The Restoration of 1660 brought to the throne Charles II (r. 1660–1685), eldest son of Charles I, who had been living on the continent. Both houses of Parliament were also restored, together with the established Anglican Church. The Restoration failed to resolve two serious problems, however. What was to be the attitude of the state toward Puritans,Catholics, and dissenters from the established church? And what was to be the relationship between the king and Parliament?
Test ActLegislation, passed by the English parliament in 1673, to secure the position of the Anglican Church by stripping Puritans,Catholics, and other dissenters of the right to vote, preach, assemble,hold public office, and attend or teach at the universities.
To answer the first question, Parliament enacted the Test Act of 1673 against those outside the Church of England, denying them the right to vote, hold public office, preach,teach, attend the universities, or even assemble for meetings. But these restrictions could not be enforced. When the Quaker William Penn held a meeting of his Friends and was arrested, the jury refused to convict him.
In politics Charles II was determined to avoid exile by working well with Parliament.This intention did not last, however. Finding that Parliament did not grant him an adequate income, in 1670 Charles entered into a secret agreement with his cousin Louis XIV. The French king would give Charles two hundred thousand pounds annually, and in return Charles would relax the laws against Catholics, gradually re-Catholicize England, and convert to Catholicism himself. When the details of this treaty leaked out, a great wave of anti-Catholic sentiment swept England.
When James II (r. 1685–1688) succeeded his brother, the worst English anti-Catholic fears were realized. In violation of the Test Act, James appointed Roman Catholics to positions in the army, the universities, and local government. When these actions were challenged in the courts, the judges, whom James had appointed, decided in favor of the king. The king was suspending the law at will and appeared to be reviving the absolutism of his father and grandfather. He went further. Attempting to broaden his base of support with Protestant dissenters and nonconformists, James granted religious freedom to all.
Seeking to prevent the return of Catholic absolutism, a group of eminent persons in Parliament and the Church of England offered the English throne to James’s Protestant daughter Mary and her Dutch husband, Prince William of Orange. In December 1688 James II, his queen, and their infant son fled to France and became pensioners of Louis XIV. Early in 1689 William and Mary were crowned king and queen of England.
Constitutional Monarchy and Cabinet Government
The English call the events of 1688 and 1689 the “Glorious Revolution” because it replaced one king with another with a minimum of bloodshed. It also represented the destruction,once and for all, of the idea of divine-right monarchy. William and Mary accepted the English throne from Parliament and in so doing explicitly recognized the supremacy of Parliament.The revolution of 1688 established the principle that sovereignty, the ultimate power in the state, was divided between king and Parliament and that the king ruled with the consent of the governed.
The men who brought about the revolution framed their intentions in the Bill of Rights(1689), which was formulated in direct response to Stuart absolutism. Law was to be made in Parliament; once made, it could not be suspended by the Crown. Parliament had to be called at least once every three years. The independence of the judiciary was established,and there was to be no standing army in peacetime. Protestants could possess arms, but the Catholic minority could not. No Catholic could ever inherit the throne. Additional legislation granted freedom of worship to Protestant dissenters, but not to Catholics.
The Glorious Revolution and the concept of representative government found its best defense in political philosopher John Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690).Locke (1632–1704) maintained that a government that oversteps its proper function—protecting the natural rights of life, liberty, and property—becomes a tyranny. By “natural” rights Locke meant rights basic to all men because all have the ability to reason. (His idea that there are natural or universal rights equally valid for all peoples and societies was especially popular in colonial America.) Under a tyrannical government, the people have the natural right to rebellion. On the basis of this link, he justified limiting the vote to property owners. (American colonists also appreciated his arguments that Native Americans had no property rights since they did not cultivate the land and, by extension, no political rights because they possessed no property.)
The events of 1688 and 1689 did not constitute a democratic revolution. The revolution placed sovereignty in Parliament, and Parliament represented the upper classes.The age of aristocratic government lasted at least until 1832 and in many ways until 1928,when women received full voting rights.
