was that he failed to understand that magistrates were made for and by the people.

It was no wonder that such ideas were deemed horrid at Sidney’s trial. The notion that the King was responsible to his people as well as to God, that he was a mere magistrate, and that his powers could legitimately be taken away from him if he were considered at any time to have misused them, was anathema to all good royalists and indeed to all good Anglicans. Yet these ideas were not expressed merely by Sidney but by other exclusionists in the sixteen-eighties and they represented a fundamental criticism of the traditional authority of hereditary monarchy. The right of rebellion in fact could not have been more clearly formulated than it was by Sidney. ‘When nations,’ he wrote in his posthumous Discourses, ‘fall under such princes as are either incapable of making a right use of their power or do maliciously abuse that authority with which they are entrusted, those nations stand obliged by the duty they owe themselves and their posterity to use the best of their endeavours to remove the evil, whatever danger or difficulties they may meet in their performance.’

John Locke, a far profounder political writer than either Tyrrell or Sidney, does not seem to have gone as far as they did in advocating the right of rebellion. It is not clear precisely how far he did go because his famous book, Two Treatises of Government, was not published until after the revolution of 1688, although it is known that much of it was written at the same time as the other two critics of Filmer were writing. Moreover, modern commentators on Locke’s work are by no means in agreement over exactly what he did mean: for example, the very last chapter of his book entitled ‘Of the Dissolution of Government’ is held to be ‘not at all explicit about what actually happens when people find themselves at liberty to entrust new hands with the government’. Nevertheless it can hardy be doubted that Locke’s doctrines permitted a rebellion, at any rate if it were approved by Parliament. Mr. Peter Laslett, the recent editor of the Two Treatises, says that ‘the trend of Locke’s statements about the ultimate right of the people to revolt is quite unmistakable’. Mr. Maurice Cranston, his latest biographer, observes that ‘the right to rebellion … is central to the argument of the book’.

From what does this right derive? Locke invented a ‘state of nature’ and ‘a law of nature’ which really represented his view of what mankind was or ought to be. In the ‘state of nature’ men were free and equal and according to ‘the law of nature’ no one ought ‘to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions’. But the power of punishment that every man has in ‘the state of nature’ to enforce ‘the law of nature’ may lead to disorder. Hence men make a ‘compact’ to set up a magistrate and thereby secure an ordered society. In agreeing to do so, they do not surrender their natural rights; on the contrary, the principal aim of government is to protect the individual’s liberty and property. Thus, in Mr. Cranston’s words, Locke was ‘an early champion of the minimal state’.

The government which men set up, according to Locke, was therefore a fiduciary trust. The consent that men gave to government was a tacit consent. The object of government was not to reduce men’s liberties (at any rate in theory) but to extend them by conferring protection upon their ‘natural rights’ as laid down by the ‘law of nature’, rights approved by God. A government may be dissolved if either the legislature or the executive commits a breach of its trust, and another government be put in its place.

Can the people then at any time take up arms to overthrow the Government? Is it right for them to do what they did in 1642, to ‘set upon their king’? In his last chapter Locke quoted approvingly from William Barclay, ‘the great champion of absolute monarchy’, where he argued that if a king himself endeavours to overturn his Government or make himself dependent upon another king, then indeed the King may be resisted. In the very last paragraph of his book Locke explains that if those in authority ‘commit miscarriages’ they forfeit the supreme power, which reverts to society, ‘and the people have the right to act as supreme, and to continue the legislative in themselves, or erect a new form, or under the old form place it in new hands, as they think good’.

Locke, Mr. Cranston points out, regarded absolute monarchy as a real and present menace, and asserts that he made the right of rebellion explicit. Who were the rebels to be? Professor C. B. Macpherson, whose essay in refined Marxism, entitled The Political Theorji of Possessive Individualism, has been much praised, has argued that ‘the people’ who were given by Locke the right to decide whether or not ‘constituted civil authority’ had broken its trust were not the people as a whole: ‘he [Locke] was consistent throughout in wanting a civil authority which could secure the basic institutions of a class society.’ But few historians have ever imagined that Locke was a democrat in the modern sense of the word. The consent to government on which his political philosophy was founded belonged (both in theory and in fact) to the property-owning or possessing classes or whatever one likes to call them. The main point, so far as these theorists were concerned, was that authority was not conferred on the Stuart kings exclusively by the Almighty through the monarchy’s descent from Adam and Eve or in any other way but by the politically active and influential among the King’s own subjects. Though in a way such thinkers looked back to the older theories of ‘mixed monarchy’ subject to the moral law, they increasingly emphasized a view of political obligation which derived not from God but from man. Theirs was an empirical, utilitarian view of society.

