How Far Did Changes In Political Thought 1642 1690 Reflect The Reality Of Political Developments?

1955 words - 8 pages

Between the years 1642 and 1690 there was a great deal of change in the political landscape. It was a period of upheaval and development. In essence the way the country was ruled during the period went full circle. It begins at the end of the reign of Charles I, heading through the Puritan regime until the monarchy was restored in 1660. By 1690 the "Glorious Revolution" had taken place and William of Orange had taken the throne as William III with his wife Mary. With regards to political thought and the change of the political picture in England there are several issues that can be discussed. It is useful to know in the first instance what the political theories that took shape actually were. It is then interesting to take these theories and assess whether they actually relate to the reality. Was it theory that led to political change or was it the situation of government that gave rise to the theories? This is the main issue that shall be discussed in this essay.It is sensible to begin at the beginning of the period in question with the English Civil War. The Civil War was a catalyst for political change. The 17th century 'saw the beginning of modern public opinion' (Bowle 1947 p333) . Public opinion is a key factor in the development of a strong political theory. If the theory is to have any long-term future it must satisfy the public or face being rejected by the majority. This is especially true in a full democracy. In the 1640's however the Puritan regime was in a very strong position and full franchise certainly did not exist. It is therefore misleading to emphasise the role of public opinion in the creation of political theory during this time.The late 1640's were the hey-day of the first political party in the modern sense of the word. The Levellers were the first group to have a set agenda and the means to force that agenda on to Parliament. At first glance the Levellers do not appear to have been successful in their aspirations. Their ideas were rejected by Parliament in 1647. However they continued to advertise their aims under the leadership of John Lillburne and this culminated in the writing of the Manifestation in 1649. In this document they solidified their objectives but the influence they had had already reduced significantly. Although the History of the Levellers is fascinating, it is more important to discover reasons for their beliefs and attain why they came in to existence. The Levellers did not seek powers for themselves. They believed firmly in 'the goodness of men to procure their own establishments' (Aylmer 1975 p156) . Although this appears to be the view of a set of individualists, what is also apparent is the disillusionment with the then state of affairs. The Levellers came about in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, with the defeat of Charles I and the resulting 'constitutional and religious deadlock' (Aylmer 1975 p13). They were frustrated by the fact that one tyranny had been replaced with another (Bowle...

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