In the course of the eighteenth century, the cabinet system of government evolved.The term cabinet derives from the small private room in which English rulers consulted their chief ministers. In a cabinet system, the leading ministers, who must have seats in and the support of a majority of the House of Commons, formulate common policy and conduct the business of the country. During the administration of one royal minister, Sir Robert Walpole, who led the cabinet from 1721 to 1742, the idea developed that the cabinet was responsible to the House of Commons. The Hanoverian king George I (r. 1714–1727) normally presided at cabinet meetings throughout his reign, but his son and heir,George II (r. 1727–1760), discontinued the practice. The influence of the Crown in decision making accordingly declined. Walpole enjoyed the favor of the monarchy and of the House of Commons and came to be called the king’s first, or “prime,” minister. In the English cabinet system, both legislative power and executive power are held by the leading ministers, who form the government.
England’s brief and chaotic experiment with republicanism under Oliver Cromwell convinced its people of the advantages of a monarchy, albeit with strong checks on royal authority. The eighteenth-century philosopher David Hume went so far as to declare that he would prefer England to be peaceful under an absolute monarch than in constant civil war as a republic. These sentiments would have found little sympathy among the proud burghers of the Dutch Republic.
The Dutch Republic in the Seventeenth Century
Jan Steen, The Merry Family, 1668
In this painting from the Dutch golden age, a happy family enjoys a boisterous song while seated around the dining table. Despite its carefree appearance,the painting was intended to teach a moral lesson. The children are shown drinking wine and smoking, bad habits they have learned from their parents. The inscription hanging over the mantelpiece (upper right) spells out the message clearly: “As the Old Sing, so Pipe the Young.” (Gianni Dagli Orti/The Art Archive)
In the late sixteenth century the seven northern provinces of the Netherlands fought for and won their independence from Spain.The independence of the Republic of the United Provinces of the Netherlands was recognized in 1648 in the treaty that ended the Thirty Years’ War. In this period, often called the “golden age of the Netherlands,” Dutch ideas and attitudes played a profound role in shaping a new and modern worldview. At the same time,the United Provinces developed its own distinctive model of a constitutional state.
Rejecting the rule of a monarch, the Dutch established a republic, a state in which power rested in the hands of the people and was exercised through elected representatives. Other examples of republics in early modern Europe included the Swiss Confederation and several autonomous city-states of Italy and the Holy Roman Empire. Among the Dutch, an oligarchy of wealthy businessmen called “regents” handled domestic affairs in each province’s Estates (assemblies). The provincial Estates held virtually all the power. A federal assembly, or States General,handled foreign affairs and war, but it did not possess sovereign authority. All issues had to be referred back to the local Estates for approval, and each of the seven provinces could veto any proposed legislation. Holland, the province with the largest navy and the most wealth, usually dominated the republic and the States General.
stadholderThe executive officer in each of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, a position often held by the princes of Orange.
In each province, the Estates appointed an executive officer,known as the stadholder, who carried out ceremonial functions and was responsible for military defense. Although in theory freely chosen by the Estates and answerable to them,in practice the reigning prince of Orange usually held the office of stadholder in several of the seven provinces of the Republic. This meant that tensions always lingered between supporters of the House of Orange and those of the staunchly republican Estates, who suspected the princes of harboring monarchical ambitions. When one of them, William III,took the English throne in 1688 with his wife, Mary, the republic simply continued without stadholders for several decades.
The political success of the Dutch rested on their phenomenal commercial prosperity.The moral and ethical bases of that commercial wealth were thrift, frugality, and religious toleration. Although there is scattered evidence of anti-Semitism, Jews enjoyed a level of acceptance and assimilation in Dutch business and general culture unique in early modern Europe. (See “Individuals in Society: Glückel of Hameln.”) In the Dutch Republic,toleration paid off: it attracted a great deal of foreign capital and investment.
The Dutch came to dominate the shipping business by putting profits from their original industry—herring fishing—into shipbuilding. They boasted the lowest shipping rates and largest merchant marine in Europe, allowing them to undersell foreign competitors (seeChapter 15). Trade and commerce brought the Dutch the highest standard of living in Europe, perhaps in the world. Salaries were high, and all classes of society ate well. A scholar has described the Netherlands as “an island of plenty in a sea of want.” Consequently, the Netherlands experienced very few of the food riots that characterized the rest of Europe.11
Throughout European history, the cultural tastes of one age have often seemed unsatisfactory to the next. So it was with the baroque. The term baroque may have come from the Portuguese word for an “odd-shaped, imperfect pearl” and was commonly used by late-eighteenth-century art critics as an expression of scorn for what they considered an overblown, unbalanced style. Specialists now agree that the baroque style marked one of the high points in the history of Western culture.