There is one other consideration which is being examined by present-day historians. It has been suggested that perhaps too much stress has been laid in the past upon the importance of religion in the latter half of the seventeenth century. This was a formative period in the development of modern science. It was the age of Isaac Newton and the Royal Society. Men, it is suggested, were no longer so worried about theology as they used to be or even about the relations between Church and State; they were moving towards a much more secular outlook on society. God had retreated from being the spirit of the universe to being a mere clockmaker. Neither Hobbes nor Milton nor Locke was an orthodox Christian. Much of the political reasoning of the time was cast in a traditional mould for tradition’s sake. All this is true up to a point. But one must not overlook the historical facts. How was it that a Parliament, so enthusiastic about the restored monarchy and the Church of England as the first Parliament of Charles II had been originally, had been moved towards the idea of excluding the legitimate heir to the throne from his right of succession? It was simply because he was a Roman Catholic. Why was it that James II provoked many of his leading subjects to conspire against him? Because he had employed his prerogative powers to try to achieve equality for all Christians. It may be that what both King and Parliament were concerned about was material things, about possession of offices and of property. Lord Willoughby was to say in 1688: ‘it was the first time any Bertie was ever engaged against the crown. . . but there was a necessity either to part with our religion and properties, or do it.’G Yet few men doubted that a Supreme Power governed the world and many believed that the Almighty guided it, as Cromwell had believed, as William of Orange believed. Newton, the greatest scientist of his time, was a keen theologian. What men quarrelled about was not whether God existed but whether the Almighty had designed it so that kings should rule absolutely—as enlightened despots—or whether governments were made for the governed, who could remove rulers if they menaced their God-given rights.

In the second half of his Two Treatises of Government Locke laid emphasis on the importance of Parliament or ‘the legislative’. In his chapter ‘Of the Subordination of the Powers of the Commonwealth’ he says that ‘in a Constituted Commonwealth’ there can be but one supreme power which is the legislative. Even where the executive is vested in a single person and the legislative is not always in being, the legislative still has the power to resume the execution of the laws when it finds cause and to punish any maladministration. Nor does the right of the executive to assemble or dismiss the legislative give the executive a superiority over it, for this is a ‘fiduciary trust’ placed in him for the security of the people. It is true that in all ‘moderate monarchies’ and ‘well-framed governments’ several things must be left to the discretion of the executive where the laws are silent, but since the end of government is the public good, the prerogative has to be exercised in conformity with the laws laid down in Parliament. In any case, the right of the executive to make laws is a right delegated to it by Parliament, which retains its superiority.

Two other authors writing in the sixteen-eighties stressed the role of Parliament as forming an essential and historic part of the English constitution. In his Ancient Rights of the Commons of England Asserted William Petyt, a barrister, aimed to undermine the suggestions in Filmer’s books that monarchy (which, he said, stretched back to Adam) was far older than Parliament and that such powers as Parliament possessed were privileges granted by kings. Parliament and the law, he asserted, were immemorial. King William of Normandy was no real conqueror of England since he and his successors had confirmed the Anglo-Saxon laws. The Norman and Angevin Kings had met freeholders or representatives of the freeholders in a common council of the realm which was in fact a true Parliament. Petyt was supported and supplemented in his reasoning by his pupil and friend, William Atwood, who in two books, served, in Dr. Pocock’s words, as ‘a combatant on the historical wing of the Filmerian controversy’. They revived a line of reasoning, once used by Sir Edward Coke, that the English monarchy was subject to a rule of law stretching back to time out of mind; Magna Carta and the Petition of Right of 1628 had confirmed the recognition by the monarchy of the existence of fundamental, unchangeable and inalienable laws, while the historic position and importance of Parliaments were a proof that England had always been governed by a ‘mixed monarchy’, not by the absolute monarchy defended by Filmer.

