Describe the religious policies of England and France from 1603 to 1715. Why do you think rulers feared religious toleration so much? When discussing why the rulers feared religious toleration and how their fears affected what religious policies were enforced, one must first look at what events transpired through the years to get a full understanding of the word "stubbornness". During the early years, the English church was dividing into a conservative camp that wanted to retain the religious ceremonies and the hierarchy of the church and a radical, Calvinist camp called Puritans who wanted to 'purify' the church of everything not contained in the Old and New Testaments. The Puritans demanded that the English church abandon the elaborate ceremonies and flatten the hierarchy of the church into something more closely resembling the voluntary associations of the Calvinist church. King James, however, would have none of the Puritan argument and declared, in 1604, that he was fully in the camp of the religious conservatives.
This division between the monarch and the Puritans, which would be continued by his son, Charles I, lit the fire that ignited the English Civil War. Charles sided with the religious conservatives against the more radical Puritans. The archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, was particularly hostile to the Puritans' complaints and Charles allowed him to freely take any measures to stifle their dissent. In 1633, Charles forbade Puritans from publishing or preaching, and in 1637, they tried to bring Scotland under the fold of the English church.
The Scots had, for a long time, a Calvinist church based on a flattened hierarchy and the purification of the religion of all non-Biblical practices. The imposition of the English church -- which included the English prayerbook, church hierarchy, and rituals and sacraments that were derived from Catholic ceremony -- was too much for the Scots to take. So they rebelled. The English Civil War started as a conflict between Parliament and Charles over constitutional issues; it fired its way to its conclusion through the growing religious division in England. The monarch was supported by the aristocracy, landowners, and by the adherents of the Anglican 'high church,' which retained the ceremonies and hierarchy so despised by the Puritans.
The Parliamentary cause was supported by the middle class, the Puritans, and the radical Protestants. The king's forces roundly beat the Parliamentary forces for almost two years and the Parliamentary cause seemed all but lost. In 1642, however, Parliament reorganized its army under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell, who was a landowner and, in religious matters, an Independent. The Independents believed that each congregation and each region should be free to decide what ecclesiastical structure it would adhere to. If a congregation wished to be Puritan, so be it; if it wished to be Anglican, that's fine, too.
Cromwell called his army 'The New Model Army, ' and in 1644, he turned the tide of the war. In 1645, the Parliamentary Army thoroughly defeated the royal army and in 1646, Charles surrendered. Parliament dissolved the institution of the English monarchy, the aristocracy, and the Anglican church. Cromwell himself led them in this revolution. When the king had been defeated, Parliament was largely made up of Calvinist Presbyterians. The Presbyterians wanted to abolish certain rituals and the current church hierarchy, but they also wanted to set up a new hierarchy of church officials called 'presbyters.
' At the conclusion of the civil war, this Parliament wanted to abolish the Anglican church and impose Calvinist Presbyterianism on all of England and Scotland. Both the Puritan and Independent minorities balked at this suggestion and demanded a religious tolerance of all forms of Protestantism; when they were rebuked, Cromwell and the Puritans ejected all the Presbyterians by force and took over Parliament. It was Cromwell's new parliament that executed the king and formed a new, republican government. Charles II, the son of Charles I, was restored to the monarchy in 1660 and ruled until 1685.
Charles, however, was an Anglican in appearance but Catholic in sympathies, for he had spent a large part of his life living in France. His brother James, the next in line to the throne of England, had converted openly to Catholicism and the English deeply distrusted Charles' intentions. No matter what Charles' intentions, he believed ardently in religious tolerance for both Catholics and Protestant minorities. In 1672, he issued the Declaration of Indulgence, which granted religious freedom to all Catholics and all Protestants. He did this in part to convince Louis XIV to agree to an alliance with him against the Dutch, but Parliament, made up mostly of Anglicans, refused to finance the war unless Charles revoked the Declaration, which he did.
Parliament followed this victory by issuing the Test Act. This law was meant to prevent the accession of the Catholic James to the throne. It didn't work. When Charles died in 1685, James became king and ruled until 1688.
As a Catholic, his first action was to insist that the Test Act be revoked. Parliament refused and James, like Charles I before him, dissolved Parliament when he couldn't get his way. He then displayed his opposition to the Test Act by appointing openly Catholic civil and military officials and in 1687, he declared all religious tests to be null and void. Years ahead of his time, he declared religious tolerance to be national policy and, in an affront that few could bear, he arrested Anglican bishops who refused to spread the news about the new religious policies. William of Orange raised an army and landed on English soil in November of 1688. Not only did no one oppose him; the English welcomed him with open arms.
He had, after all, been invited to invade England and assume the monarchy. James, seeing that he had no support, quickly fled to France and the protection of Louis XIV. With the king having hightailed it out of England, Parliament declared the throne vacant and declared William and Mary to be the sovereigns of England in 1689. Because the king had been deposed by an act of Parliament without any bloodshed whatsoever, the English called this the 'Glorious Revolution. ' Parliament drew up a Bill of Rights, which William and Mary agreed to. This Bill of Rights severely restricted the power of the monarch over Parliament and over individuals and would become the fundamental basis of the American Bill of Rights over a century later.
Included in the English Bill of Rights were many elements of the early Petition of Right with some notable additions: No Catholic could assume the English throne. Finally in 1689, Parliament passed the Toleration Act, which allowed Catholics and minority Protestants to freely practice their religion. When looking over these past events I believe the reason that rulers feared religious toleration so much was because they felt it was a threat to their political power which in turn would affect their own financial wealth and social status and hierarchy. In order to remain at the "top" you must control all underneath, seem to be the motto of the day. Stubbornness and stupidity were also high on the list of contributing factors of the rulers, which as seen by these events, showcased their own greed and lustful desire for total control - a monarchy. Sources: Book: James II and English Politics, 1678-1688.
Mullet t, Michael. Published by Routledge. Book: The British Wars, 1637-1651. Gaunt, Peter. Published by Routledge. Book: (Our class text) Civilization in the West.
Kishlanksy, Geary, and O'Brien. Published by Longman..