Rubens, Garden of Love, 1633–1634
This painting is an outstanding example of the lavishness and richness of baroque art. Born and raised in northern Europe, Peter Paul Rubens trained as a painter in Italy. Upon his return to the Spanish Netherlands, he became a renowned and amazingly prolific artist,patronized by rulers across Europe. Rubens was a devout Catholic, and his work conveys the emotional fervor of the Catholic Reformation. (Scala/Art Resource, NY)
Rome and the revitalized Catholic Church of the later sixteenth century played an important role in the early development of the baroque. The papacy and the Jesuits encouraged the growth of an intensely emotional, exuberant art.These patrons wanted artists to go beyond the Renaissance focus on pleasing a small, wealthy cultural elite. They wanted artists to appeal to the senses and thereby touch the souls and kindle the faith of ordinary churchgoers while proclaiming the power and confidence of the reformed Catholic Church. In addition to this underlying religious emotionalism, the baroque drew its sense of drama, motion, and ceaseless striving from the Catholic Reformation. The interior of the famous Jesuit Church of Jesus in Rome—the Gesù—combined all these characteristics in its lavish,wildly active decorations and frescoes.
Taking definite shape in Italy after 1600, the baroque style in the visual arts developed with exceptional vigor in Catholic countries—in Spain and Latin America, Austria, southern Germany, and Poland. Yet baroque art was more than just “Catholic art” in the seventeenth century and the first half of the eighteenth. True, neither Protestant England nor the Netherlands ever came fully under the spell of the baroque, but neither did Catholic France. And Protestants accounted for some of the finest examples of baroque style, especially in music. The baroque style spread partly because its tension and bombast spoke to an agitated age that was experiencing great violence and controversy in politics and religion.
In painting, the baroque reached maturity early with Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640),the most outstanding and most representative of baroque painters. Studying in his native Flanders and in Italy, where he was influenced by masters of the High Renaissance such as Michelangelo, Rubens developed his own rich, sensuous, colorful style, which was characterized by animated figures, melodramatic contrasts, and monumental size. Rubens excelled in glorifying monarchs such as Queen Mother Marie de’ Medici of France. He was also a devout Catholic; nearly half of his pictures treat Christian subjects. Yet one of Rubens’s trademarks was fleshy, sensual nudes who populate his canvases as Roman goddesses, water nymphs, and remarkably voluptuous saints and angels.
In music, the baroque style reached its culmination almost a century later in the dynamic, soaring lines of the endlessly inventive Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750).Organist and choirmaster of several Lutheran churches across Germany, Bach was equally at home writing secular concertos and sublime religious cantatas. Bach’s organ music combined the baroque spirit of invention, tension, and emotion in an unforgettable striving toward the infinite. Unlike Rubens, Bach was not fully appreciated in his lifetime, but since the early nineteenth century his reputation has grown steadily.
THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY represented a difficult passage between two centuries of dynamism and growth. On one side lay the sixteenth century of religious enthusiasm and strife, overseas expansion, rising population, and vigorous commerce. On the other side stretched the eighteenth-century era of renewed population growth, economic development, and cultural flourishing. The first half of the seventeenth century was marked by the spread of religious and dynastic warfare across Europe, resulting in the death and dislocation of many millions. This catastrophe was compounded by recurrent episodes of crop failure, famine, and epidemic disease, all of which contributed to a stagnant economy and population loss. In the middle decades of the seventeenth century, the very survival of the European monarchies established in the Renaissance appeared in doubt.
With the re-establishment of order in the second half of the century, maintaining political and social stability appeared of paramount importance to European rulers and elites.In western and eastern Europe, a host of monarchs proclaimed their God-given and “absolute” authority to rule in the name of peace, unity, and good order. Rulers’ ability to impose such claims in reality depended a great deal on compromise with local elites, who acquiesced to state power in exchange for privileges and payoffs. In this way, absolutism and constitutionalism did not always differ as much as they claimed. Both systems relied on political compromises forged from decades of strife.
