No opposition was made to the resumption of all Crown-lands by the State, but the Convention desired to protect the rights of those who had purchased Church property, and of those who were in actual possession of private estates which had been confiscated by the Long Parliament, or by the Government which succeeded it. The bills however which they prepared for this purpose were delayed by the artifices of Hyde; and at the close of the session the bishops and the evicted royalists quietly re-entered into the occupation of their old possessions. The royalists indeed were far from being satisfied with this summary confiscation. Fines and sequestrations had impoverished all the steady adherents of the royal cause, and had driven many of them to forced sales of their estates; and a demand was made for compensation for their losses and the cancelling of these sales. Without such provisions, said the frenzied Cavaliers, the bill would be "a Bill of Indemnity for the King's enemies, and of Oblivion for his friends." But here the Convention stood firm.
All transfers of property by sale were recognized as valid, and all claims of compensation for losses by sequestration were barred by the Act. From the settlement of the nation the Convention passed to the settlement of the relations between the nation and the Crown. So far was the constitutional work of the Long Parliament from being undone, that its more important measures were silently accepted as the base of future government. Not a voice demanded the restoration of the Star Chamber, or of monopolies, or of the Court of High Commission; no one disputed the justice of the condemnation of Ship-money, or the assertion of the sole right of Parliament to grant supplies to the Crown. The Militia, indeed, was placed in the King's hands; but the army was disbanded, though Charles was permitted to keep a few regiments for his guard. The revenue was fixed at 1,200,000; and this sum was granted to the King for life, a grant which might have been perilous for freedom had not the taxes provided to supply the sum fallen constantly below this estimate, while the current expenses of the Crown, even in time of peace, greatly exceeded it. But even for this grant a heavy price was exacted.
Though the rights of the Crown over lands held, as the bulk of English estates were held, in military tenure, had ceased to be of any great pecuniary value, they were indirectly a source of considerable power. The right of wardship and of marriage, above all, enabled the sovereign to exercise a galling pressure on every landed proprietor in his social and domestic concerns. Under Elizabeth, the right of wardship had been used to secure the education of all Catholic minors in the Protestant faith; and under James and his successor the charge of minors had been granted to court favourites or sold in open market to the highest bidder. But the real value of these rights to the Crown lay in the political pressure which it was able to exert through them on the country gentry. A squire was naturally eager to buy the good will of a sovereign who might soon be the guardian of his daughter and the administrator of his estate. But the same motives which made the Crown cling to this prerogative made the Parliament anxious to do away with it.
Its efforts to bring this about under James the First had been foiled by the King's stubborn resistance; but the long interruption of these rights during the wars made their revival almost impossible at the Restoration. One of the first acts therefore of the Convention was to free the country gentry by abolishing the claims of the Crown to reliefs and wardship, purveyance, and pre-emption, and by the conversion of lands held till then in chivalry into lands held in common socage. In lieu of his rights, Charles accepted a grant of 100,000 a year; a sum which it was originally purposed to raise by a tax on the lands thus exempted from feudal exactions; but which was provided for in the end, with less justice, by a general excise.
Successful as the Convention had been in effecting the settlement of political matters, it failed in bringing about a settlement of the Church. In his proclamation from Breda Charles had promised to respect liberty of conscience, and to assent to any Acts of Parliament which should be presented to him for its security. The Convention was in the main Presbyterian; but it soon became plain that the continuance of a purely Presbyterian system was impossible. " The generality of the people," wrote Sharpe, a shrewd Scotch observer, from London, "are doting after Prelacy and the Service-book." The Convention, however, still hoped for some modified form of Episcopalian government which would enable the bulk of the Puritan party to remain within the Church. A large part of the existing clergy, indeed, were Independents, and for these no compromise with Episcopacy was possible: but the greater number were moderate Presbyterians, who were ready "for fear of worse " to submit to such a plan of Church government as Archbishop Usher had proposed, a plan in which the bishop was only the president of a diocesan board of presbyters, and to accept the Liturgy with a few amendments and the omission of the "superstitious practices." It was to a compromise of this kind that the King himself leant at the beginning; and a royal declaration which announced his approval of the Puritan demands was read at a conference of the two parties, and with it a petition from the Independents praying for religious liberty.
The King proposed to grant the prayer of the petition, not for the Independents only but for all Christians; but on the point of tolerating the Catholics, Churchmen and Puritans were at one, and a bill which was introduced into the House of Commons by Sir Matthew Hale to turn the declaration into a law was thrown out. A fresh conference was promised, but in the absence of any Parliamentary action the Episcopal party boldly availed themselves of their legal rights. The ejected clergy who still remained alive entered again into their parsonages, the bishops returned to their sees, and the dissolution of the Convention-Parliament destroyed the last hope of an ecclesiastical compromise. The tide of loyalty had in fact been rising fast during its session, and its influence was already seen in a shameful outrage wrought under the very orders of the Convention itself. The bodies of Cromwell, Bradshaw, and Ireton were torn from their graves and hung on gibbets at Tyburn, while those of Pym and Blake were cast out of Westminster Abbey into St. Margaret's churchyard.