The Restoration - Dutch War

This remnant of an old Parliament continued in power till the autumn of 1659, when it gave way to a council of the officers who had been in command under Cromwell. The latter government, in its turn, yielded to the Rump, which sat down once more in December. The people, finding themselves made the sport of a few ambitious adventurers, began to long for some more fixed and respectable kind of government. At this crisis, General Monk, commander of the forces in Scotland, conceived the design of settling the nation. He left Scotland (January 2, 1660), with a considerable army; and though he kept his thoughts scrupulously to him self, all men bent their eyes upon him, as a person destined to realize their hopes. He reached London (February 3), and was received with feigned respect by the Rump. Some resistance was attempted by Lambert, one of Cromwell's officers, but in vain. Ere long, Monk was able to procure the restoration of the members who had been excluded from Parliament by Cromwell, who, being a majority, gave an immediate ascendancy to anti-republican views. As soon as this was effected, an act was passed for calling a new and freely-elected Parliament; after which, the existing assembly immediately dissolved itself.

The new Parliament proved to be chiefly composed of Cavaliers and Presbyterians, men agreeing in their attachment to monarchy, though differing in many other views. After some cautious procedure, in which the fears inspired by the late military tyranny were conspicuous, they agreed to invite the king from his retirement in Holland, and to restore him to the throne lost by his father. They were so glad to escape from the existing disorders, that they never thought of making any preliminary arrangement with the king as to the extent of his prerogative. On the 29th of May, being his thirtieth birthday, Charles II entered London amidst such frantic demonstrations of joy, that he could not help thinking it his own fault, as he said, that he had been so long separated from his people.

One of the first measures of the new monarch was the passing of a bill of indemnity, by which all persons concerned in the late popular movements were pardoned, excepting a few who had been prominently concerned in bringing the kin g to the block. Harrison, Scrope, and a few other regicides, were tried and executed; and the bodies of Cromwell, Ireton, and Bradshaw, were raised from the grave and exhibited upon gibbets. In Scotland, only three persons suffered the Marquis of Argyle, Johnston of Warriston, and Mr. Guthry, a clergyman: it was considered remarkable, that the marquis had placed the crown upon the king's head at Scone in the year 1651. Excepting in these acts, the king showed no desire of revenging the death ,of his father, or his own exclusion from the throne. The Parliament which called him home was constituted a legal one by his own ratification of an act for that purpose. In the settlement of other matters, it seemed the prevailing wish that all the institutions of the country should be made as nearly what they were before the civil war as possible. Thus the Episcopal church was established both in England and Scotland, though not without causing about a third of the clergy in both countries to resign their charges. The stern and enthusiastic piety which prevailed during the civil war, was now treated with ridicule, and the most of the people vied with each other in that licentious riot and drunkenness which is condemned by all systems of faith. The nation, in fact, seemed intoxicated with the safety which they supposed themselves to have at length gained, in a restoration to the imperfect freedom they enjoyed before the civil war.

Ireland, which, during the Protectorate, had been managed by Henry, a younger son of Cromwell, acceded to the Restoration with as much readiness as any other part of the British dominions. An act was passed for settling property, by which the Catholics obtained some slight benefits, but which, in its main effects, tended to confirm the rights of the settlers introduced by Cromwell.

Though Charles had been restored with the approbation of a very large portion of his subjects, his most zealous friends were the Royalists and Episcopalians; hence he almost immediately subsided into the character of a party ruler. It was deemed necessary that he should maintain an arm ed force for the protection of his person, and to keep down popular disturbances. He therefore caused several horse regiments to be horse under the name of Life Guards, being chiefly composed of Royalist gentlemen upon whom a perfect dependence could be placed; and he afterwards added two or three foot regiments, the whole amounting to about 5000 men. The King paid these troops chiefly out of the money allowed for his own support, for Parliament did not sanction his keeping up such a force, and the nation generally beheld it with suspicion. This was the commencement of a standing army in England.

Personally indolent, dissolute, and deficient in conscientiousness, and surrounded almost exclusively by the ministers of the basest pleasures, Charles was not qualified to retain the sincere respect of a people whose habitual character is grave and virtuous. His extravagant expenditure soon cooled the affections of his Parliament, and he began to find considerable difficulties in obtaining money. To relieve himself from this embarrassment, he accepted L40,000 from the French king for Dunkirk, a French port, which had been acquired by Cromwell. For the same purpose, he married a Portuguese princess of the Catholic religion, who possessed a dowry of half a million. He also commenced (1664) a war against Holland, for apparently no better reason than that, in applying the Parliamentary subsidies necessary for keeping up hostilities, he might have an opportunity of converting part of the money to his own personal use.

This Dutch war was chiefly conducted by sea. On the 3d of June 1665, an English fleet of 114 sail met a Dutch one which numbered just one ship less, near Lowestoffe, and after an obstinate fight, gained a complete victory, depriving the enemy of eighteen vessels, and compelling the Test to take refuge on their own coast. The commander on this occasion was the Duke of York, the king's younger brother; a man of greater application and more steady principles, but who soon after became unpopular, in consequence of his avowing himself a Catholic.

Some other well-contested actions took place at sea, and the English, upon the whole, confirmed their naval supremacy. Owing, however, to a failure of the supplies, the king was obliged to lay up his best vessels in ordinary, and to send only an inferior force to sea. The Dutch took ad vantage of this occurrence to send a fleet up the Thames (June 10, 1667), which, meeting with no adequate resistance, threatened to lay the capital in ruins and destroy its shipping. Fortunately, the Dutch admiral did not think it expedient to make this attempt, but retired with the ebb of the tide, after having sunk and burnt nearly twenty vessels, and done much other damage. The king, finding himself rather impoverished than enriched by the war, soon after concluded a peace.