Thursday, September 29, 2005

Indemnity, punishment and religion

The Act of Indemnity
Many of the Convention’s day to day decisions were ‘moderate and sensible’ (Coward, 288). It resisted the demands of the extreme Cavaliers and in August approved an Act of Indemnity which pardoned all but those named individuals who had been closely connected with the execution of Charles I. The former parliamentarians Sandwich and Ashley Cooper were among the judges.

Twenty-nine individuals were sentenced to execution by hanging, drawing, and quartering – in all ten suffered this sentence. Pepys, who witnessed the execution of the regicide Thomas Harrison. The republican Henry Vane was executed event though he was not a regicide.

The Convention also worked out a settlement of confiscated estates and forced sales of land that attempted (unsuccessfully) to alienate as few interests as possible. But this did not mean that the bitterness of the Civil War was over. Royalists like William Prynne were obsessed by hatred for anything to do with the regicide regime. This hatred was expressed in the exhumation of the bones of Cromwell, Bradshaw and Ireton and in the executions of prominent regicides in October. But royalists were disillusioned. Those (about 5000 in number) who had sold their estates to enable them to pay fines did not receive their land back, and the king did nothing to help them. They felt bitter and humiliated determined to wreck any plans for a comprehensive Church.

The Failure of the Religious Settlement
Religion was an intractable problem. The Church of England was to be restored, but what kind of Church? (In August, Pepys went to St Margaret’s where for the first time he ‘heard Common Prayer’ in the church. ) In the Declaration of Breda, Charles had promised ‘liberty for tender consciences’ – a promise that seems to have been supported by Clarendon. Some non-Anglicans (Richard Baxter) argued for a wide, comprehensive national Church that would also accommodate moderate Presbyterians. These Presbyterians were well aware that in 1650 Charles had taken the Covenant.

On 25 October Charles and the Presbyterian leaders met at Clarendon’s lodgings, Worcester House, after which the king proposed a Church settlement in which the powers of bishops were to be limited by councils of presbyters and in which contentious matters of liturgy and ceremonial were to be referred to a committee of divines and a national synod.

But Charles was battling against an intolerant Anglican reaction, and a comprehensive Church was never a viable possibility. A lasting religious settlement was left to the parliament that was to reconvene the following year. A parliament elected in the conditions of post-Restoration of euphoria was unlikely to propose a generous or tolerant religious settlement.