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The Effects of the English Civil War and Restoration on America

Scoopmire/Moore
Pattonville High School


Charles I of England attempted to rule with impunity, jailing his enemies and critics, taxing his subjects without their consent and clashing with Parliament in a fight for supremacy. Further, he sought to quell the attempts of Puritans to meddle in the Anglican Church. He encouraged the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, in his endeavors to crush resistance to the Anglican Church and its practices. In 1642, civil war broke out between the royalist faction, called Cavaliers, and the parliamentary forces, called Roundheads. Many of the Roundheads were Puritans, while the Cavaliers were predominantly Anglican. With Oliver Cromwell as their leader, the Roundheads emerged victorious in 1648. The king was beheaded in 1649, and Parliament initially attempted to rule on its own. Chaos threatened, however, and Parliament named Cromwell Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland in 1653. Stability was once again threatened when Cromwell died in 1658, and a rudderless England was eventually restored to a monarchy under Charles 11. Charles 11's restoration also returned the Cavaliers to power, along with the Anglican Church.

While England was preoccupied, the colonies were left much to their own devices. Military protection from England was sorely lacking during this time of turmoil. In 1643, in the midst of the civil war back in England, four largely Puritan colonies created the New England Confederation for the purpose of cooperation and mutual protection against Indian attack. Each member had two votes. Membership included the Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven. Rhode Island tried top join but was refused on the basis of the long-running antagonism between its freethinkers and the Puritans. The Confederation members agreed to jointly finance warfare, provide soldiers in proportion to population, and make no treaties without mutual consent. This was the first confederation of colonies in English North America, and the only successful one before the Revolutionary period.

The ascension of Charles 11 also led to a new wave of colonization. Charles 11 was heavily in debt when he became king, and he rewarded many of his supporters with land in North America to satisfy their claims against him. The colonies that were established were therefore called Restoration Colonies, since they were created as a result of the Restoration of the English monarchy. Carolina, which actually became two colonies, was named after Charles 11. Control of Carolina was granted to eight proprietors who were supporters of the king. New York and New Jersey, formerly comprising New Netherlands, were created when Charles's brother, the Duke of York, was granted the area by the king and drove the Dutch from the area. Thus, English possessions briefly grew independent during the civil war and then grew larger during the Restoration.

The monarchy determined to exercise more control over its overseas possessions, however. Charles 11 revoked the charter of the Bay Colony in 1684. Charles died in 1685, and he was succeeded by his brother James 11. He revoked the charter of the New England, New York, and New Jersey colonies, and from them created the Dominion of New England in 1686. The Dominion was imposed upon the colonies of New England by the king and was under royal control, with the king appointing Sir Edmund Andros as the royal governor. The Dominion usurped the Confederation's attempts to provide a common defense against Indian attack. Further, the Dominion was intended to enforce the Navigation Acts of 1651, 1660,1663, and 1673, which sought to force all colonies to trade only with England. During the time that England had benignly neglected its colonies, trade between the Americans and other nation, particularly the Dutch, had blossomed. Both king and Parliament wanted England to be the sole beneficiary of the growing economic might of the colonies. The Navigation Acts were attempts to accomplish this feat. Under this legislation, goods from other countries bound for America had to first be shipped to England, and English merchants who acted as middlemen then sent the goods to America after raising prices to make a profit. Likewise, major American exports such as cotton, tobacco, and sugar, could only be shipped to England, where English merchants would them re-export them to other countries.

Another dramatic shift occurred in 1688. The Glorious Revolution once again stripped a king of his power at the hands of Parliament, but this time without bloodshed. James's daughter Mary and her Dutch husband, William of Orange were placed on the throne. They agreed to a bill of Rights, consultation with Parliament on an annual basis, and to respect civil liberties. Thus, England was transformed into a hybrid called a constitutional monarchy.

The transition in America was not so peaceful. The colonists in the Dominion of New England turned on Governor Andros, who unsuccessfully attempted to escape from an angry mob dressed as a woman. German and Dutch residents in New York seized control of the city and called for a new legislature. In Maryland, a group called the Protestant Association attempted to overthrow the control of the Catholic Calvert family. William and Mary's response to these challenges to authority was measured. Although the leader of the New York uprising was eventually executed, the Dominion of New England was abolished, and the proprietary rule of the Calverts was ended in Maryland. However, the truculent colonists were not completely let off the hook, because Massachusetts, New York, and Maryland were converted into royal colonies with governors appointed by the crown. It was thus hoped that the colonies could be brought more firmly into line.