Oliver Cromwell, New Model Army, Charles II, the Restoration, British Army, Colonial Empire, Townshend Acts and the Boston Massacre

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 23rd, 2012

Politics 101

The Restoration brought Charles II to the Throne and gave him a Standing Army

Before the English Civil War there were no standing armies in England.  During Medieval times everyone was a soldier.  A ‘citizen’ soldier.  Fighting in a part-time militia.  You answered your lord’s call “to arms.”  Fought.  Usually to protect your lord’s land from intruders.  Or to join a higher noble or king to fight an opposing noble or king.  But mostly you fought near your home.  And when you were done fighting you went back to your day job.  If you survived.  The sooner the better because there was usually a lot of work to do.  And family to take care of.  But this all changed during the English Civil War.  Thanks to Prince Rupert of the Rhine.  A dashing cavalier commander and veteran of some European fighting.  He brought his professional military skills to England.  And fought for his uncle, King Charles I, during the English Civil War.

His skill won a lot of battles for Charles I.  And impressed Oliver Cromwell.  Who was fighting for Parliament.  So impressed him that he copied from Prince Rupert.  And created the New Model Army.  A professional army.  Trained.  Well disciplined.  And paid.  That fought anywhere.  Ultimately winning the war for Parliament.  Then marching on London for back pay.  They held the power.  And installed Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector of the new commonwealth (no monarchy or hereditary power).  Who used the New Model Army to keep the peace.  Rather brutally.  Especially in Ireland.  Where they had no family.  And had no problem in being brutal.

After Cromwell executed his father, Charles I, the Scots crowned Charles II king.  For Charles I was a Scott.  And they were none too pleased that the English killed him.  Charles marched south and tried to restore the monarchy.  Failed.  And Cromwell chased him all the way to France.  Where he lived during the English commonwealth.  In Louis XIV’s court.  An absolute monarchy.  The way it used to be in England.  Before Parliament.  And King Louis had something new.  A standing army.  Even in times of peace.  And the French people didn’t bitch about the costs.  Like Parliament did about every cost the royals incurred.  When Cromwell died his son inherited his office of Lord Protector.  So much for the elimination of heredity power.  But he was weak.  Couldn’t control the army.  And didn’t last.  Without a better option they talked to Charles II.  Who said he would offer some pardons if they made him king.  He would not seek any retribution for the killing of his dad.  And he’d pay the army.  And that fast England (and Scotland and Ireland) had a king again.  (The Restoration.)  And a standing army.

The British Subjects in North America did not have the same Rights as British Subjects in Great Britain

The British put that army to use during the 18th century.  Fighting a lot of wars.  In Europe.  And elsewhere.  With lots of soldiers serving garrison duty throughout the world to protect their colonial interests.  Costing a pretty penny.  The very reason why people don’t like standing armies.  They’re very costly.  In war.  As well as in peace.  Especially the peace that followed the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763).  Great Britain won a lot of colonial land from the French.  Particularly in North America.  Where French Quebec became British.  Giving the British nearly the entire North American continent.  Full of Native Americans none too happy with the outcome of the Seven Years’ War.  (Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa nearly threw the British out in 1763.)  Or their French Allies.  And the job of keeping the peace fell to the British Army.  Those infamous Red coats.

During the 18th century Great Britain was a constitutional monarchy with a representative government.  The king was still sovereign but he ruled with the consent of Parliament.  And their money.  During this time William Pitt the Elder, British Secretary of State, had built up a large and prosperous colonial empire.  Over this century the balance of power tilted away from Spain and France and towards Great Britain.  The Seven Years’ War in particular ended economically favorable for the British at the expense of the French.  This meant a lot of money for those in commerce.  Which made the taxpayers agreeable to some of these military costs.  But at the same time this last war left Great Britain broke and in debt.  Worse, she needed a larger military to garrison all that territory she had just won.  And those taxpayers, represented in Parliament, weren’t going to say yes to any more taxes.  Because they could.  In constitutional Great Britain there was no taxation without the consent of those British subjects taxed.  Well, for some of those British subjects.

The British subjects in North America did not have the same rights as British subjects in Great Britain.  The British Empire needed revenue.  And Parliament turned to the American colonies to collect it.  Without their consent.  Something not allowed by the Bill of Rights.  A 1689 act of English Parliament.  So the British Americans took some offense.  And then the anti-American legislation came.  The Sugar Act of 1764 taxing sugar.  The Quartering Act of 1765 forcing Americans to provide quarters for and to feed British troops.  The Stamp Act of 1765 taxing printed materials.  The Declaratory Act of 1766 which repealed the Stamp Act due to fierce opposition but made all laws passed by Parliament legal and binding in the colonies.  The Townshend Acts starting in 1767 which tried to make the taxes more palatable by taxing only imports.  They didn’t.  It also raised revenue for the British to pay judges and custom officials to keep them loyal to the distant Crown rather than the local populace.  The Commissioners of Customs Act of 1767 that established an administrative board to enforce these new acts.  Headquartered in Boston.  America’s leading port.  This caused a lot of resentment and open hostility to the Crown’s representatives in Boston.  To protect them and to maintain order the British occupied Boston in 1768.  Sending in the Red coats.

Parliament sued for Peace after Cornwallis surrendered in Yorktown because the War had grown too Costly to Continue 

This was all very un-English.  Not since the days of the New Model Army had English subjects lived under the tyranny of a standing army.  A very costly standing army.  Paid for by all of those revenue acts.  So here they were.  British subjects.  Who lost centuries of hard-earned rights.  Some going back to Magna Carta in 1215.  While their British brethren were living under a constitutional monarchy in Great Britain.  Enjoying all of their rights.  Where life in North America was turning into an absolute monarchy.  Like their most hated enemy.  The French.

This all boiled over in Boston in 1770.  Beginning with a British sentry.  Some kid forced to stand guard among a hostile populace.  It started with a misunderstanding.  But the hatred of the British helped to escalate it.  Until a mob had gathered.  Taunting the sentry to fire his weapon.  British reinforcements arrived.  Someone struck and knocked down a private.  Who grabbed his weapon and fired.  Then other shots rang out.   Even though the commanding officer did not give the order to fire.  Killing 3.  And wounding 8.  The infamous Boston Massacre.  Patriot and future Founding Father John Adams actually represented the British in court.  Where they got a fair trial.  And the case Adams presented convinced a Boston jury to find most of those on trial not guilty.  Including the commanding officer.  Which was the last act of civility between these two British peoples.

Hostilities would only grow.  And within 5 years there would be a shooting war.  That would take 8 years before a peace would finally end it.  A war won, interestingly, not by a part-time militia.  But by a professional standing army.  That thing the Americans so hated.  But whose very existence prevented an American defeat.  Something General George Washington fully understood.  Who may have lost more battles than he won.  But he won the most important battle of them all.  Keeping that army in the field.  Until the point where Parliament said enough was enough.  Sinking ever further into debt they sued for peace after Cornwallis surrendered in Yorktown.  The war had simply grown too costly to continue.  And the taxpayers no longer gave their consent to continue to pay for it.

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