When Charles the Second entered Whitehall, the work of the Long Parliament seemed undone. Not only was the Monarchy restored, but it was restored, in spite of the efforts of Sir Matthew Hale, without written restriction or condition on the part of the people, though with implied conditions on the part of Charles himself; and of the two great influences which had hitherto served as checks on its power, the first, that of Puritanism, had become hateful to the nation at large, while the second, the tradition of constitutional liberty, was discredited by the issue of the Civil War. But amidst all the tumult of demonstrative loyalty the great "revolution of the seventeenth century," as it has justly been styled, went steadily on. The supreme power was gradually transferred from the Crown to the House of Commons. Step by step, Parliament drew nearer to a solution of the political problem which had so long foiled its efforts, the problem how to make its will the law of administrative action without itself undertaking the task of administration.
It is only by carefully fixing our eyes on this transfer of power, and by noting the successive steps towards its realization, that we can understand the complex history of the Restoration and the Revolution.
[Authorities. - Clarendon's detailed account of his own ministry in his "Life," Bishop Rennet's " Register," and Burnet's lively " History of my own Times," are our principal sources of information. We may add fragments of the autobiography of James the Second preserved in Macpherson's "Original Papers" (of very various degrees of value.) For the relations of the Church and the Dissenters, see Neal's "History of the Puritans," Calamy's " Memoirs of the Ejected Ministers," Mr. Dixon's "Life of William Penn," Baxter's "Autobiography," and Bunyan's account of his sufferings in his various works. The social hi tory of the time is admirably given by Pepys in his "Memoirs." Throughout the whole reign of Charles the Second, the "Constitutional History" of Mr. Hallam is singularly judicious and full in its information].
The first acts of the new Government showed a sense that, loyal as was the temper of the nation, its loyalty was by no means the blind devotion of the Cavalier. The chief part in the Restoration had in fact been played by the Presbyterians; and the Presbyterians were still powerful from their almost exclusive possession of the magistracy and all local authority. The first ministry which Charles ventured to form bore on it the marks of a compromise between this powerful party and their old opponents. Its most influential member indeed was Sir Edward Hyde, the adviser of the King during his exile, who soon became Earl of Clarendon and Lord Chancellor. Lord Southampton, a steady royalist, accepted the post of Lord Treasurer; and the devotion of Ormond was rewarded with a dukedom and the dignity of Lord Steward. But the purely Parliamentary interest was represented by Monk, who remained Lord-General of the army with the title of Duke of Albemarle; and though the King's brother, James, Duke of York, was made Lord Admiral, the administration of the fleet was virtually in the hands of one of Cromwell's followers, Montagu, the new Earl of Sandwich. An old Puritan, Lord Say and Sele, was made Lord Privy Seal. Sir Ashley Cooper, a leading member of the same party, was rewarded for his activity in bringing about the Restoration first by a Privy Councillorship, and soon after by a barony and the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer. Of the two Secretaries of State, the one, Nicholas, was a devoted royalist; the other, Morice, was a steady Presbyterian. Of the thirty members of the Privy Council, twelve had borne arms against the King.
It was clear that such a ministry was hardly likely to lend itself to a mere policy of reaction, and the temper of the new Government therefore fell fairly in with the temper of the Convention when that body, after declaring itself a Parliament, proceeded to consider the measures which were requisite for a settlement of the nation. The Convention had been chosen under the ordinances which excluded royalist "Malignants" from the right of voting; and the bulk of its members were men of Presbyterian sympathies, loyalist to the core, but as averse to despotism as the Long Parliament itself. In its earlier days a member who asserted that those who had fought against the King were as guilty as those who cut off his head was sternly rebuked from the Chair. The first measure which was undertaken by the House, the Bill of Indemnity and Oblivion for all offences committed during the recent troubles, showed at once the moderate character of the Commons. In the punishment of the Regicides indeed, a Presbyterian might well be as zealous as a Cavalier. In spite of a Proclamation he had issued in the first days of his return, in which mercy was virtually promised to all the judges of the late King who surrendered themselves to justice, Charles pressed for revenge on those whom he regarded as his father's murderers, and the Lords went hotly with the King. It is to the credit of the Commons that they steadily resisted the cry for blood.
By the original provisions of the Bill of Oblivion and Indemnity only seven of the living regicides were excluded from pardon; and though the rise of royalist fervour during the three months in which the bill was under discussion forced the House in the end to leave almost all to the course of justice, the requirement of a special Act of Parliament for the execution of those who had surrendered under the Proclamation protected the lives of most of them. Twenty-eight of the King's judges were in the end arraigned at the bar of a court specially convened for their trial, but only thirteen were executed, and only one of these, General Harrison, had played any conspicuous part in the rebellion. Twenty others, who had been prominent in what were now called "the troubles "of the past twenty years, were declared incapable of holding office under the State: and by an unjustifiable clause which was introduced into the Act before its final adoption, Sir Harry Vane and General Lambert, though they had taken no part in the King's death, were specially exempted from the general pardon. In dealing with the questions of property which arose from the confiscations and transfers of estates during the Civil Wars the Convention met with greater difficulties.