Two other notable contributions to political and constitutional theory were in circulation in the sixteen-eighties: one was Plato Redivivus, written by Henry Nevile, a friend of James Harrington, and published at about the same time as Filmer’s Patriarcba. While Filmer admitted no real restrictions on the monarchy, Nevile, who had been an active republican before the restoration of Charles II, went to the other extreme and advocated a reduction of the King’s authority. The sovereign power, he said, resided in the ‘three estates’ of King, Lords and Commons, and he thought that in terms of property the King’s share of political authority had become excessive; for, like Harrington, Nevile believed that in a stable society the holding of political power must be related to the distribution of landed property. He urged therefore that the making of war and peace, the control of the army and navy, the nomination of officers of State and the control of the public revenues should all be taken away from the King and put into the hands of four councils, while Parliament should be elected to meet every year and ensure rotation in the membership of the governing councils.

A more realistic political argument came from the Marquis of Halifax in his Character of a Trimmer which circulated in anonymous manuscript from about the year 1684. Halifax wished to persuade his readers of the virtues of a mixed monarchy and a middle-of-the-road policy. The pamphlet, it seems, was provoked by a royalist article written by Roger L’Estrange, who defended the existing monarchy and mocked moderation. Halifax praised the laws as jewels, attacked Louis XIV and the policy of close alliance with France, upheld the principles of the Test Acts and the exclusion of Roman Catholics from public life, and argued that the penal laws against them should not be abrogated except by statute, though he favoured mildness in their administration. ‘The Trimmer’ was a man who avoided all extremes in politics, of monarchy, ‘a thing that leaveth man no liberty’, on one side, of a commonwealth (or republic) which was ‘too hard for the bulk of men to come up to’, on the other. King and kingdom, he thought, were ‘one creature, not to be separated in their political capacity’.

Thus during this period when the censorship of books was temporarily in abeyance, when the exclusionist controversy was still raging, and when the names of ‘Whigs’ and ‘Tories’ first entered the English language as describing those who favoured and those who abhorred the calling of Parliament in the last years of Charles II, there was a good deal of theoretical political writing, anonymous and at times fantastic, but implicitly critical of the Stuart monarchy. Undoubtedly it was sparked off by the exclusionist movement; if exclusion of the Roman Catholic James could not be achieved, then the power of the monarchy must be clearly limited and defined, as Nevile and Halifax urged. Most of these writers argued a case for the supreme role of Parliament; some of them invented plausible historical arguments for the subjection of the monarchy; a few of them walked a thin line between political theory and treason.

Should the view be accepted that John Locke’s book was written ‘to promote a revolution’? It seems more likely, in the light of recent researches, that its primary aim was to justify the exclusion of James from the throne when he was still Duke of York and to allow the Duke of Monmouth to take his place, as Locke’s patron the Earl of Shaftesbury wished. In any case the Treatises of Government was not circulated until after the Revolution and its argument in favour of the right to rebel—often obscurely worded—can hardly have made much difference to the plans of William of Orange who, as we shall see, came to England not to promote a rebellion but to enforce the calling of a Parliament.

There is, however, one indirect way in which such writings may have contributed towards the Revolution of 1688; that was by conjuring up the fear in William’s mind that a genuine alternative to the rule of James II was the restoration of republicanism in England. James himself, as we have observed, was deeply afraid of a republican movement in the sixteen-eighties: a few former republicans, notably John Wildman,1 were mixed up both in the Whig plottings that followed the failure of the exclusionist movement and the invasion of Monmouth in 1685. The kind of doctrines aired, in however vague and wrapped-up phrases, by Algernon Sidney and Henry Nevile suggested that republican ideas were still floating around, ideas that had proliferated twenty years earlier, in 1659. When William of Orange worried about the growing unpopularity of his father-in-law and concerned himself over James’s failure to call Parliament in 1686 and 1687, he may well have been anxious, above all, about a possible reaction in the form of a revolt against the monarchy as such; for if a revived republican movement were a success, not only would it deprive his wife of her chance to come to the throne, but it would ruin his own opportunity of being able in the future to influence the course of English foreign policy.

Even after William established himself in England and his father-in-law fled abroad, the Prince still feared above all the reestablishment of a republic or Commonwealth, emerging from the Revolution that he himself had unleashed; for that might have proved a very different form of government from the ‘mixed monarchy’ advocated by so many political thinkers, who were not absolutists, as the ideal constitution (even if in practice under Charles land Oliver Cromwell it had proved almost unworkable).

To sum up: some of the ablest political theorists of the later half of the seventeenth century had by their arguments justified a right of rebellion against a misguided king, and to that extent aided William of Orange, when he invaded England, thundering against popery and arbitrary power; but, at the same time the arguments that they used tended to undermine the fabric of monarchy itself. And William’s aim of course was to save the monarchy, not to destroy it.