“Religion was more important than politics in the failure of King and Parliament to reach a settlement. 1646-1649”, Assess the validity of this statement. In January 1649, King Charles I was executed after being charged with high treason due to political and religious reasons, some of which contributed to his refusal in accepting the peace settlements given to him by Parliament. Charles’ refusal to compromise was supported by the division that had emerged within Parliament on how to fight the civil war between the Political Presbyterians and Political Independents.
The main factors of the failure to reach a settlement were religion, politics, Charles’ intransigence, the New Model Army and the emergence of radical ideas; all of which eventually concluded to Charles’ execution. One of the main reasons why Charles and Parliament failed to reach a settlement was due to religion, especially with the division between the Political Presbyterians and Political Independents.
The differences between the two were that Political Presbyterians favoured a negotiated peace with Charles and did not approve of the New Model Army, and were also drawn more closely to the Presbyterian Scots whereas the Political Independents were in favour of a more considerable measure of religious toleration and disliked the authoritarianism of Scottish Presbyterianism.
This division throughout Parliament meant that they had failed to reach a settlement negotiating peace terms that was to be decided upon them. In July 1646, the Political Presbyterians had presented Charles with the Newcastle Propositions as their plan for settlement which consisted of severe terms such as Charles was to accept Presbyterianism for three years in England, Parliament was to have control of the militia for 20 years, and the Triennial Act was not to be abolished and to have regular parliaments.
Charles rejected these terms of the Newcastle Propositions and instead offered counter-proposals suggesting that the Political Presbyterians would have a three year trial run and reduced parliamentary control over the militia to ten years. Smith1 says that “there was a good deal of influential opinion” when writing the Newcastle Propositions and was under the impression that Cromwell had expressed his input with these terms. As a result of this, it caused division in the army and more within Parliament as the Presbyterians responded by organising rallies in favour of peace on 26th July.
The emergence of radical ideas links with religion as a reason for the failure to reach a settlement in the year 1646 to 1649 as the ideas of the Levellers and Diggers were starting to break through. The Levellers were based in London that needed to gain support by taking advantage of the army’s adjutators movement, which therefore led to their concern that increased within the army, radicalising them. The development of the Leveller movement was the result of economic distress which was cause by the civil war, particularly in London, in a time of political and religious uncertainty.
At the end of April 1647, eight cavalry regiments chose men as representatives for the adjutators and met with the senior officers. The Levellers ideas, under their leader John Lilburne, had clearly influenced the policies of Henry Ireton and Oliver Cromwell condemning them as “grandees”, which expressed them having deceived what people were fighting for in the first place; driving them to accept a less moderate approach to their negotiations with the King in years to come. The Levellers had come up with a pamphlet called the “The Case of the Army Truly Stated”, which led on to the Putney Debates in October and November of 1647.
The Putney Debates had the main focus on the ideas of the Levellers for the extension if the franchise which had provoked a fiery argument between John Wildman and Ireton. Still Ireton spoke for the grandees which did include Cromwell and “insisted that the franchise should be restricted to those with a permanent fixed interest in the kingdom” as Seel 2 says, and that the vote should go to those who possessed property or there would otherwise be a “disturbance to a good constitution of the kingdom”.
This was seen as important because the views of the religious radicals made settlements more difficult and furthermore increased the tension of division among those in the army and in parliament. The politicisation of the New Model Army also played a significant role in the failure to reach a settlement in the years 1646 to 1649 between Charles and Parliament. What made the army politicised was the concerns of their wages of £3 million in arrears and the possibility of being faced with the charges of committing offences from the First Civil War, as Parliament had not passed an indemnity act.
The army presented Charles with the Heads of The Proposals in 1647, which links back to religious division in parliament, , under Cromwell and Ireton’s influence, putting forward more stricter terms such as religious toleration was to be more effective to a wider degree and that the army was to be controlled by parliament for only ten years instead of twenty, making the army seem like a political force however historian Coward 3 has put forward the argument that “the army was not apolitical when it was first established.” Despite these terms, Charles still refused to accept them which then led to the Vote of No Addresses in January 1648 and settled that no more future negotiations were to be made with Charles.
The importance of this factor was important as the army had felt that they had been pushed to resort to drastic methods and realised that it was most likely that Charles would never accept them. Another important factor that contributed to the failure to reach a settlement was Charles’ intransigence. In July 1646 the Newcastle Propositions were offered to Charles, which still would have granted him much power if he’d have accepted them, but refused to accept them.
At the end of December 1647 after refusing both the Newcastle Propositions and the Heads of Proposals, Charles made his escape from confinement at Hampton Court where he would sign the Engagement with the Scots, in which Charles had agreed to allow Presbyterianism in England for three years only if they would grant him a Scottish invasion that would enable him to return back to power. With the possibility of the invasion going ahead, the chances of another civil war had increased. In April 1648 the New Model Army met at Windsor to pray before facing their enemies and declared that Charles was a “man of blood”, which soon would be one of the religious reasons for Charles’ execution in January 1649.
Furthermore another political reason such as the Presbyterians’ offer of the Newport Treaty to Charles, who was now being held captive on the Isle of Wight, was sent to him as a matter of desperation to end the Second Civil War and prevent another one from occurring. However, the army and Ireton were not prepared to allow these negotiations to be undertaken and were forced to act, Kishlansky 4 says “Ireton had always been the Army’s strategist, the penman who could write the stirring propaganda of the Army’s declaration” and that he demanded a “purge or dissolution of Parliament and a trial of the King”.
For the Newport Treaty to continue, a vote in Parliament took place on 5th December which had 129 for the continuation, and 83 against it, leading Ireton to act immediately and organise the army led by Colonel Thomas Pride who purged Parliament of those who were in favour in negotiating with the King; through this action taken against Parliament, the Rump would take over and conclude that Charles was to be put to trial. In conclusion, the failure to reach a settlement in the year 1646 to 1649 was due to the main religious factors such as the Windsor Prayer meeting of April 1648 where Charles was seen as “a man of blood”, the religious division in Parliament between Political Presbyterians and Political Independents and his agreement with the Irish which reinforced his support of Catholicism and his defeat in the two civil wars which came across as God’s judgement on his cause.
Nevertheless, the main political reasons were down to Charles’ intransigence, fear amongst those in Parliament and the army that Charles would agree to the terms of the Newport Treaty, and fear of him starting another civil war. Overall the main reason for the failure of reaching a settlement was because of religion, although politics became very important in years to come as Presbyterians and Independents became concerned and needed a settlement for the sake of the kingdom.
Courtney from Study Moose
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