The Failure To Reach A Settlement From 1646 To 1649 Was Primarily The Result Of Each Of The Party's Religious Convictions. Do You Agree?

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Ben Jacques

The Failure To Reach A Settlement From 1646 To 1649 Was Primarily The Result Of The Religious Convictions Of Each Of The Party’s Involved. Do You Agree Or Disagree?

Between the years of 1646 and 1649 England was found yet again in a unique position and one that did not seem to have the same outcome at the end as many desired at the start. This outcome could easily be attributed to religious conviction amongst the main parties involved however we must also look at the wider beliefs and motives of those parties and the reasons for their actions.

To understand why a settlement was not reached due to different religious convictions we must first examine each party’s beliefs separately. The King was a firm believer in the status quo of religion before the civil war. He believed in an Episcopalian system with bishops and most importantly himself at the head of the church as the religious leader of the country he also believed in the divine right of kings calling himself “God's mouthpiece on Earth” . The army was made up of Independents who desired religious liberality and saw Charles increasingly as time passed as a ‘man of blood’ who worked against Gods will, especially after the second civil war. However within the army there were also those who did not share such strong religious convictions and did believe in the Kings divine right to rule. Parliament was split even more radically between the Political Presbyterians and the Political Independents. The Presbyterians believed very much in honoring the Solemn League and Covenant signed with the Scots in 1643 that would establish an authoritarian Presbyterian Scottish system in England. In contrast to this the Independents wanted a large amount of religious toleration for non-conformists and they allied with the new model army. It is obvious that each party wanted a different religious model for England and this led to conflict during negotiations.

Charles’ religious beliefs were a major factor for the failure to reach a settlement. To begin with, he was a firm believer in the divine right of kings and this affected his view of those he was negotiated with. As Russell puts it he believed that it would be ‘sinful to yield any important part of power he held before the war’ this shows that due to his religious devotion to absolutism any negotiations were never to be taken seriously by Charles. For example during the Newcastle Propositions sent by Holles’ parliament in July 1646 Charles wrote to his wife stating that he could in ‘no way consent’. As Young argues Charles really believed that the abolition of the national church would lead to the destruction of the state meaning he would never take any of these propositions of a different religious system seriously. Another problem that Charles’ belief in absolutism presented is that he saw it in no way sinful to mislead the ‘rebels’ with dishonest negotiations and to act in bad faith. This meant that not only would he lead those he was negotiations in with on but he would also act behind their back to strengthen his position. This belief led to his negotiations with Scotland and the start of the Second Civil War 1648-1649 which showed his duplicity to those he was negotiating with and severely hardened opinions on what to do with him, especially amongst the army as evidenced by the Windsor Prayer Meeting April 1648 however I will later argue that social radicalism was not a product of the king's stubborn personality. Charles’ religious convictions meant there was a failure to reach a settlement as he was not willing to compromise and therefore the other parties found him impossible to negotiate with. Even to the end Charles was stubborn at the scaffold saying “a subject and his sovereign are clear different things”. However we cannot attribute Charles’ stubbornness and therefore failure to negotiate a settlement purely on his religious convictions. Even in his personality he has been described a stubborn by those such as Farr who even describe him as having an inferiority complex. His personal strategy also failed to perceive the threat that he was facing and the stakes that he was negotiating. His naive plan was to wait for the others toe ‘fall out amongst themselves’ however as help as this was to his negotiating power he still did not see any settlement without the terms being entirely dictated by himself. On top of this his playing for time meant that once the conflicts between the other parties had been resolved he was met by only a radical army to negotiate with. Charles’ stubbornness and shortsightedness was a major factor for the failure to reach a settlement and these traits of Charles were heavily influenced by his religious convictions.

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Religious differences within Parliament also hindered the ability of them to reach a settlement with Charles. As I have highlighted the main conflict within Parliament was between the two religious parties. The Presbyterians Coward argues were ‘strongly in favour of establishing a national Presbyterian Church as a means of imposing social order’ showing that the Presbyterians were likely to push their beliefs fervently in any settlement however it also highlights how much they wanted order.  One could easily argue then that with the Presbyterians in power a settlement was most likely to occur as they craved the social order and ...

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