The eighteenth century was to see this status quo thrown into question by new Enlightenment aspirations for human society, which themselves derived from the inquisitive and self-confident spirit of the scientific revolution. By the end of the century,demands for real popular sovereignty challenged the very bases of political order so painfully achieved in the seventeenth century.
What were the common crises and achievements of seventeenth-century European states? (p. 480)
Most parts of Europe experienced the seventeenth century as a period of severe economic,social, and military crisis. Across the continent, rulers faced popular rebellions from their desperate subjects, who were pushed to the brink by poor harvests, high taxes, and decades of war. Many forces, including powerful noblemen, the church, and regional and local loyalties, constrained the state’s authority. Despite these obstacles, most European states emerged from the seventeenth century with increased powers and more centralized control. Whether they ruled through monarchical fiat or parliamentary negotiation,European governments strengthened their bureaucracies, raised more taxes, and significantly expanded their armies.
What factors led to the rise of the French absolutist state under Louis XIV, and why did absolutist Spain experience decline in the same period? (p. 486)
Under Louis XIV France witnessed the high point of monarchical ambitions in western Europe. Louis used the doctrine of the divine right of kings to justify his hold on power.Under his rule, France developed a centralized bureaucracy, a professional army, and a state-directed economy, all of which he personally supervised. Despite his claims to absolute power, Louis XIV ruled by securing the collaboration of high nobles. In exchange for confirmation of their ancient privileges, the nobles were willing to cooperate with the expansion of state power. In Spain, where monarchs made similar claims to absolute power,the seventeenth century witnessed economic catastrophe and a decline in royal capacities.This decline was due to a fall in colonial trade revenue, massive state debt, and a decline in manufacturing and agricultural productivity.
How did the rulers of Austria and Prussia transform their nations into powerful absolutist monarchies? (p. 494)
Within a framework of resurgent serfdom and entrenched nobility, Austrian and Prussian monarchs fashioned strong absolutist states in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. These monarchs won absolutist control over standing armies, taxation, and representative bodies, but left intact the underlying social and economic relationships between the nobles and their peasants. In exchange for entrenched privileges over their peasants, nobles thus cooperated with the growth of state power.
What were the distinctive features of Russian and Ottoman absolutism? (p. 497)
In Russia, Mongol conquest and rule set the stage for absolutism, and a harsh tsarist autocracy was firmly in place by the reign of Ivan the Terrible in the sixteenth century.Ivan’s brutal rule brought all segments of Russian society into state service, sparking resentment and revolt. The reign of Ivan and his successors saw a great expansion of Russian territory, laying the foundations for a huge, multiethnic empire. More than a century later Peter the Great succeeded in modernizing Russia’s traditional absolutism by reforming the army and the bureaucracy. Farther to the east, the Ottoman sultans developed a distinctive political and economic system in which all land theoretically belonged to the sultan, who was served by a slave corps of administrators and soldiers. The Ottoman Empire was relatively tolerant on religious matters and served as a haven for Jews and other marginalized religious groups.
How and why did the constitutional state triumph in the Dutch Republic and England? (p. 506)
Holland and England defied the general trend toward absolute monarchy. Violently resisting Stuart kings’ claims to absolute power, England descended into civil war and finally emerged with a constitutional monarchy. After the Glorious Revolution in 1688, English power was divided between king and Parliament, with Parliament enjoying the greater share. The Bill of Rights established parliamentary control of the legal system and dictated that Parliament had to be called at least once every three years. By contrast, the Dutch rejected monarchical rule after winning independence from Spain. Instead, the United Provinces of the Netherlands adopted a decentralized republican system in which local affairs were run by provincial Estates and the national States General handled foreign affairs and war.
What was the baroque style in art and music, and where was it popular? (p. 514)
The baroque style, practiced by artists such as Rubens and Bach, was intensely emotional and exuberant. It was inspired by the religious enthusiasm of the late-sixteenth-century Catholic Reformation, but appeared in both religious and secular themes. The baroque style in art and music thrived during the seventeenth century and was most popular in Catholic countries—Spain and Latin America, Austria, southern Germany, and Poland—though it never gained popularity in Catholic France and was practiced by Protestant artists.